Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Thomas Usher's beers 1885 - 1889

Just some random details I've harvested from the Scottish Brewing Archive logs. I'm not trying to make any particular point with these. Well, maybe a couple of small ones.

For purposes of comparison, I've included some details of Whitbread beers from around the same period.

Usher's beers don't really show any of the characteristics associated with Scottish beers in the 19th century - low hopping rate, cool fermentation, long boil. None of these differ significantly from Whitbread. Apart from the shilling Ales. They were less heavily hopped than the other Usher's beers and Whitbread's beers.

It's beginning to look as if English and Scottish brewing practices converged in the second half of the 19th century.

1 comment:

Gary Gillman said...


Here is an old recipe in contrast for Scotch ale, dating from the 1600's. No hops are used. There is a mashing and then, after a rest where the liquid appears to become somewhat tart, a boil. This seems similar to Flanders red ale where a sweet-sour acidity imparts an equilibrium that preserves the beer - hops being unrequired or incidental.

One may note too the requirement to keep it in a very cold cellar.

There is a reference in Byrn too to a particular combination of sweet and acid (in porter) which holds the drink in preservation, although he regarded the hop as essential for this. Maybe the extra-cold conditions in Scotland or parts of it rendered the hop superfluous for this purpose.

It is advised to age the ale in casks that had held "sweet wine" (sherry, port) and the palate must withal have been rich and sweet but (I infer) with a vinous edge. I would view this as similar to pre-hops recipes for ale in England except unlike those, a beer that could be kept up to a year.

Kenelme Digby (or Digbie) is a well-known figure in culinary and beverage history. He had a specialty in meads and similar drinks and seems to have been almost obsessed with them.

For anyone interested, Elizabeth David, the great English cookery writer of the 20th century, has written engagingly on Digby.