A beer with a dash of malmsey

A new craft beer aged in casks of malmsey named after the Duke of Clarence: Plantageneta. 

George Plantagenet is one of the many names that comes up in the War of the Roses, a series of dynastic struggles over the throne of England that pitted the houses of York and Lancaster against one another between 1455 and 1485. Said to be an ambitious man, George, the Duke of Clarence, had a convoluted political life which culminated in his murder in the Tower of London in February 1478.

His death was made memorable in William Shakespeare’s play Richard III in which the Duke of Clarence is executed, by his own request, by drowning in a barrel of malmsey, one of the grape varieties of Madeira wine.

This is one of the many stories that is told time and again to illustrate the reach of Madeira wine. And now this link is also the inspiration for a beer that related to the wine: Plantageneta.

This craft beer is the result of the combined efforts of manufacturers Oitava Colina, Madeira wine producer Justino’s, and local distributor Vilhoa Craft Beer Dealers, who had the original idea.

Plantageneta is a barley wine, a type of beer that originated in England. It is a strong ale with an alcohol content of 11.5 that aged in the barrels of Justino’s for three months and then in a bottle, for another three months. Its creator, Fernando Gonçalves, brewer at Oitava Colina presents the beer as being ‘full-bodied and rich, where Madeira Island has a strong presence. It has notes of wallnuts, raisins and figues. It’s extremely complex’.

Commercially it is presented as a comforting, winter beverage. Fernando Gonçalves acknowledges his craft was ‘severely complex but evolved in a majestic way. It’s a beer that ages well.’ During the three months the beer stays in wine barrels it gains a taste of Malmsey, with notes of dried fruits and a solid finish.



Not only does its name have a touch of drama, Plantageneta is the outcome of a year’s worth of work, from its birth as an idea to the end result. 

Vilhoa Craft Beer Dealers’ Diogo Abreu explains how curiosity was the beginning. His efforts were acknowledged by Juan Teixeira, oenologist for Justino’s, who contributed barrels for the ageing of a reddish beer resembling malmsey as it ‘starts in your mouth’ and then turns bitter towards the finish ‘due to hops’.

But for Diogo Abreu this is also a ‘passion, a matter of ego, and of feeling fulfilled.’ More than a business ‘it is the possibility to overcome some common preconceptions about beer’.

It has no expiry date and can age for quite a long time. A thousand litres were produced for the initial trial. All bottles are to reach the market at the price of € 7,5.

After this trial it is Justino’s oenologist’s turn to set out a challenge: ‘If Diogo is interested and so is Oitava Colina, we can talk about upping production, more barrels’. This would also give the beer more visibility ‘because a thousand litres will be very little for consumers and sometimes it’s good to have products in short supply which become rare, but it is also necessary to give consumers the chance to enjoy the product’.

‘We have several other Madeiras which could change the beer fermenting in casks’, explains Teixeira. Justino’s is willing to support the project. So far, it has been malmsey but in the future, it could be sercial, ‘a drier and more acidic wine, with citrusy notes’.