Saturday, 22 August 2009

Scottish hopping, 1851 (part three)

William Younger produced a baffling array of Ales in 1851. You had X Ales and Stock Ales, which were much like beers brewed in England. There were Porters and Pale Ales, too. Again very much along the lines of their English counterparts. Then you have the shilling Ales.

These Ales appear particularly Scottish. In the Younger's records of the 1830's, they are the only beers to be found. They seem to have only started brewing "English" style beers around the middle of the 19th century. Remember how in an earlier post I made clear the distinction between Scotch Ale and Scottish Ale? Well the shilling Ales are Scotch Ales. And they're hopped rather differently.

Here's a comparison between the hopping rates of Younger's shilling Ales and English X Ales:

Scotch Ales being rather on the strong side, I couldn't find any English equivalent of two. 60/- Ale, roughly equivalent in strength to an X Ale, was hopped at just 5 pounds per quarter as opposed to 8 pounds. 80/- Ale was, at 7 pounds per quarter, a little closer to the 9 to 10 pounds perquarteer of an XX Ale. 100/- was hopped at only half the rate of Truman's XXX Ale.

My conclusion? Shilling (or Scotch) Ales were significantly more lightly hopped than other Ales of similar strength. But those other Ales included many, such as Younger's X Ales, that were also brewed north of the border. Scotch Ales were lightly hopped, but Scottish Ales in general were not. Is that clear enough?


Gary Gillman said...

Ron, what I conclude from this, and writers of the era like Roberts whom I have already mentioned, is that the indigenous Scots style, what you have termed Scotch Ale/shilling ale, was low-hopped in relation to English beers. I believe even though the Scots early became adept at brewing other styles of beer right up to and including lager, their own style, which was called in the 1700's I believe twopenny, was not highly hopped.

My theory is that this is down to the cooler climate in Scotland. It did not need the hop as much as beer did in England.

As you have shown however, some breweries by 1850 were making beers in some cases more highly hopped than their counterparts elsewhere. Why? Fashion might be one simple answer. Everyone wants the new, the import. Even Roberts found himself convinced that a top range of 8 pounds per quarter (for Scotch ale) was too low (he plumped for 10).

Yet, I do feel that the idea of Scotch ale being sweetish and low-hopped survived in peoples' consciousness or subliminally and into modern times. This is why I think Michael Jackson viewed the traditional style in this way, apart from contemporary examples suggesting this. I recall in Boulogne in the 1980's drinking French- or Belgain-brewed "le Scotch" which were dark and sweet, the type of beers mentioned admiringly in Jackson's Scotch ale chapter in his 1978 book.

With all the changes in technology, categories, malts, hops, hops yearlings and what you will, I still believe the good old MacEwan's Scotch Ale we get in Ontario and that I have seen in Canada since the early 1970's is an echo of the old twopenny ale.


Tandleman said...

I see you are adopting the term "Scotch" Ales, which wouldn't have been used by the brewers. Or would it? When did that term appear and who coined it I wonder?

Ron Pattinson said...

Tandleman, I've described these as "Scotch Ales" because they look just like the beers Roberts calls Scotch Ales in his book "Scottish Ale Brewer" published in 1847. And they have the same names, basically just a shilling price.

"The Younger Centuries" history of Younger's also mentions strong Scotch Ales.

And I have several descriptions from the 1830's to 1850's of this type of very high OG Scotch Ales.

My point is simple. These beers are totally different from what is called 70/- or 80/- today. Beers of this type no longer exist, as far as I know. Later Scottish beers were variations on Pale Ale, Mild and Stout.

Many have applied the "lightly-hopped" tag to the later Scottish beers that had no connection with older Scotch Ales.

Gary Gillman said...

I might add that the McEwan's Scotch Ale I mentioned is, as currently listed at LCBO in Ontario, 7.9% ABV. I believe this strength is not made available in the U.K. today by the brewer, Scottish & Newcastle.

I take from this, and the palate of the beer, that S&N has persisted with the old Scotch ale style that the export markets (e.g., North America, Belgium) demanded from long habit, just like Guinness FES continued to be sold in West Indies but not in British Isles and Ireland (or not until recently, I think FES is available now in London at least).

An example with a different drink may be Jack Daniels Single Barrel. It is available in Europe at 100 proof (50% ABV) but not in North America. (You can get it at 94 proof though here). Before National Prohibition in the U.S.A., all straight whiskey of quality, or almost all, was sold at 100 proof. So Europe in those days would have come to expect that as the gold standard, and it is still supplied to them, but not here any longer. So again I infer this about the original Scotch Ale for Canada, Belgium, etc.


Barm said...

Gary, you're jumping to conclusions and that's how we got these old myths about the origins of certain beers in the first place.

Michael Jackson thought that Scottish beer was malty and lightly hopped because that's what the Belhaven 80/– and Younger's No 3 he was drinking in the 1970s and 1980s were like.

How those beers got like that still needs research.

Gary Gillman said...

In my view, one is entitled to offer a reasoned "subjective" view, if in the circumstances it is persuasive. There are many ways to reason, I think. I would be the first to agree that raw data is crucial but so are reputable secondary sources such as brewers who authored texts. So too are historically remembered tastes of beers from circa-1980 which claim a connection to the style we are discussing. These latter are not determinative to be sure, but are useful evidence in the whole picture...

I was referring, not to Jackson's tastings of domestically produced Scots ales under 5% ABV, but his tastings of export-only strong Scotch ale available in Belgium in 1978 and indeed in Canada. He identified traditional Scotch ale as a malty, strong beer and gave as examples Gordon's Scotch Ale and Campbell's in Belgium (this from memory but I believe that is right). I tasted such beers, as I mentioned earlier, in French Flanders and Belgium in the 1980's. We have had McEwan's Scotch Ale in Canada since at least 1970 (but probably much earlier) which meets the same general description.

Michael did also refer to a revival beer made in a castle in Scotland, Traquair, as more descriptive of the older Scotch style. It was and is I believe 7%-8% ABV, in that vicinity. I have had it many times and again would type it as (relatively) lightly hopped, malty and on the strong side - an excellent beer indeed.

And so, reading both on this most valuable site and in Roberts, etc. that traditional Scotch ale was low-hopped and often high gravity, I believe there is continuity between the beers Michael was talking about and those early Scotch ales. I did point out too the apparent differences where I detected them, notably in colour.


Ron Pattinson said...

I've analyses of Scotch Ales from various periods in the 20th century. Including ones specifically made for the Belgian market.

I have to put together a sort of timeline. Younger's logs sometimes handily have Export, London or a Scottish flag next to a particular brew. So you can see which market they were for.

No. 3 was sold as Scotch Ale. But wasn't one of the Younger shilling Ales. It belongs to their family of numbered Ales. And it was soemtimes, sometimes dark, sometimes both. Make sense out of that.

There's so much more to look at. But, just like other styles, Scottish beers changed considerably over time. Wait till you see Thomas Usher's beers.