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How I Created … Batemans Victory Ale

Batemans Victory Ale, 6%
by Martin Cullimore

I have been a professional brewer since 1976 and head brewer at Batemans since February 1985. My passion is brewing beers that people enjoy drinking. It gives me great pleasure to see my creations appreciated by others.

Martin Cullimore, BatemansOf all the beers I have brewed over the decades, Victory Ale remains one of my favourites. There are many reasons why, but mainly because it is a great beer.

It all came about when George Bateman asked me in 1986 to brew a beer to celebrate the fact that George and his immediate family had won control from other members of the Bateman family who wanted to sell off the business, a move that would, in all probability, have resulted in the closure of the brewery.

George gave me a free hand to produce what I wanted and I did not want to let him down so, to celebrate the continued independence of Batemans brewery (which also coincided with the tenth Norwich beer festival for which we brewed a bottle-conditioned version of this beer), I created Victory Ale.

I wanted to produce a distinctive, yet traditional, strong pale ale. I found that beers of this strength often had sherry-like flavour characteristics but I wanted a strong pale ale with a more mellow flavour. I therefore chose my ingredients carefully.

Pale ale malt from East Anglia (currently we use Flagon barley) blended with 5% crystal malt to give an amber hue to the beer.

The hops came from the Teme Valley in Worcestershire (and still do). This is a single-hop beer and I chose Golding. This imparts a spicy or peppery flavour.

Batemans Yeast

The beer is fermented in open squares, which, like all fermenting vessels bring their own character to the beer, because of the way the yeast works in this environment.

Batemans Victory AleWe deliberately brewed Victory Ale to highlight the pear-drop notes produced naturally by the Batemans yeast, which is a top-fermenting, highly-flocculent strain selected by me to suit the Batemans fermentation system, yeast collection and re-pitching procedures. I isolated it from the multi-strain yeast Batemans had used previously.

Following primary fermentation, the beer is matured at 12ºC for three days, then for up to six weeks at between 0ºC and 5ºC, before being racked into cask or sent for bottling.

The result is a dangerously drinkable 6.0% alcohol by volume beer that slips down too easily to be safe and has won numerous awards.

It is a quaffable beer for one so strong. The hop character is noticeably spicy and balances the sweetness from the malt. The yeast imparts orange and pear-drop notes to both the aroma and the taste.

From the start, it had the taste I was looking for and expecting – a mellow yet powerful flavour yet very drinkable.

Victory Ale may have been a celebration beer but, nearly thirty years after launching, it is still available all year-round in both cask and bottle. The artwork today may suggest connections with Nelson and Trafalgar, but the beer really commemorates an important victory of another kind.

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