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WRITER, CONSULTANT AND BROADCASTER SPECIALISING IN BEER, PUBS AND CIDER. BEER WRITER OF THE YEAR 2009 AND 2012

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Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Feeling privileged...

... because I was recently asked to name a new beer!  Seaforth is the latest release fromThornbridge, an 'English' India Pale Ale. 
This is blue and the text doesn't look weird until I post it here.  
I've no idea why blogger has had a go at changing the design.

What this means is that it's similar to Jaipur, but brewed with 100% English ingredients, making it much closer to what the early nineteenth century IPAs would have been like.  I haven't had chance to taste it yet, but it's dry-hopped, darker than many IPAs, and very hoppy, according to head brewer Stef.  I can't wait to try it.

Why Seaforth?  Well, it sounds like a good name for an IPA, doesn't it? BUt it has a very special place in IPA's history.

Anyone who's read J Stevenson Bushnan's 1853 book 'Burton and its Bitter Beer' will know that the two ships that transported the first cargo of Samuel Allsopp's India Ale from Liverpool to Calcutta were the Bencoolen and the Seaforth.  The Seaforth arrived a few weeks after the Bencoolen, so what makes it special?

Well, when I was in the Indian National Library in Calcutta, I found the edition of the Calcutta Gazette from 1823, around the time these ships arrived.  At that time, London brewer George Hodgson dominated the Indian market and was restricting supply to maximise his profit, refusing credit terms to everyone, and generally pissing off the most powerful corporation the world has ever known.  The cargo of Allsopp's ale that arrived on the Bencoolen sold for about two thirds of what Hodgson's did, such was his reputation, and on that basis Allsopp would have failed - and that would have meant no Burton IPA.  But one of the ads around the arrival of the Seaforth reveal an extraordinary stroke of luck:

REJECTED BEER
To be sold by Public Auction, by Messrs Taylor & Co, on the CUSTOM HOUSE WHARF, by permission of the Collector of Sea Customs, at eleven o’ Clock precisely, on Saturday next, the 28th Instant, 48 HOGSHEADS of Hodgson’s BEER, and 17 empty HOGSHEADS, landed from the ship Timandra, and 30 hogsheads of Hodgson’s BEER, landed from the ship Seaforth. 

Hodgson had sent out a dodgy batch of beer on the same ship as Allsopp's second consignment, which had arrived in perfect condition.  This allowed Allsopp to get into the market, and the consignment on the Seaforth sold for double that on the Bencoolen.  People then tasted IPA brewed in Burton for the first time, realised how superior it was to London IPA, and the rest is history.  You can read that history in Hops and Glory of course.  

So what better name for an English IPA brewed just up the road from Burton? 

5 comments:

Alan said...

Just so you know there are further Ontario / Indian colonial connections not only is there a town of Seaforth in the SW end of the province but it is 66 km for Lucknow which calls itself "the Sepoy Town". You could probably have an entire range of Ontario Victoriana named beers in the UK and no one would have a clue.

BLTP said...

Pete, as we discussed over the weekend it's a name rich with associations take a look at the battle "honours" of seaforth Highlanders!
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seaforth_Highlanders
I dread to think what they did in their role as the "saviours of india" after the Mutiny/revolution. can't wait to taste the brew mind.

Anonymous said...

"People then tasted IPA brewed in Burton for the first time, realised how superior it was to London IPA, and the rest is history."

But Meantime Brewing told me that London's IPA was/is infinitely superior to every other IPA in the World!?

You can't both be right!?

(Seaforth is also the name of a Liverpool Dock area)

Pete said...

Well, I'm nit going to getvinto an argument with Meantime cos I love their IPA and believe it's reasonably close to what London IPA used to be like - but not the same. Hodgson's London IPA was criticised for it's 'thick muddy appearance' and 'rank bitter flavour' - something I'd never say about Meantime IPA. And the simple fact is that the London beer had dominated the Indian market, to the exclusion of all others, for about 15 years. Hodgson had contacts, distribution, and most of all, name recognition. Yet when the unknown Burton ales turned up, it only took them three years to effectively blow Hodgson away. It could only be that the beer was better, and letters back from India confirm this.

My guess is that if it were possible to taste both Hodgson's and Allsopp's original IPAs (it's not) Meantime's wonderful beer would be more like Allsopp's. But they're a London brewer, and they must be allowed a little marketing hyperbole.

al_uk said...

Tried a pint of Seaforth in the Fat Cat Sheffield. Its very nice. As you say darker than many IPA's and fruitily hoppy I thought.
It was lovely though at 6% or whatever I wouldn't want to drink more than a couple. Still a good pint.