So I was in Burton Public Library, researching the IPA book, and I found something else interesting – in 1852 and 1875, Britain sent expeditions to the North Pole. And being British, they took beer with them. There was a public tencder to see who could brew the best beer, which was won by Allsopp’s of Burton on Trent.
The expedition’s leader, Captain Belcher reported that “Allsopp’s Arctic Ale proved to be “a valuable antiscorbutic”, helping fight off scurvy, the bane of all sea voyages in those days. He added that the beer was “a great blessing to us, particularly for our sick” and that it refused to freeze until the temperature dropped well below zero.
According to historian Colin Owen, the beer withstood temperatures of 90 degrees below freezing without a detioration in quality, “a reminder of the superb keeping qualities of Burton ale.” But I don’t think they expected it to keep for quite this long…
Last month, some guy with an antiques and Militaria shop in the US put a bottleof Allsopp’s Arctic Ale on EBay. A bottle made it to the United States in the early twentieth century, and is now believed to be the oldest surviving bottle of beer in the world. It comes with a laminated description that tells its own story about the US in 1919…
“This ale was specially brewed and bottled in England, in 1852, for Kane’s Expedition in search of Sir John Franklin. A portion of the lot was cached in the Arctic; and was afterwards taken back to England, where it was bought by Allsopp, from whom Mr. Jus. Fennell obtained a part.
This bottle was given to me by Mr. Fennell May 13, 1919. Should I depart from this (by that time probably) dry world before consuming the contents, let my son and brethren perform my duties and enjoy my rights in that respect, on the eve of my funeral (if they find it in time) – unless such act be then illegal, in which case those of the aforesaid trustees who sufficiently learned in law shall advise ac-????? To the rule of ey fares.
Two bottles of this ale were guests of honor at the banquet given to Shackleton and Peary, in Boston, some years ago. (1907/1908) The skeletons of said guests were preserved as mementos of Sir John Franklin! (Useful suggestion regarding the “cast off shell” of the spirit.)
Signed: Percy G Bolster
So what was the closing bid on this item?
A cool $503,300.00…