Back in the late 18th century, when the East India Company were regularly making the six-month ship trip from London to India, they came encountered a problem: all their Pale Ales and Bitters were going bad only a couple of months into the journey. Of course, this was catastrophic! Imagine coming to the end of a long haul sail, your ship stocked high with booze, only to discover upon docking that none of it was drinkable. Like thinking about a cold, frosty pint all day, only to get to the pub to find all they are serving is lemonade. After some experimenting they found that heavily hopping their beers not only made them last longer but actually made them taste better. The flavour of the beer even improved over the duration of the commute! “Guys! What shall we call this Pale Ale that we’re taking to India?” “India Pale Ale?” thus the world revered IPA was born.
The style of IPA has developed over the centuries to become the ephemeral, hazy, tropical fruit tasting juice bombs we now know and love; pretty much the opposite of the hardy liquid the E.I.C. were lugging about the globe half a year at a time. So the good people at Gipsy Hill decided to go back to the roots of the style and emulate the choppy six-month seafaring affair of ye olde IPA’s testing journeys… on the Thames… with City Cruises.
They brewed up a traditional IPA and chucked it in an assortment of barrels (Bourbon, Sherry, Red Wine and White Wine) made by Britain’s last master cooper then popped them on a fleet of City Cruises bumbling up and down the Thames, whilst the beer gently rocked and aged itself to the delightful liquid we now have on our shelves.
Wooden Ships is a strong beer with warm malty flavours and gentle caramel over-tones. I would gladly drink this for six months straight… not sure if it would help my navigation skills though…
Loick Tyson is the manager of Jeroboams Heath Street, and an avid beer enthusiast. He blogs at prephylloxera.blogspot.com