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Classic Beer of the Month January 2016: Batemans XXXB

Batemans XXXB, 4.5%

The 1980s were troubling times for Batemans brewery.

Batemans XXXBA split among the family directors placed the Lincolnshire business in real jeopardy, with George Bateman needing to scrabble around for finance to buy out his two siblings and keep the brewery steaming.

Thankfully, he succeeded and Batemans remains a much-loved part of British brewing culture.

There were happier times during that dark decade, too, not least when the company’s XXXB claimed CAMRA’s Champion Beer of Britain title in 1986. Given the turmoil that had recently embroiled the brewery, the news was warmly welcomed.

XXXB first appeared in the pages of the Good Beer Guide in 1978 as the brewery began to widen its portfolio of beers.

With an original gravity of 1.048, giving an ABV of around 4.8%, it was described as a ‘heavy malty ale’ in those days and it still has a prominent malt profile today, although the ‘heaviness’ has been toned down in recent years with some changes to the recipe.

Tried and Tested

To cater for wholesalers and distributors who wanted fewer beers above 4.5%, XXXB was made a touch weaker five years ago, head brewer Martin Cullimore testing various adjustments on internal and external tasting panels before arriving at the beer that is on sale today.

XXXB is composed of pale malt, crystal malt, wheat malt and also some chocolate malt that was added to the grist in 2005. Invert sugar used to be part of the recipe but that has given way to an all-malt brew these days. The hops are Challenger, Golding and Bobek.

The result is a deep amber ale, with a malty, spicy aroma. Malt leads in the taste, which is bittersweet overall and rather dry, with a little pepper and the distinctive Batemans banana-chip note, derived from the action of the yeast.

The finish is key to all beers and XXXB’s doesn’t disappoint. It is notably dry and bitter, to make it moreish, but at no time is it harsh or aggressive.

It’s the sort of beer you’d happily sink a few pints of – raising a glass, at the same time, to the survival of the business.

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