We went to a brewery the other Sunday. Shepherd Neame’s brewery in Faversham, Kent, as it happens. And fabulous it was too. Britain’s oldest brewer, they believe and I’m not getting into a pointless argument about that one! I recommend the trip wholeheartedly, even if – unlike me – you are not a great beer fan.
I love beer.
I love everything about beer: the colours, the smells, the hops, the malted barley, the very magic of the fermentation process itself! And Shepherd Neame makes 35+ beers! Including such joys as a double stout, a proper mild, a red IPA and a lager that will make you despair over how so much muck gets sold under that name.
You get a beer tasting of course, with 6 different beers and tasting notes from a very knowledgeable chap and it’s all in a proper historic building (mostly).
I bought a case to take away.
Terrific day out, but what about the fantasy? It’s just that one of my most adored fantasy books is about beer (amongst other things). It’s ‘The Drawing of the Dark’ by the genius that is Tim Powers. This was a groundbreaking book for me, especially in its interweaving of historical fact and fantasy, and made me think about fantasy in a completely different way. I mean, Merlin, the Fisher King and a resurrected King Arthur; set in C16th Europe, with an epic battle between the magic of West and East on the cards, and a leading role for the Vienna inn where Hertzwesten Beer is brewed – what’s not to like? Also, the beer really does matter in ‘The Drawing of the Dark’. The ‘dark’ of the title is rather special dark ale brewed at the Vienna inn, and boy is it potent.
I want to write a fantasy story involving beer. I am just worried that Mr Powers ever has already written the best. However, I know what you are all now thinking: does Shepherd Neame brew a dark beer?
Well, it so happens that they do. It’s called the ‘Artesian Dark Ale’ and tasting notes describe it thus: ‘Warm, autumnal bitterness with rich biscuity malts.’ I haven’t had a bottle yet – a good excuse for another trip to Faversham I think – but it sounds magic.