It's time to started kicking one of my favorite dead dogs again: the rubbish talked about Brown Ale.
To summarise St. Michael, Brown Ale came in two varieties:
- Southern Brown Ale, weak, sweet, dark brown, basically bottled Dark Mild that's been sweetened. It's typified by Mann's Brown Ale. About 3% ABV,
- Northern Brown Ale, stronger, paler. Newcastle Brown. Between 4.5 and 5% ABV.
Let's see how true this description was between the wars.
Though first revived by Mann's around 1900, Brown Ale was only widely picked up by other breweries in the 1920's. It was only available in bottled form.
Here's a bunch of Brown Ales from the 1920's and 1930's, all from the South.
Surprisingly, the gravity of rose during the 1920's. While in 1926, it was in the range 1040-1044º, by 1932 it was 1052-1054º. Over the same period, other styles were more likely to have fallen in gravity.
Just a look at those gravities tells you that Brown Ale of the period could not possibly have been just a bottled version of Mild. No-one was brewing a Mild with a gravity over 1050º in the 1930's. All the examples in the table are from London breweries. Surely they should be in the weak Southern style? Well they aren't. These are all quite strong beers - the average gravity was around 1043 at the time.
I wonder what happened to Mann's Brown Ale? The 1932 version, at over 1054º, is one of the very strongest. How on earth did it end up under 3% ABV?
There's another indication that, at the time, Brown Ale had no connection with Mild. Whitbread and Barclay Perkins brewed it as a single gyle beer. It wasn't party-gyled with their Mild Ales. Their Brown Ales also had a distinctly different grist composition to the Milds and they were much more heavily-hopped. Colour, maybe they had that in common. Except that not all Milds were brown. Barclay Perkins produced amber and brown versions.
Let's take a closer look at Whitbread's DB Brown Ale and X Mild from 1933:
OK, both have a grist that's 70%-odd pale malt and both have around 75% attenuation. But that's about it as far as similarities go. The X has a fair bit of crystal, but no dark malts. The DB has a touch of chocolate. X is using the dark No. 3 sugar, DB Albion. The hopping is totally different, with DB using the same types of hop as the PA and IPA. It's much more heavily-hopped that the X, too (It has more hops than both PA and IPA as well.). The DB has a much higher gravity than X and was one of the strongest beers Whitbread brewed. Oh, they are a similar colour. I'll give you that one.
Does it look as if DB was a version of X? Not at all. Colour is about the only thing they really have in common. DB also doesn't look much like a sweet, weak beer, as Southern-style Brown Ales are supposed to be, either.
Still not convinced? Lets move on to Barclay Perkins. In 1936, their Mild Ales - X, XX and A - all had their brewing water treated in the same way: 2/3 oz. salt and 7/12 oz gypsum per barrel in the hot liquor back, 1/8 pint per barrel of bi sulphite lime added just before mashing, 3 ozs per barrel of salt in the copper. Water for their Brown Ale was treated quite differently: 1.5 ozs. salt and 4 ozs gypsum per barrel in the hot liquor back, 2 ozs per barrel of salt in the copper. That doesn't look very similar to me.
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