Pabst revives legendary "Christmas brew" - Ballantine Burton Ale

Discussion in 'Beer News & Releases' started by jesskidden, Aug 20, 2015.

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  1. jesskidden

    jesskidden Poo-Bah (1,970) Aug 10, 2005 New Jersey
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    (Thanks to @LuskusDelph for the alert) it appears that Pabst has recently gotten COLAs (12 oz. bottles and keg) for a revival of one of America's most famous (and exclusive) beers of the past, Ballantine Burton Ale.

    Of course, unlike the original which was blended by the "solera" method, it will not be long aged. The only two initial batches of 1934 and 1946 were aged from 5 - 22 years before bottling, which appears to have ended in 1966, 6 years before the brewery closed.

    In an AAB article by Lew Bryson, former Ballantine Head of Technical Dept., John Brzezinski (who later was a top executive at Lone Star, Pabst and the short-lived Heileman spin-off, Evansville, after leaving Ballantine) said the Burton Ale was simply the "best" batches of the IPA which were set aside in the 150 bbl. mammut-lined casks and further dry-hopped for many years, solera style. So, not an authentic "Burton Ale" by UIK standards, just based on an ale from Burton. This 11.3% / 75 IBUs does not seem to be either that Ballantine recipe nor a traditional UK Burton Ale - of course, like all "beer styles" UK Burton Ales varied greatly over the many decades the were brewed.

    Also, contrary to the implication on Pabst's rear label, the pre-Prohibition P. Ballantine & Sons (under the original Ballantine family ownership) also marketed a Burton Ale, which was probably a very different recipe.
    #1 jesskidden, Aug 20, 2015
    Last edited: Aug 20, 2015
  2. slander

    slander Poo-Bah (2,181) Nov 5, 2001 New York
    Moderator Society

    I think I am so okay with this.
  3. steveh

    steveh Poo-Bah (2,613) Oct 8, 2003 Illinois

    P. Ballantine & Sons, Cold Spring, MN? Don't suppose Merchant du Vin is handling distribution? :grinning:

    On a serious note, I sure would love to try this brew -- where the heck are they selling the new Ballantine stuff? I haven't seen it anywhere around Northeast Illinois.

    Whoa -- 11.3%?! Almost missed that.
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  4. jesskidden

    jesskidden Poo-Bah (1,970) Aug 10, 2005 New Jersey
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    Yeah, not sure. The intial batch(es) of Pabst's new Ballantine India Pale Ale went to the "Northeast" (I guess the still active thread has more specific info) but it seems to me that I've read of it being in Florida now (once a big market for Ballantine, supposedly they considered building a brewery there at one point). Supposedly they are now canning it, as well, but haven't seen them in NJ - at least, in the Pabst distributor Shore Point's region.
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  5. Fernsanity

    Fernsanity Initiate (0) Oct 19, 2013 Pennsylvania

    Is this the recipe that Ballantine handed to DFH? Or am I confusing two stories.
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  6. costanzo_mike

    costanzo_mike Meyvn (1,214) Jul 17, 2014 Massachusetts

    I'd definitely give this one a try (if it's in distro here in MA)
  7. jesskidden

    jesskidden Poo-Bah (1,970) Aug 10, 2005 New Jersey
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    The story I recall best - which was a dual interview with Caligione and Michael Jackson* - was simply that DFH's Burton Baton was merely a "tribute" to both Ballantine Burton Ale and the Burton-on-Trent brewing heritage.

    Since Pabst (inheritor of the Ballantine brands via having been purchased by S&P Corp. in the mid-'80s, parent company of Falstaff, which bought the Ballantine labels upon the brewery's demise in 1972) does not have the original India Pale Ale recipe it is unlikely DFH could have been "handed off" the BBA recipe more than three decades after the closing of P. Ballantine & Sons.

    * Can't find that article, but here's another one Dogfish Head Brewing Company Interview with Sam Calagione, in which Caligione says:
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  8. mwa423

    mwa423 Initiate (0) Nov 7, 2007 Ohio

    I want to try the Ballantine IPA, but it appears to have very little made and distributed, so I assume that this beer won't be any more available locally for me.
  9. norcalhophead

    norcalhophead Initiate (67) Jan 28, 2010 Wisconsin

    Ballantine IPA is now available everywhere in Southeastern WI - $8.99 for 6-pk is usual going rate.
  10. steveh

    steveh Poo-Bah (2,613) Oct 8, 2003 Illinois

    Really? I was just at Woodman's in Kenosha -- I wasn't really looking for it, but I thought they might have marketing or something. I'll definitely check in there for the Christmas Brew around the holiday season. Thanks for the insight!
  11. bowzer4birdie

    bowzer4birdie Poo-Bah (1,888) Aug 16, 2012 Illinois
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    I am up for this one! I suspect it won't make it's way here (Chicagoland) so Woodman's here we come :wink:
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  12. LuskusDelph

    LuskusDelph Aspirant (255) May 1, 2008 New Jersey

    Thanks for the shout out Jess...but I feel that I should in turn give props to @davecharlie0, who pointed me towards this surprising news.
    It will be very interesting indeed to see what Greg D. and Pabst have done with this latest re-boot, even if it does lack the long aging and the interesting (and unique) 'solera' aspect of the original.

    Rumor has it that a revival of Ballantine Porter may also be in the works.

    Nice to see that Pabst's new regime is getting serious about this great, old legacy brand after years of neglect. The India pale Ale they came up with was a certainly a respectable nod to the original, and a very good IPA by any standard.

    Ballantine in it's heyday was certainly too big to be considered "craft" (at least by the off-kilter standards held by most modern day über beer geeks), but their attitude in some ways seemed just as "craft" as some of the best smaller artisanal brewers around today. If the original company could have hung on for just 10 more years, they likely could have successfully expanded their specialty efforts and be a force to be reckoned with.
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  13. creepinjeeper

    creepinjeeper Defender (661) Nov 8, 2012 Missouri

    A tip of the hat to Pabst for resurrecting Balantine IPA, and now, this! Looking forward to getting to try another classic, if not semi-classic, beer. I might need the help of a certain excellent and unnamed, BA to try this one as well!
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  14. jesskidden

    jesskidden Poo-Bah (1,970) Aug 10, 2005 New Jersey
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    The problem that Pabst could be having with Ballantine IPA, as I see it from noticing the retail placement of the beer in numerous retailers (serviced by several different wholesale distributors) is that many retailers have stocked the IPA next to Ballantine XXX Ale, which, sadly (but probably deservedly so, considering the current version), is often shelved in isolation in the malt liquor/FMB area of the beer section - where many "craft" buyers don't shop (nor, probably, do the aging former Ballantine IPA drinkers many of whom have probably moved onto imports, macro lights or wine/spirits).

    And, the Pabst wholesale distribution network is unlike that of AB or MC in most parts of the country - doubt there are many if any "Pabst houses" left - and they are probably multi-brand distributors (almost all MC houses here in NJ) and the Pabst brands they are used to selling are the discount brands. I know when my local store asked about Ballantine India Pale Ale when it first hit the market from both the "craft" guy and the Pabst guy at the local MillerCoors (and Corona, Yuengling, Shiner, Sierra Nevada) house, he got "deer in the headlights" responses.
  15. sjverla

    sjverla Initiate (0) Dec 1, 2008 Massachusetts

    Sounds fun. Would be more fun if it was in the typical Pabst/Ballantine 16oz cans :grimacing:
  16. Pantalones

    Pantalones Devotee (450) Nov 14, 2014 Virginia

    This sounds like an interesting beer. I'd try it if I could find it -- I don't think I've ever seen anything with the Ballantine label on the shelves around here at all.
  17. Hop-Droppen-Roll

    Hop-Droppen-Roll Initiate (0) Nov 5, 2013 Minnesota

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  18. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (4,394) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    Have you heard any rumors of a Pre-Prohibition version of Pabst Blue Ribbon (Best Select)? Something like a circa 1893 Pabst Best Select beer?

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  19. bkov33

    bkov33 Initiate (142) Dec 5, 2007 New Jersey

    I wished they used the riddle caps that they use for XXX for the ipa and this
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  20. LuskusDelph

    LuskusDelph Aspirant (255) May 1, 2008 New Jersey

    I haven't...but that's something I'd love to taste.
    Frankly, I'd be happy even if they brought back the Bock beer they were making in the '60s & early/mid '70s (by '79 they had radically changed the recipe and it was awful for the last couple of years it was made). It was nothing like a German bock of course, but it had a really nice roasty character to it and it was a decent beer in it's time. It was clearly not just a caramel colored version of Blue Ribbon.
    My college friends during my couple of years in Storm Lake, Iowa 45 years ago (all Bud, Hamm's, and Stite drinkers) refused to even taste it and I was (or course) mocked mercilessly for not drinking "normal" beer. The supermarket manager in Storm Lake had in fact never even heard of it, and they started carrying it at my request every spring!:grinning: He later told me that it actually became a fairly popular item with some of the local old timers!
  21. The_Snow_Bird

    The_Snow_Bird Poo-Bah (1,730) May 7, 2015 Florida

    Any news on where this is going to be available
  22. asaf

    asaf Initiate (0) Aug 20, 2015 Florida

    Awesome! Does anybody know if they are distributing in Florida?
  23. chrismann65

    chrismann65 Initiate (144) Jan 25, 2015 Texas

    Anyone see this in Texas.? Please let me know,! Thanks...!!
    Love to try this one sounds GOOD...!!
  24. akrz47

    akrz47 Initiate (0) May 31, 2014 Massachusetts

    "...So, not an authentic "Burton Ale" by UIK standards, just based on an ale from Burton. This 11.3% / 75 IBUs does not seem to be either that Ballantine recipe nor a traditional UK Burton Ale..."

    [Dunno how to do partial quotes by phone] what way is this a *recreation* of the traditional Burton Ale?

    I don't typically automatically disclaim BMC and I didn't mind the last Ballantine, but they literally disclaim all relation to the original beer, yet say they're recreating it! I'd (and I hope WE'd) bash a craft brewer the same way!

    Let's stop the crap!
  25. jesskidden

    jesskidden Poo-Bah (1,970) Aug 10, 2005 New Jersey
    Society Trader

    :astonished:No one said it was. At this point, there has been no PR from Pabst on this new addition to their "Ballantine ale" line. The rear label only says their new BBA is a "...reincarnation of this (i.e., the 1930-60s Ballantine Burton Ale) rare brew."

    As I noted above, the UK Burton ales varied greatly and evolved over the century of so of their popularity - so, like most older beer styles, there is no one "authentic" recipe or set of specifications of the style. According to Cornell's Amber Gold & Black, most of the recent UK beers that most closely resemble Burton ale are not so labeled, but are often called old ale or barley wine. And the most notable UK beer labeled "Burton Ale" in recent memory, Ind Coope's Burton Ale in the 1970s, was an "...IPA-style strong bitter".

    The same complaint of a lack of authenticity compared to the original or classics of a style could be (and often is) made about most of the "craft" pilsners, cream ales and IPA's and many other styles. Beer styles evolve, they vary from brewer to brewer, era to era, consumer tastes change, and even "craft" brewers will pick style nomenclature for its marketing value rather than any faithful adherence to the beers of the past.

    This is the season for what is perhaps the most ridiculous example - the US "craft" pumpkin pie-spiced beers that claim to be based on Colonial era beverages which used pumpkin as a fermentable to make a beer-like beverage, not a spiced/flavored malt beverage.
    #25 jesskidden, Aug 21, 2015
    Last edited: Aug 21, 2015
  26. Roguer

    Roguer Poo-Bah (4,762) Mar 25, 2013 Georgia
    Moderator Society Trader


    Yes, they distribute in Florida. You can get Ballantine IPA (in cans, even!) at Total Wine. That doesn't mean, of course, that they will distribute this Burton Ale in all the same markets; if they haven't had any official press on it yet, then we'd be guessing as to volume and, therefore, if all of the same markets will see it as saw Ballantine IPA.

    I think it's a safe guess that the earliest markets to see Ballantine IPA will be able to find this when it comes out, though.

    I will definitely try it. However, I'd never heard of the original Ballantine Burton Ale, and aged and dry-hopped 5-22 years before! I don't know if I'd have liked it, but damn would I have liked to try it!
  27. lordofthemark

    lordofthemark Aspirant (225) Jan 28, 2015 Virginia

    Do the craft brewers claim theit pumpkin spice beers to be in the same style as colonial Era brewers made, or are they just offering a counter to the claim that pumpkin has nothing to do with beer?
  28. jesskidden

    jesskidden Poo-Bah (1,970) Aug 10, 2005 New Jersey
    Society Trader

    From Brooklyn Brewery, one of the east coast's oldest and most well-distributed pumpkin ales (they bought the brand in the 90's):

  29. jesskidden

    jesskidden Poo-Bah (1,970) Aug 10, 2005 New Jersey
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    Not sure when post-Repeal P. Ballantine & Sons dropped their bottled and kegged porter, sometimes labeled Extra Porter, from their portfolio but I've never seen mention of it in ads/articles/internal paperwork (receipts, etc) after WWII. It's always possible that, like many other "minor" beer styles from numerous brewers, it continued to be available in kegs on a limited basis.

    Falstaff did market a draught Ballantine Porter into the early 80s but, as this handmade correction to the entry for the beer suggests, it was replaced with Narragansett Porter at the GABF in 1982 (1983's GABF program lists only Ballantine IPA as Falstaff's lone beer at the fest). Narrangansett's was one of the few surviving bottled porters in pre-craft US and was even sold similarly to other survivors like Stegmaier and Yuengling - sold only in deposit bottles (below, center), often packed in standard label's shell with only a card or sign noting it contained the porter, not the AAL of the same brand. In the late 70s, during the US's great "beer awakening" Falstaff put some more effort into the 'Gansett porter, undating the label (below, right) and putting it in more consumer- and retailer-friendly sixpacks in throw-away bottles, etc.

    But, here's the thing - as I remember the Narragansett, it was sort of it between the two above mentioned PA porters- not as sweet as Steg but sweeter than Yuengling's. I don't remember it being as hoppy (or alcoholic) as that GABF description for Ballantine Porter. What the Ballantine Porter sounds like, to me, is the same brewery's Krueger Old Surrey Porter - which was still being brewed and kegged (never heard of it being bottled in Cranston), and sold in urban northeastern NJ bars into the 1970s. Narragansett, pre-Falstaff, had bought the brands of Ballantine's crosstown rival, Krueger, in 1961.

    Old Surrey was a very hoppy porter for the time and tasted to me like a dark version of Ballantine XXX Ale (and, given the times, I wouldn't be surprised if it was basically Ballantine Ale with porterine or some other brewing coloring agent).
    #29 jesskidden, Aug 21, 2015
    Last edited: Aug 21, 2015
  30. WillQC4Beer

    WillQC4Beer Initiate (0) May 1, 2014 Vermont

    I appreciate that they're reviving these beers, or paying tribute may be a better way of putting it but without the solera style method for this beer I feel it will only be a shadow of what it might have been and maybe shouldn't be redone at all.
  31. lordofthemark

    lordofthemark Aspirant (225) Jan 28, 2015 Virginia

    But apparently both those pumpkin ales are made with pumpkin and not just with spices.
  32. paulys55

    paulys55 Zealot (502) Aug 2, 2010 Pennsylvania

    I have to agree with this and in this case I probably won't go out of my way for this one only because I feel they are trying to capitalize on the history/fame of the original beer. If it was brewed in the same way (I realize this is not really possible) I would be all in.
  33. jesskidden

    jesskidden Poo-Bah (1,970) Aug 10, 2005 New Jersey
    Society Trader

    :astonished: I wrote nothing that implied those two beers didn't contain pumpkin only that both are flavored with " pumpkin pie- " and other spices and the brewers' websites suggest that is a Colonial era tradition in there description. I mean, c'mon - Brooklyn's Post Road = "Colonial Style Pumpkin Ale".

    There is no historic record of such beers --- well, not until 1985 (which may be considered ancient history by some :grinning:) when "Buffalo" Bill Owens used them to enhance his bland initial attempt at a pumpkin ale.
    from The True Story of the First Pumpkin Ale
  34. 5thOhio

    5thOhio Devotee (498) May 13, 2007 South Carolina

    I picked up a can of Ballentine's IPA recently in the Charlotte area. Thought it was awful.
  35. LuskusDelph

    LuskusDelph Aspirant (255) May 1, 2008 New Jersey

    LOL. 16 0z cans? For many years, the original Ballantine IPA was packaged in 7oz bottles!
    Of course, that was back in the days when there was a little more actual respect for a beer of 7.5%ABV.
    Oddly, nowadays a lot of folks actually lump 7.5% in the category of"session" strength.:astonished:
    Really? It's not for every taste and it doesn't quite capture the unique character of the original, but I don't think I've ever heard anyone describe it as 'awful'.
    Just out of curiosity...what exactly didn't you like about it??
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  36. tillmac62

    tillmac62 Poo-Bah (1,792) Oct 2, 2013 South Carolina
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    I tried Ballantine's IPA and thought it was outstanding...rated it 4.25.
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  37. nc41

    nc41 Poo-Bah (2,360) Sep 25, 2008 North Carolina
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    I can't find any Ballentine fresh enough I'll buy. Never had it, I keep checking but it's obvious it's a slow mover by the dates.
  38. scottakelly

    scottakelly Zealot (502) May 9, 2007 Ohio

    I just saw Ballantine IPA for the first time this morning here in Ohio. 8.99 a 6 pack. I had to try it. Nice beer, but not one I will likely buy again.
  39. Bitterbill

    Bitterbill Poo-Bah (7,078) Sep 14, 2002 Wyoming
    Society Trader

    I want some. I'd love to be able to taste it fresh!
  40. LuskusDelph

    LuskusDelph Aspirant (255) May 1, 2008 New Jersey

    I guess you would have really hated the original. It was a year or more old before they even bottled it to sell.:grinning:
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