Thursday, 19 June 2008

Gravity Project

Wondering why I haven't been my usual prolific self the last few days? I've been too busy with my Gravity Project. No, it's got nothing to do with the force that stops us floating off into space. It's my push to merge all the beer gravities I have into a single spreadsheet.

It's progressing nicely. There are already more than 3,000 rows in the table. Another couple of days and I should be able to start playing with it. My first job is to produce a graph demonstrating the slow but inexorable decline in Mild gravities over the period 1850 - 1950. It should prove fascinating for me and the other three people interested in this sort of stuff.

Not just British beers, but ones from all over thje world will be included. Though obviously I have the greatest quantity of data on Britain. I've already assembled all my information on lagers into one table. And much more will follow. As and when I find it.

Now here's where you come in. I'm making the spreadsheet publicly available. It took several weeks of work to put together. I'm a bit of a nutter when it comes to collecting information but there are limits to what even I can do. As it is now, with about 3,500 entries, it's pretty useful. With your cooperation it could become an essential reference. If a couple of dozen of you chipped in and contributed, say, 100 entries each, it would be a great help.

I suggested transcribing complete editions of the Good Beer Guide. That could be quite a lot of work, so how about just doing breweries starting with the letters C, D and E? If we start at the 2007 Good Beer Guide and work backwards, it should be easy enough for me to coordinate. Go on, pick a couple of letters. If everyone posts their choice as a comment here, it will be easy simple to see which are still free.

Here's an example of both my table and what you could fill in from the Good Beer Guide.

Here's an example of what you can discover. I've put together a table showing the change in Barclay Perkins X Mild over the course of almost a century.

(Note: the OG's for 04/1918 and 04/191g are for 4d Ale. In this period no X Ale was brewed. Up until it was discontinued, it had been their biggest seller. It was replaced by 4d Ale, so-called Government Ale, a price-controlled product.)

Fascinating stuff, I think you'll agree. The impact of the two world wars on Mild gravity is clear. You'll note how gravities fell sharply during both and then recovered after the war ended, but not quite back to the pre-war level. There was a similar dramatic fall in 1931, when there was a substantial increase in the tax on beer and brewers cut gravities to leave the retail price unchanged.

I haven't forgotten about lager. Summer's only just begun. I just can't be arsed to do any translations at the moment.


Mark Andersen said...

The problem with picking a letter as opposed to a year is that some, like me, may only have the guide for one year.

I've already got the letter A done for 2005 and I'll just continue on for now. Should have B and C done by tonight. Also, I'll see about picking up additional years of the guide cheaply.

Edmund said...

I can do a few letters tonight, I'll check back once I've got home.

Careful with using the GBG, though. A lot of the information isn't actually checked year to year, just recopied.

Tom Fryer said...

As I said on your earlier post, I'll copy data from the 1993 Real Ale Drinker's Almanac when I have time.

Like Mark, I only have one GBG (2002 - I keep thinking it's time I replaced it but perhaps I'd better hang onto it now...). My time's pretty limited at the moment, though, so maybe it's best if I leave the GBG stuff to others and concentrate on the Almanac data.

Tom Fryer said...

Changed my mind - I've started on the Cs in the 2002 GBG, as three letters of the GBG is somewhat more realistic than the entire Almanac (and, unlike the Almanac, it's actually what you asked for). Will plod through C, D and E over the next few days in idle moments.

John Clarke said...


The earlist GBG I have is 1976 - I'll do that one for you if you like (and if I enjoy that, I might sign up for another). By the way, have you tried any of those imperial stouts yet?

John said...

I really would love to spend hours monkeying about with spreadsheets but it's totally out of my hands... I don't own any copies of the Good Beer Guide.

An aside: how comprehensive and encyclopedic is the Good Beer Guide? I'd like to see how the mean OG across all beers changes from year to year. But that would only be valuable if a reasonably wide and unbiased sample of beers is in the GBG.

Anyways, Ron is firing top darts with this project. Very valuable work that I'm amazed hasn't been done already. 180 to team Pattinson!

Ron Pattinson said...

mark, edmund, tom, john, thank you very much for your help.

John, not tried any of the Stouts yet. I'm waiting for thge right moment. And I'd forgotten which one I was supposed to age. Which was it? I woulfdn't want to drink it now by mistake.

I've been busy with adding to the table. If my kids accept zero attention this weekend, I'll get loads more done.

John Clarke said...


The Durham should age well but I guess it will be perfectly drinkable now. If you can however, stash it away for a couple of years.

Ron Pattinson said...

I've just put the Durham in my cellar so I don't drink it by accident.