The famous Burton water makes the famous Burton beers
Thursday, 24 October 2013 09:42

During his extensive recent travels throughout the Northern Hemisphere, Colin the Handsome Yet Softly Spoken Scottish Proprietor of Malthouse somehow managed to slip in a surprising number of beer- and brewery-related

visits on what was purportedly a family trip. One of the (many) places he visited was the National Brewery Centre in Burton-upon-Trent, a venue which polarised the craft beer community in Britain and elsewhere. 

On the one hand, it is an interactive museum showcasing the rich brewing heritage of the region and houses a lauded microbrewery which makes the legendary Worthington’s White Shield and Red Shield ales, along with a range of seasonal and special releases. On the other, the Centre is owned by global giant Molson Coors, the very same company who closed it down in 2008. [1] After fierce resistance, the Centre, previously known as the Bass Museum then the Coors Visitors Centre) reopened in 2010. Roger Protz tells the story:

“Coors - now Molson Coors - was stunned by the reaction to the closure. The local MP, Janet Dean, called a meeting in Burton attended by the local Civic Society and Chamber of Commerce, the borough and county councils, Staffordshire Arts and Museums, the Campaign for Real Ale and the British Guild of Beer Writers. [2] 

There was a united determination to save the museum and maintain it as a focal point in the Midlands, with its rich brewing traditions. Feelings were running high in Burton and neighbouring Derby. The Burton Mail highlighted the campaign to save the museum while a 400-strong demonstration through the town won considerable media coverage. In far away Boulder, Colorado, Coors was horrified by the bad publicity. Executives flew to Britain and the local management was told in no uncertain terms to sort out the problem.”

The end result was the National Brewery Centre and the on-site brewery. Protz appears supportive of the development which means I almost certainly am too.  Around a week ago he spoke at there to support the National Heritage Trust which has been launched to support the Centre and protect the famous Bass archives, while making them more accessible to researchers. Researching his own book on brewing in Burton-upon-Trent, Protz described himself as being “mesmerised for days by the enormous amount of fascinating information held there.”

What makes Burton-upon-Trent a go-to destination for British beer writers and Wellington bar owners alike is its long and storied involvement with brewing, particularly the development of pale ales. Asked “Why Burton?” Protz replied concisely:

“The answer lies in the soil... and the water.  The wells and springs that bubble up in the Trent Valley are rich in natural sulphates, gypsum and magnesium in particular. Sulphates or salts are flavour enhancers and it's the salts that bring out the finest flavours from the malts and hops used in Burton beers… The Burton brewers found the local water was ideally suited to making pale ale.”

Colin not only enjoyed his visit but, even better, he brought me back a most excellent gift – a bottle of the legendary Worthington’s White Shield India Pale Ale. This beer features in Michael Jackson’s “Great Beer Guide: 500 Classic Brews” and also has received the CAMRA Champion Bottled Beer of Britain award an unprecedented nine times. This all came after the Worthington’s brand was bounced round regional breweries in the 1970s and rescued from oblivion by Steve Wellington and the Museum Brewery (later the White Shield Brewery).

It was with Steve Wellington in the White Shield Brewery that writer Pete Brown brewed the India Pale Ale he would take on an epic journey to India in his book “Hops and Glory: One Man’s Search for the Beer that Built the British Empire.”  Here are some highlights of the brew day for the beer which became known as Calcutta IPA:

“The White Shield brewery must cause at least a moment’s confusion for the more fundamentalist beer aficionado. It’s continued existence means you have to give due credit to the vast, American-owned multinational lager brewer that rode into town a few years ago and bought the place.”
 
“White Shield is a stunning beer, in both senses of the word. It balances generous IPA hoppiness with dollops of malt, combining with that famous Burton water and a treasured, ancient yeast strain to create a muscular 5.6 percent ABV ale with all sorts going on: bags of fruit, loads of spices, a hint of freshly baked bread, some treacle, caramel and toffee, all suspended in a fine balance …  I’ve seen grown men almost weep at how well this beer goes with mature cheddar.”
[3]

The Calcutta IPA was based on a 60 year old recipe for Bass Continental, a 6.5% IPA brewed for the Belgian market. They upped the ABV to 7% and used Northdown hops, pale English and crystals malts, two different Worthington yeasts and waters from the local well to make two casks of this soon to be famous ale. 

Now, sadly Colin could not supply Malthouse with Worthington’s White Shield – at least not yet – but he has secured a stock of Worthington’s Creamflow (3.6%), a draught bitter in a nitrocan. Of course, it is a very different beast than White Shield but it is made in Burton and has been the third highest selling ale in the UK and the best selling ale in Wales.

Creamflow pours into the glass [4] a rich amber colour with a dense. Finely bubbled, it is creamy and smooth with hints of caramel and fruit before a light to medium bitterness. Despite the relatively low alcohol, it is easy drinking while having a bit of the famous Burton character in there.

On to other matters, it is, apparently, Labour Day on Monday which means a long weekend for some. As a self-employed writer, I have a long-standing policy of working through Labour Day so that I can take Wrestlemania Day off later. It is a stance I have never regretted. 

However, Colin the Handsome Yet Softly Spoken Scottish Proprietor wishes to stress for the benefit others who are actually enjoying that day off that the Malthouse will be open normal business hours on Monday 28th.

He also encourages craft beer enthusiasts to attend the 2013 Pacific Beer Expo on Sunday 27 October. This fine event will take place from 2pm to 7pm in the Saint James Theatre (First Floor Gallery). The festival organisers from Hashigo Zake have announced the (near) final beer list which will be available at this unashamedly elite Expo. Here is what their latest press release said:

“The list includes three beers from Singapore, one from Japan, three from Australia, fourteen from New Zealand, fifteen from the US and one international collaboration. In terms of styles, there are seven IPAs or Imperial IPAs, three saisons, four flavoured wheat beers and ten porters, stouts or imperial stouts.  Adherents to the archaic Reinheitsgebot, or German Beer Purity Law, will be squirming, with many of the beers imbued with additional flavours from adjuncts such as pink pepper, mace, rosehips, orange peel, chillies, civet cat coffee and hemp.”

The Maps function on my phone indicates that Saint James Theatre is exactly 169 metres away from Malthouse. It also rather optimistically suggests that will take me one minute to walk that distance…

Next time we drink to Lydia Ko, Bob Jones and Eminem, the unlikely trio currently trending on Twitter in New Zealand. [5]

[1] The iconic brewery dray horses were “put out to pasture” after the closure. Thankfully, “put out to pasture” did not turn out to be code for anything ominous and they resumed their equine duties when the Centre re-opened.

[2] It is rumoured these groups will be featuring the next reboot of the “The Avengers” movie franchise. I’d certainly pay to go and see the British Guild of Beer Writers take on Galactus: The Eater of Worlds.

[3] The TAB is taking odds: Colin Mallon $200 to cry, Neil Miller $97, Martin Bosley $43, Geoff Griggs $9.50 and red-hot favourite Kieran Haslett-Moore at $1.10.

[4] Although it has a space-age can, nitrocan beers should definitely be drunk from of a glass. I’m tempted to wander around Malthouse drinking straight out of the can and see how many people point out my howling error.

[5] I’m presuming they made the trending list separately as the mind simply boggles as to what they could have been doing together…  Now, Bob Jones and Miley Cyrus – that I could envisage. The video would be called “Wrecking Bald”.

Cheers

Beer Writer
Beer and Brewer Magazine
Cuisine Magazine

Links

Roger Protz on the Burton museum - http://www.beer-pages.com/stories/burton-museum.htm
Pete Brown’s Beer Diary – http://petebrown.blogspot.co.uk/
Hops and Glory Book - http://www.bookdepository.co.uk/Hops-Glory-Pete-Brown/9780330511865
Worthington’s – http://www.worthingtonsale.com/
The Pacific Beer Expo Facebook Page -

https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Pacific-Beer-Expo/241063509271879?fref=ts
Malthouse Facebook - www.facebook.com/pages/Malthouse/7084276173
Malthouse Twitter – www.twitter.com/#!/malthouse
Malthouse Taps on Twitter – www.twitter.com/#!/MalthouseTaps
Neil Miller on Twitter – http://www.twitter.com/#!/beerlytweeting
Beer and Brewer Magazine - www.beerandbrewer.com/

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