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New livery for historic Burton IPA

Added: Thursday, June 7th 2012

Worthington’s White Shield has been given an elegant makeover. The genuine 19th-century India Pale Ale has been back in its home town of Burton-on-Trent for several years and the rather garish new bottle it was given on its return has been replaced by a retro design with handsome old-style typefaces and a neck label that declares “Closer to cask for a fuller flavour”.

The bottle-conditioned beer is now owned by Molson Coors, which may seem an odd fit – a Victorian IPA brewed by an American-Canadian global giant. But White Shield is a successful brand. As part of the bottled beer revival, it has outgrown the short-run William Worthington’s Brewery in the National Brewery Centre in Burton and has been moved to the main former Bass No 1 plant in order that greater volumes can be produced.

William Worthington was one of the great Burton brewers who perfected pale ale in the late 18th and 19th centuries. While his competitors concentrated on draught beer, Worthington built his reputation on the quality of his bottled beers: at one time, bottled beer accounted for more than half his trade. The home page image shows an Edwardian ‘three men in a boat’ promotion for the beer.

Bass and Worthington merged in 1926 but they maintained separate identities. In the dog days of the 1960s and 70s, White Shield became a beer discussed in hushed tones, sought out and sampled with due reverence when good draught beer was unavailable. But Bass lost interest in the beer as it became obsessed with big volumes brands such as Caffreys. In the 1990s the beer left Burton and was farmed out to Bass breweries in Sheffield and Birmingham before ending up at King & Barnes in Horsham, Sussex.

In 2000 Bass left brewing and its Burton complex was bought by Coors. Steve Wellington, who brewed in the White Shield micro plant in Burton, pleaded with Coors to bring the beer back to Burton when King & Barnes closed. The return has paid a rich reward. Its volumes have increased enormously and it’s now widely available in most supermarket chains as well as more specialist outlets.

The 5.6% beer is brewed with pale malt and a small amount of crystal malt to give it a burnished bronze colour. The hops are all English varieties: Challenger, Fuggles and Goldings that create 40 units of bitterness. The enticing aroma offers spices, peppery hops, a wholemeal biscuit maltiness, light apple fruit and sulphur from the Burton water, with creamy malt, tart and tangy hops and spices in the mouth. The lingering finish is a superb balance between bitter hops, tart fruit and biscuity malt, along with the continuing hint of apple fruit that’s one of the defining characteristics of Burton pale ale.

£2.09 in Morrison’s.



White Shield