Beer Background

Chiltern Ruby Ale salutes 40 years of CAMRA's unique Good Beer Guide

Added: Sunday, September 2nd 2012

At 7.30am on Friday 17 August, with early morning mist hanging over the Buckinghamshire hills and already a hint of autumn in the air, I helped load sacks of grain into the mash tun at the Chiltern Brewery and then pressed a button to get the brew under way.

The result will be no ordinary, run-of-the-mill beer. The GBG 40 Ruby Anniversary Ale commemorates 40 years and 40 editions of the annual CAMRA Good Beer Guide: the 2013 edition will be published on 13 September. Chiltern Brewery, one of England’s oldest artisan breweries, based on a former farm at Terrick between Aylesbury and Wendover, has many years of experience of producing strong bottle-conditioned beer. Head brewer Tom Jenkinson leapt at the opportunity to brew a commemorative beer for the Good Beer Guide. He devised a recipe for a ruby ale, as ruby is the colour that marks 40 years of marriage or, in this case, 40 years of compiling and publishing a unique guide to both pubs and breweries.

In discussions with CAMRA and me, Tom wanted a strong beer that could be laid down as well as drunk young. He also wanted to reflect the 40 years of the guide by using ingredients both ancient and modern.

The grains are a blend of Maris Otter barley malt, which was used extensively in the 1970s and is still the preferred grain of many craft brewers, along with more modern varieties. Similarly, with the hops, Tom blended Fuggles and Goldings, which have existed since the 18th and 19th centuries respectively, with Whitbread Goldings Variety (WGV), which was used in the 1970s, and two more modern hops, Challenger and Pioneer.

Tom’s brewing sheet says: “Style – creamy, smooth, rich balanced malt base with hints of roast barley, full flavoured and hoppy. Claret red in colour.”

The strength is 7.2% ABV with an original gravity of 1070 degrees. The colour is 38-42 and the units of bitterness 40-45. The grain recipe is pale ale malt, crystal malt, roast barley, wheat and oats. For the one hour 30 minutes copper boil, Challenger are used at the start of the boil, Fuggles and Goldings are added after 45 minutes, with Pioneer and WGV added as a late addition at the end of the boil. The beer is then dry hopped in the conditioning tank with Pioneer.

As a result of the strength of the beer, it will need a long conditioning and will be available for sale from mid-October: but boxes can be ordered now.

A royalty will be paid to CAMRA for the sale of each box. The beer is available to the general public and can be bought from Chiltern’s brewery shop, Nash Lee Road, Terrick, Bucks, HP17 0TQ: 01296 613647;

*Aylesbury Vale & Wycombe branch of CAMRA will stage a special launch of the Good Beer Guide with Chiltern Brewery at the brewery’s pub, the King’s Head, Market Square, Aylesbury, on 20 September, 6-7pm. The event is for media and CAMRA members only.

Photos: Alexander Wright. Above, Tom Jenkinson monitors my work as "Brewer for the Day".

Tom Jenkinson at Chiltern
Chiltern box