Beer Background
Nov 2012

Chiltern Ruby Ale, Chiltern Brewery

Added: Thursday, November 1st 2012

Style Old Ale ABV 7.2%

Chiltern Brewery Ruby Ale, 7.2%

This is a special beer, brewed to mark the 40th anniversary of CAMRA’s Good Beer Guide. It’s bottle conditioned and will improve with age, though it can be drunk – and enjoyed – now.

In late August I helped start the mash at the brewery with head brewer Tom Jenkinson. When I first discussed the beer with Tom, he was not only enthusiastic but also spent several weeks researching all the raw materials – malts and hops – that have been available over the past four decades.

There’s full information about the ingredients on the presentation box that includes five 500ml bottles of the beer plus an attractive Chiltern Brewery glass. The brewery is the oldest craft brewery in Buckinghamshire. It was founded in 1980 by Richard Jenkinson, who has now passed on day-to-day running to Tom, while his brother George runs their pub, the King’s Head in Aylesbury.

For Ruby Ale, Tom chose Maris Otter malting barley, along with roast barley, crystal malt, wheat and oats. The hops are Fuggles and Goldings that represent two centuries of brewing tradition, with Challenger from the 1970s, Whitbread Goldings Variety, which was on the point of extinction until it was replanted in the 1990s, and Pioneer, a new hedgerow hop from the 21st century. Hedgerow hops grow to half the height of conventional varieties and are less prone to attack from pests and disease. The beer has 40 to 45 units of bitterness and the hops are used as follows: Challenger for bittering; dual hops Fuggles and Goldings; aroma Pioneer and WGV; dry hop Pioneer.

The beer has a bright ruby/Burgundy colour with a dense collar of foam. The rich and complex aroma offers roasted grain, black chocolate, fresh tobacco, burnt fruits, port wine, cedar-like hops and a Marmite yeast note. The mouth-coating palate has creamy malt, sugared almonds, raisins, espresso coffee, chocolate, a solid underpinning of bitter hop resins and a continuing spicy yeast note. The long finish is dominated by toasted and smoky malt, black chocolate, bitter coffee, burnt fruit, spicy and bitter hops and a lingering salty yeast note.

Both the presentation box and a note inside give full details of the ingredients used. One box costs £34.95 or you can buy two boxes for £59.50, both prices include postage. A box bought from the brewery shop, Nash Lee Road, Terrick, Aylesbury, Bucks HP17 0TQ, costs £24.95. A £1 donation from each box goes to CAMRA for campaigning.

You can order most easily by going direct from the Chiltern Brewery advertisement on this site. If your funds allow, I would suggest buying two boxes and laying some bottles down for a few years for ageing. The beer will appeal to lovers of British old ales and barley wines as well as Belgian Dubbels.


Chiltern Ruby Ale, Chiltern Brewery