Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Ah, the Luftwaffe. The Washington Generals of the History Channel.

Beer: Spitfire Kentish Ale
Brewery: Shepherd Neame (Faversham, Kent)
Type: English Pale Ale
ABV: 4.5%

It doesn't take much to get me excited about a good English pale ale (see my previous laudatory review on Adnam's Broadside), so I usually have a few kicking around the fridge at any given moment. However, some are on hand more often than not, and sometimes it takes a reminder to bring an old favorite back to the fold. Like hilarious advertizing, for example.

Spitfire is a classic English pale, and one of the biggest sellers of the style in Britain. The brewery has been around for just over 400 years - now, whether that actually means the same brewery has been operational that entire stretch is usually a different matter - so the name is quite well-known, especially since the brewery owns nearly 400 pubs across the south-east of England, and brews a great deal of the nation's imported brands, like Germany's Holsten and Japan's Asahi. So yeah, the name comes up a lot.

For those who aren't geographically inclined, Kent is located in the extreme southeast of England, and is home to the Channel Tunnel (aka, that thing people got stuck in a few weeks back). It's the closest point in England to the continent, and during the Second World War, the county bore the brunt of Germany's aerial attacks during the Blitz. So, in 1990, Shepherd Neame released this brew in honor of the Spitfire fighter jet and their pilots who prevented the German invasion in 1940. As their advertizing campaign indicates, they're damned proud of it, and thoroughly enjoy rubbing it in:

Or this one, which is a little bit more saucy:
Sold, sold, sold.

There's a bunch of other great adverts, definitely worth a google search (Churchill and Goering make the occasional appearance!). A great indicator of the character of the brewery and the county it represents. It also happens to be a pretty fine brew (don't worry, I'm getting to it!)

Spitfire pours a medium amber hue, leaving a thin head that maintains itself as a thin ring throughout the pint. A few flecks of lacing - looks like a pale ale should.

The nose on this brew is fantastic: at first, it's pale malts and caramel, then you detect rye bread, dark fruit and tea leaves. Just terrific. Unfortunately the taste isn't quite as complex and inviting as the nose, but it's still a good brew. The malt and caramel are significantly muted, leaving a strong hoppy bitterness with a herbal, tea-like character. I'd almost classify this as a bitter if the ABV were a bit higher. Fairly well-carbonated, just a touch thinner than I'd like, but it would be great for session drinking - a slightly lower ABV would make this a good one for watching the game, too.

A pretty solid English pale, and one that I'll keep coming back to if I'm in the mood for a more bitter ale. Could have used a bit more complexity, as the bitterness tends to dominate after a while. However, if you feel like sticking it to the Luftwaffe, there's no brew better. (Grade: B+)

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