Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Let's Brew Wednesday - 1949 Adnams XXXX

This is the last in the set of Adnams beers from 1949/1950 and is the strongest of the lot. Though that isn’t saying all that much.

As a young man, I can remember noticing that breweries in Southeast of England often had a beer called Old Ale of around 4.5%. Beers that looked and tasted suspiciously like a strong Mild. It’s taken a while, but when I finally got to look at brewing records my suspicions were confirmed. Harveys, King & Barnes and Adnams all brewed beers of this type.

I was more used to Northern Old Ales like Old Tom or Owd Roger, beers that were considerably stronger. It obviously confuses the hell out style guideline writers as they only document the stronger type. Personally, I’m a big fan of the weaker type as they resemble pre-1931 Mild Ale. It’s a cheeky way of getting a taste of the past.

So you shouldn’t be surprised that Adnams Old Ale has a grist that is essentially the same as that of XX Mild Ale. Quite an interesting grist it is, too, with a couple of types of dark malts in the form of amber and crystal. As I’ve mentioned several drillion times, these types of dark beer were mostly coloured with sugar and caramel.

Which isn’t to say that XXXX doesn’t contain No. 3 invert and caramel. I suspect drinkers wouldn’t have been impressed had Adnams tried to sell a Mild coloured with chocolate or black malt. Because, as I now realise, No. 3 invert is the signature flavour of Dark Mild. That’s why most American versions, which try to get colour from dark malts, just don’t taste right.

Proper Dark Mild. Give it a try. It might change your life. Mine changed in 1976 when the Cardigan Arms installed handpulls.

1949 Adnams XXXX
mild malt 8.75 lb 80.82%
amber malt 0.50 lb 4.62%
crystal malt 80L 0.50 lb 4.62%
no. 3 invert sugar 1.00 lb 9.24%
caramel 0.08 lb 0.70%
Fuggles 90 min 1.00 oz
Goldings 60 min 1.00 oz
Goldings 30 min 1.00 oz
OG 1051
FG 1015.5
ABV 4.70
Apparent attenuation 69.61%
IBU 37
SRM 20
Mash at 148º F
Sparge at 170º F
Boil time 120 minutes
pitching temp 59º F
Yeast WLP025 Southwold

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Beer in 1958 (part three)

It’s time to take a look at the tied house system. Something that was integral to the 1950’s brewing industry.

“Amalgamation has a special significance because of the tied house system. Breweries—with the conspicuous exception of Guinness (with the largest output of all)—have tied houses which they own and maintain, and usually let to tenants (though in some they appoint managers), at which their beers are sold more or less exclusively. The tied house may stock some bottled beers other than the owner's own makes—rather more than in the past; it will sell spirits and possibly wine and soft drinks (which the owner will probably provide); but its raison d'etre for the owner is as a retail outlet for his main products. The responsibility is a heavy one, especially for the larger companies that have upwards of 1,000 houses — one at least has over 4,000. It involves immense property problems. An even greater task is selecting the publicans, men (or sometimes women) who will efficiently look after both the bar and the beer. (It is said to be the only job for which police approval is required.)”
"Beer in Britain", 1960, page 5.

The bottled beers mentioned were a handful of national brands. Things like Bass Red Triangle, Worthington White Shield, Guinness Extra Stout and a few others. Types of beers which many brewers didn’t produce. And we shouldn’t forget that the brewer buying these beers in often bottled them themselves. Meaning that they got some of the production profit.

Of course tied house estates grew to much more than 4,000 pubs. This is from when the Big Seven were about at their peak:

Tied house estates in 1974
Bewery On Licences
Bass Charrington 9,256
Allied Breweries 7,665
Whitbread 7,865
Watney/Grand Met 5,946
Scottish & Newcastle 1,678
Courage 5,921
Guinness 0
Total Big Seven 38,331
Others 13,800
“The Brewing Industry, a Guide to Historical Records” by Lesley Richmond & Alison Turton.

The biggest change in British brewing over the last 100 years was the destruction of the tied house system. Or at least in terms of vertically integrated breweries. There are still massive estates of pubs, but they aren’t owned by breweries. The huge difference is that under the old system landlords were obliged to buy their beer from the owning brewery. Now they still have to buy beer form the pub’s owner, but this isn’t necessarily from one brewer. In theory, landlords now have a much greater choice of what they can sell.

Of course, the old type of tied house lives on amongst regional brewers. But this is a much lower percentage of the total. Even the largest, Greene King, only owns 1,600 pubs*.

Economic pressures were already forcing some pubs to close:

“With the falling consumption of beer in them, the business of some of the 70,000 public houses in England and Wales has become too small to pay. In isolated villages the owners may run a house at a loss for social reasons. In larger centres some discreet closing of unprofitable houses occurs. This is only partially offset by the opening of new ones where population grows—in the new towns for example. For these some people advocated public ownership; but they failed, and the numbers and locations are decided in joint discussions between the new town authorities and brewers. The sole instance of public ownership in practice, the Carlisle experiment, reflects a movement which for the time being at any rate has lost its force.”
"Beer in Britain", 1960, page 5.

The author is pretty much spot on about the number of pubs in England and Wales:

Pub licences in England and Wales 1950 - 1960
Date  Full Beer / wine Total Pubs 
1950 59,054 14,429 73,483
1951 59,757 13,664 73,421
1952 60,333 13,035 73,368
1953 60,869 12,351 73,220
1954 61,265 11,708 72,973
1955 60,670 10,574 71,244
1956 61,087 9,788 70,875
1957 61,471 8,882 70,353
1958 61,762 8,151 69,913
1959 62,039 7,416 69,455
1960 63,682 5,502 69,184
"Brewers' Almanack 1971", page 83.

Brewers were appalled at the idea of state-owned pubs in new towns, an idea bandied about by the Labour government elected in 1945. New towns were a rare chance to build large, modern pubs and brewers didn’t want to see the state grab these prime sites. Labour were voted out of office before their plan could be implemented.

Notice an interesting fact about pub numbers? While the overall total was falling, the number of fully-licensed pubs – ones selling spirits as well as beer and wine – was increasing. That’s because brewers were keen to convert their beer houses to fully licensed ones, which were reckoned to be more profitable.

A tied estate was expensive to keep in good order. But good quality pubs were essential if a brewer wanted to maintain or even increase sales.

“The brewers spend heavily to improve the amenities and broaden the attraction of their houses. Those who sell mainly—as much as 80 or 90 per cent, of their output—through their own houses measure this cost ruefully when they sell the rival bottled products with national names, whose selling costs, they imply, they are carrying. Yet the business of the "national" brewer, who in the extreme case sells virtually none through his own houses, itself carries heavy selling costs in advertising and transport. What they send, for example, from London to Scotland by road tanker to be bottled there can surely give but an exiguous profit.”
"Beer in Britain", 1960, page 5.

Later national brewers – the Big Six – sold most of their beer in tied houses. But the ones meant here operated in a very different way. Guinness had no tied houses and Bass and Worthington had few. They relied on selling their beer – usually in bottled form, though Bass was sometimes available on draught – in competitors’ pubs. Only Guinness was able to retain this model through the 1960’s and 1970’s.

* Greene King website.

Monday, 5 December 2016

Advertising Final Selection

I’m starting to think that I need to take another look at Whitbread’s brewing books from the 1950’s. Because I’m pretty sure that I’ve managed to miss brews of Final Selection.

1968 is the first one I have. But Whitbread were already advertising Final Selection in 1957. If there were only occasional brews, I might have missed them on my sweep through their records. I usually only had 10 to 15 minutes to photograph each. Not long enough to look at every single page.

It’s not a problem I had before 1940. Because until that year the back of each Whitbread brewing book contained a little index of the beers brewed. A quick glance at it not only tells you which beers were brewed that year, but the week in which they were brewed. Easy enough to track down a rare brew. Like their AK, which was only brewed a handful of times.

Final Selection was clearly an important product. Because it’s one of three specifically named in the adverts below.

It tells what to do but not how to do it
This is the Head Brewer’s book-which tells everything about the next Whitbread brew — what it is and how much malt and how much hops are to be put into it. The book, however, says nothing about how much care is to be put into it. For in Whitbread’s brewing and bottling the care taken is limitless.

This is what we mean by Whitbread thoroughness. There is an awareness of it every time the distinctive flavour of a Whitbread beer is enjoyed—and when customers in their thousands ask for a beer by name precisely because of the confidence they have in the name of the brewer.

WHITBREAD brewers of some very distinguished beers

WHITBREAD Pale Ale, for example, with that superb flavour — which explains why this beer is to be found in the homes of the knowledgeable in all walks of life.

Final Selection • Whitbread Pale Ale • Forest Brown • Whitbread on Draught
Illustrated London News - Saturday 11 May 1957, page 39.

The other two beers mentioned, Whitbread Pale Ale and Forest Brown, were incredibly important products for the brewery. As Light Ale and Brown Ale, respectively, they would have sold in large quantities in Whitbread’s pubs. That Final Selection is mentioned in the same breath shows its importance.

I can’t help wondering about the Head Brewer’s book. Does it still exist in the archives? From the illustration I can see that it isn’t a standard brewing log. If only because Whitbread’s were in landscape format and the book in the head brewer’s hands is landscape.

Whitbread were at great pains to emphasise how thorough they were in their processes. Not quite sure why.

Take a handful of barleycorns
The farmer looks critically at the barleycorns in his I hand because he hopes this crop will go to the Whitbread maltings where only the best is wanted.

Nothing is too much trouble, either on the farm or in the maltings, to make sure the barleys will yield the richest of malt for Whitbread’s brews.

They don’t call it trouble at Whitbread’s — only care and thoroughness.

When you drink to the health of your friends over glass poured from Whitbread bottle or a pint of Whitbread draught beer, you are reaping the benefit of all the care that the farmer puts into his land, and every man jack of them at Whitbread’s puts into his day's work.

WHITBREAD brewers of some very distinguished beers

WHITBREAD Pale Ale, for example, with that superb flavour — which explains why this beer is to be found in the homes of the knowledgeable in all walks of life.

Final Selection
Whitbread Pale Ale
Forest Brown
Whitbread on Draught
Illustrated London News - Saturday 13 July 1957, page 43.

This time they’re going on about their own hop farms. Which I suppose is fair enough. I wonder if they were also the source of the hop extract they later used in their beers?

From the rain and the sun and the salts of the earth
On the way to the South Coast, you pass through the weald of Kent, where on the Whitbread farms at Beltring and Stilstead the hops for Whitbread beers are grown, dried and ‘pocketed’.

Never let us forget that beer is a product of the soil—of British fanning at its best. And although full advantage is taken of new methods and new plant, Whitbread beers will never be ‘processed’ out of recognition.

Mind you, the demand for Whitbread beers at home and in over 60 countries overseas, necessitates brewing and bottling on a gigantic scale. It is here that Whitbread’s brewing genius* comes into play. For your enjoyment of the flavour is brought home to you afresh whenever you drink a Whitbread beer.

And the whole point is that when you pick up a bottle of Whitbread beer at random from your larder floor, it is as though all that care and thoroughness has been concentrated on that one bottle —and indeed every single bottle that is sent out into the world adds its own little quota to the Whitbread reputation for quality.

*“the infinite capacity for taking pains"

WHITBREAD brewers of some very distinguished beers

WHITBREAD Pale Ale, for example, with that superb flavour — which explains why this beer is to be found in the homes of the knowledgeable in all walks of life.

Forest Brown • Final Selection • Whitbread Pale Ale • Whitbread on Draught”
Illustrated London News - Saturday 14 September 1957, page 4.

I just realised what’s missing from the list of bottled beers in these adverts. A beer in one of the most popular styles of the 1950’s. A beer that made up a surprisingly large percentage of Whitbread’s output: Mackeson. It seems a very strange omission. Perhaps it’s because it wasn’t obviously branded as Whitbread at the time.

Sunday, 4 December 2016

Beer in 1958 (part two)

The first article in Beer in Britain contains a very handy overview of the brewing industry.

First, the number of people employed directly or indirectly by brewing:

“The industry to-day comprises large, medium and small brewery firms — over 250 of them — but the six largest make over a third of the output. Breweries and maltings together employ about 70,000 people (operatives and staff, including lorry and tanker crews) with a high average net output of £1,240 a year, 45 per cent, above the average for all manufactures. The small number of workers in a brewery is striking. The retail distribution occupies far more; upwards of 350,000 workers are employed in licensed premises, but these include hotels as well as pubs. The whole chain of activities listed earlier must occupy nearly 500,000 people. Many others are employed in allied trades: by suppliers of machinery and bottles and glasses, and by firms using by-products, making yeast into vegetable extracts or supplying fertilizer from hops.”
"Beer in Britain", 1960, page 4.

Of course, there were more than 250 breweries in 1958. They’re talking about the number of brewing companies. Which had been falling throughout the 1950’s, as this table shows:

Number of breweries in the UK 1950 - 1960
Year Breweries
1950 567
1951 539
1952 524
1953 501
1954 479
1955 460
1956 426
1957 416
1958 399
1959 378
1960 358
BBPA Statistical Handbook 2003, p. 92
Brewers' Almanack 1955 p.68
Brewers' Almanack 1962 p.67

I’m wondering who the six largest brewers were in 1958. Here’s my guess: Watney Mann, Courage Barclay, Whitbread, Hammond United, Charrington and M&B. I could well be wrong, mind.

70,000 isn’t a huge number. But brewing isn’t very labour-intensive. You only need a handful of people to run a brewhouse. Very few of those 70,000 would have been working in the brewhouse. A large number would have been working in ancillary jobs, such as drayman. And at a time when casks were still made of oak, the cooperage would have been one of the biggest employers in a brewery. With so few workers, it’s not surprising that the average net output was above that of most industries. When the pub trade is included, however, the numbers employed look much more respectable.

In 1958 there were 69,913 pubs in England and Wales* and 6,074** in Scotland, making a total of 75,987. If 350,000 were employed, that comes to just 4.6 per pub. And remember that figure included hotels. But there were also 22,567*** clubs in England and Wales plus 1,219*** in Scotland. If you add in those, that’s just 3.5 employees per licensed premises. That seems pretty low. But, if they aren’t counting the landlord and their family member, it could be right.

Something about mergers in the industry:

“The trend to bigger breweries has been partly by amalgamation, and this continues. The consumption of beer is below the peak (of 1945) and tends still to fall; there are many competing claims on consumers' purses (including television and, of course, wines and spirits). Hence amalgamation is perhaps the main way to further development, though the bigger firms have their own vigorous selling campaigns. (They are conspicuously among the largest poster advertisers; and they differ as conspicuously in the concessions they make in this part of their work to the susceptibilities of the highbrow.)

The most recent amalgamations have included some between already large  firms—Watney's and Mann's, for example, and Barclays and Courage's. Here there are special considerations; the need, for example, to close Watney's brewery at Victoria for town-planning reasons.
"Beer in Britain", 1960, pages 4 - 5.

That last statement is news to me. Watney’s brewery was on a piece of desirable real estate, between Victoria Station and Buckingham Palace. After closure it was redeveloped as an office complex. Not sure why they needed to merge with Manns as they had another large brewery further west along the Thames at Mortlake.

There were a lot of takeovers in the 1950’s, with some breweries, such as Hammonds and Whitbread, going on buying sprees. Which inevitably led to a reduction in the number of breweries and an increase in scale of the remaining ones. Falling beer sales were one of the driving forces behind consolidation. Buying up a rival and its pubs was one of the easiest ways to increase output in a declining market.

Beer production started to rise after 1960, but only exceeded the 1946 figure in 1970. You can see in the table below that despite this average output per brewery rose considerably in the second half of the 1950’s.

Beer production and output per brewery 1950 - 1960
Year Bulk barrels Breweries Average output per brewery (barrels)
1950 26,513,997 567 46,762
1951 24,891,746 539 46,181
1952 25,156,489 524 48,009
1953 24,883,227 501 49,667
1954 24,582,303 479 51,320
1955 23,934,215 460 52,031
1956 24,551,158 426 57,632
1957 24,506,524 416 58,910
1958 24,647,978 399 61,774
1959 23,783,833 378 62,920
1960 26,115,012 358 72,947
Brewers' Almanack 1955, p. 50
Brewers' Almanack 1962, p. 48
BBPA Statistical Handbook 2003, p. 92
Brewers' Almanack 1955 p.68
Brewers' Almanack 1962 p.67

More about pubs next. 

* Brewers' Almanack 1971, page 83.
** 1922 – 1972: The Brewers' Society Statistical handbook 1973”, page 52.
*** Brewers' Almanack 1971, page 83.
**** 1922 – 1972: The Brewers' Society Statistical handbook 1973”, page 52.

Saturday, 3 December 2016

Let's Brew - 1894 Thomas Usher 60/-

60/- is such a fascinating beer. Because there have been so many different types of beer called 60/- in Scotland. Most with absolutely no connection with the modern beer.

This is a beer of the most old-fashioned type of 60/-. That is, a Scottish Ale of what I call a Shilling Ale. Basically the Scottish equivalent of Mild Ale, but often sold bottled rather than on draught. Though I’ve never seen a 19th-century English Mild as weak as this beer. Down in London, they didn’t brew anything much under 1050º.

As usual, the hop varieties are a guess. The brewing record just lists them as Kent and Sussex. Feel free to change them around, as long as you stick with English ones.

I’m not going to bore you with too much chatter. It’s a simple beer, containing just pale malt and sugar. Which makes it typical of Scottish beer of this period. As does the crappy degree of attenuation.

1894 Thomas Usher 60/-
pale malt 5.75 lb 74.19%
No. 2 invert sugar 2.00 lb 25.81%
Fuggles 90 min 0.50 oz
Fuggles 60 min 0.50 oz
Goldings 30 min 0.50 oz
OG 1040
FG 1018
ABV 2.91
Apparent attenuation 55.00%
IBU 20
Mash at 146º F
Sparge at 170º F
Boil time 120 minutes
pitching temp 60º F
Yeast WLP028 Edinburgh Ale

Friday, 2 December 2016

Advertising Gold Label (part four)

Searching the newspaper archives for Gold Label throws up an odd set of results. Loads from1954 and then a couple from 1966. By which time it had morphed into a Whitbread brand.

the beer that’s matured like a wine

and blended like a whisky.

Take a very special sort of beer. Allow it to mature for several months. Blend it with all the finesse of a whisky-blender. And you’ve got a smooth, full-bodied, miraculously glowing drink called a Gold Label. Try one. Should you have any difficulty in finding a local supplier, write to Whitbread & Co, Chiswell Street, London ECI. A Whitbread beer, brewed at Tennant’s brewery, Sheffield. 
Illustrated London News - Saturday 12 March 1966, page 29.

That’s quite informative in some ways: it tells us that Gold Label was still matured and was still being brewed at the Exchange Brewery in Sheffield. And still being blended.

What they’re really trying to do is big up Gold Label by comparing it to drinks considered classier than beer such as wine and whisky.

This next advert is quite bizarre:

We discovered gold in a Sheffield cellar.
Now it’s in bars all over the place.
When Tennants Brewery joined us, they invited us to have a good nose round their cellars in Sheffield.

And what do you think we found ?

A pure golden, ambrosial drink called Gold Label. Matured like wine for several months.

And blended like a whisky.

We obviously had the secret of Yorkshire CC, Sheffield Wednesday and Wakefield Trinity on our hands.

There was only one drawback.

We also had a rival beer on our hands. Our own Final Selection with a virile supporters’ club.

With shelf space like gold dust and delivery costs crippling, it seemed wise to give one of them the chop.

But which one ? We just couldn’t decide.

So now we sell them both throughout the country where you see our sign.

The buck is passed, the choice is yours.

Not ours.

Whitbread for choice.”
Illustrated London News - Saturday 10 February 1968, page 38.

You may remember that all of the other Tennant’s brands were discontinued after the Whitbread takeover. Gold Label must have been something special to survive. In the early 1970’s, Whitbread were brewing both it and Final Selection at Chiswell Street. Not sure when Final Selection was discontinued, but I can’t remember it at all. That says something.

Final Selection was a very different beer to Gold Label. For a start the was very different, a dark brown. And while the Chiswell Street version of Gold Label was just lager malt, lots of sugar and flaked maize, Final Selection had a grist of pale malt, a little sugar and some chocolate malt. The hopping was different, too. Gold Label: Hallertau, Styrian, MK and Worcester hops; Hop extract. Final Selection: EK hops; Hop extract.

The choice of Yorkshire sports teams is interesting. I doubt they’d pick Sheffield Wednesday today, while they languish in the lower divisions. I wonder which footy team they would select? The only Yorkshire sides currently in the Premiership – Hull and Middlesborough – aren’t exactly the most fashionable clubs.

Wakefield Trinity are a Rugby League team. I believe they’re called something else now. Just looked it up. Wakefield Trinity Wildcats. Bloody stupid name. Though not quite as bad as Leeds Rhinos which doesn’t even alliterate.

Thursday, 1 December 2016

Beer in 1958

Beer in Britain, originally published as a suipplement to The Times newspaper, has a handy little overview of the position of beer in the UK in 1958. And because I’m a lazy git, I’m going to nick it.

“The chain of activities starts with the barley and hop farmers. It extends through the maltings and the oasthouses to the breweries where the main processing occurs, where the right "liquor" (the brewers' name for water, whose precise quality matters, and may need to be adjusted) is important, where the yeast is nurtured and added, and new yeasts may be bred, where the hops (which began to be used in the fourteenth century) are added to preserve and give flavour, and sugar to flavour and produce a secondary fermentation. Thence to the cooling, conditioning, casking or bottling, and the transporting to the off-licence, or more commonly to the pub, hotel, or club, where the consumers' acquaintance with beer normally starts and more often than not ends.

"More often than not"—though not so often as formerly, because a larger proportion of beer is now drunk privately at home or elsewhere. Certainly, as later articles show, much more is now sold in bottles, and a little more is sold in cans. The extent of this change is by no means all due to increased consumption at home—for a great deal of the bottled beer made is drunk in place of draught, and some is mixed with draught. This follows partly from a growth in taste for some particular qualities and brands, and partly from an appreciation of the special characteristics of bottled beer, which is more uniformly found to be in good condition. Bottled beer necessarily costs much more to make than draught.”
"Beer in Britain", 1960, pages 3 - 4.

The move to bottled or canned beer has continued. But over the last couple of decades it has been because of a change in drinking habits. In pubs, fashion has moved back to draught beer.

The dodgy condition of draught beer does seem to have been a factor in the increased consumption of bottled beer. It also helped keg beer, which brewers saw as being a bulk form of bottled beer, because, like it, it was conditioned in the brewery rather than in the pub cellar.

Now this is something about bottle beer I’d not heard before:

“The advance in its importance, very different for different brewers and in different parts of the country (much more in the south than in the north, for example) reflects both the technical progress going on in the industry, partly in the search for new markets, and the competition between various brands, between breweries selling mainly in their own houses and those selling mainly in the free trade, and between national and regional and local breweries.”
"Beer in Britain", 1960, page 4.

So bottled beer was more popular in the South than in the North? I’d guess economics were at work there. Bottled beer was more expensive than draught and those living in the South were generally better off than those in the North.

Next I’ll take a closer look at the British brewing industry.

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Let's Brew Wednesday - 1956 Shepherd Neame DB

You might have noticed that I’ve never published many Brown Ale recipes. There’s a good reason for that.

No, it isn’t that I hate the style. It’s much simpler than that: Brown Ales rarely show up in brewing records. Barclay Perkins DB and Whitbread DB are exceptions. Because they were both brewed single-gyle to unique recipes. The conclusion I’ve come to is that most breweries just tweaked their Mild for bottling. So they don’t show up in the records.

When I do find a Brown Ale in the logs, I’m always keen to publish the recipe. Even when, as in this case, it’s a complicated parti-gyle. Though it isn’t that obvious from the recipe, this was parti-gyled with Abbey Ale. The reason the recipes are so different, is that Abbey Ale was mostly put together from the first wort, while the No. 3 sugar went into the second.

The colour of the finished beer might well have been darker than indicated below. Colour corrections with caramel were common in British brewing.

I was going to say that this was one of the few recipes that fits the BJCP style parameters hard-coded in BeerSmith. Then I noticed that it was outside the gravity range, which starts at 1033º. That’s so wrong. Loads and loads of Brown Ales were weaker than that. It should really start at 1027º.

Overall, this looks like a typical 1950’s Brown Ale: weak, sweet and with lots of sugar in it.

1956 Shepherd Neame DB
pale malt 3.00 lb 56.60%
wheat malt 0.25 lb 4.72%
no. 3 sugar 2.00 lb 37.74%
malt extract 0.05 lb 0.94%
Fuggles 105 mins 0.50 oz
Goldings 60 mins 0.25 oz
Goldings 30 mins 0.25 oz
OG 1029.4
FG 1010.5
ABV 2.50
Apparent attenuation 64.29%
IBU 15
SRM 12
Mash at 153º F
Sparge at 170º F
Boil time 105 minutes
pitching temp 61.25º F
Yeast a Southern English Ale yeast

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Christmas presents

It's the present-giving time of year. And what's top of everyone's wish list? A crudely nailed-together book about obscure aspects of beer history. That's what I want. I can't be that untypical, can I?

Two questions in five sentences. I'm back to my best.

Books. It's the time of year for me to tart them and you, hopefully, to buy them. Look, I've a book about every single British beer style: Porter, Bitter, Mild, Strong Ale and Scotland. Scotland Ale, that is a style isn't it? In my head, anyway, which is all that counts.

Feel free to buy several. Now Lexie is 18, I'm spending a fortune on vodka.

Support independent publishing: buy this book on Lulu. Support independent publishing: buy this book on Lulu. Support independent publishing: buy this book on Lulu. Support independent publishing: buy this book on Lulu. Support independent publishing: buy this book on Lulu.

Random Dutch beers (part forty-nine)

I've lots to get on with this weekend. Even more than usual.

I've started seriously writing my new book on Scottish beer. 20,000 words so far. Not sure how long it's going to be when complete. But it won't be 700 pages.

Alfa Limburgs Bokbier, 6.5% ABV
My nose is a bit blocked, so this isn't going to be great. I can see it's a reddish brown. Nowt wrong with my eyesight. Malt and liquorice aroma. A nice balance of sweet and bitter in the mouth, but with an odd sweat-like flavour. Not bad.

The Scotland book is one of three I'm currently working on. Another is this year's Yule Logs. I left it too late last year.

"Do you want to try my beer, Lexie?"

"OK." Takes a sip "It's good."

The third book is post-war British brewing. About as uncommercial a project as you could imagine. Not totally sure what form it will eventually take. The draft is huge - about 800 pages, including recipes.

"Can I have 30 euros, Dad?"

Inflation has kicked in.

"Do you want to try my beer, Andrew?"


"Do you want to try my beer, Dolores?"

(With considerable irritation.) "No, I don't."

It's now Sunday. Time for another review sketch.

Bavaria Bokbier, 6.5% ABV
Love the retro label on this one. I boughyt one last year purely for the label. Because Bavaria's beers are usually shit. Their Pils is undrinkable. The Bok another red-brown job. It smells like toffee. Not too bad, so far. In the mouth it's sweet, with a little fruitiness. Much less horrible than I'd feared. Though most of it ended up in today's gravy.

"Do you want to try my beer, Andrew?"

"No, thank you."

What is wrong with the lad?

Off to London for the beer hacks' annual dinner. Especially exciting this year as I've had a hand in one of the beers being served.

Monday, 28 November 2016

Pleasing all palates (part three)

We’ve finally got to the wet brown alcoholic stuff – beer.

Starting with an explanation of the terms Beer and Ale:

In Tudor England the word ale distinguished the traditionally unhoped malt liquor from the new product, beer flavoured with hops. To-day the two terms are synonymous, except that stout is a beer, not an ale. There are regional differences of nomenclature; in London, for example a customer ordering "an ale" will be served with a mild ale. In the United States, on the other hand, beer means lager, produced by “bottom fermentation," in which the yeast settles to the bottom during fermentation at a lower temperature; whereas American ale is "top-fermented" at a higher temperature, as are all English beers other than lager.”
"Beer in Britain", 1960, page 98.

It’s amazing that even as late as 1960 Stout was still considered a Beer and not an Ale.

“British beer is brewed from barley-malt (sometimes with the addition of other grains), hops, yeast, water, and sometimes sugar.

Porter, the strong dark staple beer of 18th century England, is no longer brewed in Great Britain. In Ireland it means a light stout, usually sold on draught; in Scandinavia it is a strong dark bottled beer.”
"Beer in Britain", 1960, page 98.

In my experience, very few breweries didn’t use sugar in the 1950’s. Guinness was one.

A pretty weird description of Porter there. It was never a strong beer, but a standard-strength one. And was always weaker than Stout.

Now descriptions of the styles available in 1958, starting with draught beers:

“DRAUGHT BEER is drawn either directly “from the wood" when the cask is fitted in the bar or, much more generally, by beer engine or pump from the cask in the cellar to the bar. The types vary in colour, strength and character from one brewery to another and with the parts of the country where they are brewed. Their colour is largely determined by the colours of the malts used. The main types are:—

Bitter: Heavily hopped, usually pale in colour, with a dry flavour.
Mild: Generally darker, sweeter and less strong than bitter.
Burton: A strong, dark beer, not necessarily brewed at Burton-on-Trent.
Stout: Darker still, and generally brewed with roasted malt or barley. Occasionally sold on draught.”
"Beer in Britain", 1960, page 98.

The author doesn’t seem to have been that well acquainted with the inner workings of British breweries. The colour of beer, other than Stout, was mostly derived from sugar, not malts.

It looks like a very limited range of draught beers. And it looks very London-centric. Burton was very much a London thing and draught Stout had disappeared from the rest of the country. I’ve racked my brain for what other styles might have appeared on draught. Old Ale, I suppose. Things like Old Tom or Owd Roger.

Finally, bottled beers:

“BOTTLED BEER is brewed in a wide range to suit every taste. The main varieties are;—

Best Pale Ale: A matured beer of high gravity.
Light Ale: As its name implies, light in taste and colour.
Brown Ale: Dark and generally rather sweeter.
Stout: Darker again; there are many variations in flavour, both sweet and dry.
Burton (or Old Ale): The bottled equivalent of draught Burton.
Barley Wine, Audit Ale, &c.: A very strong matured ale, popular in university circles.
Lager: A lightly hopped beer produced by fermentation at a lower temperature, stored or "lagered " for prolonged periods. It should always be served cool.”
"Beer in Britain", 1960, page 98.

I’ve just realised which beer style doesn’t get a mention at all: IPA. Off that, isn’t it? Though they’re probably classifying beers like Bass Red Triangle and Worthington White Shield as Best Pale Ales.

Two styles in that list – Light Ale and Brown Ale – are virtually extinct today. There are only a couple of examples of either left.

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Advertising Gold Label (part three)

It makes a lot of sense that Tennant timed their 1954 advertising campaign for the winter months. Barley Wine isn’t so much of a summer drink. Plus there are all the winter celebrations.

Which their copywriters were happy to exploit:

In Sunderland everyone in the know getting it in for Christmas!

We’ll tell you why...

If there is one thing that will assuredly make your Christmas a happy one, it‘s Tennants Gold Label Barley Wine. For months the Gold Label that's now on sale has lain maturing in ripe old casks. It’s been watched over, inspected, then finally passed as perfect for Christmas. And perfect for Christmas it certainly is, with its bright-as-tinsel sparkle, its beaming amber glow, its clean deeply satisfying flavour. Every party and every home will be the merrier for a few bottles of Gold Label. So, now that you are 'in the know’, get in your supply. Father Christmas rather expects it of you!

It's a special brew of good wholesome beer!

Local Distributor: ARCHIBALD TOWER & CO. LTD.
Brandling Park, Felling-on-Tyne.
Tel: Felling-on-Tyne 82535.”
Sunderland Daily Echo and Shipping Gazette - Wednesday 08 December 1954, page 10.

Note the emphasis once more about how long Gold Label had been aged. And how clear and well-carbonated it was. Yes, I’d be merrier with a few Gold Labels in me on Christmas morning. This year I’ll just have to make do with St. Bernardus Abt. Poor me.

In Sunderland everyone 'in the know' is making sure of a Happy Christmas!

We'll tell you how..

There's a Happy Christmas twinkling inside every bottle of Tennants Label Barley Wine. Buy a dozen or of these cheerful tokens of goodwill then your Christmas will be the best ever! Every one of your Gold Labels will pour clear and bright into its glass. Every one will sparkle as merrily as frost on Santa's whiskers. And every one will taste clean to your palate. Gold Label is carefully matured in selected casks. Over the months it develops its rich amber colour, its sparkle and its full mellow flavour. Now that you're ‘in the know’ make sure of your Christmas happiness. Make sure of it before the next caroller knocks at your door.

It's a special brew of good wholesome beer!
Local Distributor:
Brandling Park, Felling-on-Tyne.
Tel: Felling-on-Tyne 82535."
Sunderland Daily Echo and Shipping Gazette - Friday 17 December 1954, page 10.

If you’re wondering Felling-on-Tyne is part of Gateshead on the south bank of the Tyne. “Cheerful tokens of goodwill” I’ll have to remember that one. Dolores, I’m just getting myself another cheerful token of goodwill from the fridge.

Gold Label was good for New Year as well as Christmas:

In Monmouth everyone ‘in the know’ will welcome 1955 with it!

We'll tell you why... 

About the time you were enjoying your summer holiday Tennants were putting down a good supply of their Gold Label Barley Wine — with an eye to the New Year. All through autumn it has been lazily maturing in mellow old casks. Now it’s ready for your celebrations. Its deeply satisfying, clean-to-the-palate flavour has reached perfection. The brilliant sparkle's there and Gold Label’s rich amber glow is waiting to excite your eye. If you're having a party Tennants Gold Label Barley Wine will delight everyone, and help things go with a swing. If you prefer a quiet New Year's Eve, a Gold Label won't disturb your memories — but it will enrich them.

It’s a special brew of good wholesome beer!

Local Distributor:
Tel: Cheltenham 5158.
(and at TEWKESBURY), Tel; Tawkesbury 2233.”
Monmouthshire Beacon - Friday 24 December 1954, page 3.

As it had a minimum of 6 months in cask, the claim that it was laid down during the summer holidays is true. A few crates of Gold Label certainly would have made a party swing. At least until everyone started falling over and vomiting. Gold Label wouldn’t disturb your memories? Erase them, more like.

Saturday, 26 November 2016

Yule Logs!!!

Support independent publishing: buy this book on Lulu. Yeah, got this year's version done and it's still November. Weird.

The cover - as are the contents - is totally new. I just can't be arsed to upload the new vover.

What the hell. Here's the new, shittier cover. I know. I should have left the old image.

Alexei is begging you to buy it. He'll have no vodka this Christmas without any sales.

1894 Thomas Usher XX 60/-

Here’s a type of beer that was already becoming a rarity in the 1890’s – a genuine Scottish Mild Ale.

I should probably be more specific. It was draught Scottish Mild that was a rarity. There were still plenty of Shilling Ales, the bottled form of Mild that was specific to Scotland. Though the popularity of these beers was on the wane, as increasing amounts of Pale Ale were brewed. The situation south of the border was very different. Mild was the favourite style and becoming ever more popular, mostly at the expense of Porter.

Like most Scottish beers of this period, it had a very simple grist, just pale malt and sugar. It’s not clear exactly what sort of sugar it was. I’ve guessed at No. 1 invert.

To put this beer into its historical context, I’ve put it in a table together with the X Ale from three London breweries:

Mild Ales of the 1890's
Date Year Brewer Beer OG FG ABV App. Atten-uation lbs hops/ qtr hops lb/brl
6th Aug 1891 Barclay Perkins X 1058.0 1015.0 5.69 74.21% 8.32 2.07
13th Jul 1894 Whitbread X 1058.4 1016.0 5.62 72.62% 8.23 2.09
7th Jul 1894 Truman X Ale 1056.5 9.0 2.19
28th Jul 1897 Fuller X 1049.6 1012.2 4.95 75.42% 6.58 1.44
13th Apr 1894 Thomas Usher XX 60/- 1055 1015 5.29 72.73% 10.00 2.77
Barclay Perkins brewing record held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number ACC/2305/1/587
Whitbread brewing record held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number LMA/4453/D/01/060
Truman  brewing record held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number B/THB/C/175
Thomas Usher brewing record held at the Scottish Brewing Archive, document number TU/6/1/2
Fullers brewing record held at the brewery.

Usher’s beer is surprisingly similar to the London ones, though a little more heavily hopped. Isn’t that a shock? Didn’t the Scots use almost no hops? Oh, I remember. That story is total bollocks. The hops themselves are just listed as Kent and Columbia in the brewing record. Cluster and Fuggles seem fair enough guesses for the varieties.

1894 Thomas Usher XX 60/-
pale malt 11.50 lb 93.88%
No. 2 invert sugar 0.75 lb 6.12%
Cluster 105 min 1.25 oz
Fuggles 90 min 1.50 oz
Fuggles 60 min 1.50 oz
Fuggles 30 min 1.50 oz
OG 1055
FG 1015
ABV 5.29
Apparent attenuation 72.73%
IBU 78
Mash at 150º F
Sparge at 170º F
Boil time 105 minutes
pitching temp 58º F
Yeast WLP028 Edinburgh Ale