Name – Whitstable Bay
Brewer – Shepherd Neame
Classification – Organic golden ale
Strength – 4.5% ABV
Verdict - At A Glance
On the eye – Rich amber gold.
On the nose – Juicy bitter fruitiness and some lovely 'autumnal forest' deeper notes.
On the tongue – More of those juicy bitter fruits (notably apple, clementine and black cherry) with some herbal and spiced hints, underpinned by beautifully pitched 'woody' malts. Very rewarding.
On the subject – What can be said of Shepherd Neame's beers that hasn't already been said in pubs and homes all across Britain? Well, probably nothing, but here's a hugely verbose review anyway. Having said all that, not all of their brands are as well known as others, and today's beer is one I'd personally never tried before. The 'organic' status of this brew suggests the stirrings of a slightly more 'ethically sound' approach, and when influential market leaders like these guys set these kinds of examples it bodes well not just for the industry and the planet, but also for beer in general, because my experience is that organic beers nearly always taste better.
On the market – Most major supermarkets, and plenty else besides. Those with larger appetites should go to the brewery's own online store, where huge case-loads of these beauties are freely available. (The word 'freely' has various meanings, and this is probably not the one you were hoping for.)
On the whole – 8/10
On the whole – 8/10
Every ale approaches you in a unique way.
Some sneak up on you, others smack into you like freight trains. Some prioritise first impressions, others prefer to win you over more gradually. There are those beers that scream 'love me love me' until we finally do, as well as one or two that make us break down in tears wishing liquid had never been invented.
But every once in a while you come across an ale that is so chilled-out, low-key and contentedly self-possessed, that it really couldn't care less what you think about it. Such beers don't concern themselves with the undignified business of making an 'approach' to a drinker. They just know we're going to like them anyway, so they simply bypass all the hassle.
Whitstable Bay is one of those beers.
It's one of those brews that you find yourself still ordering at the very end of the night, without having once considered a change. I believe the phrase is 'easy-drinking'. A well-worn phrase indeed, but one which few beers could better encapsulate.
The continuous gentle sway between bitter dryness and zesty fruit sweetness is delightfully hypnotic, and it quite literally never settles on either side. This is actually quite ingenious, and it's a good example of the kind of clever tricks this well-oiled brewing team likes to incorporate into their creations.
There is a sense of freshness and immediacy to the drink, and it could be argued that this vividness stems from the use of organic ingredients. Given what I've already observed during these reviews, I wouldn't be at all surprised about that.
But given that very same set of prior experiences, I can't help but wonder how much more of that dynamic vitality might be enjoyed if this beer were to come bottle-conditioned.
It seems to me that the marriage of organic produce and bottle-conditioning is pretty much made in heaven, and there would surely be no better way to see that theory put to the test than with a beer like this.
Maybe one day they might give that a try. I'll certainly be skipping around like an utter lunatic if they ever do.
There's no question, though, that this beer in its current form is a delicious way to be tantalized in the meantime.
It really is a hugely enjoyable ale.