The first, Windsor & Eton’s 7.2% Magna Carta, I bought in the brewery shop at one of their Knight Club events – a friend was a member and invited me along. It’s an interesting beer – a barley wine, but with the herb and spice mix known as Gruit as well as hops, and based on a recipe by a keen homebrewer local to Windsor, who then helped mash-in the commercial brew. And while it was brewed in 2014, with a few samples escaping that year, its proper release was in 2015 to mark 800 years of the eponymous Great Charter.
The second is a sad reminder of the days when, thanks to the Single Market, brewing across country boundaries wouldn’t have generated the paperwork it would today. Although badged, and I believe bottled, by Shepherd Neame, this 10% Barley Wine was actually brewed in Sweden, as a collaboration with Sigtuna Brygghus.
So what of my ageing experiment so far? It’s telling, perhaps, that the stronger beer survived better, although it may of course also be that Shep’s longer experience with bottling had a part to play. There's also the fact that the Sheps beer was in a presentation box, which explains why its crown cap was pristine, unlike the rusted and dusted WEBrew one.
Anyway, I know I’ve a few even older bottles that need opening – mostly Fuller’s Vintage Ales – so I will continue to investigate!