Thursday, 25 June 2009

Let's Brew Wednesday - 1936 Barclay Perkins DB

Is it Wednesday already? Seems more like Monday. What a treat we have in store today. A classic Southern Brown Ale from the 1930's.

Like everyone else, Barclay Perkins jumped on the Brown Ale bandwagon in the late 1920's. Like Whitbread, it called it's beer DB, though the initials stood for something quite different. Whitbread's was "Double Brown", Barclay Perkins "Doctor Brown" after Doctor Johnson. The 18th-century literary giant had been mates with Mr. and Mrs. Thrale, owners of the Park Street brewery before Barclay and Perkins. In the 20th century, an image of Doctor Johnson was the brewery's trademark.

Each brewery seems to have its own ideas about what constituted a Brown Ale. Not surprising, as the style was still very young. Barclay Perkins was one of the weaker ones. (Whitbread's DB was 1055). Neither beer bore any resemblance to the brewery's Milds.

I'll now let Kristen do his stuff . . . . .

Barclay Perkins (BP) 1936 DB

Grist and such
Nothing really jumps out at first with this beer. Lower in gravity, finishes like a normal ale at around 1.011. This one has quite a bit of hopping compared to the others of its gravity and 'color'. When you look closer you will see again that there is a ass load of adjuncts. Nearly 25%! Nearly equal parts of maize and sugars. As we discussed before, this era was ripe with its use of California 6-row as it was thought to lighten the flavor and add a touch of grainyness that the
British malts didn't have. It was also about 1/3rd cheaper than the standard Brit malts. Any two pale malts will do very well. I'd suggest probably Maris Otter and Halcyon as they work very well together. 6-row is very important but if you can't find it, use a lower quality 2-row. 75L crystal is right in the middle of traditional crystal colors. The sugars are very important so if you can't find the inverts, make them yourself (see past posts on this topic).

Standard mash for the era. Barley Perkins was really big on using underletting to raise their mash temperature. This mash was actually quite quick proabably taking about 3 hours to complete which when compared with Whitbreads 9 hour mashes really allows them many more in a day.

For a lighter brown ale this beer has quite a nice kick of hops to it. BP's middle/east kent hops are all rather fresh. The majority being less than a year and a bit nearly 2 years.

Tasting notes
Grainy sweet malt. No chocolate but more of a dark caramel and stone fruits. Corny, grainy middle with a good dose of herbaceous hops. Lots of flavor but quite thin on the end. Moderately bitter finish barely keeps this from being a 'brown liquid'.


Barm said...

"Southern Brown Ale?" I thought that was one of the Beer Hunter's made-up styles?

Ron Pattinson said...

Barm, you've caught me out.

Actually, that was a bit of irony. Barclay Perkins DB doesn't fit the profile of a Southern Brown Ale at all. And last time II looked, London was pretty much in the South.

Gary Gillman said...

The more I think about it, the more I conclude that the post-1920's brown ale was an attempt to re-brand porter. Re-inventing something old is a familiar gambit with a product that is losing popularity.

Brown beers were the original porter. Some was mild (less-hopped, the "Southern" style Michael spoke of), some was well-hopped as this BP style even if not aged for any period. Some was medium gravity, some was stronger(as again for the various English browns of the 1930's-1980's). This BP beer was made from pale malt and crystal for coloring, just as (essentially) much porter was starting in the early 1800's.

Perhaps some brown ales from the 1930's-1980's used amber or some form of smoky brown malt instead, but it doesn't matter really since porter's definition became rather flexible from the early 1800's.

And, brown ale was typically a bottled beer: the 1930's was the time suburban estate development really got going. Maybe it was thought this beer would sell well for a projected growth in home use, an off-license porter for the drink that had been a draught staple.

Sugar and other adjuncts there were in this particular recipe, but as we've seen in other discussions, their use characterised British brewing in general after 1880 or so. Adjunct use wouldn't disqualify the beer from being a reinvention of porter.

The use of the term Doctor Brown seems to point to an intended link with the origins of BP: which were in porter. Other brands, as Michael Jackson showed, seemed to have a vaguely rural theme (Forest Brown and the like). One can theorize endlessly about this - did the quintessential urban beer, porter, need re-inventing as a bucolic holdover when its urban base was lost to mild and pale ales?

Meet the new porter, same as the old porter. (Apologies to The Who).


N.B. 6 row barley indeed can have a grainy, drying taste. Canadian 6 row is like this and would probably suit well for the American 6 row in the recipe. By the way too, a Newcastle Brown Ale was recently essayed - keg draft - in particularly good condition in Toronto recently. It had more taste than the rather pallid bottled or canned version we get here. To me this is essentially a mild porter.

Kristen England said...

Southern brown ale as in its from the south....not that its Manns Brown.

I actually had a bottle of Manns Brown last night. Its a year old and still really good. I don't know why people don't like this beer more.

Ron Pattinson said...

Gary, Barclay Perkins brewed a crazy number of Porters/Stouts in 1936 and none of them was anything like DB.

I've seen brewing records for three Brown Ales: BP DB, Whitbread DB and Whitbread Forest Brown.

BP DB and Whitbread DB are nothing like their Porter recipes. The beers they resemble most are Burton (KK) or PA. Forest Brown is like Mild.

The malt mixes were completely different, the hopping, the colour. They weren't rebranded Porter.

Barm said...

I agree with Gary that suburban development could be a key factor. Bottled brown ale would be the lager of its time. If marketing people had been around then they would have called it an aspirational drink. People were getting shiny steel bicycles manufactured in their millions by Raleigh and others; the better off were starting to get motor cars. Both groups enjoyed weekend excursions into the countryside. Once there, bottled brown ale had the same appeal that a bottle of Waitrose Chardonnay has today. Hence the rural connotations of brown ale?

Gary Gillman said...

Ron, how exactly was this BP brown ale different from the BP porters of the same period? How did they differ in any essential way? Porter is top-fermented beer with a dark brown colour and a taste derived (at least in burned) from a malt toasted or caramelised in some way. Didn't BP porter and brown ale meet these requirements?

Also, an important point: was the porter made by BP in the same era a draught-only (or mainly draught-only) beer? If so, the fact of brown ale being essentially a bottled beer would point to an attempt to bring back porter to those inclined to drink at home.




Ron Pattinson said...

Gary, BP brewed an enormous range of Porters in 1936, draught and bottled, of gravities of 1033 to 1102.

On the 1 inch Lovibond colour scale, DB was 105 to 115º. The palest Porter, TT, was 240º. Their X and XX Milds were 85-90º. The beers with the most similar colour to DB were KK and KKKK at 95-100º.

The darkest malt in the DB grist was crystal. The colour came from a combination of that and caramel. The base malt was PA malt. Their Porter had a base of mils ale malt and in addition oats, amber malt, brown malt, crystal malt and roasted barley. The only things the grists had in common were sugar, crystal malt and maize.

I think a lot of rubbish has been spread about Brown Ale (I blame homebrewing organisations). The ones I've seen logs for didn't use brown malt or any other roasted malt. Whitbread's DB was coloured with a touch of chocolate. Their Forest Brown, however, contained no dark malt at all and was coloured with No. 3 invert sugar.

The BJCP says these are the ingredients of a Southern Brown Ale:

"English pale ale malt as a base with a healthy proportion of darker caramel malts and often some roasted (black) malt and wheat malt."

Total fantasy.

Gary Gillman said...

BP was the most traditionalist porter brewer, keeping to a grist (as you've pointed out before) long abandoned by other brewers who simply used pale malt and either roasted malt or charred un-malted barley to achieve a "porter" palate. The difference in colour is interesting, but of course porter became darker as time went by, so it seems six of one half a dozen of the other. Porter originally was brown stout and the weaker version was called alternately (e.g., in Combrune) brown beer. One difference that might seem permanent is hopping rate, but we have that early 1800's description of mild porter as only "slightly bitter", and here we see a 1930's brown ale with a respectable level of bitterness, so it all seems to come together in the middle.

Where Michael Jackson went wrong I think was suggesting that brown ale was (or typically was) the bottled version of mild; it seems to me that broadly it is better viewed as a kind of mild porter, i.e., being again "lately brewed and slightly bitter" (but bitterness would vary somewhat with each brewer). Where Jackson may have went right is perceiving that brown ale was essentially a London drink, as porter had been, he calls it typically "a south London drink", quoting the satirist and musician George Melly (whom I once met by the way). This association with London, and the fact of the drink becoming the people's drink - pale ale and bitter were favoured more by the clerical and business classes in London - seems to suggest a throwback to the mild brown ale that formed the basis of the original porter.

I think too though we are back to how narrowly we classify beers. There is an element of relativity here, then.


Ron Pattinson said...

Gary, I have to disagree. I've not seen a Brown Ale that even vaguely resembled a Porter.

The Brown Ales from before WW II resemble K Ales more than anything else. Some later examples, like Whitbread Forest Brown, are clearly slightly tweaked versions of Dark Mild.

There was no Brown Ale in the original Porter. It was Brown BEER. It's an important distinction. Early 19th century Porter was, by modern standards, pretty heavily hopped.

I doubt any Porter was ever as pale as the BP and Whitbread Brown Ales. And as for trying to brew a "throwback" Porter, brewers in the 1920's wouldn't have had the faintest idea of the colour it had been even 50 years earlier, let alone 100 or more.

London was where modern Brown Ale originated. Every London Porter I've ever seen contained Brown malt. Yet their Brown Ales, despite the name, didn't.

I was struck when I checked by how completely BP's Brown Ale differed from their Porter. There was more in common between their Mild or Burton and their Porter. The closest match to the Brown Ale was in fact their PA.

Gary Gillman said...

Ron, I understand the technical difference between ale and beer in 1700's brewing usage. But I think brown ale and mild porter in the 1700's/early 1800's would have been similar. If mild porter was only "slightly bitter", per the well-known early 18800's description, this could not have been much different in taste than brown ale in my view. The purpose of hopping was preservation. Beers not intended for keeping - and of the same alcohol content - would have had a similar hopping rate. Even if this was not so in theory, I think it was in practice, in that different brewers would have had different versions of the same drink. Just as some bitter "has a sweet palate" (per M. Jackson writing in the 1970's), some 1700's brown ale would have been as bitter as some mild brown beer even admitting these things were different to begin with.

Early brown ale and brown beer would both have used brown malt. If no modern brown ale ever did, this is because its use was abandoned even for most porter as the 1800's wore on. BP was an exception in retaining use of significant brown malt in the spec, and was it really the old wood-kilned brown malt by the 1930's? (But even if it was, how many porters by then used such malt? Guinness did not for example).

I think in the early 1700's, brown ale - not just brown beer if such a thing existed apart as opposed to common small beer which is a different animal due to its low ABV - must have been mixed often with stale brown beer to form three threads and the other thread variations. The accounts of three threads are various: some state it was two drinks mixed, some three or even more, and the names of the beers in the accounts differ.

So I think you can argue that, i) mild brown beer/brown ale (the dividing line between them unclear and this increasingly so ever since ale became hopped) was the basis of porter, and ii) the 1930's London brown ale was the same idea of drink. The latter was not smoky in taste to be sure (but how much porter was by then?). It was not highly hopped (but taste in porter had for some time changed to mild porter - only "slightly bitter").

So I view these as broadly the same, especially since bottled beer does not seem to have been a major category for the London porter brewers.

I can see the marketing director saying to his colleagues, "Chaps, porter is declining, it's image is all wrong for today, too dark, too public bar. Let's do a less dark porter without the snap of roast malt or roast barley, and put it in half-pint bottles for people to drink at home who aren't taking to lager. It will be similar to what their fathers drank in the pub but fresher-tasting, like porter right off the line at the brewery. For the crowd who don't take to pale ale in any of its forms much less the new lager".


Ron Pattinson said...

Gary, theories are great, but to be accepted hey need the support of evidence.

Porter was declining but Whitbread's Stouts were doing very well. In the 1930's they were selling as much Porter and Stout as they had in the 1910's. It's just that most of it was Stout rather than Porter.

Whitbread had an enormous bottled trade in the 20th century. Much of it Stout.

I've seen 20th-century brewing records from 9 London breweries and every single one used brown malt in their Porter/Stout.

The 18th century stuff is irrelevant. There's a gap of about 100 years in Brown Ale brewing. The modern version is nothing like the modern one. I got Kristen to brew a 17th-century Brown Ale and it was nothing like those of today.

Gary, don't drive me crazy. Brown Ale is not a modern type of Porter.

Gary Gillman said...

Okay, points taken, and I've had my say to be sure. (Thanks always for the chance for that). Onward and upward!