Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Let's Brew Wednesday - 1950 Whitbread Best Ale

Before we go any further, I'd like to observe that use of the word "best" in the name of this beer must be ironic. It's an austerity beer that typifies the touch years immediately after WW II.

I'm still coming to terms with how quickly beers changed during most of the 20th century. The immutable nature of Tetley's Mild misled me. A, rather silly on reflection, assumption I made when first casting my nets in the archives, was that the post WW I logs weren't worth fishing out. How wrong I was.

Brewers struggled in those difficult times. Raw materials, energy and money were scarce. Taxes were high. Food was still rationed. Many pubs had been damaged or destroyed by bombing. Brewery buildings had been unmaintained. Times really were tough.

Just setting the context for this particular beer. One that was drunk by thousands. Tens of thousands. Probably more than that. It was Whitbread's biggest seller. With Whitbread, I always get the feeling that they were doing their best. Trying to brew good beer. Barclay Perkins should rather hang their heads in shame. All that maize and rice.

I'll pass you over to Kristen now . . . .

Just one last thing. I drank a version of this beer back in the 1970's. Only keg, but I drank it because Mild was already a novelty in London. It was in some shitty pub close to Chrisp Street market in the East End.

Now it really is Kristen's turn.

Whitbread 1950 Best Ale

Its Mild month...again...hooray!!!! We covered quite a bit of the older milds, pre-war, interwar, etc. I thought that I would show you how different the same beer can be in the same year. You'll notice that this beer was done by Ron a few months ago. You'll also notice that that log entry was from December, this is from June. Although the theme is quite similar, the way to get there is quite different. When I look over the log for this beer it really seems like they were trying to make the most amount of beer the cheapest way possible. Looks like a 'Fire Sale' to me. Which I'll get to now...

Whoa mama! Look at this trainwreck. Count them, FOUR, different pale malts. One could argue for their use with regards to complexity. Bullocks I say. What it looks like is they were cleaning the cupboards. Little of this, little of that, etc etc. So when I brewed this I made sure and use 4 different English pale malts, one being a mild malt. Get creative if you like. Just make sure and stay away from pils and 6-row for this recipe. In a pinch, American two-row will work fine. That is beside the point as the amounts of crystal and dark sugars are approximately the same.

When you look at the sugars you'll see the ubiquitous No 3 invert sugar. We've talked before about this bad boy and its lack of use nearly anywhere I've seen. Again, you can mimic this character quite easily. If you combine the pounds of all of the sugars in this recipe you can replace about 10-20% of it with treacle and the rest use Golden Syrup or the like. This log actually has a good bit of info in it as you can see with them divulging where the sugar goes (e.g., which gyle/copper). Its very interesting to see that more of the sugar goes in the second copper than the first in that the majority of the time brewers are happy to let the 2nd, or even 3rd, copper have a very low gravity. Check it out: Copper No 1 = 4cwt Hay, 4cwt Mort No. 3 and Copper No 2 = 2cwt Hay, 8cwt Mort No 3.

Not entirely horrible but not great either. Most of the references for middle Kent hops I've seen refer specifically to Fuggle, being the most widely grown in mid-Kent, so we'll stick with these. This is the first log that I've seen where the beer isn't brewed for more than an hour. Let alone is it boiled for only an hour, the second copper is boiled for only 45 minutes. Inasmuch, I would highly doubt that Whitbread would go to the trouble of such a short boil and add hops more than they all go in at the begining.

From the amount crystal and sugar you'll notice they make up about 11-12% of the grist. This is not entire huge but it isn't small either. Adding to that the fact that this beer is mashed at such a low temperature (145-6F) one could expect that this beer would be quite thing. This really isn't the case at all. Look at the lousy attenuation of this beer. Beers that start so low usually finish much drier, ESPECIALLY when mashed so low. The simple explanation is the unfermentable sugars the crystal and invert sugars leave behind.

Tasting notes:
Mostly bready with hints of dark fruits and rich caramel. A touch of caramel sweetness supports pear drops and Scottish toffees. Very easy to drink pale mild [Er, it's actually a Dark Mild - about 100 EBC. The No.3 invert sugar and Hay "M" would have been the source of the colour. RP.] without a lot of elbows. The perfect pint to drink with a fist of Scotch.


alastair wallace said...

Re "Let's Brew Wednesday" Best Ales.

In the list of malts in the grist bill for the Whitbread 1950 beer, you've posted a (?) at "Wateringberry ". Just to let you know Whitbread had a brewery at Wateringbury, Kent which used to belong to Frederick Leney & Co. The maltings for the brewery produced a pale malt for that brewery and also others within the Whitbread empire. The brewery closed in the 1980s after having been used by Whitbread as its "Export Brewery" and for the brewing of its Barley Wine and other high gravity beers.

Alastair Wallace - Retd. Head Brewer Tisbury Brewery PLC.

Ron Pattinson said...

Alastair, thank you very much for that. I'm sure you are correct and that it's Wateringbury not Wateringberry.

The Wateringbury brewery, because it didn't brew cask beer, was pretty invisible do most beer writers in the 1970's and 1980's.