The Rat, meanwhile, was busy examining the label on one of the beer-bottles. “I perceive this to be Old Burton,” he remarked approvingly. “Sensible Mole! The very thing! Now we shall be able to mull some ale. Get the things ready, Mole, while I draw the corks.”
Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows, 1908
I have long had a keen interest in historic beer styles. Beer historians Ron Pattinson and Martyn Cornell have both inspired me through the years and I have even used their work as material for several of the beer style articles I have written for Pursuit of Hoppiness.
One of the most fascinating historic beer styles in Burton Ale , a major style of British beer before World War Two that almost totally disappeared in the second half of the 20th century. As you can see above Burton Ale was mainstream enough to be mentioned in The Wind in the Willows. Burton Ale’s were amber to dark copper, richly malty and sweet but also intensely hopped. They were not India Pale Ales! The style hovers around what today we think of as Old Ale and English Barley Wine but tends to have a much more pronounced hop profile than those styles usually exhibit. Last year I brewed a modern NZ hopped Burton named Gone for a Burton as a collaboration with The Twisted Hop Brewery in Christchurch , and this year The Twisted Hop brewed a second batch. I have another Burton planned for North End called Old Island which will be brewed once the brewery is commissioned and a portion will be vatted with brettanomyces and released as Old Island Extra. In the meantime however we have decided to be inspired by the recipes of the past and brew a historic Burton Ale called Southerly Front for the 2014 SOBA Winter Ale Festival. Ron Pattinson’s work deciphering recipes from the archives has been invaluable in understanding Burton Ale and it is from his work that I have taken inspiration. We took a classic London Burton Ale recipe from the 1930’s as our start point when making this beer. Southerly Front clocks in at about 5%ABV, it uses our rich mild ale malt base with a relatively high percentage of flaked maize and cane sugar, a little dark caramalt to give the beer colour and toffee and raisin notes and an enthusiastic dose of NZ grown Challenger and Golding hops. The result will hopefully be a beer that London drinkers in the 1930;s would recognise but that also has a bit of the North End house character to it. Rich , Hoppy and warming but also dangerously sessionable. Southerly Front will be launched at the Winter Ale Festival on the 14th of June with limited amounts available after that. Cheers