Sip, sip hooray!

Pouring the first glass of Jubilee Sparkling AleWith dozens of Jubilee beers gracing our shelves and pubs, one that I’ll be popping next weekend is Chiltern Brewery’s Jubilee Sparkling Ale. A classy, 70cl bottle fermented number, I had the good fortune to pour the first glass from the first bottle to be opened when I visited the brewery and its historic pub, The Farmers' Arms, back in April.

For me, not only does it taste mighty fine, it illustrates this family brewery’s ability to combine innovation with tradition. They may still be working from the same site – admittedly with a 15-barrel plant rather than the original five-barrel one – but the Jenkinson brothers Tom and George have followed founder Richard footsteps in sharing the fun of the brewing process.

Packed Chiltern Brewery shopSo I found myself driving towards the market town of Aylesbury for my pre-launch tour. Turning into the small farmyard car park, I'm soon in the friendly shop,  gazing over a fine array of local produce and British drinks, and catching up on the news with the ever-engaging Viv.

In the beginning

Richard and Lesley Jenkinson founded Chiltern Brewery back in the early 1980s following a disappointing family holiday in Cornwall. Nothing wrong with the place, the company or the food. It was the beer. The lack of flavourful choice was distressing for ale-loving Richard and he resolved to change this.

And change it he did. It’s easy to forget, but back then, there were literally just a handful of independent breweries and the real-ale loving consumer group CAMRA was barely out of shorts. “In those days we were mavericks or pioneers, depending on which side of the fence you were on,” says Tom of the early days. He accompanied his dad on many a delivery run into London as a youngster, recalling riding in the lift with the barrels at one major London hotel. 

Tom JenkinsonThe local lads

It’s clear that, with decades of hard work under the belt, the sense of fun and commitment to their slogan – local beers for local people – continues. Deliveries are limited to a 30-mile radius and all ingredients are sourced from the UK. Don't let that fool you into thinking we have a dull blandness in our glass though. With the careful mix of malts and judicious sprinkling of hops, these are satisfying ales to sip.

Before others were dreaming up single hop brews, for example, to celebrate the brewery's 15th birthday the Jenkinsons created John Hampdens Ale using just Brit-fave, Fuggles. 

More recently they scored a hit with their Royal Wedding Ale, a thrice-hopped sparkling number entitled I Will. And if you haven’t already bagged a bottle of the 30th Anniversary Ale – a triple hopped IPA, Tom doesn’t stint on his ingredients – last time I looked, there was still some bottles available.

So how could they top that lot? Come in Jubilee Sparkling Ale, your time is now.

The labelling line

Tom Jenkinson labels Jubilee AleA limited edition of only 1000 bottles, when I arrive, Tom is carefully applying the labels himself, focusing hard to ensure all was straight on the bottle.

As we tour the brewhouse, I relish the malty aromas of the brew of the day, cllimb up the ladder to take a peak in the mash tun and watch the yeast gently doing their work in the open top fermenters in the pristine brewhouse.

Then it's off to the Farmer's Bar at the King's Head in the heart of Aylesbury to crack open the first bottle. Down a cobbled street into this Grade 2-listed, National Trust-owned pub and you step back into the 15th century. Like brother Tom, George had worked elsewhere before joining the family business. Initially much of his time with the brewery had been spent taking the Brewery’s wares out and about to Farmers’ Markets – “very hard work but great atmosphere and you get to meet people who have never hard of you," he tells me.

George Jenkinson at the Farmers BaThen the Jenkinsons were approached by the National Trust and offered the lease on the Farmers' Arms, and thus began George's life as a landlord.

There's a mix of nerves and excitement as George opens the first bottle and I pour the glass – but no need, it's a delightful drop, and everyone relaxes. 

Over lunch I hear how, as well as contributing to many local charities, the Jenkinsons had been strong supporters of the local community's bid to raise funds to secure the lease of the Russell Arms, a popular small pub that Enterprise was selling off.

Russell ArmsJust that week they had heard they had been successful and, when we return to the brewery, the campaign's prime mover, Matthew Porter, happens to be there, picnicking with his kids and I hear an update on the plans. Just one more reason to revisit this charming corner of Bucks.

Chiltern Jubilee Sparkling Ale, 6%, £8.50, available from brewery

For more on how to visit Chiltern Brewery, check out their main entry and visit their website for news of latest events.

And for more on the entertaining history of Commemorative Beers, head to BeerGenie and see my previous post.


Cheers - the launch of Jubilee Sparkling Ale

To your good health!

Bucks Herald reporter Derek Pelling takes time out to join George, right, and Tom to propose a toast to the Queen. Cheers!

Thanks to Derek and the Bucks Herald for the use of the picture at the top of this story.