Friday, June 7, 2013

566. Pretty Things Once Upon a Time November 22nd, 1838 X Ale

Since we’re currently in a historical frame of mind, it seems appropriate to pull out this beer for the evening, part of a historical recreation project between Pretty Things and Ron Pattinson. As the label offers, “Once Upon a Time on November 22nd, 1838, a brewer brewed this very recipe in a now extinct London brewery. The veracity of this 174 year old X Ale is thanks to the private research of Mr. Ron Pattison, a resident of Amsterdam. In collaboration with Ron we present this beer with our Best Returns of the Day.” While I can’t add much to this besides my love of historical beer (although there is more below from both the bottle and the Once Upon a Time website that is interesting regarding the shifting history of this particular style), I will note that we’ve seen Pretty Things this way once before with Jack D’Or Saison Americain. We haven’t seen Ron Pattinson before, which is, well, a crime against humanity. But then again, I do live in Dayton.

X Ale pours a cloudy straw with a thin white head that hangs around moderately; the nose is lemon, earth, and mustiness along with a fair amount of yeast esters. Flavors open with bright lemon and light gumminess, leading into herbal bitterness and pith. In the background, there are buttery toast and bread crust hints rounding the whole. Malt flavors are sweet and bright, continuing on into the finish with herbal and mineral bitterness to the front and bready malt to the back, along with a touch of herbal lemon. The texture is a bit coarse, mainly from the bitterness, but it is still bright and pleasant, just a bit rough. The carbonation is medium to bright, which helps accentuate some of the hop and malt flavors, and the body has some heft and substance. We’re not sure we’d ever position this as a mild—or even mild-derived—if we weren’t told so by the bottle: it tastes much more like a farmhouse saison or something in the rustic vein. But in many ways, that’s the point behind a project like this: charting the transformation of beer and style parameters. Still, a delightful and enjoyable beer, one we’re happy to have to gotten the opportunity to try, specifically as this beer helps to clarify the importance of the evolving elements of style that most people do not readily grasp. And that’s saying a whole mouthful. So thank you, Ron Pattinson, for all you do.

From the bottle: “Mild was a hugely popular style for more than a century (1800-1900s). Here, we have released two Milds side-by-side, which represent beers from opposite ends of that period. Over those years, Mild changed considerably: something these beers amply demonstrate. Though bearing the same name, X Ale, in character they could hardly be more dissimilar. The 1830s saw the beginning boom in Mild ale brewing, which in 30 years became England’s favorite beer. This beer, 1838 X Ale is a typical London mild of the era: bigger and more robustly hopped than modern versions. Brewed from 100% pale malt and Kent hops, this is a straightforward, uncomplicated beer, much like the working classes who first drank it. The color is also much paler than you might expect. From this original form, Mild was to undergo many transformations, culminating in the second beer in this series, February 22nd, 1945. Drink them side-by-side to compare how this beer style evolved.”

From the Once Upon a Time website: “Our new releases in March 2012! Two X Ales from the same London brewery, 107 years apart: these beers were brewed and sold as the ‘same beer.’ But they weren’t the same beer at all! This side-by-side release allows you to taste history in a very direct, beat-you-about-the-head kind of way. The beers are whoppingly, fantastically different. There’s no way you would think they are connected by the same brewery, brand name and style. Isn’t history wonderful? Ron Pattinson once again provided recipes and brewday documents for these beers. The 1838 Mild (X Ale) is 7.4%, golden and very hoppy: if you tried our 1832 XXXX Mild ale, you could certainly see this as it’s little brother. The 1945 Mild (X Ale) is 2.8% and more of a mild-as-we-know-it. Dark, weak, grainy. It’s a fantastic way to get yourself into a World War II rationing frame of mind (Note; we recommend drinking this a bit warmer than the fridge). All in all, these beers drunk either alone or side by side demonstrate brewing history in action, and even more wonderfully, they reflect the massive changes that occurred in London between 1838 and 1945, the intimate relationship between working people and their beers, and the passion and creativity that brewers throughout the ages have applied to their craft. We are honored to re-brew these beers, and we give Ron our heartfelt thanks once again for making it possible. Prepare for some time traveling from the comfort of your pint-glass-accompanied armchair! Cheers!”

ABV: 7.4%
First brewed: November 22nd, 1838
This batch: February 13th, 2012

And yes, this beer was a year-plus old. Not that it tasted like it.


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