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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Who Wants to Try Some Beer From 1936?

Really? I don't believe it:
However, like Highlander, there can be only one, and that one is Jeff Alworth. Jeff's entry was posted after the deadline, and so his win is sure to upset a few people, not least Matt Lovatt who submitted his entry 4 minutes before the competition deadline. To add further insult to injury, Jeff didn't even email me to tell me about his contribution, it just popped up in a Google alert (come on, we all have Google alerts on our names don't we?).
That's Zak Avery, who recently held a contest to see who would take home a 1936 bottle of Coronation Ale from Greene King. The idea was to get folks to wax poetic about beer and time and then select a winner. I didn't manage to get my post done on time, but liked the topic enough to write about it anyway. And miracle of miracles, I was apparently granted an extension on the assignment, and was rewarded with this beauty:

The back-story is fascinating. Back in January 1936, Edward VIII became the King of England, following the death of his father, George V. Apparently it was customary for breweries to offer special beers celebrating the event, and so Greene King whipped up Coronation Ale. However, scandal burned through Buckingham Palace as it emerged that the new king planned to marry--prepare yourselves--an American divorcée. Such were the politics of the time that this threatened to bring down the government.

Yes, amazing as it may seem to our American minds, the mostly-ceremonial position of hereditary monarch does actually have some swing in Britain--and had more so then. The Prime Minister would have resigned and sent the country into a crisis. Edward had a decision to make: the lady or the throne. He rather admirably chose the lady (though he apparently harbored less-admirable pro-Nazi sympathies, so maybe this was all for the best). He ruled only 325 days and was never formally coronated, and so Green King's cellar of special beers sat, unlabeled, for 74 years.

If, somehow, Zak thinks he can get me this beer, and if he does, I plan to do something big. As I mentioned in my winning post, beer is a product of time and place, and stands as a historical document. This isn't just any 74-year-old beer, it's one wrapped up in political intrigue and international politics.

In any case, thanks to Zak for spreading the wealth, and thanks to all the entrants who got their submissions in on time. Please don't kill me if ever we should cross paths. I'll buy the first round--


  1. Congrats Jeff!

    You deserved the bottle, that was an awesome essay.

  2. Thanks Jeff - it was a very entertaining entry. If you email me your address (you'll find it on my blog), I'll get this 'historical glassware' on its way to you

  3. Nice work! Can't wait for the full review.

    And if the title is an indication you need people for a tasting panel sign me up!

  4. Big time, congrats - that is a hell of a pull.

  5. Good job; suitably rewarded.
    While benevolent fortune prevails, recommend you purchase a lottery ticket.

  6. Will you drink it or keep it forever?

  7. Matt & Ben, thanks! DA, noted. Jack, good plan. Eric, I don't know what I'll do with it. Build a shrine, perhaps?

    Zak, it's on the way--

  8. That is TOTALLY cool! I'll show my ignorance ... does beer age well in glass like wine does?

  9. Guy, it can. Rule of thumb is north of 8%, and north of ten if you want it to last many years or decades. A big issue is care, and we can assume these were in great condition throughout their long lives. Zak tried one and found it surprisingly (though not sublimely) tasty.