Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Scottish hopping, 1851

I bet you've all be waiting for this. I know I have. Finally getting to the bottom of the story that the Scots brewers used fewer hops than their English counterparts.

It's always sounded a dodgy theory to me. Because its origin appears to be a logical construction (hops didn't grow in Scotland, so must have been expensive, so they must have used fewer) rather than a conclusion reached after examining evidence.

These are only preliminary results. I reserve the right to change my opinion when I've had a more thorough look at the facts. But that will take some time.

I've compared beers brewed in 1850 - 1851 by William Younger in Edinburgh with beers brewed in London by Whitbread and Truman. To ensure I'm comparing like with like, I've stuck to X Ales and Stock Ales. I've also tried to get beers of roughly similar gravities.

Let's kick off with X Ales. These are pretty easy to deal with as they all have identical names in the logs and are of pretty much the same gravity:

Despite being slightly lower in gravity than Truman's and Whitbread's, Younger's X Ale is the most heavily-hopped, both in pounds per barrel and pounds per quarter. Younger's XX has the fewest hops in terms of pound per quarter, but edges out Truman in pounds per barrel. Younger's XXX comes in the middle with regards to pounds per quarter and is only just behind Truman's XXX in pounds per barrel.

My conclusion? That Younger's X Ales were hopped at pretty much the same rate as London-brewed X Ales.

Now let's turn to Stock Ales:

I'm not going to bore you by explaining that lot in words. It's pretty clear that, once again, the Younger's beers have been hopped in a very similar way to their London counterparts.

That was simple, wasn't it? tomorrow we'll take a look at Porter and Pale Ale.


Matt said...

The thing that has always struck me about the 'Scottish beer is less heavily hopped because hops don't grow there' theory is that if it were true the same would apply to Northern England, whereas if anything the opposite is the case: you don't get a more bitter pint of bitter than my favourite, Holts of Manchester.

Pivní Filosof said...

I wonder if any of the 'Scottish beer is less heavily hopped because hops don't grow there' people will come out and say something like: "Well, I guess I was wrong".

It's really great that beer writing has people like you that really care about the facts to help us see things from a different, and prehaps more accurate, perspective.