Caught by the River

(A Polar) Pint by the River

17th February 2012

by Roger Clapham

The 17th January 2012 was the centenary of Captain Robert Falcon Scott’s arrival at the South Pole, a well documented story of courage and hardiness alongside epic failure – Scott beaten to the Pole by the Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen and ultimately perishing in the icy wastes only 12 miles from the safety of his food store. When news of Scott’s death reached England and the rest of the world a year later national pride swelled in his name, yet the British were of course gracious in defeat – Amundsen was welcomed in London later in 1913. The world has of course moved on, and at the South Pole today a modern scientific research station stands in the wilderness where Scott and his companions once trudged, but the story and the centenary of Scott’s last expedition has inspired a couple of brewers to produce beers in his memory (not to mention donating some of the profits from these beers to charities linked to Scott’s expedition).

First up is Admirals Centenary Bitter – a very traditional ale (none of those extreme hop flavourings here) that’s much lighter coloured than you might expect. It’s smooth with a sweetness that overtakes the bitterness you’d expect in the beer, although not in extreme measures. Essentially, it’s a strong version of a classic session ale – you notice the 4.8% strength in the sweetness – but I think it’d be ideally suited to that sustained, carefree and unrushed drinking a quiet afternoon can bring.

Our second beer is Dartmoor Brewery’s Spirit of Scott, a 4.4% bottle conditioned ale brewed in Devon (where Scott was born). Whilst this is another traditional beer, it tastes very much like a modern premium best bitter, with a hint of fruity hops, but not so much as to suggest any floweriness. The malt flavours are to the fore with this one, but it’s very well balanced and my pick of the two beers here – a solid, honest, russet brown beauty and one of the best bottle-conditioned beers I’ve had in some time. Smashing.

I’d suggest you would need to go to a specialist retailer or online to get hold of either of these beers, but both of them are worth seeking out (for the charitable donations any purchases would create at the very least). Quite what Scott and his companions would make of these beery tributes though is anyone’s guess – they weren’t big drinkers themselves, which explains the perfectly preserved bottles of booze that have been recovered from their camps. Personally in that cold I’d have had the lot before departing the ship but regardless, I raise my now half-empty glass to them – their feats being worthy of a toast in anyone’s book.

A big thank you to CBTR reader Duncan Lawie for putting me on to these beers – cheers Duncan.

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