Surrey brewery releases its cave-aged beer in time for Christmas

Having resurrected the local tradition of ageing beer in the town caves, Reigate’s Pilgrim Brewery has unveiled the product of its labour in time for Christmas – an Imperial Stout matured for six months in ex-whisky barrels.

Earlier this year, the drinks business reported, that Pilgrim Brewery, the oldest craft brewery in Surrey, had begun its latest project – a cave-aged imperial stout matured in ex-whisky barrels.

The brewery wanted to create a heritage stout, based on recipes once used by town brewers Mellersh & Neale, a former Reigate brewery founded in the 16th century which ceased production in 1938.

Fortunately for Pilgrim, a lot of research material remained and the brewing team chose the Oatmeal Stout, produced prior to 1914, as the basis of their beer.

The starting gravity (how alcohol content was once measured) of the brew was 1065, hence the name Pilgrim’s new stout – Saracen 1065.

The old Mellersh & Neale Oatmeal Stout label.

To add further authenticity, the brewer chose to rekindle the practice of ageing beer in Reigate’s caves, just as Mellersch and Neale used to. The caves provide an ideal environment, due to the fairly constant temperature of around 12 degrees centigrade.

The caves are now owned by Reigate and Banstead Borough Council, who fully supported the project, as well as the Wealden Cave and Mining Society who manage the tunnel caves.

After obtaining the necessary licences and legal requirements, the brewer had to co-ordinate manoeuvring six large whisky barrels down Reigate High Street, there and back.

The 6.8% beer was launched at the start of the month, and is now available online and to order from the taproom, priced at £20 for four 330ml bottles. Just 700 four-packs are available.

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