IT was time.

After 62 years, seven months and one week, the bottle was about to meet its destiny.

Three of us huddled around as we gently forced open the cap.

We delicately picked away some encrusted fragments from the lip of the glass. We handed round the bottle, taking in the smell. And then we poured three small measures.

We were about to try a beer that was brewed for the Queen's coronation in June 1953, and which had remained bottled up ever since, Nothing lasts forever, we all know that. Not grief, not joy - and not my bottle collection, it transpires.

For the past few years, I have been carefully looking after and building a small array of carefully selected bottles. Half a dozen Belgian beers that should get better with age. Four or five Scottish whisky ales, which similarly improve. And a few commemorative brews, which had been passed to me over the years and which I felt duty-bound to preserve.

That was until I returned home between Christmas and New Year to find three inches of water throughout my basement.

York Press:

The empty bottles with their now-tattered labels

Compared to many in York, we were lucky, but it was a rude homecoming after a few days away. A box of photographs was wrecked, my portfolio from my cub reporter days was reduced to pulp, various other bits and bobs had to be binned. And then there were the beers!

The newer ones stood firm, but the hitherto immaculate labels on the two oldest ones were sodden and ruined and, in an instant, my careful custodianship was rendered futile.

Nobody would want to buy them or care for them now, I figured. So instead, we each made a donation to the York Flood Appeal, and decided to drink them ourselves.

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I had dabbled in this way once before. In 2012, in Diamond Jubilee week, a friend and I drank a beer brewed in York 35 years earlier, for the Silver Jubilee.

Indeed it was that escapade that led someone to give me a couple of the bottles I had now neglected, and which we were now huddled around, trepidatiously and excitedly.

York 1900th Anniversary Ale, brewed by Bass Charrington as part of the commemorations in 1971, was interesting but not enjoyable. It was remarkably lively, hissing upon opening, fizzing away, sustaining a large head, but it was searing on the tongue.

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The 1971 beer looked better than it tasted

But the Simonds Coronation Ale? That was a thing of beauty.

It smelt of liquorice. I have said that of beers before, but never has it been truer than of this one. Another friend, happy to smell rather than taste, said it reminded him of the air around the old factories in Pontefract.

The smell hit us early and hung around.

The liquid was surprisingly thin, no thicker than water. But it was densely-flavoured, that liquorice coming through again along with burnt-toffee flavours. Ian, one of my co-drinkers, compared it to treacle toffee. The other, Gav Frost (an occasional stand-in for me on this pages), compared it to an Oloroso.

Tellingly, while we poured away almost all of the undrinkable 1971 bottle, we polished off the 1953 one, leaving nothing except a thin solidified layer in the bottom of the bottle.

I was curious to know what the beer would have tasted like had it been drunk fresh, but the label gave no information on the alcohol content nor the style. Some research back in the office yielded some information though.

Simonds was one of many breweries that changed hands as Britain's beer market shrunk into fewer and fewer hands in the second half of the 20th century. It eventually became part of Scottish & Newcastle, then part of Heineken UK.

Heineken's archives don't include the Simonds brewing book from 1953, alas, but their staff were able to tell me that the beer was most likely either a Simonds dinner ale or Season's Brew, re-branded with a special label. It would, they said, "be very hit and miss to try to equate it, in terms of taste, with a present-day bottled beer", but the brewery had made similar specials for the coronations of 1911 and 1937, and it was available in full-pint bottles as well as the 'nip' bottles like ours.

It perhaps wasn't made to remain unopened as long as ours, and it may have changed beyond recognition - who knows? - but it was unforgettable and proof, perhaps, that the wartime generation were right - they made things to last in those days.