My kind sponsors at Worthington's White Shield have a fascinating contest going on right now:
Worthington White Shield has have launched a national search together with the Campaign for Real Ale to find Britain's oldest bottle of beer. The owner of Britain's oldest unopened bottle of beer will be invited to the White Shield Brewery in Burton upon Trent to brew their very own vintage.Why is this going on? Well, it turns out that for well over a century some very fine and very beefy ales have been slumbering in the cellars below their brewery in Burton upon Trent, England. Here are some of the details of the find:
The find includes many vintages, including Worthington's White Shield, one of Britain's oldest bottle conditioned ales and 2006 CAMRA Champion Bottle Conditioned Beer of Britain. Other commemorative ales brewed to celebrate royal marriages, visits or births were also found with the oldest being an 1869 Harry Ratcliff's Ale - to mark the birth of a son into the Ratcliff family, brewers who eventually became part of the Bass, Ratcliff & Gretton empire in the late 19th century.I love this as it shows both the resilience of real ale as well as the value of a sensible stash. The UK beer trade journal, The Publican, reports as to how they taste:
Dr George Philliskirk, beer expert and Chief Executive of the Beer Academy comments: "This discovery is remarkable, especially as the oldest beer of all dates back to 1869 and tastes so fresh, and with such attractive ripe plum and honeyed flavours. This demonstrates the potential for vintage beers to be taken seriously - maybe even being worthy of a special section in wine lists at Britain's top restaurants."High neato factor. I recall reading in a Hugh Johnson book about wine that up until a few decades ago, a cask of Franken wine from the 17th century was still being tapped in Germany. The idea that the agricultural produce from so long ago can be preserved just blows me away.
It is also interesting to note that White Shield won CAMRA's gold in the 2006 awards for bottled conditioned beer, beating out Hen's Tooth, itself a very fine ale. With any luck my kind sponsors will forward me a sample as this continent's prime fault seems to be a lack of Worthington's White Shield, a beer that I have wanted to try for decades ever since I read - in David Line's classic 1970s home brewing text Brewing Beers Like Those You Buy - that it was then one of the few naturally conditioned bottled beers still being brewed in the UK with an unblemished tradition. Like those bottled found in that cellar, it seems to have snuck through the decades giving drinkers a peek at what was enjoyed by the Victorians and before.
Let us know if you have had a White Shield and also about the oldest beer in your cellar.