Thursday, 20 September 2007

Lost and Found

Last orders
Our mini odyssey to Burton on Trent
The purpose for which was to carry a small barrel of specially brewed India Pale Ale on the start of its journey. On arrival at Burton we had the happy job of meeting with various brewers/beer types from Coors, Marston’s, Burton Bridge and sampling a sister barrel to the one on it’s way to India with BLBW. We also drank some of their own IPAs. The guy in the photo is Steve Wellington the brewer of Worthing White Shield with his hoard.

IPAs are strongish 4.5-8% beers high in hop content. Hops not only add flavour to beer but are also believed to help in its preservation. To someone expecting the usual bitter/ale taste they are often a surprise being lighter and citrusy but with a dry hop flavour making them refreshing and pleasant to drink.

Here are some British IPAs you might like to try:
Worthing White shield: many believe this to be the king of British IPAs and to my shame I only had my first pint in Burton (which is good in a way). Safe to say it’s really good.
Marston Old Imperial: is also really good a balanced delicious beer.
Burton Bridge Old Empire IPA: Was really good too slightly darker than the other but just as good.

Unlike the likes of London Pride IPA aren’t “session” ales being too strong to drink a lot of and also too flavoursome to knock back too quickly but are great with food the sharpness of the hops cuts through oily/fatty foods well. So try them with medium strength cheeses, but also pates and pork products. I’m not sure the curry we had (for obvious reasons) was best accompaniment as the strong spicing wiped out some of the IPA characters.

At Last the oldest drinkable beer in the world!

We heard many stories in Burton about all the different breweries and firms, it reminded me of Bordeaux or Oporto with all the different vineyards and wine sellers, the whole town is dotted with old offices, stores etc. One such story was of the cases of beer found in the cellars of old brewery that was being closed. Follow the links below for the full story. Suffice to say some the beer found had been brewed in Burton on Trent in 1860’s often to celebrate significant events in the brewers life.

Ian from Coors who now own Worthington’s had brought a bottle of 1869 (?) beer for us to taste. Lets’ get this right this beer is of the same vintage as Billy the Kid, is older than motor cars, Winston Churchill, it’s older than football it’s almost 140 years old.
I’m sorry my flash wasn’t working so I’ve no pics.

The bottle looks like a classic beer bottle but double size so was 2pints (?) or maybe wine bottle size. It had a cork and wax lid which were carefully removed. The beer inside was dark in colour like a darker ale. It didn’t smell of anything greatly but when you tasted it was quite strange. It didn’t taste like any beer we drink today as Ian pointed out most of the flavour was on the tip of tongue. Most of the alcohol had evaporated so it was around the 1% mark. It reminded me more of sherry or Madeira, a rich complex taste not unpleasant but not necessarily something to drink everyday. Remember that most wines don’t last this long, but the hops and alcohol in beer (and possibly the sulphur in Burton water) helped preserve and develop this beer flavour.
So a remarkable drink and something not available to many alas.

Where to drink in Burton on Trent.

Burton Bridge:
Excellent Pub attached to a small brewery, definitely keeping the heart of Burton’s brewing tradition going . Don't let the tankards put you off.

The Cooper Tavern a strange pub on the cusp of Real spoddery the back room bar is a trestle table with barrels behind, bottles on shelves, fairy lights and Greek chorus of regulars. A little quiet on Monday evening but a great pub the sort of place that if it were in France or Italy we’d get eulogies singing it's praises in the foodie pages but it is overlooked because it’s a side street in Staffordshire : worth a visit.

More on old Burton ale Here, and here

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