Friday, 23 November 2012

Vintage Ale Rediscovered: Forgotten beer back on sale after 35 years!

Now here’s a wonderful story that has everything: mystery, history, sentiment, a happy ending, a superb bottle of beer and a suggestion for a Christmas present!

A vintage ale which lay forgotten for thirty-five years, and was only rediscovered after a bottle of the brew exploded, went on sale nationwide in the UK yesterday, 22nd November 2012, exclusively at Aldi supermarkets, available until stocks last. The Bateman’s Vintage Ale (£3.29; 500ml) is based on a 1976 vintage bottle of Bateman’s BBB which was brewed for over fifty years at the family-run and owned brewery in Wainfleet near Skegness, Lincolnshire.

Thirty-five years ago, the Bateman family made the decision to stop brewing and bottling their barley wine, BBB, to concentrate on draught ale. At the end of the last bottling run George Bateman, the then Managing Director took the last four cases with the intention of opening them in four years to toast what would then be his eldest son Stuart’s twenty-first birthday.

Over time, though, the bottles were forgotten and it was not until just over a year ago that the stash of ale came to light when a bottle blew-up of its own accord. As the head draftsman cleared up the mess and dragged the remaining bottles out from where they had been hidden for thirty-five years, Stuart, now in his 50s and Managing Director of Bateman’s, discovered the treat his dad had saved for him decades before.

Upon opening one of the bottles, Stuart, who had presumed the contents would be spoiled, was astounded to find the beer clean, bright and brilliantly drinkable. Both Stuart and the Bateman’s Master Brewer decided that the flavour was so great that they wanted to recreate the beer for more than just the family to enjoy. Over the course of six months, Stuart and the master brewer matched the flavours perfectly using old brew records and multiple tasting sessions. Then, seven months ago, the current vintage was put into conditioning in oak casks for a distinctive character, thereby creating a limited release of the Bateman’s Vintage Ale.

Stuart recalls that “when we found the ale I was incredibly touched by the sentiment of my dad all those years ago. Looking at the bottles though, I didn’t hold out much hope of anything other than vinegar! But once we’d managed to remove the rusty crown cap and poured the ale into a glass I was surprised to see it was clean and clear.

Sipping it down, the taste was out of this world - malty, beery with a wonderful taste of port, brandy, wine and almonds. Having worked in this industry for more than thirty years I would still say it is the best beer I’ve ever tasted. And that’s why we’ve chosen to recreate the ale this Christmas so that hundreds of others can taste this amazing piece of history. I’ll be enjoying mine with some Christmas pudding.”

The ale, which has been made from a single variety of hops grown in Kent, is described as “full flavoured with notes of plum pudding and sherry mixed with rich fruits” and reminiscent of beers fashionable in the Dickensian era. Tony Baines, MD Buying at Aldi comments: “Aldi has had a strong working relationship with Bateman’s for eight years now and when Stuart approached us to sell this ale on an exclusive basis we knew it was something our customers would enjoy. The beer is like nothing else on the market with its incredible taste of Christmas - and has a wonderful story behind it too.”

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