It's Phil's Ale - I.P.A

After my husband, Philip Roberts, passed away in September 2012, the branch suggested to Guy Sheppard at Exe Valley Brewery, that he make a beer for our forthcoming Festival of Winter Ales using Philip’s latest recipe. Philip had been Guy’s Brewery Liaison Officer and was also an old friend with a mutual interest in beer and narrowboats.  I should explain that Philip was a keen and experienced home brewer and particularly liked the new style of pale/golden very hoppy beers, and his last brew had been particularly hoppy; 5 different types of hops, two with a high alpha concentration. While very hoppy beers are not necessarily to Guy’s taste, he bravely took on the challenge and ‘It’s Phil’s Ale’ (IPA) is the very successful result. Guy invited the branch to ‘help’ brew the beer – a challenge 14 of us took up one cold January day starting at 6 am (as a concession to the branch Guy delayed start of play by an hour!).

So, in the dark and the cold, we braved the narrow lanes (thankfully there wasn’t any snow – the brewery can get snowed in) to get to the farm where the brewery is situated for a 6 o’clock sharp start. We ‘assisted’ with the whole process where possible. Some parts of the brewing process have to be performed at speed and with knowledgeable expertise, and obviously we didn’t qualify for those, but we weighed out hops (and there were a lot), shovelled spent grain, wheeled out used hops and helped to clean up. Guy looked after us well, providing hot drinks and plenty of beer. You needed to get your hands round a hot mug of something to keep the frostbite at bay!

The beer made its debut at our Festival of Winter Ales and was very warmly received by all who tried it: and some came especially through the snow from up country to try it. American friends who were visiting the National Winter Ale Festival in Manchester came down to try it. It proved so popular that it had to be held back to stop it from selling out on the first day. I think Guy (and his assistant James) was overwhelmed by the fulsome praise that he received for the beer. It certainly was a very hoppy cracker of a beer. Such was the subsequent demand for it that Guy made a second brew and now has it on his permanent list as a seasonal/ on demand beer.

A few weeks later a small group of us went to Honiton where Paul from Branscombe Vale Brewery very kindly allowed us to bottle the cask that Guy had given me – these are to be distributed between family and friends with the proceeds going to Barnado’s, a charity that Philip supported.

I am very grateful to the branch for suggesting the idea initially, to Guy for making the beer, to my daughter for designing the very distinctive pump clip (featuring Philip’s red shoes – he had a thing about red shoes!), to Paul at BVB, and to the branch again for seeking out the beer, emailing out its whereabouts, and drinking such quantities of it. It’s a lovely tribute – thank you all.

Jane Roberts