Food and Drink: The beer drinker's malt whisky: Guinness may be giving up its bottle-conditioned brew, but everyone else - including Oddbins - is taking them on. Michael Jackson reports on the flavour of the month

Methode Champenoise beer? Real beer in a bottle? However they are described, bottle-conditioned brews seem to be the buzz in the beer world. These are the brews that enjoy a secondary fermentation in the bottle, on a sediment of living yeast. In no other form does beer have quite such lively, fruity, spicy flavours.

Just a moment, though. Isn't that the form in which Guinness is withdrawing its black brew? Yes: but that exit will be matched by the entrance this month of no fewer than three newcomers.

Oddbins is launching an own- label brew described simply as Bottle-Conditioned Ale, and another cheekily called Black Russian Beer, and a respected country brewer is introducing a porter in the same form.

The Bottle-Conditioned Ale is amber-red in colour, with a soft, fresh, lightly tart palate and a late dryness. It is a slightly drier, lighter rival to the bottle-conditioned Worthington White Shield.

The Black Russian is almost opaque, with both sweetness and dryness and a bitter-chocolate character that comes from brown malt. It is a characterful but less hefty or potent younger cousin to Courage's bottle-conditioned Imperial Russian Stout.

Both of the Oddbins' products were created by brewer Jim Pryor, who worked in Burton and Rutland before spending a year or two setting up 'English' pubs in Russia. His new products were inspired by the Burton pale ales once exported to colonial India, and London porters and stouts shipped to St Petersburg in the days of the Tsarist empire.

The London porter and stout tradition was strongly associated with Southwark where - like Courage's - the Jenner family had a brewery. Miles Jenner of that family is now head brewer at Harvey's, in the parish of Cliffe, down the hill from Lewes, Sussex. This month he launches a bottle- conditioned porter.

One side of Cliffe High Street is medieval, and its most attractive building is the shop offering Harvey's beers, along with country wines, liqueurs and spirits (including a ghostly cavalier who is said to appear occasionally).

Harvey's has been in business since the 1790s. Down the side of the shop, an alley leads to the towered, half-timbered structure that is Britain's most elaborate Victorian-Gothic brewery, much of it dating from 1881.

There is a hint of the local shipbuilding industry about the architecture. The brewery has the appearance of being moored at a quay on the river Ouse, whose floods it frequently suffers. It was extended in the same style a few years ago, and the work was done so well that the building was later listed.

Even in 1881, some brewers were ceasing to bottle-condition their beers and beginning to filter and pasteurise them for ease of handling. In the course of the present century, fashions in beer have changed from porters to similar but fuller-bodied stouts, then to mild and bitter ales and finally to lagers. As the more sophisticated drinker has rediscovered these traditions, he has worked his way backwards through history.

Harvey's Victorian brewery, impeccably maintained, is thriving through an awareness of its roots. Unlike many breweries, it specifies the varieties of barley (including the classic Maris Otter) to be used by its maltsters, in Hertfordshire, Suffolk and Norfolk. It has its hops grown to order in Kent and Sussex, and has encouraged farmers to plant new gardens in its home county. The names of the grower and farm are chalked above every bale of hops in the brewery's store.

The brewery's water comes from its own well, plumbing the chalky downs that rise steeply behind its tower. The beer is fermented with a sturdy brewing yeast from Yorkshire.

Three years ago, the brewery launched a Tom Paine strong bitter and pale ale, to celebrate the bicentenary of the publication of The Rights of Man. Paine lived in Lewes and worked there as an excise man. Last year, with both bottle-conditioning and porter enjoying revivals, the brewery decided to combine the two. 'People are forever asking what beer used to taste like, and I had always dreamed of providing the answer,' explains Mr Jenner. 'With the growing interest in porter, it now seems a commercial reality to provide such a product. Having decided that, it would be a shame not to present the beer in its original, natural state, bottle-conditioned.'

He went back to the heyday of porter to find a specification in the daily journal of Harvey's head brewer in 1859. The 'recipe' specified the proportions of pale, crystal and black malts (no sugar) - and equal amounts of Kent and Sussex hops, without indicating variety. Hops have become much more acidic since those days. Mr Jenner consulted hop merchants as to the likely acidity of the cones a century and a half ago, and tried to match that in his choice of variety (Goldings and Fuggles) and quantity.

Porters traditionally had a long maturation. Few of the revivalist examples have, but Harvey's does. The first new batch of Harvey's 1859 Porter was made last August and was matured until December, at which point it was bottled on its lees and laid down at the brewery for a further few weeks.

I have just sampled that brew. It has a dense, rocky head; a solid black colour; a frisky liveliness; an alcohol content of 4.8 per cent; and a palate of almost impenetrable complexity and completeness: notes of sourdough bread, toast, very restrained fruitiness, a suggestion of oak (though none is used), a hint of iron - all these flavours tightly locked together. This would be a wonderful beer with shellfish, down the river at Newhaven or Brighton. It brought back a long-forgotten, Proustian memory of the first bottle of Guinness to tickle my teenage palate 35 years ago.

The bottle-conditioned 1859 Porter is available by mail-order from Harvey's Brewery Shop, 6 Cliffe High Street, Lewes, Sussex (0273 480217). It will be available as cask-conditioned draught at the Sussex Beer Festival, at Hove Town Hall, on 26-27 February.

(Photograph omitted)

News
Russell Brand was in typically combative form during his promotional interview with Newsnight's Evan Davis
peopleReports that Brand could stand for Mayor on an 'anti-politics' ticket
News
The clocks go forward an hour at 1am on Sunday 30 March
news
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor finds himself in a forest version of London in Doctor Who episode 'In the Forest of the Night'
TVReview: Is the Doctor ever going stop frowning? Apparently not.
News
Voluminous silk drawers were worn by Queen Victoria
newsThe silk underwear is part of a growing trade in celebrity smalls
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
Sport
footballMatch report: Real fight back to ruin Argentinian's debut
News
Candidates with surnames that start with an A have an electoral advantage
newsVoters are biased towards names with letters near start of alphabet
Arts and Entertainment
Isis with Lord Grantham (Hugh Bonneville)
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Jay James
TVReview: Performances were stale and cheesier than a chunk of Blue Stilton left out for a month
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

    Junior Application Support Engineer (ERP / SSRS)

    £23000 - £30000 per annum + pension, 25days holiday: Ashdown Group: An industr...

    IT Systems Analyst / Application Support Engineer (ERP / SSRS)

    £23000 - £30000 per annum + pension, 25days holiday: Ashdown Group: An industr...

    SCRUM Master

    £30 - 50k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a SCRUM Master to joi...

    Franchise Support Assistant

    £13,520: Recruitment Genius: As this role can be customer facing at times, the...

    Day In a Page

    Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

    Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

    Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
    Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

    Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

    The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
    New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

    New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

    Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
    Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

    Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

    The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
    DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

    Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

    Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
    The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

    Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

    The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
    Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

    Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

    The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
    11 best sonic skincare brushes

    11 best sonic skincare brushes

    Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
    Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

    Paul Scholes column

    I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
    Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

    Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

    While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
    Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

    Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

    Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

    A crime that reveals London's dark heart

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?