Chiltern Brewery, Three Hundreds Old Ale
It was whilst welding some 15,000-gallon tanks for a Guinness brewery in Nigeria that Richard Jenkinson first thought of pursuing a career in brewing.
After trying and failing to buy his family’s Sheffield-based engineering business, in 1977 he moved with his wife Leslie to the Buckinghamshire countryside and decided the time was right to promote himself from accomplished homebrewer to head brewer as the Chiltern Brewery was launched. He built the brewing kit himself. Obviously.
Small, family-owned breweries didn’t get an easy ride in the 80s and 90s. Tied pubs and huge corporate brewers going through a period of consolidation saw to that. But the Jenkinson’s created a market for themselves by opening up a shop in Terrick, between Wendover and Aylesbury, in an old farm building. As well as their own bottled ales they also stocked locally made foods too. Well worth a visit if you’re ever in the area.
However, after falling from a ladder in the brewery, Richard started to evaluate his options. Keeping it in the family, sons George and Tom (above) took over in 2005, and injected new life into the business.
Many of the beer names still take inspiration from their geography and local history. This week’s beer, Three Hundreds Old Ale, is no exception. It’s named after the area immediately surrounding the brewery, known as the Three Hundreds of Aylesbury, a reference to geographical county boundaries dating back to the Domesday Survey.
Old Ale (also sometimes called Stock Ale) is an English style of beer that has been about for a good couple of centuries, although like many beer styles, it has changed a lot over that time. They were traditionally dark, strong and, well… old, having been aged in wooden vats, often for years at a time. The time in wood often led to a slight sourness after picking up wood notes and wild yeast from their surroundings.
This modern Old Ale by Chiltern Brewery doesn’t have any of that sourness, but it does maintain the dark colour and rich fruitcake character of the original style, with the all-English malts (Maris Otter and Crystal) being the stars of the show. In many ways it could be described as a beefed-up Mild.
Bodgers Barley Wine and Lord Lieutenant’s Cream Porter are just two of Chiltern Brewery’s other beers that many of the country’s best beer writers rate highly (as proven by their inclusion in The Beer Writer’s Dozen Case), whilst several Great Taste awards further prove to us that this is one of the UK’s most understated… and underrated breweries.