Clear Brew

Classic Beer of the Month

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Harvey's Armada Ale, 4.5%

Commemorative beers come and go. Most are just created as a quick cash-in for a momentous or historical event and disappear as soon as the reason for their existence is over.

Harvey's Armada AleOthers have greater longevity. They might be beers developed purely with an eye for the occasion but their quality sees them comfortably outlast their inspiration. Harvey’s Armada Ale is one.

Back in 1988, Britain puffed out its collective chest, unfurled its union flags and celebrated the time 400 years earlier when the Spanish Armada was duly dispatched from the English Channel.

There were numerous beers produced to mark this event – remembering occasions when Johnny Foreigner has been given a damn good whipping is the stuff that British celebratory ales are made of – but the one from Harvey’s stood out.

Armada Ale was originally just brewed for the bottle and was sold at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich but it was simply too good to abandon when the festivities subsided. A cask-conditioned version was created and this has become one of the stalwarts of the brewery’s range.

Refining the Recipe

That said, the recipe of the 4.5% best bitter has been refined over the years. Today, it is brewed using Crisp’s Clear Choice ale malt – a brand of malt that has been developed to be free of polyphenols, so reducing the chance of haze in a beer.

Along with a little flaked maize, it develops a bready, creamy note and offers sterling support for the generous hopping.

The hops used are Fuggle and Goldings – what else for a patriotic British ale? – with more Fuggles used for dry hopping in the cask.

A distinctive Harvey’s flavour, suggestive of orchard fruits, runs throughout the beer but the hops are what make the difference. They are not aggressive in any way but they are the defining feature, offering a little spice, a touch of tartness and a lovely, leafy finish that nods ever so slightly towards liquorice.

Full of the subtlety of flavour that only cask beer can provide, Armada is highly gluggable for its strength. Thirty years on, it’s a beer that deservedly celebrates its own anniversary in 2018.

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