Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Scottish hopping, 1868

By the time I've finished you'll never want to hear about hopping rates again. I've moved forward a couple of decades, to the late 1860's.

There's one big change from 1851. The X Ales have dropped considerably in gravity. Younger's more so than the London ones. Younger's X and XX were 1071 and 1082 in 1851. It's a trend that continued for much of the late 19th century. I wonder why that was?

The strength differences between Younger's and the London beers makes comparisons a little trickier. But, pitting Younger's XX against the similar strength London X Ales, it's the second hoppiest after Truman's.


Gary Gillman said...

Ron, it makes sense that Scots ales became less strong as time went on. The fashionable beer of the mid-1800's, as Roberts makes clear but many other sources too, was IPA. As you have shown, its gravity on average was not stupendously strong and often less than many craft beer fans have assumed in recent years.

So, in an attempt to compete with the new fashion for a "lighter" beer that everyone from Barnard to Graham was writing about, I infer Scots ales became less strong and (relatively) more hopped as time went on. And possibly they became more estery due to increased brewing in what previously was the non-brewing season. In a word, Scots ale became more English.

Fortunately, or what is perhaps part of the story, those who liked a wee heavy had an increasingly available alternative: whisky.

Early 1800's descriptions of Scotch ale stress its high sweetness and strength. One writer states it is hard to drink more than one bottle. Another states it can have the affect of sealing one's lips (the sugar). This was a rural style of beer, laid down often for a year, able to survive with fewer hops than in England due to colder weather and perhaps some particularity of an acid-sweet balance. (Well, the English vatteds had that too I guess - and that was probably the main factor for their preservation: I am with Hitchcock when he states no amount of hops will prevent acidity in beer).

What beer could be less useful in an evolving, partly industrializing and urbanizing country than the old Scotch ale?

Still, I believe that in general, Scots ales remained more malty and less hopped than English beers. These were the beers emulated from the 1920's by Belgian brewers, beers that were familiar to them apparently from WW 1-era British military influence. (See Jackson on this).

Later, in Scotland except for export, the beers changed, but the Belgians kept with the "original" style or at least its best representation at the time which probably was still reasonably available - the Wee Heavy of Fowler, say, that type.

Bush is an example of something similar happening in a related beer style. It was an emulation of a strong English style, perhaps the original Burton ale, or a XXX London. Today, anyone sampling Bush would say, this kind of beer is hardly available in England - yet at one time it was very representative of what was consumed there.


Ron Pattinson said...

Gary, the Scots just started brewing English-style beer. And that wasn't necessarily IPA, but included Stout and Mild, too.

Scotch Ale wasn't really a rural product. It was brewed in Scotland's urban centres like Edinburgh and Alloa.

Take a look at my next post. It will have details of 20th-century Scotch Ales, some of which were brewed for the Belgian market.

Gary Gillman said...

Will do Ron, and thanks. But Scotch ale originally was a rural product, the Digby recipe shows this, it is clearly from a manor house of some kind. Certainly later it became a town and city product. My point is by the time the Belgians copied it (and imported it), it still resembled its original form, or enough of it to form a connection.

Subsequently, the Scots abandoned their own style (for the most part). The Belgian market was the original Scots one, in other words, not anything invented for them.


Adrian said...

Interesting stuff about the Belgian beer, Gary. Where might I be able to read more about this topic?

Are contemporary Belgian beers related to these Scotch Ale influenced ones from last century?

Gary Gillman said...

Here you go:

I first read this interview in an issue (hard copy) of All About Beer, the U.S. consumer beer magazine. Fortunately it is online now.

My idea possibly linking this approach with Scotch ale is speculative. I was thinking too of pre-hopped (or very low-hopped) Scotch ale, which is more the original type, not, as Ron has shown, the general output of Scottish brewers in the later 1800's.

As you see, there are very few hops in Rodenbach. Hop bitter isn't wanted, the right acid balance is.

Note by the way how one of the brewery's ancestors had studied in England - porter production. So he brought back apparently some ideas related to porter vatting, and I believe porter at least was preserved in a similar way. Of course, porter was well-hopped, but the hops might have been added just for flavour.


Gary Gillman said...

Going a bit afield here (for the thread), but I can't help noting the Rodenbach's expert's insistence that the sensations of bitterness and sourness do not match up. Maybe he is right about that. The old vatted porters - or Somerset vatted ales, say - would have been plenty bitter and plenty sour. But those styles no longer exist (except perhaps vestigially for Guinness Draught and Guinness FES).

So perhaps public taste could not accustom to the combination of sour and bitter. Rodenbach and some other Flanders specialties - and lambic, which also is lightly hopped I believe - have survived.

So maybe overall it is true that the public can take sour-sweet better than sour-bitter. Or maybe it is vagaries of local taste and/or the way industries change technologically over time..


Gary Gillman said...

I'll throw into the hopper this description of the well-known Scotch de Silly, whose colour is not dark but more reddish-brown. This colour was within the range of some pale ales in the 1800's and earlier. Even Combrune speaks of amber and pale malts sometimes in the same breadth. Plus, boil times can affect colour.

Anyway, a fascinating topic and good discussion.