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Brewery code breakers in Kent bring back iconic beers from the Victorian period

Added: Saturday, October 27th 2012

Code-breaking worthy of Bletchley Park in World War Two has enabled Kent family brewer Shepherd Neame to unlock the recipes of two 19th-century beers.

Master Brewer Stewart Main and archivist John Owen deciphered brewers’ logs and as a result have brought two lost beers back to life. The recipes for Double Stout and India Pale Ale were originally written in code to stop other rival brewers copying them.

Shepherd Neame, Britain’s oldest brewery dating from 1698, first produced a Double Stout in 1868. The methods used then are remarkably similar to today’s, with brewing taking place in the country’s last remaining oak mash tuns. The 5.2% beer is glossy and black with a robust hop aroma from East Kent Goldings along with a roasted malt character. It delivers a velvety smooth palate, with dry roast flavours complemented by roasted coffee notes.

India Pale Ale followed in 1870. It was brewed in the style of the heavily hopped, high alcohol beers sent to India at the time. The 6.1% IPA retains the strength and character of the iconic beers of the Victorian period. Kent-grown Fuggles and East Kent Goldings are added three times during the copper boil. The finished beer has a deep gold colour with spiced fruit notes and distinctive, heavily-hopped bitterness.

Both beers are packaged in 500ml amber glass bottles embellished with the brewery’s 19th-century logo on label, neck and crown. They are part of Shepherd Neame’s Classic Collection and are available from specialist stockists or from


IPA: bright orange/bronze colour. Massive tart fruit reminiscent of orange and lemon slices confectionery, with spicy hop resins and cracker biscuit malt. Bittersweet citrus fruit, juicy malt and bitter hops build in the mouth. Tart hops and citrus fruit dominate the long finish but with a solid underpinning of sappy malt. Wonderfully quenching.

Double Stout: Jet black with a ruby edge and barley-white foam. A big hit of cocoa on the nose with chocolate and coffee, dark fruit, roasted grain and peppery hops. Bitter, peppery hops build in the mouth but are balanced by bittersweet dark fruit, chocolate, coffee and roasted grain. Liquorice notes appear in the finish with a late burst of intensely bitter hops, roasted grain, coffee and dark, vinous fruits. It's finally dry with chocolate and cocoa notes.


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