It's two birds with one stone time. Scottish Ales and IPA. And maybe some other things. Oh yes, the shilling system. Make that three birds with one stone.
Let's start with Scottish Ales and their lack of hopping. What's often overlooked is that Edinburgh was a major producer and exporter of IPA, second only to Burton. So was Scottish IPA heavily hopped? Because aren't Scottish Ales supposed to be lightly hopped? I suppose it depends what you mean by Scottish Ales.
The lightly-hopped bit refers, I assume, to Scotch Ale. A type of very strong beer, fermented at low temperatures and with quite poor attenuation. But that wasn't the only type of beer being brewed North of the border. Porter, Stout and IPA were also brewed in Scotland. To extend the lightly hopped assertion to these styles is much more dubious. And, as I've shown in a previous post, the hopping levels of the strongest Mild Ales in London weren't much different from those in Scotch Ales.
The postwar convention of 60/- for Light (Mild), 70/- for Heavy , 80/- for Export and 90/- for Wee Heavy doesn't apply further back in history. In the 19th century, 90/-, for example, meant nothing more than the wholesale price per hogshead (54 gallon barrel). You could have a 90/- Scotch Ale, but you could also have a 90/- IPA. As you can see in the tables. The number of shillings tells you the price and thus a general indication of the strength, but nothing else.
Now for IPA. People have told me that IPA was a "tightly-defined" style in the 19th century and always pretty similar in composition. And that it was a strong beer. But this isn't a view based on facts, but belief and supposition. The Scottish IPA's listed in the table vary from 1045 to 1070 and average 1059. Quite a considerable spread. By the standards of the day, 1045 is little more than a table beer. Even 1070 isn't much over average strength for the period. Look in the Scotch Ales table to see what strong beers of the time were like. The weakest in the table is 1075.
There is one thing all the IPA's in the table have in common. They're all pretty highly attenuated. Only two are below 80% and the average is 88.26%. In total contrast to the Scotch Ales, where the highest is just 75% and the average 64%.
And for those who think modern British IPA's aren't worthy of the name, I've included a table of more recent Scottish examples. All except one particularly weak entry are within the range of those from the 1840's. Who would have expected that?
The Scotch Ales listed are certainly strong, with the average OG a massive 1105 and average ABV 8.2%. That they are less attenuated than the IPA's must at least partly be due to the very high OG. The lowest OG is still a respectable 1075, the highest an eye-watering 1131. With finishing gravities sometimes over 1060, they must have been pretty sweet, whatever the hopping rate.
Shame they don't still sell beers like those in British pubs.
Just had a thought. I should have included tables for 20th century Scotch Ales. Sorry about that. I'll remedy the situation tomorrow. If I remember. Mind like a sieve.
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