5 years since the Armistice brought the Great War to an effective end, the man that would become George VI married the woman I only ever knew as the Queen Mother, and the Irish Free State joined the League of Nations.
At the Anchor Brewhouse in Horsleydown, the Courage Brewery was making a beer which in the pubs of London was known as Old Burton, though in the brewery itself it was called KKK. Burton Ale has become something of an obsession of mine, rich as it is in history and brewing possibilities. Like all beers, Burton Ale has evolved, changed, and been understood in different ways throughout its history, and today it is all but ignored.
When I wrote a post called 'Time For Burton' at the end of last year, I suggested that Burton Ale was just the kind of beer that the 'craft' beer world should revive, much as is happening with Grodziskie. A comment on that post inspired me to comment on Facebook that it really was suprising that Burton Ale, big, boozy, and bitter, wasn't being made by 'craft' breweries, and would any of my pro-brewer friends be willing to pick up the baton?
Enter Blue Mountain Brewery in Afton. It's fair to say that I have a very big soft spot for Blue Mountain, they make one of my favourite pale lagers in the US, Blue Mountain Lager. They make one of my favourite winter beers, Lights Out. They make probably the only strong pale lager in the US that doesn't make me want to lament a total absence of balance, Über Pils. Yes, it is very fair to say that Taylor and co know what they are doing. About half an hour after my post, Taylor had responded and initiated the traditional back and forth via email that eventually lead to last Friday's brewday, when we recreated Courage's Old Burton from 1923.
We were forced into a slight change for our version of the beer. For some reason brewing supply companies on this side of the Atlantic don't seem to stock invert #3, the dark version of invert sugar syrup which gave the original much of its colour. Unfortunately British brewing supply companies that carry invert sugars don't have distribution or their products in the US, can't imagine why. What to do, what to do? Baker's invert sugar syrup was the answer, fully inverted, but also clear, so we upped the black malt a tad to adjust the colour.
By the time I turned up at 8am, the mash was already done and sparging was underway. Patrick, the brewer, had got in at 5am to get started, and with a 3 hour boil ahead of us, it's just as well he did. The colour of the wort was startling, deep, deep brown, but it lightened up with the sparging, and adding 10 gallons of clear invert syrup lightened it further so that it ended up a rich red/brown shade.
Another shock was the amount of hops we chucked in for the bittering addition. 22lbs of East Kent Goldings, for 15 barrels of beer! With the other additions of Nugget, and the Goldings used to dry hop the beer, we used something like 3lbs of hops per barrel, or a calculated 102 IBUs - take that, random IPA!
There are few things I enjoy more than a day in a brewery, the ceremonial dumping of the the hops, the chat about beer and brewing, discovering that one of the reasons the brewery wanted to do this project was precisely because it took them our of their comfort zone, and of course digging out the mash tun. Call me crazy, but that really is something I look forward to getting stuck in to.
Anyway, we ended up with about 15 barrels of dark, bitter, so very bitter, wort, which is being fermented by the McEwan's yeast and when it hits the taps at the brewpub will be about 6.5% abv, rippingly bitter, with plenty of residual sugar to take the edge off the hops. Simply put, it will be like nothing out there at the moment. Taylor is also planning to put some in some of his barrels to age for a year or so...
The name for this most auspicious brew....Sensible Mole, obviously.