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Des de Moor
Best beer and travel writing award 2015, 2011 -- British Guild of Beer Writers Awards
Accredited Beer Sommelier
Writer of "Probably the best book about beer in London" - Londonist
"A necessity if you're a beer geek travelling to London town" - Beer Advocate
"A joy to read" - Roger Protz
"Very authoritative" - Tim Webb.
"One of the top beer writers in the UK" - Mark Dredge.
"A beer guru" - Popbitch.
Des de Moor


Old Chimneys Redshank Strong Old Ale and Good King Henry Special Reserve

First published in BEER December 2006 as part of a page about strong beers.

ABV: 8.7 and 11 per cent
Origin: Market Weston, Suffolk, England

Redshank Strong

With the nights drawing in, the weather – at least in theory – getting colder and the festive season approaching, I’m turning this month to the strong specialities – the sort of beers that bear up well to being sipped and savoured late in the evening while relaxing in front of a roaring radiator.

Former Greene King and Broughton brewer Alan Thomson of Old Chimneys has made something of a speciality of unusual and strong real ales in a bottle, hand-crafted near Diss on the Norfolk-Suffolk border with vegetarian-friendly ingredients.

Redshank, a strong old ale named after a red legged wading bird found on nearby wetlands, is created from Fuggles and Challenger hops with crystal and caramalt adding colour to a pale malt mash. The result is a deep pinkish brown, with a light yellowish head and an aroma oozing caramel cream alongside fruit cake, fresh fruit and wine notes.

There’s more caramel whip on a very smooth palate which reveals tingly hops, alcohol and deep port-like fruit. The long finish remains smooth and tingly, with malt loaf, herbs, lightening hops and a touch of tannic red wine, balancing rich dark flavours with a surprisingly refreshing quality.

But Alan’s most elaborately crafted beer is Good King Henry Special Reserve, which evolved from an I reviewed in these pages three years back. A stronger version, matured over oak granules for six months and then conditioned in bottle for another 18 months before release, was produced to mark the brewery’s tenth anniversary and is now a regular line.

Old Chimneys Good King Henry Special Reserve

Pale, crystal and wheat malt and roasted barley make up the grist, with Fuggles and Challenger hops. Vintage dated bottles have best before dates set five years later though it’s probably worth cellaring for longer if you’re lucky enough to get hold of several bottles.

My 2004 sample poured a near-black mahogany colour with a thin but persistent pinkish-brown head. A very heady aroma was rich and sweet with dark malt, blackcurrant fruit and a whiff of sherry-cask single malt whisky.

The palate is thick, potent and sweet with candied and fresh orange fruit, marzipan, subtle wood and claret-style “lead pencil” touches. I caught a very faint whiff of smoked ham, but overall the beer is much less smoky and roasty than most others in the same broad style.

A warming swallow leads to a very long finish with, sweetish sherry notes, faint wood adding texture to the background and tingling alcohol and hops.

The name, incidentally, refers not to a British royal but to an obscure green vegetable also known as “poor man’s asparagus”. If “poor man’s” implies second rate, it’s an inappropriate comparison, for this is an outstanding product that could proudly grace anyone’s table. 

See next post for more strong beers.

Read more about these beers at

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