Friday, June 28, 2013

Liège - the daughter of Meuse

The city of Liège in the French-speaking region of Wallonia, in the southeast of Belgium, has just as long and illustrious history as Bruges, Ghent, Antwerp and Brussels, but these days it seems to have ended up in the Belgian backwaters and is largely forgotten by tourist brochures and the beer fans who travel to Belgium from all corners of the world.

I won't claim to have done the city justice by staying there for only two days, but at least I got a feel for what it's like today and what it must have been like in former times. This post is a recount of my brief visit in May 2013, to explore the local beer scene and the city of Liège itself.

River Meuse, the mother of Liège, seen from Sainte-Walburge

La Naissance de Liège
A sculpture on the Pont des Arches bridge across river Meuse in Liège is called La Naissance de Liège or The Birth of Liège and shows a woman with a child in her arms. This is an allegory for Liège being the daughter of the river, which is rather obvious when you view the city from the vantage point of Mount Sainte-Walburge north of the city. From there, the Meuse can be seen flowing through the heart of Liège, fondling the shores and creating the island of Outremeuse along the way. River Meuse, by the way, is not only one of the major rivers in western Europe, with a length of 925 km, it's actually the oldest river in the world, having drained out in the North Sea for some 380 million years.

Like Bruges and Ghent in Flanders, Liège has had its share of famous, historical persons, the most powerful being none other than Charlemagne or Charles the Great, the king of the Franks and from 800-814 AD the mighty Holy Roman Emperor ruling all of western Europe. Like his father, Pepin the Short, Charlemagne was born in the village of Herstal, just outside modern Liège, in the 8th century, but his rule was felt all over Europe and was remembered for centuries after. All traces I could find of him in Liège today was the equestrian Charlemagne statue in Parc d'Avroy.

In 985, Liège became the capital of a prince-bishopric which basically means an area controlled by a bishop who had the powers of a prince to extract taxes and make laws for his minions. The first prince-bishop was a man called Notger who transformed the city into a major intellectual and ecclesiastical centre, which maintained its cultural importance during the Middle Ages.

In 1468, the independent and unruly city of Liège was laid siege to by Duke Charles the Bold of Burgundy who, just to be on the safe side, enlisted the help of the French King Louis XI. The siege almost ended in a disaster for the Duke when a troop of 600 men, under the leadership of nobleman Vincent de Bueren, charged up the Sainte-Walburge hill with the plan to capture the King and Duke. However, this plan failed when the troops from the city started fighting the Burgundian soldiers instead of going straight into the camp to capture the leaders. This gave the Duke and the King time to rally their troops into a counter-offensive and beat back the attackers. The next day the Burgundians sacked Liège and put the city to the torch. According to legend the city burned for seven weeks. Today this brave but failed attack is remembered with a sense of pride by the people of Liège, who in 1880 named a new stairway Montagne de Bueren in honor of Vincent de Bueren.

The Montagne de Bueren stairway in Liège

During the Counter-Reformation in the 16th and 17th century the diocese of Liège was split up and gradually lost its role as a regional power. But Liège remained in the hands of the Bavarian prince-bishops until the French Revolution broke out in July 1789, this inspired the people of Liège to start their own revolution, overthrowing the prince-bishop and establishing the Republic of Liège in August 1789. Though the republic fell to Austrian forces in 1791, this event had shook the system of prince-bishops so when French troops captured Liège (and Bavaria) in 1794, the city was more than ready to throw out its prince-bishops again. This time for good.

With the fall of Napoleon in 1815, France had to let go of Liège which was incorporated into the newly formed United Kingdoms of the Netherlands where it remained until the Belgian Revolution of 1830, which saw the formation of an independent Kingdom of Belgium. This signalled the start of a golden era for Liège, because Belgium was second only to Britain in joining the industrial revolution and it was in Wallonia, not the arable farm land of Flanders, that Belgian industry were located. Liège became one of continental Europe's first large-scale steel making centres, this required many workers so the population ballooned and the city grew out of bounds.

Walking around in Liège today, you'll notice that areas outside old town often have apartment buildings from the mid to late 19th century, many of them unkept for decades or even totally abandoned. The reason for this is that by the time of World War I the industry in Wallonia was already in decline. Today there's hardly any industry left, giving outlying areas of the city an "empty shell" feel.

Walking down the narrow Au Pérî street 

However, the spirit of Liège has started to stirr again, even if you still see lots of old and abandoned buildings. The brand new Liège-Guillemins railway station, a wonder of engineering based on a design by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, opened in September 2009 and has become a tourist attraction in itself as well as an important hub on the high-speed railway network through Belgium.

Unlike Flanders, which is flat as a pancake, Liège is located in a hilly terrain which means there are steep hills to climb, if your are so inclined, rewarding you with great views of the city below and of the River Meuse. One of the most popular climbs is up the 374 steps of the 28% inclined Montagne de Bueren stairway, which leads up from the Hors-Château street to the Citadel on Sainte-Walburge. From the upper parts of the stairway you'll have a great view of Liège. The sweaty climb is worth it, trust me.

That Liège is about to "wake up" should be clear from the fact that it was one of two candidate cities for the 2017 World Expo, if it had been selected (it wasn't, the World Expo 2017 will be in Astana, Kazakhstan) it would surely have had an enormous impact on the largely rundown but historically rich city. Now, its modernization will take place more gradually than if the World Expo had come here, so if you want to visit Liège to get a sense of what this city was like in its 19th century heydays there's still time.

Getting there
Belgium has an extensive railway network so whether you come from Brussels, like I did, or Antwerp in the north, there are almost hourly train departures in the directon of Liège. I went by train from Bruxelles-Midi railway station to the new Liège-Guillemins station, which cost me less than an hour and €14. You really can't beat time or price.

If you insist on going by car, the European highway E40 passes by Brussels and goes straight to Liège, a drive of about 100 km or 1 hour. Liège even has an airport, but it's mainly a cargo airport (the 7th most important in Europe) though since 2005 it has also had a passenger terminal. But I would still recommend going by train.

Le Vaudrée II on 149 Rue Saint Gilles in Liège

The beer scene
As mentioned in the intro, Liège doesn't draw large crowds of beer tourists so you will be pretty much on your own with the regulars when you visit a pub or brasserie in the city.

Le Vaudrée II
Le Vaudrée is actually a chain of beer restaurants, originating in Liège but now found at 6 other locations in the Walloon Region of Belgium. The original Le Vaudrée was started by Camille Dumez in the mid 1980s, it can still be found in Rue du Val-Benoît on the southern outskirts of Liège. However, since 1990, there has been a second brasserie, creatively named Le Vaudrée II, on Rue Saint Gilles in the heart of old town Liège.

Even though the original Le Vaudrée currently has a higher rating at RateBeer and a few more beers on tap than the second location, I decided against going there because it was located 4 km from my hotel and in the opposite direction of old town. Fortunately, Le Vaudrée II was not a poor alternative.

Le Vaudrée II is located on 149 Rue Saint Gilles, just a 4-5 minutes walk from Liège Cathedral. It's open from early morning until well after midnight on every day of the week, offering breakfast, lunch and dinner accompanied by high quality Belgian beer. On tap, they serve 24 draft beers and on bottle more than 900 different types, so there was no chance I would get bored after one night! Among the more interesting draft beers, when I was there, they served Tripel Karmeliet, Gulden Draak 9000, St Feuillien Saison, Val-Dieu Brune and Mc Chouffe. On bottle I was intrigued by a series of beers from Brasserie Artisanale Millevertus, ranging from a nice Brune to a weird saffron beer. Another nice find was La Brasserie à Vapeur that makes a very funky saison called Vapeur en Folie.

In addition to the excellent beer selection, Le Vaudrée II also has a more than adéquat food menu offering a selection of cold and warm dishes, soups, fish, pork and beef, some of them even grilled on stone plates. The first night I had a tender beef with their own Vaudrée sauce (made with myrtle, white wine, cream, tomato, mushroom. Ardennes ham and tarragon!), which cost me €20 and tasted really delicious. The second night I tried the mixed grill plate, for a euro more, which was also good but more ordinary.

The bar with 24 beers on tap at Le Vaudrée II in Liège

The service at Le Vaudrée II was surprisingly fast and good, I hardly had time to sit down or finish a glass of beer before the bartender came over to ask me for my order. And, to my great relief, the bartender spoke a fairly decent English, allowing me to ask questions about the different beers. This is not typical for native French speaking regions in Europe so this is a great pluss in my book. So, if you find yourself in old town Liège, Le Vaudrée II is the place to go both for great beer and food.

Taverne Saint Paul
Tucked away around the corner from La Cathédrale St Paul de Liège, in the narrow but busy pedestrian street Rue Saint Paul, the 125 year old Taverne Saint Paul is something as unusual in Wallonia as a "brown café" so it was an obvious place to visit when in old town Liège.

Established in 1881, in the building of a former coaching inn, Taverne Saint Paul provides a respite from the daily hustle and bustle. Here time literarily stands still, exemplified by the clock inside the café which has been set deliberately wrong, so that customers have no way of knowing the correct time of day. In 2012, the 29 year old Maxime Piette took over the reins of the café promising not to change a bit, and that still seems to hold true as far as I could see.

Visitors to Taverne Saint Paul are greeted by a dark brown interior, on a sunny day it will seem almost dark in there, with well worn wooden furniture and walls covered with old memorabilia. Usually beer ads, but also old grandfather clocks and cigar boxes. The small bar sports 6 beer taps, which included Hoegaarden, Leffe Blond and Chimay Blanche, and also offer some 30 types of beer on bottle. It may not be the most inspiring selection, but I found the quiet and tranquil atmosphere intoxicating and stayed for longer than I had planned.

The bar at the 125 year old Taverne Saint Paul in Liège

L'Antre du Vaudrée
Just across the street from Le Vaudrée II, on 130 Rue Saint Gilles, you'll find the best beer shop in Liège, L'Antre du Vaudrée. As the name implies, this shop has the same owner as the Le Vaudrée chain of beer restaurants.

The shop is well stocked with beer from all parts of Belgium and like the restaurant across the street it offers an amazing 900 types of beer on bottle. The man behind the counter spoke reasonably well English, allowing me to ask questions about beers and breweries. When I had made my choices, based on what I had tasted at Le Vaudrée II, it turned out the shop was short in stock on one of them. But the fellow behind the counter was of the resourceful kind and solved his problem elegantly by running across the street to "borrow" a few bottles from the beer cellar of Le Vaudrée II!

Concluding remaks
Even though I only visited two beer establishments and a good beer shop, I found Liège to be a very good beer destination as it brings you really close to Belgian beer roots in an environment virtually free of tourists and RateBeerians (unlike in Brussels, Bruges or Ghent where you can't avoid them). So, even if this post may cause more "beer trotters" to visit Liège, I plan to make more trips to this old industrial city in eastern Belgium and the next time I will try to visit the original Le Vaudrée.

The new Liège-Guillemins railway station from 2009

For more photos from Liège see the following Flickr sets: Beer and the City.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

On the trail of pale ale in Burton-on-Trent

During a recent stay in London, a growing beer destination in itself with numerous new pubs and micro breweries, I decided to take a daytrip out of the city to visit a small town in Staffordshire by the name of Burton upon Trent.

Burton upon Trent, also known as Burton-on-Trent but I'll just call it Burton from now on, is a town of about 43 thousand inhabitants. It's located by the River Trent in East Staffordshire, some 10 miles south west of Derby. Burton may not mean much to people nowadays, despite being home to the National Brewery Centre in England, but it hasn't always been like this. A mere century ago this small town was at the very heart of a vast and successful English brewing industry, home to some of the biggest and most famous breweries on the planet. So, what happened?

Burton-on-Trent, a gateway to English brewing history

The history of brewing in Burton goes back at least a thousand years, but for a long time brewing was an activity performed at inns or taverns to make beer to their guests. Only at the start of the 18th century did commercial breweries appear, the first one was opened by a Benjamin Printon right next to the Burton Bridge in 1708.

Commercial brewing didn't immediately take off in Burton, because its remote, inland location made it expensive to transport barrels of beer outside the town. But in 1712, George Hayne opened the River Trent Navigation and constructed a wharf and other buildings to help Burton become an important commercial centre. This allowed Burton beer to be shipped to Hull, and from there to the Baltic Sea and Prussia, as well as to London where it was being sold in 1712. At this time, the Porter of London was all the rage so the brewers of Burton probably brewed much dark beer.

But it was pale ales that would make Burton famous. Burton is known for its "hard water", rich in calcium, which accentuates hop bitterness and flavor in a beer. This is not so important for dark beers but crucial for hoppy pale ales (when science finally caught up with brewing it was found that by adding sulphate, often in the form of gypsum, to "soft" water you could get something similar to the water in Burton - this process is now known as "Burtonisation").

A number of breweries opened in Burton in the second half of the 18th century, including Worthington in 1760 and Bass in 1777, to take advantage of the new trade routes and the excellent brewing water. The Napoleonic wars, in the early 19th century, brought an end to the trade with the Baltic, instead the Burton brewers focused more on London and a bit later the growing overseas market. The building of a railway to Liverpool in 1839 enabled brewers to export their beer throughout the British Empire and in particular to India, for which the India Pale Ale became so famous.

The second half of the 19th century was a golden era for Burton which dominated the brewing trade, at its height one quarter of all beer sold in Britain was produced here. Burton became so famous for its excellent brewing water and Burton pale ale that many breweries elsewhere either moved to or opened up a second bewery in Burton. London brewery Ind Coope did so in 1856 and Truman, Hanbury, Buxton & Co followed in 1873. AB Walker & Sons from Liverpool opened a brewery here in 1877 and in 1892 the famous Manchester brewery Boddington and Leicester based Everard & Co opened up breweries in Burton. By 1880 there was a total of 30 breweries operating in Burton, many of them large ones with international export.

The famous red triangle trademark of Bass
- at Coopers Tavern in Burton
However, the popularity of Burton ales caused a serious issue for the Burton breweries: Counterfeit. At the time many small breweries, in other parts of England, started selling their beer as "Burton ales" too and often reusing barrels from famous Burton breweries. This became such a big problem, both for the Burton breweries and their loyal customers who didn't want to get ripped off with a counterfeit, that when the United Kingdom introduced the Trade Mark Registration Act on January 1st 1876, the first man in line at the registration office was an employee of Bass. He had spent New Year's Eve queueing up to register the Bass Red Triangle for their pale ale, which became the very first trademark in the UK! In fact, Bass, Ratcliff & Gretton Limited received the first two registrations, the second trademark was the Bass Red Diamond for their strong ale.

The red Bass triangle, in particular, was soon a common sight all over the world, ensuring customers that this was the real deal. Sadly, after Coors bought Bass in 2000, they dropped this 125 year old trademark. Today you'll only find it on old beer ads, often used as decoration on pub walls around the globe.

In the last couple of decades of the 19th century, Bass was the greatest brewery in the world - employing some 3,500 men and boys only in Burton and brewing one and a half million barrels of beer annually (1902). With a UK liquid barrel taking 36 imperial gallons or 163,6 liter, that should amount to 245 million liter beer per year.

In addition to the highly successful India Pale Ale, Burton breweries also brewed a number of strong ales. In 1903, Bass introduced their Bass No 1 which became the first beer in the world commercially designated as a barley wine. Unfortunately, that style and other types of strong ales virtually disappeared when war broke out in Europe in 1914. In England, the authorities added taxes and forced brewers to reduce the amount of malt used in brewing beer, so that more of the food cereal could be used for making bread, the result was much weaker beers, evolving over the decades into that most common English ale of today - the low alcohol bitter.

Because of the war and the anti-drinking attitudes of the Liberal government, causing high taxes and lower gravity beers, and the advances of brewing science, allowing brewers elsewhere to recreate the Burton water, the Burton breweries went into a sharp decline at the beginning of the 20th century. In 1928 only 8 breweries remained and by 1980 there were only three large ones - Bass, Allied and Marston's. A decade into the 21st century only the Marston's brewery remains independent, Carlsberg having taken over Allied in 1992 (selling it to Bass in 1997) while Bass was acquired by InterBrew in June 2000 who sold the Burton brewery division to Coors.

Today, Burton is just a pale shadow of its former self, but there is still much of interest if beer and history is your fancy. I certainly found it worthwhile to make the two hour train ride up from London. Here's what I managed to explore in the span of seven hours.

An old brewery wagon at The National Brewery Centre

The National Brewery Centre
The National Brewery Centre is located near the intersection of Guild St and Horninglow St in Burton, next to the former Bass brewery. This museum started out as the Bass Museum of Brewing, while Bass was still around. After Bass had been acquired and sold to Coors, it was renamed the Coors Visitor Centre & The Museum of Brewing which was the largest tourist attraction in Burton until Coors decided to close it in June 2008. Fortunately, a steering group was established to investigate a re-opening and in May 2010 the museum was relaunched as the National Brewery Centre.

Naturally, I started here to get my bearings and an understanding of what Burton must have been like as a brewing town in its heydays. I arrived shortly after the doors opened on a Saturday, so I had the entire museum to myself. Vistors are guided through the museum by following a painted path and numbered stations. You start inside a big hall with numerous displays, showing old brewing equipment with a rich documentation, often with old photos, informing guests on how the equipment was used.

After spending time learning about the brewing and conditioning of beer, you continue outside to another building that houses the stables where you can still view real brewery horses (18 year old Charlie was chewing away on some hay while I walked passed him). There are also some beautiful horse-drawn carriages on display, that was used to transport beer, as well as old lorries from the first half of the 20th century. Further on you arrive at what looks like a small train station where two small, old-style locomotives can be viewed from up close. One of them was used by Worthington and the other by Bass for transporting beer on the rails leading from the brewery to the main railway line where I assume the carriages were connected to larger locomotives.

A Burton Union System outside The National Brewery Centre

In addition to its water, Burton was also famous for its unique way of fermenting beer: The Burton Union System. This system was based on the principle of recirculating overflow beer and was originally patented in 1838 by Mr Peter Walker, a brewer from Liverpool. The idea was as follows.

A row of casks are connected via swan neck pipes to a trough above them, so when beer ferments inside the casks the foam is pushed out and up the pipes by the pressure. Here the yeast remained while any liquid (wort or beer) ran back down another set of pipes to bottom troughs and from there into the casks again, to join the fermentation. Gradually beer in the casks would become bright and free from yeast as the process continued. When the process was complete, the supply from the side rods to the casks was cut off and the taps on the underside of the casks opened to allow the beer to run into the bottom troughs and from there into the racking squares below.

The advantages of the Burton Union System was that it reduced the loss of beer during fermentation and provided an easy way of collecting good yeast for future use. It remained widely used by Burton brewers, well into the second half of the 20th century, but today it's seen as impractical and difficult to maintain and clean. No commercial breweries use it anymore, with one single exception: Marston's use it when brewing their famous Marston's Pedigree bitter.

The principles of the Burton Union are explained inside the brewery museum and a complete double set, consisting of 2 x 26 casks, has been preserved near the car park, just behind the fence along Guild Street.

After the very interesting visit to the brewery museum I decided to continue down Horninglow Street, towards Burton Bridge, to visit Burton Bridge Inn for lunch.

A hearty lunch at Burton Bridge Inn

Burton Bridge Inn and Brewery
Located on Bridge Street, just twenty yards from Burton Bridge across the River Trent, this Inn opened up in 1980 in the premises of the former Fox & Goose Inn and just across the street from where Benjamin Printon opened up the first commercial brewery in Burton 273 years earlier. Since 1982, the Inn has also had its own brewery - Burton Bridge Brewery - providing fresh real ales to serve its visitors.

Located in the back of the Inn, Burton Bridge Brewery started up in May 1982, long after Burton had gone into decline as a brewing centre. But unlike the large breweries of Allied (Ind Coope) and Bass, which has since disappeared, Burton Bridge Brewery has survived and is currently the second largest brewery in Burton when it comes to making cask conditioned ales (after Marston's).

Burton Bridge Inn is a cozy, rural English pub with a small central bar splitting the facilities in two, with smoking on one side and the non-smoking room on the other. When I was there, the pub offered five Burton Bridge ales on tap - from a dark porter via amber to light golden ales.

As any good Inn should, Burton Bridge serves homemade food and I ordered a burger for lunch. It came with fried egg and bacon on top, and big, chunky fries on the side. It was really well made, nothing fancy but tasty and filling. And it paired well with the beers I tasted.

I can't say any of the beers really impressed me, but they were handpulled, proper real ales. And the porter was fairly decent though it is the slightly stronger Festival ale, at 5.5%, that according to the young barkeeper is their best selling beer.

After lunch at Burton Bridge Inn, I walked around the bridgehead, looking at a group of kids learning how to canoe on River Trent, before heading back into town for my next planned stop - Coopers Tavern.

The awesome Coopers Tavern in Burton

Coopers Tavern
One of the most remarkable and memorable pubs I've ever been to, and I've been to many, is the Coopers Tavern on 43 Cross Street in Burton. Located just across the street from what was once the Ind Coope Brewery but now Molston Coors, this pub has history infused in its walls, with the charming landlady, Mary Bagley, operating the handpulls. Bagley has been the hostess at Coopers since August 2006 and has even started her own beer festival at the pub, held in August every year.

From some of the regulars and from signs on the walls I managed to piece together some semblance of a history. Originally, the Cooper's Tavern was built as a house for Bass's "brewer in charge". Records show that it later became an overflow store for special malts and then in 1826 the store for Bass Imperial Stout. The brewers would routinely sample the stouts, so a few tables and chairs sneaked in. Then beer was drawn directly from the barrels, as there was no proper bar. The place was known simply as "The Coopers" as a brewer's joke and it was their own private club for nearly 30 years, until it became licensed for the public in 1858.

Today, the walls of Cooper's Tavern are covered in old Burton memorabilia, from the Bass and Ind Coope breweries, such as mirrors and beer ads. There are two small rooms with wooden tables, chairs and benches where guests can sit down, in addition to the backroom where the beer is poured. The room you enter from the street is known as The Ind Coope Room while the one to the left of the entrance is The Bass Room. Because both Bass and Ind Coope are gone, there's no practical difference - you drink whatever you like in both.

The small "bar" at Coopers Tavern
On tap, Coopers Tavern offers only real ale and real cider from a number of small breweries. Including one from the next door neighbor, The Backyard Brewery. This is a tiny micro brewery run by a former Molson Coors employee who was asked by Mary Bagley if he could brew some cask beer for the tavern, and he agreed to do just that. So this is really short travelled beer and only available at Coopers.

In addition to Backyard Brewery and some guest beers, Coopers Tavern is the flagship of the re-launched Joules Brewery, serving a number of Joule's ales. Ironically, the old Joule's brewery was bought by Bass in 1974 but is now once more an independent brewery while Bass has become history!

The reason for the close ties with Joules is that Coopers Tavern acted as midwife when Joules was reborn: It was here in May 2007 that Molson Coors, who had taken over the ownership of Joules after acquiring Bass, was offered a 'pie and a pint' for Joules. The contract, which made Joules an independent brewery after 27 years of ownership, was signed at Coopers Tavern on February 4, 2009, and sealed with four pints of Bass and a toast raised to the building of the fourth Joules brewery.

The Coopers Tavern still draws beer straight from the cask, preserving the old Burton institution, and they serve some tasty pies - I can warmly recommend the pork & stilton. And with history oozing from its walls and the charming landlady bringing you handpulled beer, the Coopers Tavern in Burton is a great place to contemplate English brewing history, over a pint or three of real ale.

The Roebuck Inn
From Coopers Tavern I walked a couple of blocks to The Roebuck Inn on 101 Station Street, which has a beautiful facade with a gilded sign above the entrance with the large, horned head of a roebuck stuck above the name. As the name of the street indicates, this Inn is very close to the railway station in Burton, so it's a great place to while away the last minutes in Burton before catching an evening train back to London (or wherever you return to).

The Roebuck was built in the 19th century and offers all the charm of old worldly England, with a range of 8 real ales and a beer garden out back. The publican was a lady with a sandpaper kind of raspy voice that would have made Rod Stewart blush, and she would share jokes with regulars across the room while making sure to keep the ale flowing when people stopped by after work.

I asked for local beer from Burton and they offered one, a beer called Reservoir Premium from The Gates Burton Brewery. This small, independent brewery started brewing as recently as summer 2011 but despite its short history, the 4.6% abv Reservoir Premium bitter was surprisingly well made, with a lovely fruit character balancing a nice malt sweetness - making it more interesting than many regular bitters I've tasted over the years.

The Roebuck Inn on Station Street in Burton

When in Burton you should consider paying the Marston's brewery a visit. Founded in 1869 and located on Shobnall Road, about a mile north west of the railway station, Marston's is the only remaining independent brewery from the Burton heydays and the only commercial brewery in the world that still uses the Burton Union System for brewing beer.

However, to get a tour of the brewery you need to be in a group of at least ten persons and the email I sent a month prior to going to Burton, asking if I could join another group for a tour, went unanswered. So, if you fail to get an appointment you'll only be able to visit the brewery shop and that may not be worth it if your time is limited.


All in all, Burton is well worth a visit as it will help you get a sense of this historical epoch of English brewing. You'll find signs of its brewing history littered all around the town and the large breweries, now brewing only lager, are still an impressive sight. The brewery museum and the Coopers Tavern should be visited by anyone interested in the history of brewing.

A small, blue locomotive made for Worthington in 1926
- on display at the National Brewery Centre

More photos from this Burton visit can be found at Flickr.