Kent Beer of the Year 2021: Session Pale Ale by Cellar Head Brewing Company
Cellar Head Brewing Company is an award-winning independent microbrewery founded by Chris and Julia McKenzie in 2017. We have created an all-inclusive brewery with an onsite tap room that crosses many divides - generations, beer tastes and styles, in a "what you see is what you get" way.
We use traditional brewing methods to produce a varied range of modern beers focused on drinkability and quality using the finest English grown malts and hops, as well as high-quality hops from around the world and our own strain of historic Sussex live yeast.
Session Pale Ale, first launched in 2018, has since grown in such popularity that it now accounts for 60% of our sales! This beer features three of our favourite Kent hops, Ernest and Challenger grown by Hukins Hops near Tenterden and Jester from Hoad’s Farm in Sandhurst. Session Pale Ale has tropical fruit and sweet floral aromas and the intense flavour of gooseberry and green grapes with a light honeyed sweetness leaving a fresh, crisp punch and a dry, clean finish. At only 3.8%, Session Pale is a great all-rounder being satisfying to drink on its own or paired with a large variety of foods.
At Cellar Head we produce cask conditioned and bottle conditioned natural, unfined beer as well as a range of modern, craft beers in keg and can. Traditionally, fining agents are used to produce perfectly clear beer using Isinglass, a substance obtained from the dried swim bladders of fish. Yes, fish! But as well as helping the yeast to settle to the bottom of the cask/bottle, the finings also take hop oils with it, thereby stripping some of the flavour and aromas - something we of course want to avoid. By choosing not to add finings to our beers, they can carry a slight natural haze and are also vegan friendly. Additionally, we do not filter or pasteurise our beers to get the most flavour out of our brews.
Our bottled beers all undergo a natural secondary fermentation in the bottle; no priming or forced carbonation, which results in a light fizz that has a more refined texture and mouthfeel. The beer is alive – unfiltered, unfined and unpasteurised and therefore does leave some yeast sediment in the bottom, so the beers will need a little time to settle before pouring in one motion if you want to leave it in the bottle! Our bottled beers are best served at 12-14 degrees Celsius. Flavours and carbonation will be more subdued at colder temperatures and a chill haze from the hop oils may be present so keep them on the shelf in your garage rather than the fridge!
Like wine, when you actually take the time to properly taste your beer, a world of flavours opens up! There are no incorrect answers as everyone senses flavours differently. You can find a “Beer Flavour Wheel” easily on the internet if you need a little guidance to get you started. The wheel by beer writer Mark Dredge will also help you understand whether the flavours you are picking up are coming from the malts, the hops or even the yeast. Follow these steps below to get the most out of the experience.
- AROMA – The initial aroma only lasts about 2 minutes so the first thing you should do is plant your nose firmly in the glass, or over the open can and have a good smell. Try and conjure up flavours or experiences that are triggered by the senses.
- FIRST SIP – Here you are recognising the bold and obvious flavours that you initially taste.
- SECOND SIP – Hold the beer in your mouth this time to allow it to warm slightly. Ignoring those big initial flavours, the more complex notes of the malts and hop compounds will begin to develop. Take a little time to think what you can associate those flavours with, for example, the sweetness of perfumed honey, or the maltiness of a digestive biscuit. It is much easier to put your finger on it if you link the flavour to a food.
Beer is increasing in popularity as a complement to food. Unlike wine, the flavour combinations available in beer is almost limitless due to the malt, hop and yeast choice we, as brewers, have. We all know beer goes hand in hand with a good curry, but you can choose a Cellar Head beer to either cleanse, complement or contrast with any food you are eating, creating infinite tasting possibilities. So, give it a try next time you want a drink to go with your meal and see what journey your chosen beer will take you on!