Wednesday 27 May 2009

Desert Island Beer #1

Though my desert island beer selection is subject to constant change the top three beers are guaranteed a place. They're beers that have been just perfection in a glass when I've drunk them.

Ind Coope Burton Ale was the first cask beer I ever drank and the moment is etched forever on my taste buds. As a fresh faced young man I was on the road to Damascus when I stopped at a roadside hostelry called the Sovereigns. It was my habit at the time to just ask for bitter when I went to the bar. I'd be given keg bitter which was cold, brown and fizzy and didn't have much taste. When it was my round this time a mate asked me to get him a 'Burton'. This sounded a bit weird to me but I ordered it anyway and saw it was served from the mysterious hand pumps adorning the bar.

My curiosity being sufficiently aroused I sneaked a surreptitious slurp. The effect was astounding: a blinding light struck me and I heard a roaring in my ear and I fell to my knees. A booming voice spoke to me: "Ed! Ed! Why do you persecute me?". "Who are you?" I asked. "I the lord your beer, who you are persecuting by drinking pasteurised rubbish" was the reply. It continued: "You must get up to the bar and only drink decent beer from now on". As you can imagine I was a little surprised by this, but the Burton did taste damn good so I wasn't going to argue. "OK" I said, "I think I can manage that". And so I did. From that day forth I have been seeking out decent beer and not putting up with sub-standard shite.

Ind Coope Burton Ale* is a pale ale with a hint of chocolate malt and dry hopped with Styrian goldings. Soon after I discovered it it won CAMRA's Champion Beer of Britain competition which vindicated my belief I'd found something good. Unfortunately having a national brewer's beer win didn't go down too well with some of the CAMRA faithful and the rules of the competition were changed to deny it automatic entry into the next year's finals. In fact since then the Champion Beer of Britain has pretty much been the preserve of beers from brew pubs or micros.

As a cask conditioned beer it could at times be vinegar soup, particularly as these were pre-cask marque days. But at times it could be sublime, as on another memorable occasion when it tasted so good I wanted my mates to stop trying to talk to me so I could just concentrate on drinking the delicious nectar.

Sadly it's rarely found nowadays but I will insist on regular shipments to my desert island.

*Technically speaking the beer style 'Burton Ale' is for something strong and dark like Old Peculier or McEwan's Champion so Ind Coope Burton Ale is in fact a pale ale from Burton. Well, it was until production moved to Leeds.


  1. Its a shame I have yet to try Burton ale it sounds like brutal stuff. It also souds like you may have been consuming sufficient quantities whilst whiting that post ed.

  2. That was/is a great beer. I drank it in the 80's while I was visiting the island. I believe the only pub on Oxford Street carried it.

  3. The occasional times I've find it nowadays it's not as good. The gossip I heard is it's now made in Yorkshire squares not open fermenters. I'm not really sure what effect this would have on a beer but if it is what's happened it hasn't done the Burton any good.

  4. It is made by JW Lees in Manchester in covered squares. I keep asking them to let me try it as it was an old favourite of mine too. I must remind them next time I'm at the brewery.

    It always used to send me doolally.

  5. Thanks for that, I'm always interested to hear info on Burton. It did have a strong effect on the brain, and let's not forget that the 'Burton bowel' was a pretty strong effect too!

    I'd also be interested to see if any research has been done on the effects of different types of fermenters on beer flavour if anyone know's anything about this.