Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Royal Wedding Beers

The summer of 1981 was a big one for me. I was a 19 year old, fledgling beer drinker having matured from keg beers such as Ben Truman (you couldn't taste the hops) and Watney's Special (an oxymoron if ever there was one) onto Young's and Fuller's, great tasting real ales.

I had also just started my first job as a trainee accountant and I had sixty pounds a week (less tax) burning a hole in my pocket (context : beer was about 40p a pint). That summer also brought us a massive royal event, the wedding of Charles and Diana, a match supposedly made in heaven.

In 1977 a few breweries had made special beers to celebrate the Queen's silver jubilee. They were very popular and remarkably collectible with some rarer bottles changing hands for great sums. By 1981 everyone had climbed aboard and about 150 breweries brought out celebration wedding beers, distributed them in great numbers and though many were collected, they never really had the same scarcity or collectible value and even now only fetch about a pound a bottle.

I succumbed to the very English hobby of collecting and in a four to six week period in the lead up to July 1981 I collected over thirty of the special beers but was nowhere near finding a complete set and, once the wedding had come and gone, I had moved onto QPR programmes and the beers were stuck in a cupboard forever.

Last week we heard the announcement that the offspring of that coupling had announced his own nuptials and to mark that event I have decided to open all of my Royal Wedding beers in the lead up to William and Kate's wedding next April and talk about them each week on this blog.

There is, of course, a great difference between aged beers and old beers and I don't expect many of them (if any) to taste any good. Although some are quite strong, bottle conditioning was rare in those days and they would all have been brewery conditioned and mostly pasteurised. They have all seen enough light over decades to spoil each beer ten times over.

What will hopefully be more interesting though is that each bottle, or more specifically each brewery, will have its own story of the last thirty years.

From those companies that have grown most in that period, Marston's and Greene King, through those that they swallowed up such as Jennings, Ringwood, Belhaven and Morland to some hardy family independents like Hall/Woodhouse, Adnams and Fullers to some that disappeared completely as the industry consolidated such as Bruce's Brewery and Godson's, good London micros of their time.

As the wedding approaches on 29 April I am also hoping to find some new beers brewed for the occasion and this time I will be drinking and enjoying them rather than saving for posterity.

My wife will also be most delighted to get one of her cupboards back after all this time.


Barm said...

That's the single most interesting thing yet to be written in relation to this wedding. I look forward to hearing how the beers have held up.

John Paul Adams said...

You may have to replace the middle shelf, it's sagging quite a bit in the middle. Either that or fill it up bottled beers from this royal wedding .....