When Coors decided to redesign the packaging for Worthington White Shield, they added a couple of florid paragraphs to the label declaring that this was one of the last surviving original 19th century India Pale Ales, and describing how casks of IPA would be taken out to India by sailing ship, around Cape Horn.
One telephone call from me pointing out that this would have added around 9,000 miles to the journey, a lot of red faces at Burton upon Trent, and the next batch of White Shield labels informed drinkers that IPA sailed round the Cape of Good Hope.
The point of the journey was that shippers, and drinkers, had discovered that heavily-hopped stock pale ales, designed to mature over a couple or more cold English winters, miraculously matured in just three or four months in the hold of an East Indiaman ploughing down through the Atlantic, and then turning round Africa and crossing the Equator for a second time on the way to Madras, Calcutta or Bombay.
I’ve been saying for several years that a British brewer really ought to take a cask of well-hopped IPA and ship it to India to see what happens to the flavour – the Norwegians still do a similar thing with Linie Akvavit, though that goes to Australia and back, rather than the sub-continent.
Now my fellow zythographer Pete Brown has persuaded Coors to let him recreate those 19th century trips, starting at Burton, travelling by canal boat to a port where he will pick up a sailing ship, and then, slightly less romantically, transferring to a container ship for the journey to Bombay.
If you’d read the version of his plans that appeared in the Morning Advertiser, trade paper of the pub industry, last week, however, you’d have felt confused, as the dozy dimwits said Pete would be taking “a pint of IPA” with him on the journey. Eh – just a single bottle? What the story should have said, of course, is that he will be taking a pin of IPA from the White Shield brewery on the Coors site at Burton, that is, a cask containing four and a half gallons of beer, all the way to Bombay on a journey lasting from mid-September to early December, to see what difference the trip makes to the ale.
I’ve forgiven Pete for bringing out a history of beer six weeks before mine was published, and I forgive him for being organised enough to do the trip I’d only talked about as something that should be done. Good luck, mate, and remember – when you get down to the bottom of Africa, TURN LEFT.