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Published on June 5, 2018 | by Alastair Gilmour

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History lesson at vintage rally

Cheers reader Ian Young is a man with a passion for historic beers. Among his collection are two bottles of 1997 Golden Anniversary Newcastle Brown Ale.

He mentioned this to Molson Coors dispense technician Brad Wight – a fellow vintage beer buff – who subsequently invited him to a tasting at Steam Machine Brewery in Newton Aycliffe, County Durham.

Ian writes: “Brad sources most of his beers from eBay and recently bought a bottle of 1975 Courage Russian Imperial Stout which he thought tasted fantastic so he posted it on Twitter.
“Renowned beer writer Roger Protz got in touch saying he also had a few vintage beers and they should meet up for a tasting.

“Nick Smith of Steam Machine is also a bit of a beer historian and offered to host the event where volunteer tasters included beer blogger Pat Woodward from Ohio who is a visiting professor at Durham University.

“Some dated from 1958 plus a few had no clue to their age but could have been considerably older. We tasted more than 20 beers, the first being a bottle-conditioned 1997 Worthington White Shield. Most of us found this to have a fruity flavour not unlike sherry and with a dry finish.

“A good few of the beers were produced for special occasions – Princess Anne’s wedding in 1981, for example; the Queen’s Silver Jubilee 1977 and the 1997 general election.

“Most of the beers had moved towards sherry-like flavours with the Marstons Silver Crown IPA (1977) clearly also tasting of marzipan.

“The oldest bottle opened was a pre-war Vaux Strong Ale and although we had high hopes, it turned out to be awful with a strange antiseptic character.”

Despite the excitement of the occasion, Ian was still not tempted to flip open his Golden Anniversary Brown Ale.

“Although it was a great experience tasting the old beers, it’ll remain unopened until at least 2027.”


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Alastair Gilmour



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