You Can Buy 86-Year-Old Beer Brewed For Edward VIII’s Canceled Coronation

But maybe don't drink it.

Old and dusty beer bottles in a wooden crate

Getty Images

In the mid-1930s, British beermaker Greene King brewed and bottled a special ale to commemorate the coronation of King Edward VIII. The only problem? That king was never crowned. In 1936, Edward surrendered his chance to wear the crown, abdicating the throne only 325 days into his unofficial reign so that he could marry American socialite Wallis Simpson.

His coronation — which had been scheduled for May 1937 — was called off, his younger brother George VI became king, and all 2,000 bottles of that Coronation Ale were put into storage. Remarkably, that beer stash wasn’t discovered until 2011, when workers doing some renovation work stumbled upon it in Green King’s cellars. 

And now, more than 86 years since it was brewed, those bottles of Coronation Ale are going to be auctioned off by Greene King on May 5. (Yes, that’s the day before King Charles’ coronation). In addition to giving bidders a chance to get their hands on a unique piece of Royal history, the auction will also raise money for The Prince’s Trust, a charity that provides opportunities for disadvantaged youth. 

“This really would have been a fantastic beer in its day,” Greene King’s then-head brewer John Bexon said in 2012. “It was 12% when it was brewed so is quite strong and has kept really well. The rich fruit flavor still stands out.”

Whoever ends up buying the beer will have to take Bexon’s word for it: Greene King said that the brew is “no longer drinkable,” and the bottles are being sold purely as collector’s items. According to The Telegraph, Greene King does have an updated version of Coronation Ale, which has been brewed for King Charles’ crowning next month; it will be available to buy in pubs and online. 

“It is absolutely fascinating that these beers have been lying in the cellar for 86 years,” Royal historian and author Professor Kate Williams told The Telegraph. “The elaborate Coronation preparations took over a year to arrange, but by the time the event came around he had already abdicated, leaving the ceremony, and these celebratory beers, redundant.”

Greene King’s brewery is over 200 years old, so Bexon hinted that there could be some other surprising finds hidden in its vast cellars. “[T]here could be more vintage beers just waiting to be re-discovered,” he said at the time the Coronation Ale was unearthed. That would be great – but we’d prefer not to have to wait 86 more years for the next batch. 

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles