Wimbledon Brewery launches new range inspired by 19th century price list

Wimbledon Brewery has launched a new, experimental range of beers, designed to be aged, inspired by a price list dating back to 1889.

The XXK Winter Ale casks ready to go.

The old price list, printed in a newspaper dating back to 1889, was discovered by a member of Wimbledon’s historical society and was passed to the current brewery’s founder, Mark Gordon.

Explaining how the discovery influenced the new range, master brewer Derek Prentice said: “Traditionally, beer strength was denoted by Xs – so an ‘X’ beer would be a ‘mild’, ‘XX’ a stronger brew and ‘XXX’ the strongest (often also known as a barley wine) – typically at between 8-13% alcohol. XXXK – the K denotes a ‘keeper’ – could be kept and aged for many months or even years.”

“Since Mark Gordon showed me the old price list, I’ve wanted to make our own interpretation of an XXXK. This led us to the beers we’re releasing this autumn.”

The first beer, XK Autumn Ale (3.5%) launched on 2 October and is made using the residual weaker sugar wort left over from the brewing of the high strength barley wine. Wimbledon has added chocolate and caramel malts “to add further body and depth of flavour” and the beer has been released in a limited run of 90 firkins.

Wimbledon has also recently unveiled the second beer of the series, XXK Winter Ale (4.8%), to mark the clocks going back. The final beer, XXXK Barley Wine (around 10%) will be put into bottles and casks in mid-November to give it time to mature. Prentice will release it in time for Christmas, keeping back a portion to age for longer which will then be released later in 2018.

Speaking to the drinks business, Prentice said that Wimbledon may be brewing similar historical styles and strengths of beer in the future.

“XK and the XXK are an interpretation of the styles from that period,” he added.

When asked how the XXXK released before Christmas will differ to the beer released in 2018, Prentice said: “The XXXK we release this year will be quite full and with a very clean, slightly fruity sweet finish but relatively light feel. With both the ageing and casking we would expect it to affect the aroma, palate and after-palate which will increase in complexity with vanilla, deep stone fruit, and sherry notes coming through.

The topic of barrel-ageing in beer has been thrown into the spotlight recently after Innis & Gunn recently unveiled its ‘barrel into beer’ method. The process involves cut-up and toasted staves from rum and bourbon barrels being added to the beer for between five and 10 days, rather than the beer being transferred into an actual barrel.

The Scottish brewer maintains that its beers are ‘barrel-aged’ rather than ‘wood-aged’ while UK authorities, such as Trading Standards and the Campaign for Real Ale, have said that no standard industry definition exists for barrel-ageing in beer.

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