Shepherd-Neame Spooks Ale
In British beer terms, Shepherd-Neame are one of the bigger players. To be fair, they’ve had a few hundred years to get to where they are. I’ve drank a couple of their beers in the past, especially liking the London Porter brewed as part of Sainsbury’s ‘Taste The Difference’ range. Their Halloween seasonal, Spooks Ale, was one that I’d bypassed many a time in the local supermarket in the lead up to Halloween although, come the day itself, I felt a certain desire to have a themed beer.
And, for a themed beer, it’s a nice understated label and well presented with no garish seasonality like that of Wychwood’s Pumpking Ale. The Copperplate Gothic font suits the time of year and, coupled with the label’s parchment colour, is reminiscent of some old Victorian poster and the single blood spatter suggests something sinister. The label bills it as the “Official Ghost Brew for All Hallows”, a title it probably doesn’t have much competition for given that most Halloween themed beers are for, well, Halloween. Not the day after. And quite how its challenge to “drink if you dare” sits alongside the responsible drinking promotions of the Drink Aware ‘charity’, which it funds, is anyone’s guess. Nevertheless, the gauntlet thrown down, I could only accept.
Once poured, it’s a dark reddish colour, nearing brown. The nose carries a strong and pleasant biscuity aroma, ably supported by a touch of both caramel and citrus. The initial swallow reveals nice roasted flavours, spiced with what tastes like cinnamon, and finishes nice and dry, quickly inviting another sip. However, it’s not long before the early promise subsides and the beer becomes a little generic, with the roastiness gone and only the tandem tastes of light spiciness and a more pronounced hop bitterness defining it. At 4.7%, Spooks Ale is certainly something that I could get through a few bottles of were the initial taste and smell persistent through the duration of the bottle. As they are not, it maintains its ghostly theme, being a beer haunted by the faint memory of first impressions.
November 1, 2011