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Spratwaffler is the session beer in Time and Tide’s extensive range.

While researching my forthcoming Brewing in Kent book, I discovered that there are around forty active breweries in the Garden of England. These vary in size from a substantial regional brewer such as Shepherd Neame through to microbreweries that put the emphasis on the micro, a few of them little more that kitchen sink operations.

Regardless of output and size, the one thing most of them have in common is that they tend to major on producing cask ale, in many cases exceptionally good cask ale. But the county is not a ‘craft’ beer wilderness, and leading the way in this particular area are Time and Tide, who now operate from a twenty barrel set-up housed in a converted barn in Eastry, situated between Sandwich and Deal.

Time and Tide started life in November, 2013, initially operating out of the Ripple Steam Brewery at Sutton-By-Dover, and among the core range of beers that they produce is Spratwaffler. In my previous Masterbrew blog I mentioned the concept of desert island beers. Well, at this moment in time Spratwaffler would certainly be accompanying me should I be cast adrift from civilisation. It is, simply, a sensational drop of stuff.

Time and Tide themselves describe Spratwaffler as a pale ale. It is a modest 3.7%, both in can and keykeg, and boasts an enticing 37 units of bitterness. It is a hazy golden orange in colour, verging on marmalade, and bitter citrus dominates on the nose.

Spratwaffler is brewed using Celeia, Cascade and Citra hops, although it’s the Cascade that just has the upper hand for me. But overall this is a wonderfully balanced beer, which is something that can’t be said of many so-called ‘craft’ beers. It’s a real session beer too. A previous version of Spratwaffler featured Centennial and Styrian Goldings alongside Cascade, rather than the aforementioned Celeia and Citra.

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A glass of Spratwaffler in the 12 Taps, Whitstable. It didn’t last long.

In the can Spratwaffler is widely available, and is also carried in some Wetherspoons pubs in Kent, but I tend to enjoy it more often than not on draught. Indeed I have been known to take the occasional glass at the 12 Taps in Whitstable, the town’s first dedicated craft beer bar. Time and Tide provide the ‘house’ beer for the 12 Taps, which opened its doors for the first time back in March and uses keykeg, a  relatively new method of dispense.

Head brewer Sam Weller, said: “With keykeg the beer comes through the draught line, this makes for a more refreshing, colder drop. And because none of our beers are fined, filtered, pasteurized or adulterated in any way you get a reassuring haze with the beer. This is down to the large amount of hop that we use and the natural re-carbonation process by the yeast, we don’t strip anything from our beer; You can literally see the flavour.

“The great thing about keykeg and cans, is that no gas or light comes into contact with the beer, meaning that the first and the last pint will be just as fresh as each other, as if you were drinking directly from the brewery’s fermenters. Finally, we naturally re-carbonate our beers, which means that we rely on yeast to carbonate the beer and we can set the carbonation level to what we think suits the beer perfectly. We love some fizz in our beers, it gives the flavours a bit of a lift giving them a chance to dance on the pallet.”

It is intriguing, then, to discover that Spratwaffler started life in a slightly different incarnation.

“It started out as a hop forward cask beer,” Weller told me. “But over a short period of time we developed our ideals and dropped cask entirely”.

Certainly Time and Tide believe beer should not be hanging about for too long. A copyline on the Spratwaffler can orders the customer to “Please drink fresh when the hops are at their hoppiest.”

According to the brewery website Time and Tide produce seven other beers, some of them considerably stronger than Spratwaffler and one or two of them perhaps a little gimmicky. They brew an IPA which comes in at 6.1% and a ‘Black India Pale Lager’ at 6.5%. There is also a ‘coffee stout’ at 7.4% and a ‘Hefe’ that is ‘brewed with freshly cooked Beetroot’ and packs a mighty punch at 8%. Not one for a night out with the lads methinks, although it will probably keep you regular.

I look forward to trying some of the other beers in Time and Tide’s portfolio, but for now want to share the joy of Spratwaffler with you all. It is a little gem of a glass of beer, fit for poets and dreamers and working men and women alike. And Spratwaffler, if you were wondering, is a colloquial term for someone who originates from the north end of Deal. According to Sam these “north enders” used to “scoop sprats out of the sea and gobble them up.”

Washed down with a glass of beer, obviously.

Brewing in Kent coverIn the run up to the September 15 publication of my book Brewing in Kent, this is the second in a series of blogs designed to highlight the county’s vibrant brewing scene and the rich variety of beer that it produces. More to follow. 

 

 

 

 

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