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New Brewer At Burton Museum Site

Added: Thursday, December 1st 2011

It's all change at William Worthington's Brewery in Burton-on-Trent. The 22½-barrel plant that's on view to visitors at the National Brewery Centre - the former Bass Museum - opened earlier this year. Once it was running smoothly, veteran brewer Steve Wellington retired. Steve, regarded as a master brewer and the man who saved the famous bottled IPA Worthington's White Shield from oblivion, stepped aside for Jim Appelbee.

Jim, in common with Steve, is a Bass veteran. He has worked for Bass and its successor Molson Coors for 22 years. He brewed at the Tadcaster Brewery in Yorkshire before moving to Burton where he was appointed Innovation & Development Manager. It was in that role that he oversaw the installation of the William Worthington brewery, funded by Molson Coors to the tune of 1 million, and he has now stepped in to Steve Wellington's giant brewers' boots.

The brewery concentrates on small-run beers that are on sale in the visitors' bar in the centre, though beers that meet with particular consumer approval can be offered to pubs, including the Mitchells & Butlers group. At present Jim is brewing a draught version of White Shield (5.6%), Red Shield (4.2%), Brewery Tap (4.5%) and Worthington E (4.8%). The last-named will come as a surprise as under that name it was one of the infamous keg beers of the 1970s that helped inspire the creation of the Campaign for Real Ale.

But Worthington E dates from the 19th century when it was a genuine cask ale: its name stems from the cask markings used by Worthington to denote its range of beers. Jim Appelbee says he is using the original recipe, not the keg one, and the beer bursts with delicious hop character. Jim uses whole hops in his beers and the range includes Cascade, Centennial, Challenger, Fuggles and Northern Brewer. His main malt varieties are Pearl pale malt and crystal, with darker grains for the seasonal P2 Stout.

Jim (left, picture courtesy brews between 3,000 and 4,000 barrels a year but as the plant is part of the Molson Coors complex he doesn't benefit from Progressive Beer Duty. PBD was brought in by the last Labour government to support small brewers producing up to a ceiling of 30,000 barrels a year. Molson Coors, which brews more than a million barrels of Carling a year, is in a different league.

The brewery has had some difficulty replacing Draught Bass. It was produced at the Burton site but when Bass left brewing in 2000 the brand passed to InBev, now AB InBev. The world's biggest brewing group has no interest in the brand and wants to sell it off. In the meantime, Draught Bass is brewed for the global giant by Marston's. In an attempt to plug the gap, Molson Coors produced Worthington's 1744 but that was quickly withdrawn. It eventually replaced it with Red Shield, a beer that has had several false dawns. It has been put on trial in pubs, withdrawn, and trialled again. Jim Applebee is brewing small batches but doesn't know when the beer will be officially launched for national sales.

He hopes to bring back Bass No 1 Barley Wine (10.5%) but doesn't yet have a date. In spite of the name, the beer is a fine example of an Old Burton Ale rather than barley wine. If Molson Coors produces a special beer in 2012 to mark the Royal Jubilee, it's likely to be based on Bass No 1.

One beer that isn't being brewed on Jim Appelbee's plant is the bottled version of Worthington's White Shield. This is now such a big brand that it was moved from the White Shield Brewery in Burton to the main Molson Coors plant. White Shield is a potent link with the India Pale Ales brewed in the 19th century. When Bass moved White Shield out of Burton it was brewed in Sheffield before finishing up at King & Barnes in Horsham.

Steve Wellington mounted a vigorous campaign to bring it back to Burton when King & Barnes closed. The result was the opening of the White Shield Brewery, which has now been replaced by the new William Worthington plant.

Visitors to the brewery centre can now enjoy a draught version of White Shield in the bar, along with seasonal versions of Red Shield called Spring Shield, Summer Shield and Autumn Shield.

Go for a Burton

There's more historic beer on the bar in Burton. Just a few yards from the railway station, the Roebuck has a rare sighting of Ind Coope Draught Burton Ale, a beer launched in 1976 with enormous success. Ind Coope was part of the giant national group Allied Breweries and when Allied broke up Burton Ale was transferred first to Tetley in Leeds and then to J.W. Lees in Manchester. Volumes are now small and the beer is hard to find.

The Roebuck stands opposite the imposing red-brick building that was once Ind Coope & Allsopp. The pub still has impressive Ind Coope signage and is the only regular outlet in the town for Burton Ale (4.8%), which is based on the recipe for another famous Burton beer, bottled Ind Coope Double Diamond Export.

Trust status for brewery centre

The future of the National Brewery Centre in Burton has been strengthened by a decision by Companies House to grant a certificate of incorporation to the National Brewery Heritage Trust. Companies House had to be satisfied that the centre - which has replaced the former Bass Museum - was a genuinely national organisation. The trust's application was supported by English Heritage, the Society of Independent Brewers, the Institute of Brewing and Distilling, the British Beer and Pub Association, the Worshipful Company of Brewers, the Parliamentary Beer Group, chaired by Burton MP Andrew Griffiths, and the Parliamentary Save the Pub Group.

The Heritage Trust was formed out of the Museum Steering Group that was formed when Molson Coors announced it planned to close the museum. It re-opened in 2010 as the National Brewery Centre following a sustained campaign led by the former Burton MP Janet Dean. Following its incorporation, the trust can now apply for charitable status and its main aim will be to act as the guardian of the artefacts and archives in the museum. The trust will be a separate body to Molson Coors, which owns the site, and Planning Solutions, which runs the brewery centre for Molson Coors.