A cache of about 250 vintage bottles of beer – including some nearly 140 years old – has been uncovered at the Worthington White Shield brewery in Burton-on-Trent, one of the most famous brewing centers in the world.
The discovery includes many vintages with their corks and wax seals still in place, including a range of commemorative ales brewed to celebrate royal marriages, visits and births. The oldest found was an 1869 Harry Ratcliff’s Ale – to mark the birth of a son into the Ratcliff brewing family that became part of the Bass, Ratcliff & Gretton empire in the late 19th century.
The White Shield brewery is located in the Coors Visitor Center complex, formerly known as the Bass Museum brewery.
A bottle of 1982 Prince’s Ale mashed by the late Earl Spencer, Princess Diana’s father, to commemorate the birth of Prince William was also among the find.
“It was always rumored that there were some vintage beers on site but uncovering such an interesting collection is fantastic,” said White Shield Steve Wellington. “I believe this is one of the most exciting and unique discoveries ever made in British brewing.
“Contrary to a widely held belief that beer cannot age for as long as wine, most of these bottles seem to have developed subtlety and complexity over the years.”
George Philliskirk, Chief Executive of the Beer Academy, agreed. “This discovery is remarkable, especially as the oldest beer of all dates back to 1869 and tastes so fresh, and with such attractive ripe plum and honeyed flavors. This demonstrates the potential for vintage beers to be taken seriously – maybe even being worthy of a special section in wine lists at Britain’s top restaurants.”