A golden anniversary cedar-infused ale celebrating Reading Botany 2019 has just been produced and is now to be offered for tasting and purchase at University of Reading’s Park House bar and at the Reading Botany 2019 events!

The idea of an anniversary ale was the brainchild of Dr M who, in the summer of 2018, noticed bespoke beers occasionally being produced for conferences, anniversaries or other celebrations and he thought why not a botanical brew especially for Reading Botany 2019?

A special celebratory botanical flavour was an essential ingredient of this concept. Discussion with colleague Dr Alastair Culham suggested Cedar (Cedrus species) as a possible botanical for investigation, especially bearing in mind its very close association with University of Reading which is home to the Cedars hotel and a number of fine specimen Cedar trees, notably right outside the University’s Park House bar where the beer is now being sold!

We needed a sympathetic brewer to run with the concept and discussion with another colleague Dr Simon Mortimer suggested Crafty Brewing Company whose Director, Luke Herman, is a University of Reading ecology alumnus and his fiancee a Reading botany alumnus, so the link here was immediately very strong!

The developing concept was discussed with other colleagues, especially with the director of catering at Reading for a crucial financial and business viewpoint.  A beer tasting was then organised in November to decide which of Crafty Brewers beers might be best suited for infusing with cedar.  From a half dozen possibles the unanimous choice was Loxhill Biscuit a golden ale (ABV: 3.8%) brewed with three varieties of hops and and three malts making is a suitably diverse botanical brew for our celebrations as well as being Crafty Brewers favourite session beer.

Next the source of cedar  flavouring was considered, there were three options: (1) as a resin (Cedar cones for example are rich in resin), or (2) using the wood itself a favourite component of saunas with deliciously aromatic impact or (3) extracted cedar oil itself.  In the end cedar oil was chosen as readily available and conforming to the requisite food and hygiene standards.

The February 2019 beer tasting with Luke Herman presiding to decide the level of cedar infusion

Christmas passed, 2019 arrived and the 50th Anniversary of Reading Botany Masters was upon us and in order to get the finished product in time for the anniversary events, the essential next step was a second tasting.  Held in February 2019, again at Reading but this time was hosted by Crafty Brewers Director Luke Herman, to sample the chosen golden ale infused with different quantities of cedar oil.  Cedar oil packs quite a punch and so only very small quantities were required to infuse the ale, and the University of Reading’s food lab’s micro-syringe came in handy for this task!  The tasting included expert beer officianados including a representative from CAMRA, and the view was that the lower concentration was the most suitable giving a clear cedar hint but not overwhelming the palette.

The beer and the concentration of cedar infusion now sorted, the next step was to agree quantities and a label design.  Dr M drew on the University of Reading Design & Print Services (DPS) and one of their chief designers James Mutton set to work.  His concept was “to explore the design in such a way that we can produce it using a woodcut/linocut method, tying it all in with the cedar tree and botany”.  

The concept fitted exactly the mix of design and botany that was required.  Soon there was a preliminary design – an outline of a magnificent cedar tree with WHITEKNIGHTS CEDAR beneath. Issues for further discussion included the background colour, text details, and how best to incorporate the Reading Botany 2019 buttercup logo plus all the legally required information.

In the end a golden background for the cedar tree was chosen, reflecting both the golden ale and the golden anniversary. The buttercup logo was added in white to avoid losing the yellow buttercup petals on the gold background but also because a white logo is more stand-out.  A final touch provided by Dr Alastair Culham was to add the words “and botanists” to the important text “suitable for vegetarians, vegans and botanists”!

As this post is published the beer has been brewed, bottled, labelled and delivered and offered for sale in the Park House bar!

The golden anniversary bottles was first offered for tasting and purchase at the Harris Garden Open Day 14th April 2019 – this was the perfect occasion and location for this most botanical of anniversary beverages!

Purchase for your own event?  Whiteknights Cedar is available for purchase in presentation packs of 3 or by the case (12 bottles) email us for details j.mitchley@reading.ac.uk