Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Colne Spring Ale

I’ve been making some sweeps through the newspaper archive. And finding some useful stuff. Including, surprisingly, price lists.

I’ve written about Benskins legendary Colne Spring Ale several times before. I’m saddened that I never got to taste it. But I was heartened to spot it in a Benskins advert from 1890. But looking a little more closely, it told me something very surprising.

What style was Colne Spring Ale? Barley Wine? Old Ale? No. According to Benskins, it was a Mild Ale.

Leighton Buzzard Observer and Linslade Gazette - Tuesday 28 January 1890, page 1.

I’m glad of two things: that they numbered their beers and that they grouped them by style. The numbering means that I can be sure that XXXXA Ale and Colne Spring Ale are the same thing. Who would have thought Colne Spring Ale was a type of Mild?

The price list also tells me something I’d long suspected: that Cooper was just the name for bottled Porter. Nice to have that confirmed.

Here’s my guess at the OGs, based around 1055º being the gravity of a beer costing 36s per barrel.

beer price per barrel est. OG
No. 1 Indian Pale Ale 54 1082.5
No. 2 Guinea Ale 42 1064.2
No. 3 Pale Ale 36 1055.0
No. 4 XXXXA Ale 72 1110.0
No. 4 XXXX Ale 60 1091.7
No. 5 XXX Ale 54 1082.5
No. 6 XX Ale 36 1055.0
No. 7 Double Stout 54 1082.5
No. 8 Single Stout 42 1064.2
No. 9 Porter 36 1055.0

The gravity is too high for the Indian Pale Ale. You had to pay a premium for IPA. My guess would be that the OG was really around 1065º.


John Clarke said...

Hi Ron - have a word with the guys from Popes Yard at Carnivale Brettanomyces. They've done a huge amount of research into Colne Spring Ale and are looking to recreate it at some stage I think.

Unknown said...

Neat. I just brewed the 1832 Mild Ale recipe from your book. Maybe I'll bottle it with some Brett.

David Pond said...

I remember drinking Clone Spring in the late 60s. It was I recall sold as a barley wine and was a rich brown Ruby red beer in the glass. It was sweet and fruity. I have not drunk anything like it since. I have an empty nip bottle and Benskins describe it as specially strong.

Unknown said...

I loved colne spring ale used to drink it by the pint ,lots of places would not serve more than a pint .Happy days

Patrick O'Brien said...

I used to take a few to the Varsity Match at Twickenham Also drank Benskins bItter at the Antelope in Eaton Terrace
too many decades ago! Wonderful ale.

Ron Pattinson said...

Patrick O'Brien,

I'd so loved to have drunk Colne Spring Ale. You jammy bastard.

Anonymous said...

I have a small 6 1/2 fl oz bottle of Benskins Colne Spring ale, although it's contents seem to have shrunk slightly. I'm guessing it wouldn't be at it's best?

Ron Pattinson said...


if it's a version with Brettanomyces, it might be surprisingly drinkable.

Darren said...

Ron Pattinson.Your a braver man than me. But I also have a Courage Barclay and Simmonds Bristol stout which looks in better condition (as in there isn'ta high tide mark on the inside neck of the bottle)Which given it's approximately the same age as me I won't be sampling.

Anonymous said...

Colin Ryall