Yesterday our friends and fellow craft beer evangalists Lee Williams (@hoptopia) and Stevie Caldarola (@basicallyred) rolled into Milton, Delaware at the same moment that an epic thunderstorm shut down all power at our brewery. But they brought some sacred fuel of their own - two 60+ year old bottles of Ballentine's Burton Ale.
Lee, Stevie and Sam
We lit the bunson burners in our QC lab for mood lighting, cued up the Sade iPod mix, and got to chatting over snifters of Indian Brown Ale about the Burton Ale's beers awesome lineage. Lee bought the bottles on eBay. Which is kind of ironic since bottles of Burton Ale were never actually sold. Rather they were given as gifts to co-workers, friends of the brewery, and VIPs. At Dogfish we brew our Burton Baton, an oak-aged blend of IPA and English old ale as a tribute to the Ballentine's beer. Decades before our left coast craft brewing brethren began producing righteous hoppy ales, the folks at Ballentine's were brewing this super-hoppy , 60 IBU, wood-aged cascade-bombed behemoth for hardcore beer lovers. Our Burton Baton is a tribute to this beer and a reflection of our pride in being an East Coast brewery focused on brewing hoppy and wood aged big beers for well over a decade.
The Burton Ale held up beautifuly. It made that cathartic 'ffft...' when we opened the bottle. My QC-centric co-workers Steve, Katrinka, and Ryan stole the first two ounces from the bottle and sent the beer through a battery of tests. So we could understand the beer better froman analytical perspective. (plus we plan to play around with yeast we salvaged from the bottle, but that's a story for another day). It weighed in at 8.6 ABV and was cloudy but not murky as the yeast stuck to the bottom and side of the bottle itself. Then, it was finally time to drink the beer.
Wondering if the backup power supply will last for our testing...
Let testing commence...
Ready to taste...
Sniffin' the goods... (and the power has returned!)
We parceled it our carefully and clinked snifters with Stevie and Lee, thanking them for bringing us into this moment. The nose held notes of caramel , soft and beautiful. And the taste didn't disappoint: creme brulee flavors upfront , a soft tart apple cider thing in the middle, and dry sherry notes at the end. Yum. We then shared some snifters of Burton Baton after our blast from the distant past. We first tried the mellow , complex 2005 Baton which head notes of raisins and biscuits. Then the latest batch (hitting the bottling line tomorrow ) which showed intense hop and vanilla notes. Both delish and within a quarter of a percent abv of each other but totally different.
It was nice to see how well our Burton Baton is aging but nicer still to spend time with it's Grandaddy, The Burton Ale, and talk about the good old days of hoppy wood aged east coast brews. We thanked our friends with a case of fresh Burton Baton and some of the aged stuff and sent them off to the pub for dinner. Thanks for sharing Lee & Stevie... have a safe trip west. See ya at GABF!