Ballantine Burton Ale

It was in Newark that the legend of Ballantine Burton Ale was born. Famous for the reputably excellent Ballantine IPA, the brewers at Newark made a special beer for private distribution. This beer was brewed to a very high gravity and designed for long periods of maturation in oak tanks. A limited bottling every Fall would be released to employees and friends of the brewers as gifts for the holiday. The special label (examples of which are periodically available on ebay) lists the date the beer was brewed, bottled, and the person for whom the gift was intended.

According to Fred Eckhardt in an interview I conducted several years ago, the Burton Ale was a very strong beer of unknown gravity, with over 60 IBU’s of bitterness and a lengthy period in the wood. Eckhardt suggests that this beer has its roots prior to prohibition. This is a sensible assumption. As Ballantine dated its origins in Newark to 1840, it is not hard to imagine the brewery tapping into the old New England tradition of strong stock ale. The Burton Ale can be viewed as a fostering of this tradition, perhaps one of the last remaining examples.

(This article includes an actual tasting and further comments.)