Do you remember the Burtons of the 1930s? If so, you undoubtedly recall the iconic "Old Burton Extra", a full-bodied beer with 7.4 percent alcohol by volume. Though it may not have been as powerful as Barclay's KKKK, OBE was certainly no slouch and remained popular until 1969. Learn more about the story of this classic beer and the times that shaped its unique taste.
Fuller's brewery produced two beers in the 1930s - Burton Old and Old Burton Extra. Both were highly popular within the region and received positive reviews from the locals. However, while Burton Old slowly began to decline in popularity after World War II, Old Burton Extra persisted until it was eventually retired in 1969. Even though OBE didn't quite have the same alcohol content as the more popular KKKK from Barclay, it still had a strong and potent flavor with 7.4 percent alcohol by volume.
Prior to its production in the 1930s, Burton Old and Old Burton Extra were both part of a long history of traditional English beers in Burton upon Trent. Initially, the process by which these beers were brewed mostly stayed the same, with the most notorious change being the addition of new hops that were from the region.
After being marketed, the beers began to enter phases of exponential growth. Interestingly, Burton Old saw much more success than Old Burton Extra, as it had an alcohol content of 8.3 percent. Despite this, Buron Extra eventually gained quite a bit of traction as it began to be popular with the locals.
To gain a properly brewed beer, local water had to be used during the brewing process. Generally, the found water was already lower than average in terms of alkalinity, which enabled brewers to create beers that had a more bitter and intense taste.
When creating Old Burton Extra, Ralph Sutton added ammonium sulfate to the mix, which caused a higher degree of protein extraction from the malt. This enabled the flavor, smell, color, and other aroma characteristics to become more intense.
Additionally, Sutton utilized gypsum, which added calcium, sulfates, and sodium to the water. This further helped release the malt's soluble proteins, which in turn created a high-alcohol beer.
The hops used to craft Old Burton Extra included:
Fuggles was the most popular option in the region, and was mainly used for its distinctive aroma and flavor. Target hops was grown mostly in the United Kingdom, and was used for its high bittering value. East Kent Goldings, a famous English hop, was utilized for its earthy and aromatic flavors.
Despite initially being a refreshment option only popular with the local population, Burton Old and Old Burton Extra began to increase in popularity in the 1930s. In fact, the beers got so popular that they approached mainstream status. However, this popularity quickly began to decline after World War II, as the sales of other beers began to rapidly increase in the region.
Unfortunately, Old Burton Extra was unable to keep up with the rise in competition and, in 1969, the beer was finally retired. Even though it was mostly the lack of sales that caused its retirement, the continuous availability of cheaper, mass-manufactured beers is believed to have been an even bigger factor.
Old Burton Extra was a highly celebrated beer in the 1930s that quickly began to decline in popularity after World War II. The beer, like other traditional English beers, utilized local water and hops to craft its distinctive flavor. Unfortunately, the surge of newer and cheaper beers caused OBE to struggle until its eventual retirement in 1969.