Ale revived after 200 years

ALE-drinkers at a village pub could soon be enjoying a rare drop – a recipe untried in this country for nearly 200 years. Bob Mitchell, landlord of The Chequers at Little Gransden, has revived a traditional ale recipe to brew a batch of Chequers Ale, pro

ALE-drinkers at a village pub could soon be enjoying a rare drop - a recipe untried in this country for nearly 200 years.

Bob Mitchell, landlord of The Chequers at Little Gransden, has revived a traditional ale recipe to brew a batch of Chequers Ale, produced using spelt (a species of wheat), autumn honey and the rare fruit from the wild service tree, also known as the chequers tree.

He has brewed the ale in the microbrewery at his pub, after sourcing the trees that gave his pub its name in nearby Brampton Wood.

"It's probably the first time in 200 years that this type of ale has been made in this country," said Mr Mitchell, whose family has owned the pub for 60 years. "We've had to experiment with the recipe as we've gone along, because there's no exact record of it.

"It's a very distinctive taste, with the smoothness of the honey, the fruitiness of the berries and a sharpness to it as well.

"I'm the only person to have tasted it in two centuries - and I'm still standing - but everyone else will have to wait until April to try it."

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Mr Mitchell has chosen St George's Day to release the 700-bottle batch to the public, a fitting date for a beer with so much history and heritage.

"It's a true English ale, brewed in a true English way, with a true English history," he said.

"If this first brew is a success, we'll look into making it a regular thing and producing it every year. But it's an old-fashioned autumn ale, so it needs the right ingredients at the right time of year."

Mr Mitchell has bought several wild service trees to plant in the pub garden for future batches of Chequers Ale, and will be sending three beers to the Booze on the Ouse in St Neots from March 18 to 20.

INFORMATION: Centuries ago, wild service tree berries were used to flavour the alcoholic drink named chequers, traditionally used treat colic and dysentery.

The drink may have taken its name from the symbol for a drinking house in ancient Egypt, the chequer board, which could account for the popularity of The Chequers as a pub name.

The wood from the tree was recognised for its durability, and was used in the Middle Ages for crossbow stocks and in the 19th century for gun stocks.

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