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Maybe a Burton, but not a good one

McEwan's Champion -- a Burton or Scottish Ale

Both Martyn ‘Zythophile’ Cornell and Ron ‘No Internet Pseudonym’ Pattinson are enthusiastic drinkers and historians of Burton, a type of beer once popular, surviving examples of which are hard to find. Where it does survive, it’s usually under a name like Winter Warmer.

Largely through their repeated cheerleading, we’ve come to be mildly obsessed with Burton too. When, in a recent post, Zythophile described McEwan’s Champion as “a truly excellent Edinburgh Ale/Burton Ale”, we got a touch excited: a Burton available in supermarkets up and down the land? For not many pennies? Yes please!

The reason we’d never tried it before was an assumption that it would be ‘trampagne’ (© VIZ comic) — a strong, acrid, sugary beer whose 7.3% abv strength is its prime selling point. We can now report that it is not exactly that. It is an interesting beer and one we derived some enjoyment from drinking.

It is complex in the sense that there were flavours and aromas we struggled to identify. We liked smelling and tasting something like butter shortbread and the incredible, long-lasting bitterness. Unfortunately, not all of the associations were so pleasant. Was that a whiff of bottom-of-the-wheely-bin? Rotting orange peel? Drains? By the last dregs, with a cardboard dryness asserting itself, the phrase that sprang to mind was “souped up John Smith’s”.

But we will certainly try it again because we suspect our bottle was stale (and not in the sense that it had been carefully aged by a nineteenth century pub landlord or brewer).