Wednesday 29 November 2023

Let's Brew Wednesday - 1971 Shepherd Neame Bishop's Finger

I polished off the Shepherd Neame recipes for "Keg!" yesterday. Including this little number.

Finally, we’re at the top end of the one Pale Ale parti-gyle: Bishop’s Finger. It seems to have been first brewed sometime in the first half of the 1960s.

The brewery bills it as a Strong Ale. Though, given the way it was parti-gyled with SXX and Light Ale, it could easily pass for an ESB. I suppose it was all down to what the brewery thought would sell better. And it was exclusively bottled, which would tilt against the term “Bitter”.

Like the Abbey Ale parti-gyle, there’s more base malt and less of the other malts and adjunct. Though, in contrast to Abbey Ale, the hopping rate is the same as for the base parti-gyle. That is, 4.5 lbs of hops per quarter (336 lbs) of malt.

There’s a slight difference in the hopping, in that the 1969 vintage was now kept in a cold store. 

1971 Shepherd Neame Bishop's Finger
pale malt 6.25 lb 58.58%
amber malt 0.67 lb 6.28%
crystal malt 60 L 0.67 lb 6.28%
wheat malt 0.50 lb 4.69%
flaked maize 0.50 lb 4.69%
No. 3 invert sugar 1.25 lb 11.72%
No. 1 invert sugar 0.75 lb 7.03%
malt extract 0.08 lb 0.75%
Fuggles 105 mins 1.00 oz
Fuggles 60 mins 0.75 oz
Goldings 30 mins 0.75 oz
OG 1053
FG 1017
ABV 4.76
Apparent attenuation 67.92%
IBU 30
SRM 14
Mash at 152º F
Sparge at 165º F
Boil time 105 minutes
pitching temp 63º F
Yeast WLP007 Dry English Ale


Anonymous said...

Just the recipe I was hoping to see. Thank you, Sir Ronald!

Alistair Reece said...

Interesting recipe, and I wonder how much it changed over the years. I brewed an attempt at a clone a few years back, and got some feedback from Shepherd Neame on it. They said it was pretty close, and pointed me in the direction of Halcyon pale malt in particular. As we can't get Bishop's Finger in this part of the US I couldn't do a side by side comparison, but it was delicious, and convinced me that the reason so many US made ESBs are practically undrinkable is that they are all still stuck in the all malt worldview which just makes them too heavy and not something you want to sit and have several pints of.

If you're interested, my attempted clone is here:

Anonymous said...

Bishops finger is a funny name for a beer.

Anonymous said...

Bishop's Finger, Nun's Delight...

Anonymous said...

Cunning stunt by Fuzzy Duck brewery.

qq said...

The Sheps website suggests 1958 - perhaps it started as a one-off, maybe as a delayed celebration of their 250th birthday in 1948? :

It takes its name from the finger-shaped signposts which pointed pilgrims on their way to the tomb of Thomas a Becket in Canterbury and was the first strong ale to be brewed by Shepherd Neame after malt rationing was eased in the late 1950s. It is also one of the UK's oldest bottled beers, brewed since 1958.

Uniquely, it is brewed to a charter which states it can only be brewed by the head brewer on a Friday and that it must be brewed using 100% natural ingredients, Kentish hops and barley, and the brewery's own artesian mineral water.

@Alistair Reece - one obvious change is them switching to Whitbread yeast some time around 1990, this recipe would have used their original 2-strain.

Halcyon fell off the Recommended List in 2000 so I'd be surprised if they were still using it. It's a child of Otter so Otter would work (although maybe something like Flagon would be closer?).

Anonymous said...

Was a go-to when I lived in London, if well kept, along with Directors, or Pride for a session. Bombardier, Abbot, Old Pec, all delightful.

Anonymous said...

It's the name of type of sign post which is common in Kent.

Anonymous said...

Thanks because it sounded to me a bit like the line about an Alderman’s finger from Romeo and Juliet.

Anonymous said...

I think out of all the ones you have listed Old Peculiar has the best reputation.

Anonymous said...

A well-kept pint or two of Old Peculier at the right temp is the nectar of the gods, you're right.

Anonymous said...

Would love to try it on cask.

Anonymous said...

I recall Ron's description and possibly photos of a pleasant afternoon with Messrs Old and Peculier in the Museum Tavern opposite where the Elgin Marbles are currently being held hostage. My own memories are of a long night spent with same in a pub in the Lakes after a freezing winter hike, log fire and all. Bliss.