Went to The Vine Inn this afternoon. I was instructed to go by Laura. How sweet is she? Actually, I was sitting waiting in the pub while she was at the Tenterden Fish Bar in Station Rd, opposite the pub. Since she knows how much I hate standing around in takeaways waiting for what seems a veritable age, I sit in the pub while she procures the food. It's the perfect arrangement.
The Vine is a beautiful pub, let's face it. It's undergone a major facelift in recent years and is a far cry from the day when I began drinking. It was pretty much the roughest pub in Tenterden back then and I avoided entering it.
Anyhow, there I was this afternoon suffering from a severe lack of inspiration. What did I want to drink? I could have had anything I wanted but nothing was speaking to me. Suddenly I thought, I'll try something I've never had before, and I spied in the beer fridge a bottle of Shepherd Neame's 1698, a bottle-conditioned strong Kentish ale (6.5% - they are not mucking about when they say strong!) Nice beer!
Brewed to an original 300 year old recipe from Percy Neame's Brewing Book, this beer commemorated the founding of one of England's few remaining regional, family breweries. This is a complex beer, reddish in colour, and you can smell the hoppiness and a whiff of wheat; but then, both delicate and strong flavours pour across your tastebuds. Strong then light, Autumn then Spring. This is a delightful beer and one to drink on its own, to savour its nuances. A beer of which Percy Neame should be rightly proud. Oh, and Shepherd Neame Brewery: please do not wait another century before you raid Percy Neame's Brewing Book for another recipe - the guy clearly knew his stuff.
You can buy it in Oz at http://www.beerstore.com.au/beer/celebration-ale-1698-beer
In the US and Canada, you'll have a hard time. I have just looked through about 12 or so US-based online beer stores and while they mostly have great breweries listed such as Bateman's, Hook Norton, Wells, Fullers and Sam Smith's, sadly Shepherd Neame beers are not in evidence. Keep your eyes open though, and let me know.e