Transpontine Pale Ales

It’s A Family Affair…

whitesPaul Bailey has an excellent article on the famous English beer, Worthington White Shield, a bottle-conditioned (unfiltered) pale ale with roots in the earliest days of Burton-on-Trent pale ale brewing. Shout-out to Boak and Bailey for drawing attention to it.

White Shield was imported here in the last couple of years and I agree with Paul’s take on the beer. It’s a good taste, but not that emphatic in flavour. I never had the pre-’82 version, which sounds more authentic. I started buying White Shield in the 90s, when it was fairly bland, had minimal sediment, and a light banana note. I think it is actually better today.  It could use more hops I think, but the basic flavour is good.

The best White Shield I ever had was on cask in Soho, London about 5 years ago. Almost a different beer, everything “bigger”, maybe this one was closest to bottled White Shield pre-1982.

As Paul noted, Worthington White Shield is a property of Molson Coors. Molson Coors in Canada recently issued a recreation of a pale ale made in 1908 by the Molson Brewery in Montreal. The beer is John H.R. Molson & Bros. 1908 Historic Pale Ale.  I reviewed it some weeks ago and gave it a thumbs up. I am wondering now if Molson brewers in Canada tapped expertise of colleagues in Burton given the latters’ experience brewing an unfiltered pale ale for bottling. I’d think it likely given the high quality of the 1908 and the fact that Molson brewers here hadn’t brewed unfiltered beers for generations.

The two beers are not that dissimilar: the Canadian one is stronger and has more of a citric element from a North American hop (I’d guess), but otherwise they are in the same ballpark.

IMG_20160326_161433After letting a bottle of the 1908 sit for six weeks in the fridge, it poured almost completely clear as the yeast has dropped mostly to the base. Even less than two months out from purchase, I noted a difference in flavour. The citric element was stronger, and the floral English element reduced. It wasn’t that different from a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale actually, except lighter-tasting. If you put a small shot of vodka in a SNPA and poured in some seltzer, that would equate pretty closely to the 1908. The 1908 is evidently an India-style pale ale and the leaner, more alcohol flavour makes perfect sense.

Most IPA today is probably more what was called mild ale in the 1800s. The true IPAs of history were well-fermented out, and in contrast were dry drinks. Canadian brewers until before WW I followed this tradition for beers in that style. White Shield is similar in authenticity – a dry, restrained palate – but its hop rate needs boosting IMO and in this sense the 1908 is the superior beer.





4 thoughts on “Transpontine Pale Ales”

    • Yes, of course, 1845. Bengal Lancer I’ve had in regular form too, perhaps it’s been issued both ways. I understand Past Masters were not bottled conditioned Ed, or not all of them, but anyway you are right that there is a certain amount of experience there. Still, I think the years of making a beer in Burton, the two yeasts, etc. etc., would be relevant for Molson in Canada if they had picked up the phone.

  1. I’ve a feeling that White Shield is bottled by Fullers, as they have more experience than Molson Coors in such things.

    • That’s interesting if true, Ed, as Fuller doesn’t bottle much unfiltered beer really. There is the Vintage Ale, anything else? Anyway the UK Molson Coors experience and history would still be useful to Molson Coors in Canada… if they were consulted, but I’m not sure if they were of course.


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