38. Spitfire Kentish Ale

Posted: December 16, 2009 in ale, International beer, traditional looking label
Tags: , , , , , ,

Spitfire Kentish Ale


Company info:
Shepherd Neame


Bottle size sampled: 500 mL

Alcohol: 4.5%
Standard drinks: 1.8

Cap type: Non-twist

Cost: I picked this up for AU$TBC

Label info: ‘This 4.5% Kentish Ale was first brewed in 1990 to celebrate the Battle of Britain which was fought in the skies above Kent 50 years earlier. The beer is named after the legendary aircraft designed by R J Mitchell. The versatility of the aircraft and the courage of its pilots were essential to victory and were a key symbol of the spirit of the time. Through our award winning advertising and fundraising activities for veterans’ charities that spirit lives on’.

What the label really means: Definitely a bottle that rings of history and heroics, commemorating an important battle. I like the background this beer has been given.

The Hell-Cat review starts here

Label: Despite talk of air battles involving Spitfire aircraft, battling it out in the skies about Kent, the label shows no visual evidence of this. Perhaps I am thinking a bit too literally, but I expected to see an image of a grand ol Spitfire cruising through sunset lit clouds. In the cockpit I expected an image of a war hero giving a wink to the drinker as if to say ‘Bottoms up ol chap’. Instead, Spitfire Kentish Ale has opted for what looks like a typically conservative, patriotic label, using the very British red white and blue colour scheme. Sure it looks distinguished, and sure it looks like a label that could well have been around during the Battle of Britain….but where is the Spitfire with guns ablazing? This is too ‘sit on the fence’ for me. 

I give it a label rating of 5 out of 10.

AROMA: A deliciously fruity, malty smell.

Taste: GLASS – The Spitefire Kentish Ale pours out in a beautiful amber colour. It’s enough to make me sit and admire the colour for a couple of seconds before tasting. I take a sip and am pleasantly surprised by the fact that this ale appears very lightly carbonated, with a real creamy texture – in a sense it reminds me a little of Kilkenny in mouth feel. It has a rather pleasant caramelly, bitter, burnt after taste, and while I am enjoying this tasting, I can help feeling as though it is sitting a little heavily. I’d like to suggest that Spitfire Kentish Ale tastes as though it is the bastard son of James Squire Amber Ale, and Kilkenny. It’s very unique, very bold, and very flavoursome – but still sitting very heavily.

I give it a beer from glass rating of 7 out of 10.

Taste: BOTTLE – The smoothness of this beer is reinforced when sampled from the bottle. I am finding it just as enjoyable…in fact I would say it’s a little better than from the glass and it’s not feeling as heavy. I’d love to know what this stuff tastes like on tap!

I give it a taste from bottle rating of 7.5 out of 10.

A word from the wife: “Definitely don’t enjoy the after taste…not one for the ladies…I wouldn’t be able to finish this”

She gave it a taste rating of 2.5 out of 10.

Accompanying food: Given I found this beer a tad heavy, you’d think I’d suggest something light such as a fresh garden salad but I can’t help thinking the gutsiness of this beer would be best reinforced with a good old Irish stew or shepherd’s pie.

Best season to appreciate: Definitely a Winter brew. One for the apres skiier/boarder or for sitting around the fireplace.

All-nighter beer? I could easily drink 5-6 of these and be satisfied, but realise I’d need to change to something lighter (in colour and flavour) for the rest of the night. All night on the Spitfire and I have a feeling I would wake up feeling like I’ve been run over by a double decker bus.

NEXT WEEK: James Squire Sundown Lager (by popular demand)

  1. HellRaiser says:

    Der HellCat,
    Another top review.

    An observation of your photo. . . and no, it’s not to do with what appears to be remnants of a movember escapade.

    I noticed distinct condensation on the bottle.

    I was just wondering if your review of this English Ale was tarnished by chilling beyond the recommended serving teperature and whether there would be a difference if the review was carried out at say +10 deg C?

    Could you pop out to your dirt-tin bin and drain the dregs from the discarded bottle and get back to us?

    Much obliged to you,


    • BargeDave says:

      Well spotted Hell-raiser. Interesting issue. However, doesn’t the Hell-Cat reside in Queensland, where at this time of year even a bottle of 10 degree liquid may well attract condensation? Your point is perfectly correct that any ale from the UK or Europe should be drunk at that temperature.


    • Mason Hell-Cat says:

      Hi HellRaiser,

      Always a pleasure to have you stop by.

      With regards to my tasting of Spitfire Kentish Ale, I followed the following procedure:
      1) Refrigerate for 2-3 days (due to lack of space in the laboratory)
      2) Remove from fridge and leave at room temperature, for 20+ minutes
      3) Taste

      So, I do believe that the beer was at an optimal tasting temperature of approximately +10 deg c. I can explain the condensation only by saying that it was remnants from the ‘warming’ period, and a room temp of approximately 20 deg c.

      Do you have an opinion on this brew?

      Mason Hell-Cat

      P.S. To my regular contributor BD, no I do not live in Queensland, have never lived in Queensland, and nor do I ever plan to live in Queensland.


  2. McLean not MacLean says:

    Kent is indeed good hop country. Driving around the countryside you can still see the oast houses where they used to dry the hops. They all have mysterious, oversized white chimneys. I wonder if Professor BargeDave could explain the science behind these chimneys?


    • BargeDave says:

      Absolutely no idea McLean. I’d have thought that hop-drying would best be done as a slow, natural process rather than using a fire to avoid evaporating off the delicate hop oils.


      • BargeDave says:

        Further to previous, I’ve just spent 10 fascinating minutes Googling this and I wonder if the chimneys were part of the communal cooking facilities provided for workers who came from cities every year to pick hops as a sort of working holiday in the countryside.


        Amazing stuff. Apparently this was a common practice until the 1960’s.


      • McLean not MacLean says:

        Great research BargeDave. I too have been pondering this issue and your research ties in with a theory I have. I think the chimneys were painted white because – back in the day – the city workers would have been illiterate. So, when they ventured into the Kentish countryside, they may not have been sure which buildings were the oast houses. BUT thanks to the magic of the white painted chimneys, they would always be able to locate their destination. This is based on no research whatsoever, but it makes sense, right?


    • Mason Hell-Cat says:

      McLean, excellent insights!

      BD, good work too.


  3. BargeDave says:

    As a fan of exotic ales, it seems to me that my favourite ales tend to be either the truly grand ales (the Belgians, Coopers Vintage etc) or those which are milder than the grands but retain a good complexity. Spitfire is firmly in the second category. I much prefer it to Kilkenny as it is decidedly hoppier, although the good malt flavours are certainly there too. I understand that Kent is excellent hops-growing country. Beer fans MUST Google Spitfire Ale and check out the superb range of advertisements which accompanied this beer – although if you’ve got German heritage prepare to be offended.


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