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How I Created …

Wimbledon Quartermaine IPA, 6%
by Derek Prentice

To place the creation of Quartermaine into context, I first need to refer back to beers that inspired me and helped shape my ideas earlier in my career.

Derek PrenticeWhile I was working at the London brewery of Truman’s in the late 1960s and early ’70s, its brewery in Burton produced an export pale ale called Ben Truman Pale Ale. Strongish (over 5% ABV), this quite highly-hopped ale had a warm golden colour with a very slight green tinge.

It was bulk transported to London for bottling and the unprocessed beer tasted delicious.

Sadly – in line with the practice and technology of the day – we would chill, filter, bottle and tunnel-pasteurise the beer with little knowledge or technology to measure elements such as dissolved oxygen (DO) and the final packaged beer held little comparison to the beer we had received.

My brewing colleagues from Burton also introduced me to Worthington’s White Shield that came from a great tradition of bottle-conditioned Burton IPAs. These beers were unpasteurised and the yeast present had the magical ability to help retain the fresh flavours of the beer.

White Shield became my go-to bottled beer and the memory of these great Burton IPAs remained with me as an inspirational brewing ambition. 

Young's Export

I joined the brewing team at Young’s in 1989. I knew its cask-conditioned beers very well, being both a south Londoner and keen consumer of cask ales. What I was not so aware of, though, was a bottled beer named Young’s Export.

This was a relatively small volume, bottled, strong (6.5% ABV), highly-hopped pale ale originally brewed for the Belgian market. It was also exported to the US under the brand name Special London Ale.

The aroma, flavour and appearance very much reminded me of the Burton IPAs and rekindled my ambition to recreate a bottle-conditioned, British-style IPA.

By this stage, brewers were far more aware of high levels of DO in beer and its effect on flavour degradation, and we now had the instruments to enable us to measure and control it during beer processing and packaging.

In addition, Young’s had a sterile filtration option for bottled beer, which was much better than pasteurisation for retaining a fresh flavour and, during this period, we were also trialling different methods of dry hopping, enabling us to enhance the already quite prodigious hop aroma and flavour of the beer.

I discussed the possibility of trials to bottle condition Young’s Export with our head brewer Ken Don and my packaging colleague Rob Storey, and we initially produced a small volume in the laboratory using a kräusen technique (the addition of some young fermenting beer before bottling, to provide more fermentable sugars and yeast).

This convinced us we should progress to a larger trial but, despite a very positive view taken by all who tried it – particularly approving of the way the beer stayed fresh for much longer – we could not convince our sales and marketing colleagues to market it in the UK.

Young’s was, however, very active in the export market, particularly to the US. Craft beer was exploding there at the time (the late ’90s) and our export agent agreed that the bottle-conditioned beer we had developed would be good to ship over, under a rebranded Young’s Special London Ale label.

Following a successful launch of the beer in the US, as well as a few positive reviews from beer writers (Jeff Evans included!) and some success in beer competitions, our team agreed to market the beer in the UK. I am pleased to say that it is still available, albeit now brewed in Bedford by Marston’s.

Fuller's and Beyond

When Young’s closed its Wandsworth brewery in 2006, I was fortunate enough to take on a brewing position at Fuller’s. The sales team there were looking to produce a bottle-conditioned IPA for a supermarket, so we were asked to prepare some samples.

In the end, Fuller’s couldn’t agree terms with the supermarket, but the samples had attracted attention and positive feedback. Luckily, another export opportunity came up in Scandinavia for a bottle-conditioned, British-style IPA, so the samples from our trial were sent and, pleasingly – despite being nearly a year old by this time – were selected.

Following the export launch of this beer as Fuller’s IPA, it was decided by the sales and marketing team to launch the beer in UK with a more exciting brand name and image. Bengal Lancer was born.

In 2015, I joined Mark Gordon to bring brewing back to Wimbledon and, from the start, we wanted to pay tribute to the original Wimbledon Brewery, which was destroyed by fire in 1889.

One of the beers we decided to have in the portfolio was a strong, bottle-conditioned IPA. We discussed names and that of William Quartermaine, who was one of the owners of the original brewery, cropped up.

Wimbledon Quartermaine‘Quartermaine’ seemed a fitting name for an IPA, combining a degree of Britishness with the exotic, if you relate it to the main character, Allan Quartermain, in Rider Haggard’s King Solomon’s Mines and other novels. 

The very hop-forward style of IPA, brewed using US hop varieties that have distinctive and pronounced aromas and flavours, had become popular by this time but I was keen to brew a beer more reminiscent of those Burton IPAs, where I you can ‘hear the whole orchestra’ in terms of flavour and character, where the malt, hops, yeast, water and method all have a place and a role to play in the final beer.

I pretty much knew how I wanted Quartermaine to be: just over 6% ABV, bottle conditioned, brewed from Maris Otter malt, ale yeast, English hops and high sulphate water.

Alongside the Maris Otter I used a little CaraGold malt, which adds a little fruit and body to the final beer, while the hops I chose for the initial copper hopping were Fuggle and Golding.

Goldings were then added in the hopnik – a vessel that channels the boiling wort through a bed of whole leaf hops, to boost the hop aroma – and finally more Goldings and Target were used for dry hopping.

Quatermaine is not a million miles from the beers I have made in the past, but the recipe and process have needed to be adapted for the brewhouse I helped to design at Wimbledon, including the use of the hopnik.

That adaptation has continued with the bottling as we don’t package ourselves. Overall though, I’m very pleased with the results.

I find the initial palate expresses spiced orange notes and, balanced with spritzy carbonation, the beer finishes with crisp hop bitterness, leaving a satisfying mouthfeel and the desire for another. It’s become a mainstay of the Wimbledon range and has won many plaudits and a few awards, too.

Rose-tinted glasses are a wonderful thing, and the past is quite difficult to recreate, but I hope we have come close. The day that you’re 100% happy with a beer you’ve created is the day you retire – and I’m not quite ready to stop yet.

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