Westerham Audit Ale, Westerham
Added: Wednesday, January 1st 2014
|Style||Strong Pale Ale||ABV 6.2%|
Westerham Audit Ale (6.2%)
Robert Wicks launched Westerham Brewery in 2004 at Crockham Hill in Kent, close to Chartwell, the country home of Sir Winston Churchill. Churchill, along with members of the Royal Air Force stationed at Biggin Hill during World War Two, enjoyed the beers brewed by the local Black Eagle Brewery. It was a substantial brewery with a strong presence in pubs in Kent and as far away as London. It was bought in 1959 by Ind Coope, based in Burton-on-Trent and Romford, and Black Eagle was closed six years later.
Robert has restored Black Eagle’s brewing traditions, including the same water supply from the Greensand Ridge – hard water that’s ideal for brewing pale ale – and the former brewery’s yeast strains stored at the National Collection of Yeast Cultures in Norwich.
Audit Ale was one of Black Eagle’s most popular beers and Robert has faithfully recreated it, using a recipe from 1938. The beer follows a tradition that dates from the 16th century, when colleges brewed strong ale to accompany the annual Audit Feast. The ale, brewed in October using the first malts and hops of the harvest, was stored for many months. It was served at the feast when the masters of the colleges finished the annual accounts, which included rents from the colleges’ extensive lands. Audit Ales were most famously associated with Oxford and Cambridge Universities but many other seats of learning either brewed them or bought them in from commercial brewers. Brasenose College in Oxford had its own brewery until 1889. Black Eagle’s Audit Ale reached the highest levels of society: it was supplied to Clarence House in London to coincide with the start of the oyster season.
Westerham’s interpretation of the Black Eagle ale is made with pale and crystal malts and, Robert says, “a big charge of Kent hops”. It has a burnished copper colour with a “malt loaf” nose accompanied by such rich aromas as raisin, sultanas, marzipan and vanilla. Creamy malt dominates the palate but peppery hops start to build in the mouth, with continuing notes of burnt fruit and vanilla. The finish is long and complex, bittersweet to start, with toasted malt, dark fruit, vanilla and peppery hops; it finally finishes dry and bitter.
The beer is available both cask-conditioned and bottle-conditioned. It can be bought online from the brewery in bottles, polypins and casks: see www.westerhambrewery.co.uk.
A single bottle costs £2.40 but a case of 12 is good value at £26.75. A mini-pin is £38.50, a polypin £76.