BLO Bob Thompson

Newsletter 84                   16.04.2022


The newest Cask Club beer is May Bee (4.3% abv). It will be available in selected Shepherd Neame pubs from Wednesday 6 April throughout April and May.

A golden-amber honey ale, May Bee offers delicate malt and sweet honey flavours, balanced with peppery spice and fruit notes. Crystal malt gives this ale a deep golden hue, with oats used to create smooth mouth feel. UK Cascade hops combine with Target and Challenger to give floral and citrus aromas, balancing out the sweet honey.

The honey was sourced locally from Paynes Bee Farm, a family-run business nestled in the village of Hassocks, Sussex, just 90 minutes from the brewery.

Shepherd Neame’s Technical Brewer Danielle Whelan said: “With spring in the air, May Bee is the perfect pint as the weather brightens up, offering drinkers a well-rounded yet complex beer. “The team and I had a lot of fun brewing May Bee, carefully pouring the honey into the coppers by hand to ensure the sweet flavour and aromas were imparted into the brew as late in the process as possible. We are confident our newest beer will create quite a buzz with drinkers!” For more about Paynes Bee Farm, visit:

Shepherd Neame are, of course, intending to brew a special beer for the the Queen’s Jubilee but details are not known at present.

As part of the Queen’s Green Canopy project to celebrate Her Majesty’s Platinum Jubilee this year, Shepherd Neame is planting 70 trees at pubs across its estate So far the company has planted 16 fruit trees at the Woolpack Inn in Benover, Yalding; 16 at the Pepper Box Inn at Windmill Hill, Harrietsham; 16 more at the George Inn at Newnham, Sitttingbourne, and 18 at the Red Lion at Chelwood Gate in Haywards Heath, each site making up a mini orchard. The trees are a range of varieties, including Crab Apple, Flowering Cherry, Plum, Nectarine and Quince.

The project has been put together in collaboration with fellow Faversham-based firm Edible Culture, which supplied the trees. This complements Shepherd Neame’s ongoing work with the Kent Wildlife Trust, their chosen Charity of the Year.

Cheers and stay safe,

Bob Thompson,

CAMRA Brewery Liaison Officer for Shepherd Neame


Newsletter 82                03.08.2021


I am pleased to advise that Shepherd Neame’s Cask Club beers have returned for August 2021. The first offering is Rebel Flame (4.5%). It is a complex beer with many different ingredients. Six hop varieties are used, four from the USA and two from the UK. Those from across the water are Amarillo, Cascade, Centennial and Mosaic. The representatives from the home country are Boadicea and Challenger.

The overall flavour has a strong base of malt with a spicy after-taste. Mike Unsworth, Shepherd Neame’s Head Brewer, describes it as a tropical IPA with a deep gold colour that has floral, mango and citrus aromas. This beer is to be followed on a monthly basis by others leading up to Christmas. What is to be brewed is not known at present but rest assured I will tell you as soon as the information becomes available.

Cheers and stay safe,

Bob Thompson,

CAMRA Brewery Liaison Officer for Shepherd Neame

Previous Reports from Bob:

Shepherd Neame Beers

Newsletter 80                25.06.2020





It’s very good news that pubs will be able to open from 4th July. Yet, as you probably are aware there will be a lot of restrictions and not all pubs will reopen on that date. Sadly, some may never do so. As far as Shepherd Neame is concerned several of their managed houses are planned to welcome customers again from that date. In addition, a number of the tenanted pubs will do the same. I can do no better than to quote from a letter from the CEO, Jonathan Neame:

“In order to protect our customers and team members, we propose to reopen our managed estate on a phased basis and expect to reopen at least two thirds of our pubs by the end of July. This will allow us to evaluate our approach and collect feedback and learnings throughout the process, to identify best practice.

We currently plan to open 40 (managed) pubs and at least 150 tenanted pubs as soon as possible. The following managed pubs will open on July 4: Bell Hotel, Sandwich; Botany Bay Hotel, Kingsgate; Britannia, Guildford; Marine Hotel, Whitstable; Minnis Bay Bar and Brasserie; Pier Five Bar and Kitchen, Chatham; Royal Albion Hotel, Broadstairs; Royal, Tankerton; Ship and Trades, Chatham; Spitfire, Kings Hill; The Sun, Faversham; Woolpack, Banstead, Conningbrook Hotel, Ashford. Please look at our website for regular updates on specific sites.

During the reopening phase it will take a considerable period of time for our supply chains to normalise and therefore our managed pubs will offer a reduced menu. All menus will be available to view on the pub’s website before reopening.”

There will be three cask-conditioned beers available in the beginning: Whitstable Bay Pale Ale, Spitfire Ale and Master Brew Bitter.

That is the current situation. I will do my best to keep you updated on openings over the next few weeks and months.

Cheers and stay safe,

Bob Thompson,

CAMRA Brewery Liaison Officer for Shepherd Neame


Shepherd Neame Beers
Newsletter 78            08.10.2019

Since last issue No. 77 I have not been able to visit the brewery. However as there is a lot going on at the moment, I have managed to extract information on the new beers from other sources. In that last edition of the newsletter I left you with Hard Labor (4.6%), an American style IPA. This was the Cask Club beer for July. It was hopped four times with Target and Chinook hops and dry-hopped with Azzaca.

Also brewed in June was another beer that slipped under the radar a bit. It was Coronado West Coast Session IPA (5.0%) It was brewed jointly with Shawn Steel of Coronado Brewing. This is found on a former island of the same name. It can be reached by ferry from San Diego, CA. I can’t give any tasting notes as I never had any but I think we can guess that it had all the typical West Coast IPA flavours. It was brewed with Apollo and Azacca hops.

This was followed by the next Cask Club ale (for August); Summer Storm (4.5%). It was another American-type IPA, but different to Hard Labour and the Coronado IPA. It was very flavoursome with citrus and tropical flavours. Four hops were used: from England there was Target and from the USA there was Amarillo, Centennial and Denali.

September was graced with no less than two Cask Club beers. We were treated with old favourite Late Red (4.5%) which is a very autumnal ale with a malty character made with English-grown Cascade hops. Simultaneously on sale was Oast Dodger (4.5%). This was brewed with entirely with a mixture of un-kilned hops picked on the day of brewing.

Wetherspoons are holding their autumn Real Ale Festival between Wednesday 9th and Sunday 20th October. Shepherd Neame are brewing two unique cask beers for it. Under their own name will be Shep’s Light Ale (4.0%). A light-coloured beer said to be a modern interpretation of one of their historic beers. It will have a medium bitterness and uses East Kent Goldings and Target from the UK and Cascade hops from the USA.

Another beer from Faversham to look forward to in the Wetherspoon Festival is: AleSmith Nut Brown Ale (5.0%). It is brewed by Ryan Crisp of AleSmith Brewery which is situated in the Carroll Valley, one of the many valleys north of San Diego, California. This area is overloaded with breweries. It is brewed with a mix of malts and the use of East Kent Golding hops place it firmly in the English Brown Ale style.

The Cask Club rolls on and the next three beers are as follows: October sees Northern Lights (4.7%), a collaboration with St Erik’s Brewery of Arlandstad, Sweden. This is located close to Stockholm Arlanda Airport, north of the capital. It’s an American-style IPA flavoured with Blueberries yet with a citrus finish as it is made with American Citra hops.

November sees another joint effort. A Scandinavian connection again, as this is with Finnish brewer Mallaskoski of Seinäjoki. It’s an established brewery found in an old town about a third of the way up the country, inland from the port of Vaasa on the Gulf of Bothnia. The beer is Howling Wolf (4.5%), a Winter Ale. It’s not the beer with the same name brewed in 2010 which was a 4.2% Golden Ale. The brewery says that it should have vanilla and citrus notes with a slightly smoky finish. It’s is made using German Mittelfrüh and American Summit hops.

Finally, for Christmas and the rest of December will be Rudolf’s Revenge (4.5%). Again, a revival of a previously-used name, but not the same beer. The former Rudolf’s Revenge was 3.8% beer which was last brewed in December 2017. Then, it was targeted at the company’s pubs, also Wetherspoon’s and other pub chains. This new 2019 beer uses Pale and Crystal malts with Target and East Kent Goldings hops. Also, mulled spices are added to give a true seasonal flavour.

Bob Thompson, CAMRA Brewery Liaison Officer for Shepherd Neame.

Previous Report

Bob visited the brewery  and spoke to Head Brewer Mike Unsworth. So please find below some information on current beers and those on the way.

Just reaching the end of its run in the pubs is Hop County Hopping Mad Pale Ale (4.8%), to give it its full title. I thought it was an excellent beer made with Crystal malt and Boadicea, Endeavour and UK Cascade hops that had a light bitter taste that belied its strength. It was the beer that kicked off the new Cask Club series. It can also be obtained at the Wetherspoon’s Spring Beer Festival where it represents Shepherd Neame’s contribution. It is on now and finishes on Sunday 7th April.

The Cask Club will feature a different cask beer at approximately monthly intervals. The next will be Samuel Adams’s Blonde Ambition (4.2%), brewed in conjunction with the Boston Beer Company of Massachusetts, USA. It combines both American and British hops. We tasted the first batch that had only been racked the day before. Obviously it had a lot of conditioning in it yet when that cleared there was a fantastic hoppy beer. For those who have tasted a beer of this name in the past I would advise that this version is not of the same recipe. It was possible to order it from Monday 1st April.

The May offering in the Cask Club will be New Dawn Citrus Ale (3.5%). This will be made with Citra hops for flavour and will also contain some real citrus fruit. The monthly beers to be brewed after that are not fully finalised yet. However, I have been told that they will include more foreign collaborations and some IPAs.

Another beer brewed by the company for the Wetherspoon’s Festival is Darling Gypsy Mask Red Ale (4.0%). This was one of the five beers brewed by overseas brewers in British breweries. The Darling brewery is from the Cape Town suburb of Woodstock in South Africa and its brewer Réné du Toit came to Faversham to brew it. We found it had a malty body yet was more bitter than a traditional red ale. We liked it a lot.

It was a good visit and I will make an appointment to see Mike again during the second half of May.