Molson Digs In The Archives – Finally

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Molson Coors Takes A Look In Its Old Books, To Our Benefit

I was always puzzled why large breweries didn’t make beers from their own archives. Why buy craft brewers when you have all the history in your own file cabinet? For years I have been on this theme, on beer websites, others’ blogs, finally my own.

Pabst did release in the last couple of years Ballantine India Pale Ale and Burton Ale. With good results even though not every beer inevitably will please every punter. Coors released a supposed pre-1919 lager recipe a few years ago (so-so, in my eyes). Fuller has done stellar work in London with super-fine stout and strong ale releases from c. 1900.

In Canada, nothing – until today. John H.R. Molson & Bros. 1908 Historic Pale Ale is in the local Beer Stores, just out this week they told me. Well, what do you know…

The ad copy on the case states that a recipe of that year was used to brew it, of which I have no doubt. Molson isn’t going to fib about this. And the results show the authenticity: it has the true orangey colour of Victorian-into-1900s pale ale, a firm, mineral hop character with light orange notes, definite (non-DMS) yeast character, and a pleasant, light malty taste. Pale ale was not a rich, sweet beer traditionally, it was on the dry side and did not satiate. This beer is exactly like that.  It is 6.8% abv, and unfiltered by which I take it, it is unpasteurized.

Ron Pattinson has a spec for a J.H.R. Molson 1897 pale ale here (at p.241), and there it is about 1% lower in alcohol than this recreation. But close enough certainly, and numerous IPAs in the table from other brewers, including Boswell which I discussed here recently, are much closer in strength to the Molson 1908. Even from the same brewer, beers varied more then than today for a number of reasons, long storage alone could add a point of ABV.

In other words, that table just confirms the authenticity of what’s in this bottle, IMO.

All in all it tastes English, it reminds me of many fine bitters – pre-the craft penetration of the U.K. – from the 80s and 90s.  It’s sort of like Orval too without the brett, and Michael Jackson always said Orval was an English pale ale style. Or like John Martin’s Pale Ale actually, for those who know it.

Good on Molson Coors. Now, as Alan said in a tweet today, let’s see a 1808. 🙂

2 thoughts on “Molson Digs In The Archives – Finally

  1. Ron, also, as you know, those Canadian tables at the end of the 1890s record two Molson ales, one is a Pale Bitter Ale, the other an India Pale Ale (so-termed). While they seem in that instance quite close in final abv, one can imagine that the IPA was usually stronger. My belief is by 1908, the brewery, having introduced Molson Export Ale in 1903, dispensed with the lighter one and kept for a while the other, probably for tradition’s sake, as by the 20s all this type of beer was in the past anyway for Molson, it had all gone to 5% chilled fizzy stuff (no bottle conditioning).

    Gary

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