Showing posts with label youngs. Show all posts
Showing posts with label youngs. Show all posts

Monday, January 14, 2013

The Other Burton Beer

Despite the fact that the making of beer has been part of the human experience for at least 6000 years, indeed one of the marks of being civilised in the Epic of Gilgamesh was to be a beer drinker (though I am sure ancient Sumerian 'beer' was a very different beast from the modern stuff), there are places which are renowned for their beer throughout the world, for various reasons. Whether it is Plzeň for its pale lager, which spawned endless imitations, Dublin and the stout porter that would define not just a beer style but an entire country in the minds of many, or Munich for its dunkels, there are some cities where beer is the very stuff of life.

One such city is Burton upon Trent in the English Midlands, an area rich in the history of the Industrial Revolution. At one point the city was home to more than a dozen breweries including such world famous names as Bass, Allsopp and Ind Coope. To put that into context, Burton is about the same size as Charlottesville and in the city proper there are currently 2 breweries. When people think about the Burton brewing industry they think of a style of beer which has come to embody in many way the modern brewing industry, India Pale Ale. However, when in 1948 The Brewer's Art listed the four main types of beer being brewed in Britain they were 'pale ale, mild ale, stout and Burton'.

Burton Ale is one of those beer styles which is almost extinct, I say almost because it would seem from my reading (mostly Martyn Cornell's 'Amber, Gold and Black', various of Martyn's blog posts and magazine articles, and naturally Ron Pattinson's blog) that the style lives on in the Winter Warmer genre of strong English ales. In common with many beers, Burton Ale evolved. Over the years it went from being a super strong nut brown ale shipped to the Baltic region to the Victorian era beer made to a recipe of pure pale malt and Kentish hops to create a beer which was about 6% abv and slightly less hopped than the IPAs being sent from Burton to India. Seemingly, and again most of this information is from Martyn, as the Victorian age gave way to the 20th Century Burton Ale became darker again and then in the decades immediately after the Second World War, the style practically died as the public turned away from dark, sweet beers in favour of pale, bitter ones.

According to Martyn's book though, there are still some beers out there which meet the description of a Burton Ale, whether the paler 19th century version or the darker 20th. Fuller's 1845 is apparently based on a Burton style recipe from the Griffin Brewery, Timothy Taylor Ram Tam is an example of a lower strength dark Burton, and is, according to Martyn, a 'classic of the Burton Ale type'.

Of those three, I have only had the pleasure of the Fullers 1845, and a mighty great pleasure it is, but I have it in mind to try creating some clone recipesof the various stages in the development of Burton Ale for my homebrewing this year. Brewing old beers is one of my favourite types of history (and history is probably one of my favourite things in general), the type you can drink.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Up in Arms

I was looking forward to Saturday very much. Mrs Velkyal was in her conference most of the day, my brother wasn't working and my mate Gaj was coming to Oxford from King's Lynn, where he is a doctor. And of course my brother and Gaj knew that the plan for the day involved sitting in pubs and boozing whilst waiting for Mrs Velkyal.

Our original plan was to meet Gaj at around midday then go for lunch at the Royal Blenheim, which is on St Ebbe's just after BHS - this I had ascertained on the Friday when in Oddbin's, picking up some BrewDog Punk IPA, I asked for directions and happily found it to be very close to here Mrs Velkyal was conferencing. From the outside it is essentially a picture postcard of what a British pub should be. Unfortunately Gaj was delayed, so it was just Scott, myself and the better half. I had come across the Royal Blenheim when I found the website. When we arrived there were 4 beers on the pumps - I didn't really pay too much attention to the bog standard tap stuff, similar situation to Far From the Madding Crowd - two from Everard's and two from the White Horse Brewery, who were a new name to me and have just taken over the pub. Again we had to change plan as the pub was having the kitchen refurbished and as such there was no food, so I ordered a pint of Tiger for myself, a pint of Sunchaser for Mrs Velkyal and some mass-produced lager for my brother.

I found this to be a much better poured pint that some of the ones I had tried in Far From the Madding Crowd, which means it had a decent head on it, which stayed largely intact while drinking the beer. I really liked the Tiger glass as well, mainly because it had the Cyclops tasting notes for the beer on the side. And to quote the old adverts for Ronseal - it does exactly what it says on the tin. I really like the toffee notes in this beer, and the fact that the sweetness is nicely balanced by a spicy hoppiness, after a couple of pints I have to admit that it has become one of my favourite British ales, and one I will be hunting out whenever I go back to the UK. I only had a quick sip of Mrs Velkyal's Sunchaser, which is a blonde beer that is nicely refreshing and crisp, with a gentle lemony flavour. She certainly enjoyed it.

Because my brother and Mrs Velkyal were chatting away, trying to plan where to get some lunch, I had finished my pint before they were even half way down, so I went up to the bar to try one of the White Horse brews. Having never heard of either, I asked the barman (I think he may have been the landlord), what the difference between White Horse Bitter and White Horse Wayland Smithy was. He explained that the Smithy is more of an Best Bitter, although the 3.7% Bitter, although a session ale, was hoppier - sounded a treat I thought to myself. And a very nice beer it is too - the kind of bitter that I could happily drink all night. It has quite a light body without being watery at all and the hoppiness comes to the fore without being overpowering. In general the Royal Blenheim was a very nice pub, with a nice relaxed atmosphere and well poured beers, can't really ask for more than that can you?

Unfortunately the need for food was becoming rather pressing, as was the time for Mrs Velkyal to get back to her conference in the Town Hall. Plus Gaj had finally made it to Oxford, so while I went to find him, Scott and Mrs Velkyal went to get lunch - fresh handmade Cornish pasties! I don't think Scott and I were overly hungry because we had enjoyed a great couple of pies in Oxford's Covered Market, his being wild mushroom and asparagus, mine was steak, kidney and ale. With lunch well and truly enjoyed, the three men decided to head for the pub, shock horror!

We decided to go to the , a Young's pub which is just far enough off the beaten track to be missed by a lot of tourists, but it very popular with students and locals, and understandably so. The place is cavernous and has all the traditional elements of an English pub, wooden floors, tables and chairs, except for the old no-smoking room with had carpet, as did the snug. On draught was a full range of Young's beers, with a good selection of bottles as well - and the Ploughman's lunch we shared between the three of us was superb. I didn't taken any notes of the beers I drank, but I thoroughly enjoyed them all, even if my brother turned his nose up at the Luxury Double Chocolate Stout, in particular I liked the Tribute Premium Cornish Ale. The King's Arms is a pub which if I lived in Oxford I could very easily imagine being my local, simply a great place to sit, drink and hang out with friends.

One thing I really enjoyed about being in Britain was the standard of service I got in every pub I went in to. Friendly, knowledgable bar staff are always a delight, as it prompt and efficient service in general - to my mind the King's Arms has exemplary service, and barmen who seemed to know their beer.

Old Friends: Joseph's Brau PLZNR

I have to admit that there really are not that many things that I miss as a result of this pandemic. I am sure that comes as something of a ...