The India Pale Ale for my epic trip is now brewed and sitting in Burton-on-Trent.
Two weeks ago (fittingly, the week India celebrated 60 years of independence) I went up to Burton to meet Steve Wellington, head brewer at the White Shield brewery, and he put me to work.
We've recreated (that's "we" - I'm a brewer now) an authentic nineteenth century IPA, as near as we can figure it. For those of you interested in brewing, here's the recipe bit - if you think this kind of thing is a bit spoddy, look away now.
The 'chassis' of the beer, if you like - the basic recipe - is based on an old beer called Bass Continental, that was brewed for export and last saw the light of day in about 1920. This beer was 6.5% ABV, so we've upped that to 7%. It's brewed with crystal and pale malts, and English hops, using Northdown hopes for aroma. It's a rich golden colour - "a blonde with a tan", as Steve puts it. We used Worthington yeasts and water from the well that used to belong to Thomas Salts, so it's kind of a meta-Burton IPA, with three legendary brewers represented. It'll be dry hopped as it goes into the barrel, and will come out at around 50 units of bitterness. That's quite bitter, unless you're an insane American hophead who likes drinking fermented hop extract and thinks that tooth enamel is overrated anyway.
There was a bit of a party atmosphere in the brewery with plenty of friends turning up, and the long pauses when wort was bubbling away and there was nothing to do inevitably became filled by beer tasting, and by the afternoon everything was starting to get a bit warm and fuzzy.
Me cleaning out the mash tun. I told you they made me work.
By now it'll be in the barrel - or 'Barry' as I've taken to calling him. I'm going to collect him in about a week, and then we'll be off!