Camden 1908 Pale, from Camden Town Brewery, is reviewed by Chris Hall.
“…Camden Town have done something different, and quite unique, by recreating a beer that would be similar to what was being drunk at the 1908 London games. “
Camden 1908 Pale Ale
Camden Town Brewery
Brewers have reacted in very different ways to the Olympics. Dozens of “Something Something Gold”-named beers have been wheeled out, each more bland and depressing than the one before it. At the other end of the scale, some people get angry and put steroids and half of Holland & Barrett in the mash tun. Camden Town have done something different, and quite unique, by recreating a beer that would be similar to what was being drunk at the 1908 London games. The result is a really enjoyable beer that’s more than just a novelty.
First, I’d like to note the magnificent packaging. Camden have sourced some beautifully big, 660ml, fat brown bottles for the 1908 pale ale, and glorious black and gold labels that are both sharp and historic. The bottles have a satisfying heft to them, and they really look the part. As for the beer, 1908 is made with a variety of malts including pale, Munich and Cara Dark, and this really shows in its deep, bronze colour. The beer is deliberately left unfiltered for tradition’s sake, and this gives it a brooding intensity and an appetising, off-white head. Rich, sugary coffee notes mingle with Christmas cake, ginger, baking bread and freshly-picked red berries of all kinds. It’s a warming, pungent aroma that is both sweet and spicy.
I found 1908’s flavour quite baffling really, and I mean that in a good way. There are flavours here that I find familiar, certainly – the prickly, sweet texture of dark lager; juicy, tart red berries like in a red hop ale or porter; and a dry, crackling English bitter finish – but I’ve never enjoyed them all together at once. This beer is big on bitterness in a brass-necked, old-fashioned way, but it carries it so well. You can imagine chaps in flat caps or top hats raising a glass of this to their lips, getting their fine moustaches quite soaked, and exclaiming ‘Aaah’ as their cares are crisply swept away. Its strength is more than adequately concealed by the flavour, but becomes more palpable as you finish it.
Camden 1908 is more than just another Olympic gimmick. It’s a unique glimpse into history; a fully-flavoured craft beer and a delicious one at that. This is excellent brewing, and hopefully there will be more historic recreations to come from this increasingly impressive young brewery.