Month: July 2015

British Beer and Arctic Exploits

The British have a proud tradition of brewing beer and exploring the North and South Poles. These endeavours are linked through history in more ways than you might imagine, as shown by the recent auction of a beer brewed especially for an Arctic expedition.

Allsopp’s Artic Ale was brewed in Burton-upon-Trent, Staffordshire for an expedition led by Sir George Strong Nares in 1875. This was not the first time this ale would accompany explorers travelling to the arctic.

Ale was instrumental to long sea voyages as it contains vitamin C and stores well. The Arctic Ale was brewed by Samuel Allsopp & Sons, founded in the early Eighteenth century by Benjamin Wilson. His son Benjamin sold the floundering business to his nephew, Samuel Allsopp in 1807.

This period was marked by an economic downturn in Britain caused by a blockade ordered by Napoléon Bonaparte. His Berlin Decree of 1806 forbade any continental trade with Britain, reducing British exports by over 50%. The blockade ended in 1814 when, after losing the Battle of Leipzeig, he was exiled to the tiny island of Elba, some 12 miles of the coast of Tuscany.

Arctic Ale was first brewed to accompany an expedition to the Arctic led by Rear-Admiral Sir John Franklin. Franklin’s expedition left in 1845 and aimed to chart the famous North-west Passage, linking the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. Unfortunately, this ended in failure and the ships and participants were lost. Franklin became a national hero and Queen Victoria ordered that the expedition party must be found.

Arctic Ale was brewed again to supply ships led by Sir Edward Belcher in 1851, seeking to discover what had befallen the Franklin expedition. A young George Nares served as Second Mate on one of the ships. Belcher failed to find anything and returned to England after three hard years of searching.

Arctic Ale was again brewed to accompany Leopold McClintock in 1857 in another failed attempt to discover the Franklin expedition. He returned with only a note detailing the fate of the expedition, discovered on an island close to where Franklin’s ships became icebound and foundered.

In 1875 Arctic Ale would accompany Nares to The North Pole.

Nares had already made a name for himself as something of a maverick. In November 1869 he took his survey ship, the Newport, into the Gulf of Suez via the newly opened Suez Canal. The French Imperial yacht L’Aigle was officially the first vessel to pass through the canal, however Nares’ ship was actually the first to do so. On the night before it was due to open he navigated Newport through the long queue of moored ships in total darkness and without lights. In the morning, the crew of L’Aigle were mortified to find that the Royal Navy had a ship in front of them and there was nothing they could do about it. Nares received an official reprimand from the Admiralty for causing a diplomatic incident. He was also promoted to Captain for his superb seamanship and for increasing Britain’s seafaring prestige.

Nares did not manage to reach the North Pole. However he became the first explorer to take his ships through the channel between Ellesmere Island and Greenland to the Lincoln sea. This passage is now called the Nares Strait in his honour. His name also graces a small island in Northern Greenland called Nares Land, and Nares County in Australia’s Queensland state.

Some 140 years later, a bottle of beer from his final Arctic expedition was discovered by Trevanion and Dean auctioneer Aaron Dean in a box in the garage of a house in Gobowen, Shropshire. Nobody knows why it was there. On the 13th of June 2015 it was auctioned for £3,300! Quite a lot for beer perhaps but certainly one steeped in history.

However, this bottle was not the first sold at auction. As a final twist in this tale, in 2007 a bottle from Belcher’s 1851 expedition was listed on eBay. Unfortunately this bottle of Allsopp’s was listed as “Allsop’s Arctic Ale”, and fetched $304. The buyer then relisted it with the correct spelling and 76,464 views and 157 bids later it sold for $503,300 (£325,000).

As spelling mistakes go, thats pretty costly!

Image is “George Nares“. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

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Summer Drinks

Summer’s here! With heatwaves forecast for July, why not stock up your drinks cabinet ready to make some fabulous summer cocktails.

Here are our summer favourites. Perfect to sip around the pool, at a barbecue or while enjoying the sunshine in the garden.

Port Tonic

Ingredients

Simply fill a glass with ice. Add a measure of White Port and top with tonic water. Stir to mix. Garnish with a lime wedge and enjoy.

While Port is also fantastic on its own just poured over ice. For more information on White Port, check out our previous post here.

Kir Royale

Ingredients (serves 6)

  • 6 tablespoons of Creme de Cassis
  • 1 Bottle of Champagne (we recommend Deutz Brut Classic Champagne)
  • Strips of tangerine or orange zest to garnish

Pour 1 tablespoon of Creme de Cassis into each glass. Fill with Champagne and garnish with zest. Serve immediately.

Summer Fruit Rose Sangria

Ingredients

  • Handful of blueberries
  • Handful of blackberries
  • Handful of hulled strawberries
  • Handful of raspberries
  • 1 tablespoon of fine sugar
  • 5 tablespoons of Framboise
  • 1 bottle of chilled rose wine (we recommend Cantina Campagnola Bardolino Chiaretto Classico)
  • 10fl oz white cranberry juice

In a large jug, combine the fruit and stir in the sugar. Add the Framboise and allow to rest for 1 hour. Add in the wine and cranberry juice and serve chilled.

Classic Bellini

Ingredients

Add the peach puree to the bottom of a chilled champagne flute. Fill the glass halfway with prosecco and stir well. Allow the froth to settle and top up with prosecco.

Enjoy Your Summer!

Hope you enjoy your summer and these drinks recipes.

To help you do just that you can enjoy 10% off all orders placed through our online shop – just enter code SUMMER2015 at the checkout*.

* Offer applies to all orders (excluding delivery) placed before midnight on 31st July 2015.

Image by Evan Swigart from Chicago, USA (Sangria) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Happy Birthday To Us!

We can’t believe how the time flies – but it’s our birthday!

As ever, we are extremely grateful to all of our Twitter followers, facebook friends, inseparable instagrammers, pintrest playmates, googleplus pals, blogger buddies, wordpress well-wishers, LinkedIn luminaries, tumblr chums and of course, our lovely customers.

Without you, we couldn’t do what we do. We’d be nothing.

So to say thank you – here’s 10% off all our wonderful wines, super champagnes, phenomenal ports and amazing accessories. Just enter the code SUMMER2015 at the checkout.

Sadly, just as birthdays come to an end, so must this offer. Code valid on all purchases made before 31st July 2015.

Cheers!

Champagne

Let’s Raise A Toast To Champagne!

What do two wine producing regions in France, a victorian railway bridge and a botanical garden have in common?

It may sound like the start of a joke, but it’s not. They have all been recently awarded ‘World Heritage Status” by UNESCO.

UNESCO is the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation and is a specialised agency of the United Nations system. The organisation was created in 1946 with the aim of ‘building defences of peace in the minds of men.’

The World Heritage List was first published in 1978. The idea was to list places on Earth that were of outstanding universal value to humanity. To secure a place on the list a site must be of special cultural or physical significance. The sites listed are intended to be protected for future generations to appreciate and enjoy. The first list from 1978 contained 12 protected monuments and included the Galapagos Islands and Aachen Cathedral. At present there are over 1,000 sites listed split over 163 states.

In July 2015 the latest additions to the UNESCO list were announced and among the winners were the wine producing regions of Champagne and part of Burgundy, the Forth Bridge in Scotland and Singapore’s botanical gardens.

UNESCO said that the Champagne status covered “the places sparkling wine was developed using a second fermentation method in the bottle from the beginning of the 17th century until its early industrialisation in the 19th century”. Special mention was made of Hautvilliers, where legend has it that, Dom Perignon invented Champagne. For more information on why we celebrate with Champagne check out our blog post here.

In Burgundy, the vineyards on the slopes of the Cote de Nuits and the Cote de Beaune, which sit to the south of Dijon were marked out for World Heritage Status. These vineyards produce pinot noir and chardonnay grapes, which are then used to produce some of the finest red wines in the world.

UNESCO have helpfully produced an app listing all of the World Heritage Status Sites  – albeit that it needs to be updated to include the newest additions to the list. Using the app, it’s possible to tick off the Sites you’ve visited. So, that means 24 down for us, just 1,007 to go!

Image by Vassil (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons