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Burton On Trent & the magic of the water

This evening Burton Albion welcome reigning Premier League champions and League Cup holders, Manchester City, in the Carabao Cup looking to overturn a 9-0 first leg loss. But whilst the magic may not be in the cup tonight, the magic may indeed be in the water the famous brewing town in built around.

Burton on Trent rests in a river valley built on ancient rock covered with up to sixty feet of gravel and sand which the water has trickled through for thousands of years, giving it a unique mineral content high in sulphate, magnesium and calcium but low in sodium and bicarbonate – ideal for the brewing of beer and making the town a famous brewing region.

“…the one spot in the world where the well-water is so obviously intended by Nature for kindly union with those fruits of the earth, to give beer incomparable” – U.S. Virgin Island’s Daily News, 1939

1939 advertisement extolling the virtues of Burton-on-Trent’s water from U.S. Virgin Island’s Daily News

Such is the reputation of the region’s water, which gifts the beer a dry sulphurous aroma known as the “Burton snatch” that a 2016 BBC article documented that brewers in China are adding gypsum and salts such as magnesium sulphate to the local water to replicate the famous eggy smell.

However, long before Burton became famous for it’s brewing water, the water itself was the reason for the town’s existence according to folklore dating to the 7th Century AD when an Irish nun named Modwen stopped to rest on an island in the River Trent during a pilgrimage to Rome and, settling there, built a temple.

Saint Modwen

Whilst in Burton on Trent, the tale describes how a young boy with a terminal illness was sent to her and, using the waters from a well on the island, Modwen cured him of his ailments. The boy was to grow up to be King Alfred the Great. The legend itself would bring visitors to the region and ‘Modwen’s Well’ is documented as still being used in the seventeenth century for the treatment of ailments of the skin and eyes.

There may be no miracles taking place this evening in the Carabao Cup, but perhaps the magic still lies in the water of Burton on Trent….


  • Christopher Tanousis


The source of this blog post was inspired from an article in All About Beer Magazine and the previously linked BBC article. All images are subject to Copyrights which are not owned by Aqua Amore and sourced from links here, here and here.