The Cask Project

How this brewing director has helped Cask Club take off

By Gary Lloyd

- Last updated on GMT

Shepherd Neame's Mike Unsworth talks about Cask Club Maverick

Related tags Cask ale Beer Brewery Pubco + head office Multi-site pub operators

Mike Unsworth, director of brewing at Kent-based Shepherd Neame, has proved be a bit of a maverick when it comes to launching cask beers.

As part of the Faversham business’s Cask Club, he talks about what went into making the inaugural brew – Maverick, a 3.4% ABV golden ale – and a bit about how he took on the role.

Cask Club 2023 started last month with Maverick that tells the story of the pioneering founder of the brewery, Richard Marsh.

Each Cask Club beer has been crafted by one of Shepherd Neame’s master brewers – with Maverick being overseen by director of brewing Mike Unsworth.

When did you first get into beer?

I joined the Courage group in 1989 after completing a sandwich year at the Charles Wells Brewery as part of my degree in industrial biology. The brewery closed in 2010 and I worked for a short time as an operations manager for Coca Cola before moving overseas to become plant manager at The Cascade Brewery Company in Tasmania. I joined Shepherd Neame in April 2018.

What does your role at Shepherd Neame involve?

I lead our brewing team in the production of our award-winning beers, from great British classic ales such as Spitfire Amber, which carries the Royal Warrant, to Bear Island East Coast Pale Ale, and the Whitstable Bay Collection. We also brew international lagers under licence including the original Thai beer, Singha. Part of my role includes working with the team to develop new beers, which was one of the reasons for first launching Cask Club – we wanted to offer an exciting new range of innovative cask beers incorporating modern styles and flavours, while also celebrating some seasonal classics.

Collage Maker-24-Mar-2023-10-46-AM-4688
Looks good: Mike Unsworth

How did you come up with the recipe for this year’s first Cask Club beer, Maverick?

I was keen to brew a light, refreshing cask beer, and this combination of hops and malt seemed like the perfect combination. At 3.4% ABV, it was important that we were able to retain a good level of body to the beer, and also get that delicious fresh hop aroma and flavour.

What malts have gone into Maverick, and why?

I’ve used standard Ale malt, Crystal malt and Caramalt which give a pale golden colour. There are also some oats in Maverick, which give the beer a slightly ‘silky’ mouthfeel.

What hops does this contain, and why did you choose them?

I chose US Centennial hops in the brewhouse, with new English varieties Olicana and Jester hops, plus Ernest, for Dry Hopping. I wanted to try the new English varieties to see what flavours and aromas they would deliver when combined together – and I am pleased with the result!

Did you experience any challenges with the beer?

It can be tricky to produce a 3.4% cask ale and maintain the fullness or body, so it was somewhat of an experiment! As with all of our new Cask Club beers, we usually learn a few things from the first brew. But I am delighted with how Maverick has come out - we have produced a really pleasant, drinkable, light beer!

What do you enjoy most about your role?

I love developing new beers and then seeing them prove popular with drinkers, which is why I’m really enjoying being involved with this year’s Cask Club. It offers our brewers the opportunity to be creative and try something new! Shepherd Neame may be Britain’s oldest brewer, but we are constantly looking for new ways to use that extensive brewing knowledge to innovate and delight.

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