Beer history

Artyfacts from the Nyneties #1: Lemon Ale

Whitbread (Flower's) advert, 1995: Colonel Pepper's Lemon Ale.

In Chapter 10 of Brew Britannia we wrote about the craze in the mid-1990s for interesting one-off seasonals.

Some were single-hopped, others were spiced and/or infused with fruit beers. This beauty from Flowers (Whitbread) launched in 1995 is typical.

As luck would have it, what appears to be the original press release is lurking in the depths of the internet:


Whitbread has revived the use of one of brewing’s oldest ingredients, black pepper and added a relatively new one into British beer making, lemon, with the launch of Colonel Pepper’s Lemon Ale – the ideal thirst-quenching pint for those long, balmy summer days!

Colonel Pepper’s (5.0% ABV) is a wonderfully refreshing beer, unusually light and golden in colour for an ale, with a spicy aroma – the lemon peel and ground black pepper added into the brew give it a clean and fresh ‘tingle’ for the drinker’s palate.

While this combination is one that may seem more suited to a recipe, both ingredients actually have impeccable brewing credentials.

Pepper itself has been utilised in a wide variety of different beers since the Middle Ages — primarily to give beers body and bite, but also to give them a more interesting or challenging flavour. Its usage gradually declined as the use of hops in the flavouring of beer took over.

Regarding lemons, fruit beers are more commonly associated with Belgium, so Colonel Pepper’s is an uniquely adventurous addition to the British beer drinker’s repertoire.

Brewed at the Flowers Brewery in Cheltenham — birthplace of Whitbread’s ‘Scarlet Lady’, ‘Glorious Goldings’ & ‘Fuggles Chocolate’ ales — Colonel Pepper’s is the third limited-edition beer in the brewer’s 1995 series of single varietal cask ales.

Tracy Darwen, Whitbread’s Marketing Manager of New Product Development said: “Colonel Pepper’s is the ideal ale for summer. It’s light, refreshing and a real alternative for those drinkers more used to lagers in the summer months. As with the other limited-edition ales that we’ve gradually been introducing, it’s a beer which all drinkers — bitter, lager, cider, wine, male or female — can enjoy.”

The brew also uses Marris Otter barley and 100% Target hops, a long-established English variety. Drinkers will be able to track down their local Colonel Pepper’s stockist by phoning Whitbread’s Hot Line on 0345-585058 (calls charged at local rate) — the beer will be available in well over 2,500 pubs in England, Scotland & Wales.

More Whitbread limited-edition ales planned for the rest of the year will further demonstrate this dynamic side of British ale brewing and continue to tantalise the taste buds of drinkers!

Does anyone remember drinking it?

8 replies on “Artyfacts from the Nyneties #1: Lemon Ale”

I remember this, but never tried it. I did try the Chocolate Fuggles – it was a mild, iirc, and not very interesting. The one really good beer that Whitbread put out around this time was their Porter brewed by Castle Eden.

They used to launch these beers at a bar on Chiswell Street on the other side of the road to the (former) brewery: wonderful opportunities to get absolutely ratted. There was a particularly good “Christmas pudding” ale among the releases, I recall.

Remember the series well. A mate of mine ran a Whitbread pub and gave me a bag full of each of the T shirts that accompanied the beers.

Since I can’t post a photo here and I have some of the Tshirts left, have a look at my blog later.

I remember drinking this in the Hand & Racket in Wimbledon, which at the time was probably the most flagshippy place to drink in South London, being the flagship pub in the flagship Hogshead chain.

For a member of the despised ‘big 7/6/5’, they did come up with some good ‘uns back in the day. The chocolate mild, the Fuggles Imperial IPA, Murphy’s Oyster stout, the Chiswell street cask lager…

Some of this will be the nostalgia of formative drinking years talking (as I was about 18/19 at the time) but I reckon it was a bit of a golden age.

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