The clocks have gone back, the mercury has plummeted and those long summer evenings are nothing more than a memory – in other words, it’s beginning to look a lot like winter! This year, give the mulled wine a miss and say hello to the festive season with our county’s traditional tipple.
As you would expect from the land of oast houses and hops, we have no shortage of great local breweries right on our doorstep. But with so much choice, deciding what to try first can be tricky. So, here are five great winter beers to get you started.
Brewery: Old Dairy
Location: Tenterden – Kent
Alcohol by volume: 6%
Old Dairy have brewed the perfect ‘winter warmer’ – if they do say so themselves – with their award-winning Snow Top beer. This rich, dark delight is packed with the taste of Christmas; it is full of fruitcake and marmalade flavours and topped off with some spicy notes.
Godswallop Winter Ale
Location: Westerham – Kent
Alcohol by volume: 4%
Making full use of the local crop are Westerham with their Godswallop Winter Ale. Six Kent hops combine with pale ale, dark crystal and chocolate malts to create a traditional ale style beer that is both complex and comforting. This slightly sweet, smooth caramel, gentle hoppy traditional old winter ale will keep your mood up as the temperature drops. Oh! and making the most of the season, Westerham have also launched an awesome 2020 Beer Advent Calendar featuring a mixed case of 12 different beers – because a beer a day keeps…. your problems away?
Location: Chiddingstone – Kent
Alcohol by volume: 5.2%
Is there anything more quintessentially Kentish than oast houses and crop fields? Local brewery Larkins still produce their real Kentish ales in a traditional oast house, which we love – obviously! Included in Roger Protz’s acclaimed guide, ‘300 Beers to Try Before You Die’, the award-winning Larkins’ Porter is the perfect choice for those long dark evenings, with a deep, rich and warming taste.
A curiosity about The Larkins Oast House – it was built in 1935 but bombed by a V2 rocket in 1945 and then rebuilt in 1948. It has a kiln, a drying room, cooling and pressing machinery for the traditional processing of hops from drying, preserving to storing. Using traditional tools and methods they ensure their characteristic Larkins quality and flavour!
Christmas Jumper Ale
Brewery: Mad Cat
Alcohol by volume: 4.4%
Based at Brogdale Farm in Faversham and set up by father and son in 2012, the Mad Cat Brewery is a micro-brewery providing fresh and quality craft ales. They have very quick turnarounds – they can pick and have the hops brewed in under 12 hours for its beers – but when it comes to seasonal beers, they only release a small number of batches, so you have to keep an eye not to miss them! Every year they release a Christmas-themed ale featuring their famous creative cat designs and for this year they’ve launched the delicious Christmas Jumper Ale which promises to be rich, nutty and decidedly festive!
Brewery: Shepherd Neame
Location: Faversham – Kent
Alcohol by volume: 7%
A winter beer often means a stronger beer. Of course, it’s not hard to see why cold weather would make a stronger drink more appealing – nothing seems to heat you up more than shot of the hard stuff. But there is another reason these beers are a pinch more potent than their counterparts. Traditionally, winter beers were usually brewed during the harvest and the season of plenty probably encouraged brewers to be a little more bountiful with the malts, meaning a higher alcohol content. When it comes to alcohol proof, Shepherd Neame’s Christmas Ale beer packs a punch.
Shepherd Neame’s Christmas Ale beer is brewed using mineral water from their own well. This Christmassy concoction combines notes of fruits and spices and is packed full of some great local crops. The beer itself is delightfully packed with a Dickensian style label and a traditional pump lid.
Enjoyed our roundup of Christmas beers? Why not following us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram to keep up with all Dude & Arnette’s updates
Did you know we also do bespoke features? That’s right. Every so often we get requests from clients to build something unique for them and it’s always great fun. This, not only allows us to put our tried-and-tested skills to good use but also to flex our creative muscles to bring ideas to life.
First things first
When Russel C. approached us to do some work on their estate, we packed our van and headed over to assess the work that was needed. They had heard of us working on some other oast houses and they were keen to get in touch. We firstly worked on building fresh new oast cowls and also carried out some roof repairs to ensure all the roofs are set and ready for the upcoming autumn and winter months.
But there was one last request. We got chatting, as we do, and the conversation then led on to creating something new… and the idea for a cowl seat was born!
A seat with a twist
But what’s special about this artefact? Well, it’s something we’ve always wanted to do, but most importantly – it’s something that has never been done before to such high standards.
The base of the chair was made out of steel at Laddingford engineering. The oast cowl was made out of wood, using our perfected, oast cowl construction methods, and then we fibreglassed it over the outside. Want to see the end result? Here are some snaps! Needless to say, our client was over the moon with his new cowl seat – the perfect place to read a book, or to enjoy a good cuppa!
Appreciation for Cowl Work
The cowl of our oast house has, over past two winter storms, developed a horrid noise. Just prior to Covid-19 lockdown, we sought quotes for investigation and repairs. Dude & Arnette (D&A) were not the cheapest, but we were impressed by the attitude of Darren Hole (MD).
Lockdown destroyed our planned schedule as D&A took a responsible approach towards their staff and clients. Our confidence was fully justified as almost like clockwork, work has this month proceeded speedily. Scaffolding by High Score was efficiently and pleasantly carried out, D&A team worked together so well with Darren Hole keeping a close eye. Work required was not so much cowl but support of centre post which rectified. Now with recent high winds no noise or leaks and cowl looking smart. Thank you Darren & Team.
I recommend Darren and the team very highly
I suffered significant storm damage to my Oast cowl, the result of which was the cowl leaning horribly and flapping around dangerously, causing damage to the roof and looking like it could topple off with the slightest gust of wind. Darren popped round within hours of speaking to him, agreed that fast action was needed and had the cowl off and the roof weatherproofed within a couple of days. There was then a massive delay (due entirely to errors made by my home insurers) which must have caused issues for Darren, but he was patient and understanding throughout. Once the insurers sorted out their issues, Darren was back in a flash to repair the roof and replace the beautifully restored cowl to a very high standard. He even threw in one of their awesome t-shirts! I recommend Darren and the team very highly.
Here at Dude & Arnette we’re passionate about oast houses, from oast house maintenance to roof repairs, we’ve been in the business since 1937 and know a trick or two. But we don’t stop there. We’re also big advocates of preserving British heritage and sharing with you fragments of our country’s history through its oast houses.
On this blog post, our customer Mike Reader shares with us the fascinating history of the unusual oast cottage Laddingford. Let’s have a look…
An oast within an oast
Laddingford Oast Cottage is an unusual one. The original building, a small T shaped oast house with 2 square kilns and stowage, probably dates from the 17th century. It may represent one of the earliest purpose-built oast houses. Many of the early oast houses were created from existing barns with kilns added, but this building was designed and built as an oast house. The evidence for it being built as a unit is the distinctive brickwork and ragstone plinth around the T shape, neither of which are in the rest of the building. An indication of its age is given by the roof construction without a ridge plate and without the use of nails. The building is essentially an “oast within an oast”.
Additionally, there are 2 windows with simple vertical square-sectioned timber battens, they have no glass but had external shutters. These are possibly like those in Scot’s oast dated 1574.
There were also wooden, horizontal pivoted louvres, controlled by a simple timber mechanism, for ventilation throughout the building. One of these still survives.
At some point in the 18th century, a larger 3rd square kiln was added on the southern side to provide increased drying capacity. The construction is not of such high quality and the roof has a ridge plate. There is evidence in the roof showing where the cowl was situated. A deposit of ash was found under the bricks in the centre of the floor, showing where the fire had been. The addition of another kiln led to a need for an increased cooling area so a small barn was dismantled and rebuilt on the western side of the building to provide an extension to the upper floor.
In 1820 a small weather-boarded 2-bed cottage was built on the western side, next to the small barn.
The 1871 map of the area shows that the southern-most roundel had been built. This was probably to replace the large square southern kiln, whose cowl was removed from the roof.
Moving onto the 19th century, a fire affected both small square kilns. As a result, these kilns were no longer used and the roof was rebuilt without their cowls. The lost drying capacity was replaced by building a new brick roundel on the northeast corner. This is shown on the later 1897 map.
The building was bought by Walter Reader in 1912, as part of Mereworth Farm. It has remained in the Reader family since.
The oast was used to dry hops until 1935 after which all drying was carried out in the oast at Uptons Farm. The cowls on the roundels were removed in the 1940s having been damaged by a bomb falling nearby. They were replaced by Dude and Arnette in June 2020.
In an age where homes are built using the same templates as their neighbours, and roads are filled with rows of identical houses, it can be difficult to truly stamp your own individuality on a property.
As you look further afield, leaving the purpose-built communities, take a look at the could-be’s and what-ifs. The buildings that have been abandoned, the structures filled with potential. This is what we see each time we visit an old oast house: the potential for repairing and rebuilding a family home, returning it to its former glory.
Building or converting your own home can be a daunting project, but oast house conversions can create a truly personal space. Each oast house is unique, and therefore each project requires an individual assessment and detailed preparation, including planning permission, assessment of whether your oast house needs a replacement oast cowl or whether it just needs cleaning and painting.
At Dude & Arnette our family have been repairing and restoring oast cowls since 1937, helping hundreds of people realise their dreams and working with them to truly create personal place to call their own. To organise a free consultation and quotation, call Dude & Arnette on 01622 725 898 or visit our Contact page, fill out our contact form, and we’ll be in touch as soon as possible.
Converting, restoring and repairing an historic oast house can be a rewarding and enjoyable process. From your initial consultation to seeing the stunning results at the end of the work, there are few projects more satisfying. This process should be carried alongside a team of experts, and here are a few tips on how to approach converting or restoring your oast.
Submit an application to the council before any work is carried out
Around 1 in 10 oast houses are listed buildings, and therefore permission needs to be granted by the council before any restoration work can begin. You’ll also need to carry out a survey to check for any animals that may have made your oast house their home! There are other factors that should be taken into consideration, and our expert team will be able to make sure that all the boxes have been ticked before you begin the application process.
Our director Darren Hole attends every initial visit to discuss the requirements of every project Dude & Arnette work on. He will gather together exactly what you need, check access for removing the cowl, and will collate all of the information into a written quotation that breaks down each cost, and organise a timeframe for your work to be carried out and installed. Generally, this takes around four weeks, depending on the house.
Retain original features
With any restoration and repair work on an old building, it’s important to retain the integrity and original features of your oast house. Our family have been restoring and repairing oast houses and cowls since 1937, and provide expert knowledge and superior workmanship on every building, and can advise on the best possible way to use your space.
To arrange a free quotation, or to discuss your individual requirements in more detail, visit our Contact Us page, or call us on 01622 725 898.
After having Covid-19 throwing any routine or normality out of the window, we’re pleased to announce that following Government advice – Dude & Arnette are back in action.
Normally we wouldn’t necessarily do a maintenance update but we felt it was necessary, as a lot of the oast cowl maintenance and repair work that would take place in early spring had to be paused completely due to lockdown.
So if you have an oast cowl, here’s what we’d recommend:
- We’ve seen a lot of rain this winter so a safety check would be the first thing to do to ensure there are no damages to the cowls and the roof
- After a safety check, you’ll get an idea of what might need to be done (oast cowl repair, clean, paint, re-build etc)
- The best thing to do if there aren’t any issues? Get your cowls freshly painted. This helps to weather-proof your cowls and makes them look their best. You might have done some indoors redecorations during lockdown, now is the time to give your home’s crown a bit of TLC!
Why you should have them painted, you ask? Well, oast cowl repairs can be costly, so avoid leaving it too late. When it comes to oast cowl maintenance, prevention is key, folks.
Want a non-obligation assessment? Contact us or call us on 01622 725 898 for an honest quote from our director Darren Hole.
So, you probably know that we do a pretty good job at oast cowl construction, but did you know that we also specialise in building and repairing roofs? Our expert team focus on original building techniques that withstand the test of time – and our temperamental English weather! With over 75 years of practice, it’s safe to say we have roofing down to a fine art.
Whatever your roof type, we’ve got you covered
From brick and wooden, round or square, our team can strip, re-tile and build a roof that is both weatherproof and long-lasting. We can also replace ironwork and lead work and if you are looking to add some special touches, we can create bespoke guttering for your home too.
Our approach to roofing work
Every roof is as unique as the family living under it, and our expert team can tailor their skills to fit your requirements. Our previous roofing work has covered a whole range of roofs, from National Heritage buildings to standard new builds. Our craftspeople are adept at using traditional methods, such as Kent peg tiles, as well as modern machine-made nib tiles, natural slating and artificial slate.
With four generations of knowledge at our fingertips, we can offer a quick turnaround while never compromising on our attention to detail.
Bespoke building methods
We are passionate about preserving Kent’s heritage and can repair or replace much-loved original features like Kent peg tiles. Smaller than a standard roof tile, these tiles are made from clay and brick earth and attached to the roof with two wooden pegs. Tiles like these cannot be mass-produced as each one is cut by hand and unique. This bespoke building method gives the traditional Kent roof its charming appearance, so it is easy to see why these tiles are so popular.
We’re passionate about kiln roofs too
Of course, as you would expect from oast house experts, we are a dab hand at any kind of kiln roof too! Dude & Arnette began refurbishing kilns way back in 1937 and our clients can testify that our traditional techniques really have stood the test of time. Our expert crafters can restore rundown roofs, giving your kiln a much-needed restoration and ensuring it can be enjoyed for many more generations. But, this is about more than just aesthetics. Kiln roofs require regular maintenance to collapse, so keeping on top of, the top of your kiln, is always a good idea!