Shepherd Neame Spitfire – A Love Story!

1 Mar

It was a hot summer in England that year, it was surprising to discover. The parks were scorched brown and regularly covered in a lunchtime airing of pale derma. In the news, there were reports of pensioners passing away in their homes, dogs suffocating in cars and the tarmac was melting on the roads. Work started at 9 and ended at 9. It was a thirsty summer.

Much of the preceding year had been spent travelling in more exotic locations around the world. Mostly hot, mostly thirsty. I had got into the habit of slating my thirst with the various lagers from the various countries I’d been in, for no other reason than that’s what you do when you are thirsty and that’s what you’d always done. Up to that point drinking life had veered between typical teenage wannabe lout and charming party drinker.  It was enjoyable, lively and there were both adventures and mishaps. Taste though, was never part of the equation. The endless beers, with the exception of the odd Guinness, were never ordered on the basis of taste. As a confidence booster maybe, as a result of peer group pressure maybe, through the ignorance of not knowing what else to order definitely, but never out of taste.

The corner shop, situated between the tube station and my then flat, did not have an off licence to inspire. Trips there started out with the purchase of a can of Murphy’s Stout just to take the edge off a spinning worker’s head. Money was scarce at the beginning of this summer and going out had to take a back seat so the can or two of Murphy’s represented a good night out, at least for a while. Effects of travelling abroad include the traveller having their head turned by the peculiarities of their own countries upon their return and sitting on a low shelf was one such peculiarity. It was a clear solid squat bottle, big and strong and a little understated. It had a label of some style and the neck told of the age of the brewery, 1609 it said.

I bought a bottle of Shepherd Neame Spitfire that day, took it home and put it in the freezer to chill it for a bit. I poured it into a half pint pilsener glass and immediately noted the smell, it was different to the beers I’d got used to, which didn’t tend to smell at all. Then the colour, that too was different to the beers I’d got used to, darker. And I enjoyed the little sparkle it had in the glass. What happened next was to spark off a mini-obsession. I drank some. I was intrigued. I loved it. I was turned. I bought some more, looked at it as if there could never be another, smelled it, drank it, absolutely fell in love with it. It tasted wonderful. I started off having it very cold, then gradually at a more sensible temperature.  But this didn’t seem to matter so much back then, any way it came was good for me.

After a day or two, I realised I was drinking memories. This smell was from my childhood. My uncles used to smell of this at Christmas parties. The working man’s club used to smell like this when I was taken as a small boy. The street trapdoors of pubs used to smell like this as I’d wonder what was behind those frosted windows. My shandies used to taste of this when I was sitting in the bar of my father’s football club eating Golden Wonder crisps.  Shepherd Neame Spitfire catapaulted me into a new world of taste.

I don’t drink it very often now. It’s like an old flame that I had great times with but could never go back to.  Sometimes I wish that I had just been faithful to that one beer and would be forevermore contented to drink it. Sometimes I wish that I could buy it again and the spark would still be there. But I’ve never been able to recapture the new/oldness of the taste of that summer. I resigned myself to the fact that I had to move on. But I’m grateful for the good times and I don’t regret a thing. After all, it’s helped make me who I am.

Bottle of Spitfire beer

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2 Responses to “Shepherd Neame Spitfire – A Love Story!”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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  2. Fuller’s London Porter « Porter and Oysters - April 18, 2012

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