So what happened to it? One of the most famous examples of it still being brewed, although the name has changed. Bass No. 1 Barley Wine was understood at the time to have been a Burton ale, although it is the name barley wine, not Burton ale which has endured the test of time, an example of the twists and turns a style can take. So it lives, but only in the shadows. Carslberg Tetley, the corporate conglomerate holding the Ind Coope brand brews a Draught Burton under that name, although at 4.8 % alcohol it would be hard to say it was more than a ghost of its former self.
So let’s get brewing. We’ll be making a mid 19th century version with a nod to the past in the form of a little amber malt for color and flavor. Water for Burton ale is (you guessed it) the famous hard sulfate water of Burton. If you are schooled in water chemistry calculations, by all means go ahead and calculate I out, but most of us can get by with a couple or three teaspoons of gypsum tossed in the hot liquor tank before brewing.
The ingredients should be should be of the highest quality, a notion that was always stressed whenver brewing this beer was discussed in the old books. One of the premium English varietal pale malts such as Maris Otter is called for, although tolerable beer can be produced from any English pale ale malt. Amber (aka biscuit) malt is available, although every homebrew shop might not stock it. If you’re really in a pinch, you can roast it yourself, Moisten the malt first, then roast at 300°F for a half an hour or so, or until it develops a pale orangish color inside and a luscious nutty toastiness starts to fill the kitchen. Do this a week or two in advance to allow harsh flavors to mellow. East Kent Goldings are the hop of choice. We’ll be lowering the quantities based on the assumption of some agricultural improvements over the last 150 years.