The French have their appelation controlée, the Germans have their rheinheitsgebot purity laws, but the British had nothing – until now.
Until Shepherd Neame unveiled its Bishops Finger Charter in 2003.
First brewed at the Faversham Brewery in 1958, Bishops Finger Strong Kentish Ale has been brewed continuously ever since and is unique in many ways.
It is certainly the only English beer to have its own Charter, which decrees that the ale must be brewed only on Fridays by the Head Brewer and that it must be tasted on a weekly basis by a member of the Board of Directors.
The Charter further stipulates that the 5.4% abv ale can only be brewed using pure artesian well water drawn from Kentish Greensand, winter pearl malting barley harvested by Roddy Loder-Symonds on Denne Hill Farm at Womenswold between Canterbury and Dover, and peerless East Kent Goldings hops, grown less than 30 miles away from the brewery.
Bishops Finger holds the rare distinction of being granted a Protective Geographic Indicator by the European Union, which means it’s the only beer in Britain entitled to be known as a Kentish strong ale.
In fact, Bishops Finger is believed to be unique in that it’s a product of a single county. It’s brewed in Kent using water from the Faversham Brewery’s artesian well and raw materials – barley and hops – grown in Kent.
The ale takes its quirky name from finger-shaped Kentish wayside signposts which pointed pilgrims the way to St Thomas à Becket’s shrine in Canterbury Cathedral before it was destroyed on the orders of Henry VIII in 1538.