Monday, 13 August 2007

Barclay Perkins TT

Time to discuss Barclay Perkins again. I get uncomfortable about the blog's title if I don't bring up Barclay Perkins every week or two.

Barclay Perkins TT was brewed for over 100 years. Probably for nearly 200 years, but I only have proof for the years 1805 - 1936. When Porter started to go out of fashion, TT died a slow lingering death. In the 1850's, 1000-1400 barrels were brewed four or five times a week. Only 798 barrels were brewed in the whole of 1936. Here's what happened to the OG:

1805: 1053º
1812: 1052º
1851: 1057º
1856: 1061º
1862: 1056º
1926: 1038º
1937: 1033º

It may look pretty drastic, but the gravity drop in the 20th century is much the same as for other styles.

In the unlikely case of you being as sad as me and fascinated by this sort of stuff, I have much, much more on my inaccurately-titled page "Beer, Ale and Malt Liquor". A dumping ground for all the stuff I trawl out of the archives. It's not so much a page as an assembly of notes. Anyone's who's seen my desk will understand why I try to avoid paper notes.

(Source: London Metropolitan Archive)

What does TT mean?
Though marketed as Porter, it's always called TT in the logs. Why on earth is that?

Before any smart-arse chips in with Three Threads as a suggestion, I'll explain why that makes no sense. Despite claims to the contrary, Porter was never a version of Three Threads.

Poor old Obadiah Poundage. He went to the trouble of describing the early history of Porter. But people insist on misinterpreting him. Here's what he wrote:

"This incroachment on the consumption of the drinks which London had always been habituated to, excited the brown beer brewers to produce if possible a better sort of commodity in their own way, than heretofore had been made. To their honour I say it, my old Masters were foremost in this attempt and thus much let me add, I approved of the undertaking. They began to hop their mild beer more and the Publican started three, four, sometimes six butts at once, but so little idea had the brewer or his customers incurring the charge of great stocks of beer, that some moneyed people made a trade of purchasing their hopped beers at the first hand, keeping them sometime and when stale to dispose of the same to Publicans for £1/5/- per barrel and £1/6/- per barrel. Our tastes but slowly alter or reform. Some drank mild beer and stale mixed, others ale, mild beer and stale blended together at threepence per quart, but many used all stale a fourpence per pot."

The corrupted version of this paragraph that does the rounds adds the bit about Three Threads. Obadiah Poundage, someone who had worked in the brewing industry during the period, makes no mention of it. Nor the story about publicans filling one mug from several different barrels. Someone has misunderstood the phrase "the Publican started three, four, sometimes six butts at once" and assumed it meant tapped several barrels. It actually means something quite different.

"Start" had a very specific meaning in the brewing industry: filling a cask beer with beer to be left to mature. It crops up several times in The London and Country Brewer of 1736. 19th century brewing logs often have a column headed "Where started". It was where the number of the vat in which the beer was matured was recorded. I'll see if I can dig one out. Hang on a minute . . . .

You'll have to take my word for it. I can't put my hands on one. But I've definitely seen it.

So why were publicans laying down beer to mature? Because that's what many of their customers wanted. Breweries sold all their beer mild (young). If you wanted stale (mature) beer, you had to age it yourself. The innovation of Porter brewing wasn't in imitating a mix of three beers, but in selling ready-aged beer. At least that's what Obadiah Poundage says. He should know. He was there.

So what does TT stand for?
I have a theory. Just a theory. I could easily be wrong.

I know what T stands for. Table Beer. When beer was taxed at two different rates - one for Table beer, one for full-strength stuff - all barrels had to be marked indicating which they contained. 'T' was chalked onto the ends of barrels of Table beer. The account I have unfortunately doesn't specify what was marked on barrels of the stronger stuff. My guess is X. (The tax happened to be 10 shillings a barrel at the time.)

The need to clearly mark barrels is explained by one of the commonest fiddles of the period: mixing table beer with strong beer and charging the price of the latter. As you can see in Fredrick Accum's "A Treatise on Adulterations of Food" of 1820.

There are many other examples of multiple letters being used to denote beers of the same type in different strengths: X, XX, XXX; K, KK, KKK. TT could be another example of the principle. So a stronger version of the Table Beer. In 1805 Barclay Perkins' Table Beer was 1031º and with 32% of the grist brown malt. Effectively a low-gravity Porter. It's sad to see that TT was only slightly stronger in the 1930's (1033º in 1937).

1862 TT
Homebrewer Lachlan has promised me a bottle of his version of 1862 Barclay Perkins TT. Should be the highlight of my year. (Don't bother to suggest that I "get a life" or something similar. I'm fully aware of how sad this makes me sound.)

(Thanks to Stonch for the photos.)


GenX at 40 said...

Quality post, Ron. It's like you knocked down more than one set of skittles with one bowl.

A Good Beer Blog

Ron Pattinson said...

I thought it was time for some more Barclay Perkins stuff. I feel I owe it to everyone.

Tomorrow I'll be back to Franconia.

Stonch said...

Yes don't slack off on the Franconia posts, Ronbo! I have to hand in an essay on the first day back at school on "what I did in my holidays". I plan on printing out your posts and giving that to the teacher. Along with an apple - a Granny Smiths, I should think. The rest taste of nothing.

Anonymous said...

Ron, you are a research superhero. Thanks for posting this information!

Matthew D Dunn said...

But I think blending different beers (three threads) and the "pre-staled" reasons are compatible. Publicans blended stale and milds as a third choice, perhaps the most popular option? The porter brewers aimed for something that would incorporate the stale quality without being AS stale as the stale. I think this is Mathias' line? And Mathias might say something about how the robust flavor of brown malt tempered the stale flavor...