Origin: Castle Eden, Durham, England
Date: 7 September 2000
Another review from the archive written for the pioneering Oxford Bottled Beer Database (OBBD). I’ve left it uncorrected — so please read it in that historical spirit.
The history of Castle Eden, before and since, is rather tangled. Founded in 1827, it was acquired by Whitbread in 1963, and saved by a management buyout when threatened with closure in 1998, as mentioned in the review. Whitbread retained the brands, which it licensed back to the new owner. In 2002, however, the brewery was closed anyway when the owning company bought out another historic brewery, Camerons in Hartlepool, and relocated all production there.
The Hartlepool brewery was known for a while as Castle Eden & Camerons but the Castle Eden brands disappeared completely between 2009 and 2013 following a dispute with current owners AB InBev on the renewal of the license. Today, Camerons is once again brewing cask best bitter Castle Eden Ale, plus a keg 4% version of Trophy, though under the Camerons name.
The County Durham brewery recently regained its independence through a management buyout when threatened with closure by Whitbread, and as a farewell present from the big brewer the staff were each presented with a bottle of commemorative pale ale based on Whitbread’s Trophy Special recipe. Now the brewery is making a similar – unfortunately pasteurised – beer, available commercially through outlets like Tesco, in a rather handsome old-fashioned bottle.
The beer has a delicate, faintly spicy hop aroma, and a firm, fruity malt palate with a touch of wood and slight hints of ginger biscuit that are unfortunately rather obscured by over-carbonation. Hop bitterness, ginger and pepper spice linger in a warming finish. Pleasant and well-made but not as special as all that.