They say…

Des de Moor
Best beer and travel writing award 2015, 2011 -- British Guild of Beer Writers Awards
Accredited Beer Sommelier
Writer of "Probably the best book about beer in London" - Londonist
"A necessity if you're a beer geek travelling to London town" - Beer Advocate
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Des de Moor

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White Shield Brewery (Coors) William Worthington’s White Shield

Originally published in What’s Brewing November 2005

Origin: Burton Upon Trent, Staffordshire, England
ABV: 5.6 per cent
Buy from supermarkets

Worthington White Shield was already a historic beer when CAMRA was founded in 1971. Then, it was one of only five bottle conditioned beers still in commercial production in the UK, only three of which are still around today.

It originated at Burton’s Worthington brewery in the 1820s as , a domestic interpretation of the new, clear and hoppy ales that were proving so successful in the export market. The White Shield name, from the brewery trademark, came later, and survived the 1927 takeover and closure of Worthington by neighbour and rival Bass, while the beer flourished as a nationally distributed brand.

Miraculously, it retained its traditional bottle conditioning, and in the 1960s and 1970s became a welcome beacon in many a keg-only pub, with its own special glass and the need for careful pouring contributing to a growing cult status. Another quirk was its capacity for bottle ageing, normally the preserve of much stronger beers – devotees swore by at least six months and some even talked of years.

The good times couldn’t last forever: during the 1990s White Shield weathered a move from the union sets and even out of Burton, finally moving to King & Barnes in Horsham who licensed the brand when Bass lost interest in 1997, only to be bought and closed themselves in 2000.

But White Shield survived, returning to Burton and to the working micobrewery in Bass’s museum, now the Coors Visitor Centre. It’s even enjoyed a modest marketing push, with a new label – though hardly an improvement on the traditional design which had survived almost unchanged for decades – and numerous supermarket listings. The Museum Brewery has even been renamed the White Shield Brewery.

All this disruption has inevitably led to complaints that White Shield ain’t what it used to be. In the absence of detailed notes on the old Bass-brewed version, I can’t offer a definite opinion on such claims, but White Shield remains a very good beer.

The beer pours a beautifully glowing golden-amber, with a smooth near-white head and a notably lively sparkle. There’s fruity malt, barley sugar, orange, spicy flowery hops and apple tones on the aroma. A slightly sweet biscuity malt palate has emerging rooty hop flavours with a trace of ginger nuts and cough candy: it’s substantial but still light and refreshing.

A creamy swallow leads to a tasty finish with more barley sugar and apple core, with peppery, lettuce-bitter hops emerging slowly but surely in a beautifully long development. This isn’t just a museum piece but a delicious contemporary classic: here’s to the next two centuries.

Read more about this beer at ratebeer.com: http://www.ratebeer.com/beer/worthington-white-shield/286/

7 comments to White Shield Brewery (Coors) William Worthington’s White Shield

  • The current W/S is distinctly superior to the K&B version which was a bit like any other of their bottled beers.

    The Original was a masterpiece, difficult to judge when ready to serve, quite a lottery to get it right but when on form totally unique. One often got a flat one which despite “throwing the beer” never poured right.

    Nose typically Burton with foaming head rising out of the bottle neck in a column- often up to an inch,

    Very difficult to pour properly, years of practice helped!Champagne style small bubbles working from the bottom of the glass, right to the last sip. Quite agressive on the palate with strong hopping but not in the current IPA style far more sublety and balance. Lasting aftertaste clean not yeasty.

    The only problem is that no one seems to stock it any more (Sainsbury, Waitrose etc) and whilst I’m so pleased it has survived in any form at all – why break with tradition and put that terrible label on it?

  • Des

    Thanks, Guy. I gather that there’s a bit of reorganisation going on at MolsonCoors in Burton, with the reopening of the brewing museum and the creation of a medium-sized specialist brewery, so hopefully when that settles down the beer will be easier to get hold of. MC now has a dedicated sales team for the specialist beers including White Shield. I have to say that earlier this year I did a blind tasting of previous Champion Bottled Beer of Britain winners for CAMRA with Jeff Evans and WS didn’t score particularly high, so the bottles are still unpredictable. Agree about the ghastly label — the old one would now look very striking and “retro” I think.

  • mark

    Weren’t some bottles produced with a glaring geographical mistake on the rear label to do with the Cape of good hope/Cape Horn ?

  • Samuel Fletcher

    Delighted to see White Shield on offer again. In the ’50’s undoubtedly the finest beer in the world.
    The present whilst excellent is not the same as the original that I drank in the ’50’s. That was more pale and quite heavily sedemented Extreme caution was required in decanting. It also had a quite copper taste and very much improved on ageing probably due to the sediment.
    Maybe further work will result in a nearer copy of the original which was absolute nectar. I can also say three bottles (half pint ) of the original was quite sufficient to make you quite merry !!
    SFC..Fletcher

  • Des

    Thanks for comment Samuel — though I don’t think White Shield’s ever actually been away. It moved around a bit at one point though.

  • Isabelle

    It is getting more difficult to get this beer south of the river, why?
    I’ve contacted both Sainsbury’s who used to sell it, now don’t, no reason given. Contacted Waitrose, the only stores that stock it and could deliver it are north of the river. Morrisons ran out of stock. The wholesaler who used to deliver it had problems with getting supplies from Coors. What is going on? We try and help the breweries by drinking their beer, but with the ever deminishing pubs, the drink driving and now hte final insult the fact that you can’t buy the beer you want. We are losing are British traditions and having to tolerate inferior beers.

  • John

    I bought a case of this soon after they started brewing it in the Bass Museum, about 15 years ago. It was fine. A year or more later, I found the rest of the case in the garage, where it had been subjected to extremes of heat and cold. By then, it was wonderful.

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