Food & Drink: The local pint that has travelled well: An old Kent brewery whose wares sell well in France is now advertising in Franglais. Michael Jackson reports

The French, whose love of wine does not preclude a taste for beer, have clear ideas as to which drinks should be the pride of our island: in their view, the wine of England is beer (and of Scotland, whisky). They buy a lot of British beer, and their lower rates of duty have also made the Channel ports a much-publicised shopping stop for British drinkers.

Among France's best-selling English beers are those of Shepherd Neame, which currently is offering daily tastings at the Mammouth Hypermarket, Calais, where its top beer sells at about 65p a half- litre, as against pounds 1.35 in high- street off-licences in Britain.

French beer-lovers arriving in Britain may be startled by the prices here, but they must be reassured that Shepherd Neame is the first brewery to show up on this side of the water, in the Kent town of Faversham. It also has the cachet of being Britain's oldest brewery.

The Channel-crossing has been in both directions. The Benedictine order (founded in Italy) and the monks of Cluny (in France) were responsible for the first recorded brewing in Faversham, in 1147.

In the same century, the Benedictine Abbess Hildegarde of Rupertsberg (near Mainz, Germany) noted a development in beer-making: the barley-malt brew was now being seasoned not only with longer-established material such as ash leaves but also with the flower of the hop vine. In the 1500s, Flemish immigrants to Kent introduced the hop habit to Britain.

The present Shepherd Neame brewery was established in 1698, above an artesian well. It is in the heart of Kent hop (and cherry) country, and from its early days imported barley by sailing barge from East Anglia.

The barley still comes from that region, though no longer by the barges that lie moored in Faversham Creek. The town once built these vessels to sail down the creek into the Swale and the Thames estuary, and likes to remember its history.

Brewing, cherries and boat- building were its traditional industries, but none was promoted with other than English reserve until recently. Now Faversham is facing up to Europe. This month, Shepherd Neame is beginning an advertising campaign - in Franglais. Throughout the South- east, posters will announce its Beer du Pays. The posters depict a handsome bottle, looking as though it might contain cognac but actually offering a 'strong' (5.2 per cent alcohol) brew called Bishop's Finger.

With its ecclesiastical history, Faversham no doubt feels at home with bishops, but the finger has more pedestrian origins. It is said to derive from a style of road-sign once popular in Kent. The beer is beautifully balanced, with a firm body, a clean, malty sweetness, a restrained, hoppy dryness and a yeasty fruitiness.

Much as I find Bishop's Finger a satisfying brew, my preference is for another Shepherd Neame beer, Spitfire. I wonder what our guests from the Continent will make of that name, and if anyone under 50 understands its significance. Spitfire has a yeast sediment, and a secondary fermentation in the bottle. This bottle-conditioning, the brewer's counterpart to Methode Champenoise, makes for greater complexity of flavours, especially in the fruitiness. Spitfire, at 4.7 per cent, is full of the earthy aromas and flavours of Goldings hops, the classic variety in East Kent.

While these beers can be found widely in Britain, in Safeway and Oddbins, for example, it is necessary to head for Kent to taste Shepherd Neame's aromatic Best Bitter, its chocolatey Dark Ale (under the name of Mason's, a brewery acquired in 1954) or its smoky Porter.

The Bishop's Finger Beer du Pays campaign also has a culinary flavour that might impress even the French. Shepherd Neame has commissioned 30 recipes, each using beer, from Sarah Woodward, who in 1990 was the Independent's first Cook of the Year.

Sarah learnt to cook on a gas-ring while studying at Trinity College, Cambridge. Macmillan recently published her first book, Fresh from the Market ( pounds 9.99). Her recipes with beer will be distributed where Bishop's Finger is retailed and may later be published in book form.

Sport
The giant banner displayed by Legia Warsaw supporters last night
football
News
news
Voices
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
News
Angelina Jolie with her father Jon Voight
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
News
Melissa and Joan Rivers together at an NBC event in May 2014
peopleDaughter Melissa thanks fans for 'outpouring of support'
Life and Style
tech
Life and Style
life
Life and Style
One in six drivers cannot identify a single one of the main components found under the bonnet of an average car
motoringOne in six drivers can't carry out basic under-bonnet checks
News
i100
Voices
Pupils educated at schools like Eton (pictured) are far more likely to succeed in politics and the judiciary, the report found
voices
Arts and Entertainment
Simon Cowell is less than impressed with the Strictly/X Factor scheduling clash
tvSimon Cowell blasts BBC for breaking 'gentlemen's agreement' in scheduling war
News
peopleWrestling veteran drifting in and out of consciousness
Arts and Entertainment
Shady character: Jon Hamm as sports agent JB Bernstein in Million Dollar Arm
filmReview: Jon Hamm finally finds the right role on the big screen in Million Dollar Arm
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Business Development Manager / Sales Pro

    £30 - 35k + Uncapped Comission (£70k Y1 OTE): Guru Careers: A Business Develop...

    Graduate Sales Executive / Junior Sales Exec

    £18k + Uncapped Commission (£60k Y1 OTE): Guru Careers: A Graduate Sales Exe...

    Web Developer / Software Developer

    £25 - 60k (DOE): Guru Careers: A Web Developer / Software Developer is needed ...

    Oracle 11g SQL 2008 DBA (Unix, Oracle RAC, Mirroring, Replicati

    £6000 - £50000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: Oracle 11...

    Day In a Page

    Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

    The phoney war is over

    Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
    Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

    Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

    The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
    Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

    Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

    Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
    From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

    Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

    After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
    Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

    Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

    Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
    Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

    Salomé: A head for seduction

    Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
    From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

    British Library celebrates all things Gothic

    Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
    The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

    Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

    The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
    Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

    In search of Caribbean soul food

    Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
    11 best face powders

    11 best face powders

    Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
    England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

    Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

    Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
    Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

    Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

    They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
    Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

    Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

    Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
    Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

    Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

    The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
    America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

    America’s new apartheid

    Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone