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Details about  World's oldest documented bottle of ale,Allsopp's Arctic Ale 1852 England sealed

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World's oldest documented bottle of ale,Allsopp's Arctic Ale 1852 England sealed
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Apr 27, 2012
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 What you are looking at is the oldest documented beer in the world , an unopened bottle of
Allsopp's Arctic Ale ,
original seal ,
brewed in 1852,
this is,
without a doubt,

 holy grail of all ales.....

This bottle of beer is for you if :

  • You collect Royal artifacts from Britain
  • You are interested in Arctic or Polar exploration
  • You are interested in Maritime treasures
  • You are interested or collect US presidential memorabilia
  • You are a collector of Victorian treasures
  • You are looking for an alternative investment

  • You love Beer & History like me and want to own it !

Sit back, get comfortable, open up a beer, and get ready for this story to begin, this will amaze you at the very least.

Firstly, this famous bottle has been featured in:

Forbes Magazine
The Huffington Post
The New York Times
The Philadelphia Daily News
The Burton Mail, UK
The Russian Associated Press
Forbes Magazine,  Russia
The Canadian Broadcast Network
The Morning Call
The Chicago Tribune
Belarus Associated Press
and several others .....

Also written about in "The Story of Brewing in Burton on Trent" 2011 by  world renown beer writer and CAMRA guru, Roger Protz
All of Chapter 11 is about my story and this beer :

Several highly respected UK, Canadian, Netherlands ,Australian , and US  beer blogs have featured this story as well , including: Martyn Cornell, Pete Brown , Ron Pattinson, Roger Protz, Alan McLoed, Don Russell and others.

Let's begin: 

My bottle is in original condition , a three piece pontil "porter style" bottle , filled to approximately 80 percent of a fill line, on top, a full wax and possibly lead seal, with the breweries imprint , the wax is in reasonably good condition considering the age a small tear exists .

The dimensions and particulars of the bottle are as follows ( see my picture gallery for detailed views)

Paper label , fair to poor condition,(strong colors and definition of what remain)  relative to being 160 years old and cached in the arctic for an unknown number of years, then stored in Allsopp's vaults and museum.

Bottle composition ; -black glass , Bristol,UK origins 75% probability , markings on back "
Volume 12 oz's (assumed) natural cork assumed
Height- 6" or 25 centimeters tall
Circumference - at base 6, 3/8" or 26 centimeters
Weight - 13 oz
ABV 12% ,
Original gravity 1.1130 final gravity 1.040 sac

Arctic Ale

In 1852 , a search party was sent to locate the lost British explorer Sir John Franklin , whom left England back in 1845 and was in search of the fabled Northwest Passage in the high arctic region of Canada trying to find a navigable route to Asia. After a few years without any communication, this mission was considered lost and with great tragedy, to date, the Franklin mission, is still considered the largest search and most expansive rescue mission in naval history. 

Also in1852,Sir Edward Belcher was chosen to led a well equipped and confident 5 ships, the HMS North Star, Intrepid, Assistance,Pioneer and the HMS Resolute , earlier in the spring of 1851, the British Admiralty, with guidance of HM Queen Victoria had contacted several brewers in England to compete in a contest to brew a special beer to withstand the rigors of the cold arctic climate. Several of the large breweries competed, like Bass, and Salt, but in the end, "Arctic Ale" by Samuel Allsopp's and Sons was awarded to supply the mission. Allsopp was located in the home of British brewing, Burton on Trent, famous for it's distinct brewing water and was home to as many as 40 different breweries in it's peak, brewing started in the St. Modwen's Abby  in the 11th century and continues to this day.
The custom of equipping British vessels with fermented liquor is an old one. In fact, ale was a standard article of sea ration dating back to the 1300’s. By the late eighteenth century, beer had begun to be considered a food -- a staple beverage and essential part of the sea diet; a luxury -- helping to ameliorate the hardships and irregularities of sea life, and a medicine -- conducive to health at sea. In particular, beer and its precursors, wort and malt, were administered with the aim of preventing and curing the deadly disease known as scurvy.

Well Sir Belcher set off on the rescue mission armed with both bottles and many casks of Arctic Ale in the hulls of these five ships in the spring of 1852, as fate would have it there seemed to be the ghosts and bad luck of Franklin working against him and his men. For Belcher found himself and his important journey in peril in the winter of 1854, when he was forced to abandon 4 of the five ships, his men had to walk across treacherous pack ice to an awaiting pair of resupply ships. Luckily for Belcher he was able to make his way ( with his men) back to England, however faced a hardship and court martial of his duties as captain. All four ships where thought to be lost to the powerful pack ice which often closed in on vessel's and sank them quickly, however one ship was set to make history, that ship, the HMS Resolute would later be found adrift in the North Atlantic and make it all the way to the Oval Office in Washington.

Arctic Ale was produced for this 1852 mission, but also brewed in 1857 ( for which I own the only known bottle) and also in 1875 , for which I own a bottle and the rest are located in Burton on Trent at the National Brewery Centre Museum ( they are on display ).

The connection to Barack Obama's Desk today :

3 years ago I was able to put this bottle and it's story together with the HMS Resolute and the captains
 of the other ships

"H.M.S. Assistance  Captain Sir Edward Belcher, C.B.
"A most important and valuable aid — a valuable antiscorbutic. Found, by experiments made at a temperature of -42° on deck, to stand +12 before affording any symptom of congelation. . . . Very good, and very important"

"H.M.S. Resolute — Captain Henry Kellett, CB.
Kept exceedingly well, and sought after by all."

"H.M.S. North Star — Commander W. J. S. Pullen.
"The best drink for arctic regions."

by Mary Rattray 

On November 2, 1880, a large crate arrived at the White House. No one knew what was in it, as they weren’t expecting any deliveries that day. (This was in the days before the Secret Service.) President Rutherford Hayes stood by as workmen opened the mysterious package. Inside was the most beautiful desk he had ever seen, made from dark oak with repeating carved panels all around. He was delighted, but still did not know who had sent it until he noticed the brass plaque accompanying it that read: “Presented by the Queen of Great Britain and Ireland to the President of the United States.”

This is the story of how a ship sent on an Arctic expedition ended up at the White House.

The Arctic during the 1800s was still undiscovered territory. In 1852 the ship the Resolute was sent to the Arctic Ocean to search for missing explorer Sir John Franklin. The ship was built strong with three thicknesses of oak on her bow, but this did not stop her from becoming ice bound. After two winters stuck in the ice the Resolute was abandoned. For over a year she drifted as a ghost ship. Then American whalers spotted her and discovered she was the HMS Resolute (Her Majesty’s Ship) and brought her home to Connecticut.

“From Old England’s Thames to New England’s Thames,” ran the headlines.

But the British soon heard about it and wanted their ship back. Britain and America were not very friendly at this time. They had already fought two wars and now there was tension again over slavery, which Britain was pressuring America to abolish. President Franklin Pierce thought a war with Britain would distract people from starting a civil war at home. Finally after much debate, the Senate voted to return the ship to Britain as a token of goodwill in the hope that it would promote more peaceful relations.

When the Resolute arrived back in England, celebrations went on for weeks. The ship became the toast of the two countries. Even Queen Victoria visited it.

“Allow me to welcome Your Majesty on board The Resolute . . .” Captain Hartstene said.

“I thank you, sir,” she replied.

The Resolute served in the Royal Navy for twenty-three years until she was decommissioned. No longer in service, she was sent to the breakers dock for salvage.

Queen Victoria ordered that a desk be made from her best timbers. This was the gift that she sent to the White House. The desk, made from the ship that sealed a lasting friendship between Great Britain and the United States, has been in the White House ever since.

More about this story from beer history expert Martyn Cornell , including details for an adventure and film about this very special beer :

Arctic Ale: a 158-year-old adventure revived

Back in Victorian times, no polar explorer worth the name set north without as much Allsopp’s Arctic Ale stashed in the hold of his ship as it could carry. This was a mighty brew, more than 11 per cent alcohol, descended from the strong, sweet ales Burton upon Trent once exported to the Baltic. Now an American home-brewer, Christopher Bowen, has decided to recreate Arctic Ale – by actually brewing it in the Canadian arctic, taking a 2,000-mile journey to the shores of Hudson Bay with brewing equipment and a film crew.

You can read about his plans here, while more information is available on the Arctic Alchemy Facebook page here, and the Canadian beer blogger Alan McLeod has some very interesting stuff about the original Arctic expedition in 1852 here.

Pete Brown, who famously went the other direction, to the tropics, for his book Hops and Glory, transporting a cask of Burton’s better-known product, India Pale Ale, has declared himself filled with “admiration mixed with seething jealousy” over Chris Bowen’s plans, and I feel about the same. Arctic Ale is the king of Burton Ales, the strongest of a family of beers that have almost vanished now (Young’s Winter Warmer is one of very few left, and Fuller’s 1845 can claim to be a modern revival of the style). I feel a great fondness for Burton Ales, since to my knowledge I was the first person to write about them in the “modern” era (post-1970) when I had an article on the subject printed in What’s Brewing in 1998. I’d love to be standing in the frozen Canadian north with a glass of Arctic Ale held in my mitten.

I devote several hundred words to Arctic Ale in the “barley wines and old ales” chapter of Amber, Gold and Black (just 12 weeks to publication day, people – order it through this link and put a little extra money in my pocket) and I thought, as a teaser for the book and as a way of spreading interest in what Chris Bowen is up to, I’d put up the Arctic Ale extract here:

Arctic Ale

Among the drinks mentioned in the Vade Mecum for Malt-Worms, the rhyming “Good Pub Guide” to London written about 1718, are “Humming Stingo” at the Peacock in Whitecross Street; October at the Fountain in Cheapside; Bull’s Milk Beer at the Bull in Wood Street; and Burton Ale at the Guy of Warwick in Milk Street. This last beer was probably the same as or similar to the nut-brown, sweet, extremely strong ale that brewers in Burton upon Trent were exporting to Baltic cities such as St Petersburg and Danzig, Riga and Königsberg from at least the 1740s. This trade lasted, with hiccups during the Napoleonic Wars, until the Russians imposed heavy tariffs on beer imports from Britain in 1822, and the Burton brewers turned to brewing paler, more bitter beers for the Indian market.

However, the Burton breweries continued making darker, sweeter beers, at a range of strengths, the strongest being around 1110 OG, and 10 to 11 per cent alcohol by volume, (The top-of-the-range Burton ales were generally known as Number One, as they were at the Bass, Ind Coope and Truman breweries in Burton, though Worthington, in typically perverse fashion, called its best strong ale “G”). These were beers with astonishing longevity: the Ratcliff Ale, a version of Bass’s No 1 strong ale brewed and bottled in 1869 to celebrate the birth of a son, Harry Ratcliff, to one of the company’s partners, is still drinkable today, 140 years on. After surviving unopened for the whole of the 20th century in bottles in the cellars at the brewery in Burton, the beer is now completely dry, with a flavour like a cross between sherry and smoky Christmas pudding.

The Burton brewers occasionally reproduced beers of the strength of the kind once exported to the Baltic, for Arctic explorers to take with them. Alfred Barnard, on his trip to Samuel Allsopp & Sons in Burton in 1889, wrote that “the celebrated ‘Arctic ale’ of which we have heard so much in days gone by” was specially brewed at the request of the government for the five-ship Arctic expedition in 1852-54 under Sir Edward Belcher (which was looking for Sir John Franklin’s famously lost expedition of 1845). Belcher reported that the ale was “a valuable antiscorbutic” (that is, scurvy-preventer) and “a great blessing to us, particularly for our sick, as long as it lasted”, and that it refused to freeze until the temperature dropped to 12 degrees Fahrenheit, or -11 degrees Celsius. Even when the temperature went down to -55 Fahrenheit (-48 Celsius) the beer was unharmed by being frozen, Belcher said.

It was brewed again for the 1875 Arctic expedition under Sir George Nares, which set out to reach the North Pole and managed to get to within 400 miles of the top of the world before scurvy forced the men, by now on sleds, to retreat, four of them dying. Nares wrote of the beer in February 1875: “Excellent. Would recommend as large a quantity as can possibly be stowed away to be supplied to every future voyage.” The expedition’s senior medical officer wrote to Allsopp’s that it “kept splendidly in the Arctic region, and the fact of its freezing did not appear to detract from its good qualities in any way. It was highly appreciated by the men.”

Barnard was disappointed to find there was none of the 1852 vintage left, but he tried the 1875 version, then 14 years old, and “found it of a nice brown colour, and of a vinous, and at the same time, nutty flavour, and as sound as on the day it was brewed.” He wrote that it “did not show a very high alcoholic content”, though the OG was all of 1130, about 47lb per barrel of extract, and an analysis in 1881, he said, “proved that it contained not much more than about nine per cent alcohol by weight” (though since this is 11.25 per cent abv it sounds about right) and “owing to the large amount of unfermented extract still remaining in it, it must be considered as an extremely valuable and nourishing food.” For comparison, William Molyneux writing in 1869 said the ale brewed for the old Russian trade varied from 42 to 48lb of extract to the barrel, while the brewery’s “normal” strong ale in the 1860s only went up to 42lb, an OG of 1116.7.

The Arctic Ale was, again, a long-lasting brew. William Henry Beable, writing in Romance of Great Businesses, published in 1926, said “favoured visitors” to Allsopp’s brewery in Burton upon Trent were “sometimes invited to taste a bottle of ale similar to the celebrated ‘Arctic Ale’ supplied to the Polar expedition of 1875″ [ie 50 years earlier]. Beable said of the beer: “It is mellow as old Burgundy and as nourishing as a beefsteak.”

Some time in the 1930s, after the big merger with its Burton neighbour Allsopp of 1934, Ind Coope renamed its No 1 Burton barley wine Allsopp’s Arctic Ale. The beer returned to the polar regions in 1952 when cases went off with that year’s British North Greenland Expedition. However, while contemporary advertising in the 1950s called Arctic Ale a barley wine, The Book of Beer by Andrew Campbell, published in 1956, described it as “less sweet than a barley wine”, suggesting that 50 years ago not everybody put all strong ales in the barley wine category.

Arctic Ale appears in an Ind Coope price list of 1959 at a public bar price of one shilling and five pence ha’penny a “nip” bottle, that is, one third of a pint. However, it looks as if Arctic Ale was no longer as strong as it used to be, because Colne Spring Ale, which had an OG of 1093, was a third dearer at one shilling and elevenpence ha’penny the nip (a pint of bitter, for comparison, was one shilling and threepence, three and a half times cheaper, per fluid ounce). By 1961, the beer’s name had changed to Arctic Barley Wine. It was still being brewed in 1965, but the brewery knocked it on the head a few years after that.

Additional writings from beer history and statistician expert  Ron Pattinson in Amsterdam :

Arctic Ale

You know what just struck me? I haven't mentioned Allsopp for ages. A while, anyway. I never get bored of Allsopp. Or any of the Burton brewers for that matter. I assume you don't. Otherwise you'd have given up on this blog long ago.

Arctic Ale. The legendary Allsopp beer that genuinely was brewed for arctic expeditions. At least in the 19th century. The beer continued to be brewed well into the 20th century, albeit at a much lower gravity. And without the romance of sitting out the winter on a ice-bound ship.

As so often, Barnard is a handy source. He did exactly what I would have done had I been getting a private tour of Allsopps: he asked for details of Arctic Ale. And a taste, the cheeky monkey. Let's see what he had to report:

Before taking leave of Dr. Griess we requested to be shown the samples of the celebrated "arctic ale," of which we have heard so much in clays gone by, and which was specially brewed by Messrs. Allsopp & Sons at the request of the Government for the arctic expeditions in 1852, under Captain Sir Edward Belcher, C.B., and also in 1875 under Sir George Nares. We were sorry to find that our desire to taste the ale brewed for the first expedition could not be granted, as Messrs. Allsopp & Sons had none of this particular shipment left; but that it must have been of an excellent quality may be inferred from the following extract from the report made to the Admiralty by Captain Sir Edward Belcher, C.B., in 1852, on the ale supplied by Allsopp & Sons for the arctic expedition under his command:—

"H.M.S. Assistance  Captain Sir Edward Belcher, C.B.
"A most important and valuable aid — a valuable antiscorbutic. Found, by experiments made at a temperature of -42° on deck, to stand +12 before affording any symptom of congelation. . . . Very good, and very important"

"H.M.S. Resolute — Captain Henry Kellett, CB.
Kept exceedingly well, and sought after by all."

"H.M.S. North Star — Commander W. J. S. Pullen.
"The best drink for arctic regions."

We were also shown a letter from Sir Edward Belcher, under date January 27th, 1854, in reference to the ale supplied to the arctic squadron, from which the following is an extract:—

"As I consider 93° below the freezing point last season, and 91.5, with 84 hours at a mean of —55º a pretty fair trial for external atmosphere, I have no hesitation in stating that it is not injured by freezing, which I expressly tried (finding its point of congelation to be +12.5), and that I reserved a portion of the semi-frozen, decanted from the spongy mass, and re-bottled it in a pint bottle. It has indeed been a great blessing to us, particularly for our sick, as long as it lasted. It is now a daily source of lamentation that the Phaenix did not convey fresh supplies."

However, respecting the ales supplied to the Government Expedition of 1875, we had ample opportunity, by direct inspection, to convince ourselves of its superiority. We found it of a nice brown colour, and of a vinous, and at the same time, nutty flavour, and as sound as on the day it was brewed. The ale, although of a high original strength, viz., 1.130 sp. gr., equal to about 47 lbs. per barrel, did not show a very high alcoholic strength; in fact, an analysis made in 1881 proved that it contained not more than about 9 per cent, of alcohol by weight (about 20 per cent, proof spirit). Owing to the large amount of unfermented extract still remaining in it, it must be considered as an extremely valuable and nourishing food. That the Government was also well satisfied with this shipment may be inferred from a letter of Sir George Nares, under date February, 1875, which closes with the following pertinent remarks:—

"Excellent. Would recommend as large a quantity as can possibly be stowed away to lie supplied to every future expedition."

The following is a copy of another letter — selected from many more that we were permitted to peruse — addressed to Messrs. Allsopp, January 3rd, 1877:—

"Might I take the liberty of asking you to give me what information you may deem desirable regarding the ale you furnished to the late arctic expedition. I am desirous of knowing its composition as nearly as possible, its strength, etc.

"It kept splendidly in the arctic regions, and the fact of its freezing did not appear to detract from its good qualities in any way. It was highly appreciated by the men.
"I am, Gentlemen, yours very faithfully,
"Fleet Surgeon and Senior Medical Officer to the Arctic Expedition."
"The Noted Breweries of Great Britain and Ireland, vol. 1" by Alfred Barnard, 1889, pages 151 - 152.

I love those testimonials. They're a bit like those you see on cinema posters. Though you wonder, if like cinema posters, they've been selective in their editing. Like "The best drink for the arctic regions . . . if you have no rum or whisky." Resolute and North Star were, by the way, other ships that took part in Belcher's arctic expedition. The North Star was the only one to make it home, the others being left stuck in the ice. The Phoenix was a supply ship that they met on the way home. I can imagine the disappointment when they discovered it carried no beer.

Only freezing after 12 hours at -42º F is pretty impressive. That means you could happily stick a bottle in your freezer and not worry about it turning to ice. I would try the experiment myself, but I don't have any Arctic Ale. Unfortunately.

The idea of feeding the sick beer may sound odd today, but it was standard practice in the 19th century. This is the period that gave us such great styles as Invalid Stout. Judging by the strngth of some of these, you could be forgiven for for assuming they were intended to turn you into an invalid.

Anticipated Q & A

Q: What's the deal with the words " trade mark" under the Red Hand logo , the first trade mark was filed by Bass ale in 1875 ?, your bottle is from 1852 and has the word trademark on it?
A: Brewers where some of the first business's to use the word "trade mark " long before the Act of 1875 was established, several (many) companies used the word trade mark long before this , we have evidence of this almost 40 years prior to 1875.... do your research.

Q: What about the bottle that sold on Ebay in 2007 for $503,000.00 ?
A: This was what set my 5 year journey for the story , the film, and the answers. The 2007 bottle has "to my best knowledge" has never been sold and still resides in Oklahoma, I had talked to the original owner of the bottle and he gave me details about it's authenticity. After much research and a trip to England, Massachusetts and Connecticut , I am convinced it was an original bottle that was resealed, and relabeled for a special celebration in Boston in 1919, that label ( on the 2007 bottle)was not cached in the ice in Canada, nor is the seal the original , like my bottle. I believe it is authentic and is worth a lot of money, just not as it was in 1852.

Q: What makes you an expert in this or any other old bottle of beer ? 
A: I am a brewing historian who researched this ale like no one else, with the help of other experts worldwide, I probably know more about old beer than most, I have spent nearly 7 years as a 19th century brewing re-enactor and nearly 5 years researching this story. I also own all three of the brewing's of this beer , 1852, 1857 and 1875 , along with many other 19th and early 20th century, full and sealed ales. I am also an internationally known amateur brewer , with two medals( Gold and Bronze) from the Great American Beer Festival, and recently a Gold medal from the World Beer Championships for a recreation of this 1852 ale

Q: This beer is over 160 years old, are the contents still good ? can I drink it ?
A; This beer is 12% alcohol , I have stored it in a vault at cellar temperatures since owning it , before that, it was owned by a professional collector like myself. No beer this old can be assumed or implied it will be great , but it certainly won't make you sick. Back in January of 2012, I tasted, with friends a bottle of the 1875 brewing, the results where fantastic. Read this :

A great testimonial here too !

On the 6th December 2011 my life changed, for the better. What was so good to change my life?  Well not so long ago I had heard that a bottle of beer was allegedly sold on the internet for just over $500,000 dollars. Although the sale never actually went through, having been a hoax bid, this bottle set one man on a quest to find out more about this ale. Well to cut a very long story short, I bring you this news.

May Arthur, Christopher & Lesley BowenWhile on a guided tour around the old Ind Coope & Allsopp’s brewery in Burton-on-Trent earlier this year, three bottles of what looked like very old ale were found, estimated to be around 100 years old maybe older. They were found along side a great many younger bottles; only about 30 to 35 years old, in the vaults (the basement of the building). Christopher Bowen visiting from the USA, pictured left with his wife Lesley and May Arthur, instantly recognised the old bottles as Arctic Ale, suggesting they were probably originally intended for the second trip to the Arctic. Chris from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania started his quest for more information on this particular brew after watching the sale of a slightly older bottle of Arctic Ale on eBay. Well let’s face it whose ears wouldn’t prick up on a beer selling for $500,000 despite it turning out being a massive hoax bid. The bottle in the picture, was a recreation of the Arctic Ale brewed by Christopher while on his "Discoveries of the Red Hand".

Permission was given by the new owner of the building Mr Kamran Khazai for one of these old bottles to be taken back to the USA. What luck for Chris to be here in Burton on that particular day, when the bottles were discovered? When Burton’s history further revealed its self. The remaining two bottles were left behind, along with at least two pallets of the various other bottled beers.

Our branch chair, May Arthur had asked Mr Khazai if it would be possible to retain the remaining bottles as part of the history of brewing in Burton, and a mutual agreement was reached. May and myself would be allowed to retrieve what we could to be taken to the National Brewery Centre for safe keeping. Upon our return to the old Samuel Allsopp Brewery, a few months later, to retrieve the remaining bottles we were really pleased to find a total of 36 bottles.

Unfortunately four of the bottles were in such poor condition they had shattered and had to be disposed of. Out of the remaining 32 bottles, eight of them were to be emptied, have reproduction labels placed on them and put on display for future generations to admire; four will go on display at the National Brewery Centre and the other four will go to the old Allsopp’s Brewery, to be displayed when the refurbishment has been completed, early next year. The final 24 bottles are to be securely stored at the NBC in the care of the William Worthington’s Brewery. Being such an important part of Burton’s brewing heritage these remaining bottles are never to be opened or sold off. The opening of these eight bottles presented us with an opportunity not to be missed, the contents could be tasted.

The Privileged FewI was one member of a very privileged group of people, pictured right, who opened and tasted one of these very rare bottles of ale. The group also included from right to left; Geoff Cross (CAMRA West Midlands Tasting Panel Chair), May Arthur (Burton CAMRA’s branch Chair), Mike Gibson (Deputy Chair), Bruce Wilkinson (Burton Bridge Brewery), Councillor David Leese, Dave Mason (Branch Volunteer), Dickie Allen (Burton Beer Festival Chair), John Saville (Burton Old Cottage Brewery), Arthur Roe (Local Historian), Paula White (NBC General Manager) and Vanessa Winstone (NBC Collections Officer). Mr Kamran Khazai was represented by Arthur Roe.

Now for the moment we had met up for, the opening of these eight bottles of “Arctic Ale”. Brewed at the Samuel Allsopp’s Brewery around 1875, making this ale around 137 years old! Yes 137 years old, and what we believe to be its original percentage of around 12% ABV. The first time I saw one of these bottles I remember commenting that it would probably be undrinkable as the cork was exposed and they had been stored upright for an undetermined amount of time. What would the ale inside these bottles be like?

Just one of the 137 year old BottlesI had the honour of opening the first of the eight bottles. However as I slowly wound in the corkscrew and, with a certain amount of trepidation, would the cork come out in one piece? Would the liquor inside the bottle be at all drinkable? Well, we were about to find out. I gave a gentle tug on the corkscrew and the cork started to slide out of the bottle quite easily. With the cork finally removed we could all see it was still quite wet and the room instantly began to fill with the most amazing aromas, which was just about indescribably fantastic. As I poured the liquor into a glass jug I think we were all shocked and surprised to see a very dark fluid coming from the bottle. The wonderful aromas continued to fill the room, aromas of fruit, Christmas cake and a sweetness the like of which were most pleasant to the nose.

Going for the full tasting thing, holding a glass of this ancient ale to the light, the liquor was observed to be crystal clear and dark red in colour. The aroma - strong alcohol, fruity / Christmas cake, a touch of Marmite or Worcester sauce was commented upon and a prominent molasses like sweetness. The taste, well, the taste was just divine, if heaven is a place on earth I’d been taken right there.

This ale was a complete surprise to us all and I, as I’m sure everybody else did, feel very privileged to be part of this history in the making. To have been part of this chapter of the rich history of Burton-on-Trent is very humbling indeed. A town steeped in brewing heritage and I believe still the brewing capitol of the world. I would like to convey my personal thanks to Mr Kamran Khazai for all his generosity toward the residents of Burton, to everyone that attended the tasting, to the National Brewery Centre for use of there facilities and finally to Christopher Bowen for his expert eye in recognising this ancient ale.

I can truly say the 6th day of December 2011 will stay with me to the end of days. I don’t think or imagine myself ever bettering this experience.
Written by : Luke Lucas

or this :

Tasting a 137 year old beer !
« on: January 16, 2012, 08:10:01 AM »
I thought I would put this here in the General Discussion section since it wasn't really a commercially available beer. :-\

I finally decided that 2012, would be the year I would taste a most remarkable bottle of a beer. A beer so special it was brewed for Sir George Nares( a British naval captain) who in 1875 set off to reach the North Pole.

By the later half of the 19th century, Samuel Allsopp's and Son, had already become one of the largest breweries in England and only second in size to Bass Ale in Burton on Trent. In 1852, on a rescue mission to discover the whereabouts of Sir John Franklin( another British explorer) , who had set off in search of the fabled Northwest Passage, Samuel Allsopp had created a monster of an ale called "Arctic Ale". This ale was brewed to 1.130 OG, and was thought to contain some special "Antiscorbutic" properties( containing vitamin C) to prevent scurvy, which was the fatal downfall of long voyages at sea.

Allsopp's Arctic Ale , was brewed only three times in all of the 19th century, once in 1852, again in 1857 , and finally in 1875. Since special brewings like this are so rare, it would be almost impossible to obtain a sample in the day, yet alone 160 years later. To date, only 3 noted beer writers have even sampled tastings and wrote about this beer, Alfred Barnard in 1889, William Henry Beable in 1926 and CAMRA's Roger Protz 2010 ( for which I arranged a bottle for Roger to drink and write about).
Of the 3 brewings of this extreme 19th century beer, there exists only 2 bottles of the 1852 batch, I own one, and the other was the subject of a great Ebay story, back in 2007. The 1857 batch, I own the only known bottle left, and of the 1875 batch, there are only about a dozen left, I own 2, and the rest are in the National Brewery Centre Museum in England. I found the dozen bottles while in Burton giving a talk to members of CAMRA on the history of Allsopp's brewery.
In 2010, the old Allsopp's brewery was in bad shape and about to become apartment flats, it had been abandoned since the 1980's and workers where throwing many items away. I was lucky enough to take one "last" tour of the building, and it was deep inside the basement, tucked away in a cage, that I found the last remaining bottles of Arctic Ale. The 1875 version was the only ale bottled in a Champagne style bottle the brewery ever produced, there is even an article in the British Archives mentioning the bottles and how many where left in 1886. Further verification came from an old retired brewery archivist, whom confirmed their existence and authenticity.
The basement find:

The Old Allsopp's Brewery 1856 :

In March of 2011, I had been contacted by beer author Roger Protz to accompany him in a tasting of the Arctic Ale, with head brewmaster Steve Wellington ( Worthington Museum Brewery) and some senior members of CAMRA whom I am friends with.

Along side the 1875 version, where a bottle of 1902 Bass& Co. "king's ale" , brewed in conjunction with King Edward the VII, and also a Arctic Global Warmer style Barleywine (15% abv) from the "North Cotswolds" brewery.

Here's some shots from the day:
Steve Wellington and his assistant

Roger Protz, beer author and CAMRA mega star:

Tasting glass from 1902, 1875 and 2006:

1875 Arctic Ale - not my hand BTW

Here are Roger's notes on the ale:

"It was dark amber in color and had an astonishingly complex aroma of dry chocolate, cocoa powder, molasses and vinous fruit. The palate offered creamy malt, sweet fruit and further chocolate and cocoa hints, followed by a bittersweet finish with dark fruit, rich malt and light hops."

I have been a vintage beer collector, brewing re-creator and beer historian for almost 7 years now and have been lucky enough to own some of the rarest beers in the world. I also own a few of the Bass corkers, like Ratcliff Ale 1869, Prince's Ale, Princess Ale, and Bass #1 Barleywine, as well as several 1902 King's Ales.

So, a recently decided to share a bottle of the 1875 brewing with some very good friends on a very cold winter's night, with visions of steering a Victorian ship right up to the North Pole with Arctic Ale in hand !

Of course no good ale goes without a finely prepared meal and we chose a menu fit for the occasion.

Rib Roast !

Yorkshire Pudding !

Roasted Potato's and Asparagus:

Then it was time for desert !

The time to taste had arrived !

As carefully as I could, I tried to remove it in one piece, but then again this is a 137 year old bottle ......

Mush....soft cork !

With a little care ( and a knife !) , I was able to remove a core in the center and the ale started flowing !, oh the smell of old beer !

Amazing aroma's of leather, cedar wood , smokey dark fruit , raisins and slight musk. I took nearly 10 minutes simply smelling and enjoying the various aromas that where set off as I swirled the glass, this was history in a bottle !

A proper cheers and the light of candles made the experience delightful !

1875 Arctic Ale - Samuel Allsopp's and Sons

Type/Style: - English Strong Ale/Barleywine /Burton Ale
Bottle : 750 ML , natural cork, full fill , no label

Leather, cedar wood ( wet) , dark fruit, raisins, musk, Sherry, almost no hop aromas

Appearance :
Clear, but not brilliant, deep Mahogany Brown with ruby highlights and hues on the glasses edge...

Strong malt and sherry flavors, fully and across the whole tongue, finishes smooth without any unpleasantness or sourness. Licorice and maybe even old taffy.

Mouthfeel :
Completely still , no detectable carbonation , not slick or creamy , simply like sherry or brandy , no cloying whatsoever despite it's high residual saccharine content an finishing gravity.

Overall Impression : An amazing experience of drinking a bit of history, this ale was extremely drinkable 137 years after bottling, other than the musty and oxidized nature ( which is typical) of such an old ale, this ranks up there with the best of them. I have had 15 year old ales that where in much worse shape, for this age, it was simply amazing to experience !

Q: You say this beer is the oldest, but what about the Finnish Team who found the worlds oldest Champagne and Beer in the Baltic Sea not long ago ?
A: They have found the Champagne with makings on it (Juglar and Veuve Clicquot, I believe ) circa 1820-30's , but the beer is unknown, yeast is dead, and no labels to document the origins or brewery in which it was made. Allsopp's Arctic Ale is a story and documented like no other beer I know of.

Q: Why after all this work, are you selling your prized bottle of ancient and important  beer ?
A: After 5 years, and much money spent on this project, I need to put this behind me and finish funding my film, finish writing 2 books I am working on and want to get started on my next beer adventure in Scotland next year. I have 3 more old beer adventure/stories developed and need to keep moving, I WILL regret this sale one day , but I have such great memories and have changed my life ( and a few others along the way), life is an open book - I have more chapters to write, people to meet, and more beer to brew. Your purchase of this ale will forever connect us and I look forward to meeting you !

Q: How will this beer get to me if I buy it ?
A: Normally I ship beer worldwide, and can pack it/insure it etc with exceptional care , however you may come pick it up in Eastern Pennsylvania , or depending on where you live, I may opt to deliver it in person, I am open to discussions regarding this.

Q: I have read about your wanting to meet the President of the United States and reuniting the Resolute desk and your bottle of beer together again, can I do this if bought ?
A: Probably, I have been trying since 09, the bottle and the desk need to meet again after 160 years, what an exceptional story that would be, however I am not chasing this idea any more. Barack Obama is a beer friendly president, his friend, David Cameron would love to discover this as well( the beer was made in England ) , the PM of Canada ,Stephen Harper would beer interested in knowing about the tales as well . Three countries, three beer loving friends great story and one very special beer , good luck !

Okay my adventure and film:

In July of 2010 , I took off on a BMW adventure style motorbike with 2 other BMW riding friends , 2 camera men, and two Russian filmmakers on a nearly 4000 mile brewing adventure. I built a small portable brewery and headed north to the southern edge of the Canadian arctic, this is where the James Bay meets the Husdon Bay in extreme northern Canada. Why? , to recreate this old ale from the original recipe I had discovered along my research trail. 3 1/2 weeks on the road, telling the story of this great beer to the people of Canada, and filming all along the way ( there are a group of Islands in the Hudson Bay , named after Sir Edward Belcher, captain of the rescue mission. In addition , I brewed this beer commercially with a local brewery that I had a relationship with, subsequently my "Arctic Ale " won a Bronze medal at the Great American Beer Festival in 2011, and a gold medal at the World Beer Championships in 2012, In 2011 I returned to Canada to brew Arctic Ale once again in Quebec , at a smaller brew pub in Joliette ,Quebec. As of this listing, I am returning to England to brew the Ale , with a large brewery in Burton on Trent and will once again give a talk about my film while there.

For more on my film and adventure by google=  arctic alchemy . com

This is your chance to own one of the greatest beer treasures anywhere in the world, a 160 year old beer , steeped in history, adventure, and a remarkable connection to
Queen Victoria , The President of the United States, Sir John Franklin ,
England, Canada and beyond !

Good Luck and Bid often !

Ask any questions you wish, I will return all reasonable questions with honest straight forward answers , but be patient

I have 100 % feedback and many references. International bids are welcome. International bidders must contact me first with info and details

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