Thursday, December 12, 2013
By TOM ATWELL
Shipyard is heading to England.
In a sense, the beer is returning it its roots, as Shipyard's head brewer and co-founder Alan Pugsley is English and learned his craft in England.
Shipyard has, since its founding, brewed the English beer Old Thumper under a contract with Ringwood, the brewery where Pugsley trained. Ringwood is now one of six English breweries owned by Marston's.
"A pale and an IPA," answered James Coyle, sales and marketing director for Marston's, when I asked which Shipyard beers the company would be brewing for England. The pale ale will be Chamberlain; the IPA will be Fuggles rather than Monkey Fist.
"Monkey Fist would be too extreme for England," Richard Westwood, brewmaster for Marston's, responded when I asked. At 70 IBU (international bittering units) and 6.9 percent alcohol, Monkey Fist would be too high on both counts, he said.
Coyle said most of the beer sold in England is 4 percent alcohol, partly because that is what the drinkers prefer and partly because British taxes on alcohol are high and based on the percentage of alcohol in the beer.
Coyle also said the extreme hoppiness of some American beers is not appreciated.
"You take Dogfish Head at 60, 90 or 120 IBUs: It strips the enamel off your teeth," he said.
Westwood said the Shipyard pale ale and Fuggles IPA will have a definite American character when sold in the English market, even though they are considered English styles in the American market.
The Chamberlain pale ale, I found out after a web search, has only 10 IBUs, while the Fuggles has 50. Chamberlain is 4.9 percent alcohol; Fuggles is 5.8. They should go on sale in England during April.
These two beers will not be the first Shipyard beers Marston's has produced in England. In 2010, Pugsley went to England and produced Independence Ale at Banks Brewery, another brand under the Marston's umbrella. A few kegs of that recipe made it to Shipyard-owned restaurants in Maine.
"We are going to do the Independence Ale again," said Fred Forsley, Shipyard's co-founder and president. "It should be out and in the breweries by July 4."
I had a pint of Independence Ale at the South Portland Sea Dog Restaurant in 2010, and I liked it very much. It was on cask, had a wonderful silky body, was low in hops, and came in at 4.2 percent alcohol. I will be looking forward to its return.
Coyle and Westwood said beer tastes go in cycles in England as well as in the U.S. When I mentioned that when I was in Ireland almost 10 years ago, all of the Irish seemed to be drinking American Budweiser, they said the trend is now going back to local beers, with even the national English brands suffering.
"Almost no one drinks Newcastle or McEwen's now," Coyle said. "Almost all of it comes to the States. And Bass is not that popular, either."
"The good side of that is that the taste has gone back to traditional beers," Westwood said.
Coyle also noted that when you get a Guinness in Dublin, it is thicker because the ale is not pasteurized. I knew I enjoyed my Guinness better in Ireland, but I thought it was just that I was on vacation and relaxed. But it turns out that the beer actually is better.
WHILE AT the Shipyard store to interview the two Marston's officials, I found a 750-milliliter, cork-and-cage bottle of Bourbon Barrel Aged Double Scottish Ale.
This has the right amount of bitterness for the English market -- only 32 IBU -- but at 11.6 percent alcohol, it's out of the ballpark for that market.
This is a rich beer that's smooth and bordering on syrupy, with more oak flavor than bourbon flavor. Nancy and I drank it on a stay-at-home Saturday evening with a fire in the fireplace. It has fairly low carbonation, and the tan head dissipated quickly.
I liked this better than Nancy did, with her objecting to the low carbonation and what she described as a medicinal aftertaste. I liked the aftertaste, which I considered spicy rather than medicinal, and I liked the complex oak-and-malt mix.
Tom Atwell is a freelance writer living in Cape Elizabeth. He can be contacted at 767-2297 or at: