1698 is about as traditional as beers get: it’s a Kentish old ale from Shepherd Neame, Britain’s oldest brewery. It’s a clear, auburn beer with sweet malty, fruity aromas and flavours. 1698 is vegan-friendly but contains gluten.
Despite what you may have been led to believe, I am not a terribly trendy person.
I do my best to keep up with the beer world’s latest developments. I made a good effort to understand Brut IPA. I smiled and cheered on Omnipollo when they started throwing whole cakes into their beers. But deep down, in my heart of hearts, I love a traditional, old-fashioned English ale.
They don’t come much more traditional or old-fashioned than this. Based down in Faversham in Kent, Shepherd Neame has been brewing for more than three hundred years. This beer, 1698, was originally brewed to celebrate their tricentennial.
A bright, clear auburn in colour, 1698 has a loose, cream-coloured head that hangs around not quite long enough for me to adjust my camera settings. It gives off a sweet, caramel malt aroma bolstered with fruity elderflower, then apple notes.
On the palate there’s more sweetness, starting with that caramel malt again but supported this time by dark fruits: plums and blackberries. There’s an ester note there too, pear drops. There’s very little bitterness to this beer; instead it’s malty sweet with a dextrose-thick mouthfeel and a fruity aftertaste.
This beer would be fantastic paired with cheese and chutneys. Alternatively, you can enjoy it the way I learned to: sitting outside on a slightly-too-cold spring afternoon, surrounded by men of a certain age wearing shorts, socks, and sandals.
1698 isn’t the most exciting beer in the world, but that’s not the point. It’s a shrine to tradition, a fine example of a British beer style that’s been around for centuries. If you’re looking for an introduction to real ale, this is definitely a good shout.
I previously reviewed this beer a few years ago here. Interestingly, my notes look pretty similar compared to last time, but hopefully the quality of review has taken a step up since then.