To celebrate the start of Movember - an annual event dedicated to improving men’s health - The London Foodie was invited to the Dickensian Old Doctor Butler’s Head pub in the City of London, for a preparatory shave, and the chance to try a food-and-beer pairing menu organised by Britain’s oldest brewer, Shepherd Neame.
Before the Movember-themed meal - featuring everything from razor clams and hare pie - had even begun, I was whisked into the barber’s chair for a cut-throat shave by the talented Paul Dos Reis of the Genco Male Grooming. Thankfully, this terrifying experience was accompanied by a cold glass of Spitfire Gold - the new star of the Shepherd Neame empire.
Spitfire Gold was launched early this year, 25 years after the original Spitfire was first brewed in memory of The Battle of Britain. True to its name, this really is a vibrantly golden beer. From that amber complexion comes a malty butterscotch aroma, and sweet citrus notes balanced by astringent pine.
This rounded and satisfying beer was so good that it was served again with the first course, a jar of “shaved courgette and goatee cheese parcels”. Though they were served from a pickle jar, the parcels were delicate, with the sweet juice softening the sourness of the goat’s cheese and making for a filling but moreish starter.
They were followed by a course of ‘razor clams and angel hair pasta’, and another beer from the Shepherd Neame portfolio: a Whitstable Bay Pale Ale. Pale Ales are popular for their light body and citrus aromas, and this light, grassy variety is one of the best of the bunch, and fortunately it is easy to find in supermarkets! True to their seaside origins, Shepherd Neame paired the Pale Ale with razor clams so thick and plump that it was impossible to believe that they’d made it all the way to the City of London so fresh.
Things became altogether much heavier with main course and dessert, a ‘hare and Spitfire ale pie’ followed by a ‘sticky stubble pudding’. These were great versions of pub classics, and I highly recommend hare instead of beef for a richer ale pie. These heavy dishes needed a strong match, and we opted for the Shepherd Neame Master Brew, a mid-brown bitter with a darker colour and weightier scents of toffee.
Shepherd Neame proved the diversity of their selection, finding a beer pairing for everything from razor clams to toffee pudding. Look out for Spitfire Gold and Whitstable Bay Pale Ale at the supermarket, and if you’re inspired by their punning menu you can even visit their website to design and suggest your own beer.