Searching for UK's oldest bottle of beer

12 January, 2007

Worthington White Shield and the Campaign for Real Ale have launched a national search for Britain's oldest bottle of beer after brewery workers discovered bottled beers dating back over 130 years in its vaults in Burton upon Trent.

Many of the beers were in fine condition with corks and wax seals in place, and they included commemorative ales brewed to celebrate royal marriages, visits and births - the oldest was an 1869 Harry Ratcliff's ale brewed to mark the birth of a son into the Ratcliff family, which eventually became part of the Bass, Ratcliff & Gretton brewing empire in the late 19th century.

Head brewer Steve Wellington said: "It was always rumoured that there were some vintage beers on site, but uncovering such an interesting collection is fantastic. Contrary to a widely held belief that beer cannot age for as long as wine, most of these bottles seem to have developed subtlety and complexity over the years."

Beer expert George Philliskirk said: "It has always been known that beers with higher alcohol levels normally age for far longer than less alcoholic beers and, as hops are a preservative, highly hopped beers such as India Pale Ales have long been known to have great ageing potential. This discovery is remarkable, especially as the oldest beer dates back to 1869 and tastes so fresh, with attractive ripe plum and honey flavours. This demonstrates the potential for vintage beers to be taken seriously."

If you have an unopened bottle of beer that dates back further than 1869, visit

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