Thursday, 17 September 2009

mid-18th century brewing

As promised, the section on brewing.

Milk-warm. Is that hotter or cooler than blood-warm? You have to admire anyone who would take on mashing without being armed with a thermometer.

Do some of the descriptions look a little familiar? Where have I seen them before?

Of brewing In general.

THE malt is first to be ground, and let this be done moderately. It should be only cracked, and mattered in the mill. This is sufficient, for the water will thoroughly take out its virtue ; and if it be broke more it will not answer so well in the brewing. Many desire their malt to be ground very fine, thinking it by that means answers better in giving out its strength ; but in this case it mixes with the water instead of impregnating it with its virtues : the wort runs thick, and the brewing goes on coarsely.

Let the farmer have his malt ground ten days before brewing. This is most essential to the brown malts, because it takes off the fiery taste they got in their high drying ; but it is of great use to all. The ground malt must be kept in a dry place, and it always mellows in lying. The paler the malt the less time it needs lye after grinding. In the London way of business it is not easy to give malt this advantage, because they brew so frequently and in such quantities : therefore the family brewer has an advantage. About eight days mould be allowed to the pale malts, and from ten to twelve or fourteen to the brown. The malt thus ground and kept is ready for use, and we mail lead our farmer into the practice, by giving him a general idea of the method in London, where there are perhaps the most understanding brewers in the world.

Four kinds of beer are brewed in London, stout, common butt-beer, ale, and small beer. Stout is the strongest beer, brewed from brown malt; and is fold for forty shillings the barrel, or six pound the butt, from the wholesale cellar. To brew this, the water in the copper for the first marsh is made to heat soon, by pouring in a couple of bushels of husky malt, just to spread over its top. The degree of heat to be given this is the utmost that the hand can endure, but it must not boil.

When it is in this condition the fire must be damped, and the best way is by throwing on a good quantity of fresh coals. Then cold water is to be let in till the whole is just blood warm. The malt is then to be worked in with oars, half an hour, and this is called the stiff mash. While this is beating up more water is to be boiling in the copper. This Is to be let in : and the whole being mashed again, and well mixed, some baskets of malt are to he thrown over it, and it stands an hour. At the end of this time it is to be let out into the under back ; and is then boil'd an hour and half. This, with the due quantity of hops, is the stout.

The common brown ale, or as they call it starting beer, is made in the fame manner as the stout; but a larger quantity is brewed from the fame portion of malt. After the stiff and second mash they cap the whole with fresh malt and boil it an hour; and after this small beer is made of it. The difference between brown beer and brown ale is only that less beer is made, and it is boiled longer and has more hops, proportioned to the time it is intended to be kept. The pale beers are brewed in the fame manner, only pump water is used, and it is made hotter at first, and lowered to be almost cold afterwards.

The small beer in London is made thus. They heat the first water with some hully malt over it, and when it is of a due heat they let in some cold, and run it into a tun milk-warm. The malt is mashed in this ; and then the second quantity of Water is let in, which is scalding hot. It is to stand an hour, and then be run off into the under back. This makes one copper of the first wort without putting any fresh malt in. The next liquor is to be blood-warm, then hot, and then lastly, cool.

This is the great secret of the London brewing. Their beer has a great advantage from the quantity that is brewed together; and there is a great deal of art in putting in the first: water blood-warm, and the rest hot: for this warm water opens the malt beyond any other practice, and makes it ready to receive, and yield all its strength to the hot.

The allowance for stout beer is a quarter of malt to one barrel; and this is fold from the tap at thirty shillings. The proportion for the common brown ale is a quarter of malt to a barrel and half. For entire small beer the allowance is a quarter of malt to six barrels: tho’ some allow a quarter to five. The allowance for pale and amber ale is a quarter to a barrel and a firkin.

Thus have we laid before the country farmer the general proportions and method of working in the London brewhouses for their various kinds of drink ; and from this and the particulars of the several kinds premised before, he will be able to comprehend the whole theory, art or mystery of the business, and may safely and successfully enter on the practice.
Source: "A Compleat Body Of Husbandry" by Thomas Hale, 1758, pages 322 - 324.


Gary Gillman said...

I see influence of London and Country Brewer but this author injects his own ideas too. I think you can see here reflection of some of the origins of porter: common butt beer seems the development of brown ale, essentially.


Ron Pattinson said...

Gary, a development of Brown Beer, not Brown Ale. It's a very important disctinction.

Gary Gillman said...

Ron, the core of the old porter seems to have been a half and half. Sometimes 3 beers. While differently composed, I believe its essence was combining a young "beer" and an aged one. This would have been done to get a balance.

I think the un-aged component was really brown ale - not highly hopped since it was not kept for long. It would have been hopped (per Combrune) just a pound or two per quarter (to last a month ortwoo).

So, a three thirds was I think brown ale (mild), old brown beer; and maybe pale ale, or amber in some accounts but it doesn't matter.

The famous brewery outdoor clerk stated in the Gentleman's Magazine that breweries started to use more hops and age the beer for the right time, not too long not too short. So, the mixtures above were replaced by entire butt beer/porter, which I think was the old brown ale turned into brown beer.

I am sure there was strong and weaker mild beer - stitch seems to have been strong mild ale. Maybe some mixtures for porter used stitch because Ellis wrote I think that it was used "to amend the common brown ale". But in its essence, I believe three threads was mildly acidic from an aged element. So did porter become so. If you took brown ale (not stitch but an entire-gyle 5% ABV ale), hopped it up and started it in butts, you ended with a beer that was neither stale nor mild.


Ron Pattinson said...

Gary, don't get led astray by the ridiculous three-threads story. That's a complete red heering. At no point does Poundage (clearly the source used by later writers) say Porter was an attempt to replicate any mixture. He's just describing popular drink pre-Porter.

Obadiah Poundage clearly says that Porter was pre-aged at the brewery. That's what the Porter revolution was, ageing beer in the brewery rather than leaving it to the publican.

Later they did change over over to only ageing some beer and blending it with mild Porter. But this mild Poerter was way more heavily-hopped than 18th-century Brown Ales. And it was usually no more than one third aged beer.

Take a look here:

18th-century Brown Ale was hopped at a rate of less than a pound a barrel. 19th-century Running (or mild) Porter was hopped at 2 to 3 pounds a barrel. A big difference.

Gary Gillman said...

I know that Poundage in Gentleman's Quarterly did not use the term three threads. But he did speak of mixing sweet brown ale and brown beer. That was a half and half which was one version of a three threads. He states beer developed because hops were taxed less than malt (or rather this encouraged this development). That does not ring right and I think beer was simply aged brown ale - it was less sweet because it had more hops and probably was undergoing some conditioning in the aging. I don't think it matters where the beer was aged for this purpose, initially it was aged at the publicans but then was taken over by the brewers is my understanding, but that is a mere logistics thing.

I accept your findings that mild porter and brown ale had different hopping rates, but in my view, porter in the 1800's, mild or not, would have had some influence from the days it was aged 6 months or whatever. That is why I think it was more hoppy than the old brown ale, people expected the palate. Nor was that mild beer (as vended to the people) purely mild since we know it was being sent out often with a 1/3rd old beer in it or the publican added same.

My belief is that first they drank new young ale mixed with tart older beer. And porter replaced that. Later, porter itself became a mixture but that was a production change, to get the palate of medium-age in a faster way.


Ron Pattinson said...

Gary, Porter came in 36 gallon barrels therefore was by (legal) definition a beer and not an Ale.

Like I said before, the mixes are a red herring. Poundage was just describing what people drank before the development of Porter.

Graham Wheeler said...

I have seen a triple blend ordered regularly by certain "old boys" in a particular pub in my life time. It even had a name, but a can't remember it. If I remember rightly two components of the blend were mild and bitter, might have been brown and mild (which was pointless because they were exactly the same stuff at the time), but the third component was definately barley wine. The nip bottle of barley wine lasted for two or three drinks, i.e, about a third of a nip in each pint.

You still see brown and bitter; my local publican keeps bottles of brown in stock for a couple of his old regulars.

Brown-and-mild and mild-and-bitter, were popular when mild was more widely available, and both certainly still take place in odd enclaves. Keg mild is still stocked in most working-men's clubs and British Legions and the like.

I was listening to Mr Barclay only the other day, and in 1816 (a date that has cropped up a lot lately) he stated to a parliamentary committee that he supplied both stale and mild to the publican and that this was mixed in the customer's glass in his preferred proportions, but there is the implication there that the publican might have blended himself beforehand, to suit the tastes of his customers. It seems that Barclay did not supply a blend, even as late as 1816, but mild on its own was gaining widespread favour so the blend was not necessary anyway (perhaps because they discovered what went into the stale). If you read the transcript the stale was certainly a blend, but not the sort of blend that we would think of as wholesome.

The transcript of Mr Barclay's question-and-answer session with the committee can be found in The Art Of Brewing by Booth, 1829. My version, which it seems I nicked from Google, is a bloody clever scan, because it is searchable, even though it is a facsimile and not a simple OCR text scan. Search for Barclay within the document, if you are interested, but be warned that you will never touch porter again if you do, and you will be thankful that Barclay Perkins is now defunct (well almost).

Mr Barclay did refer to the stale as Entire, so that is one aspect of terminology sorted.

The point of all this is that beer mixtures have taken place probably since the monks first landed in Canterbury, and all the brewers did was to capitalise on an existing practice. Nobody "invented" porter; it has always been there, and is a direct linear descendent of the aged brown beers that Lizzy the first was drinking. It is the terminology that changes, or is misunderstood, and that is what catches us out.

1816 again. I wonder if the other 1816 act also outlawed blending by publican or brewer. It doesn't say why Mr Barclay was hauled in front of a parliamentary committee, but is seems related to either that or adulteration.

Poundage does point out that privateers bought mild and aged it on behalf of the publicans, which seems to have doubled the price, so it is no wonder that the brewers wanted a slice of that action. But you have to read between the lines of Poundage and balance it with other information to get any real value out of him, because it was a campaigning document that was sent all over the place, and the facts, if there are any, would be skewed to make his point. Conveying accurate information was not the purpose of the document.

Graham Wheeler said...

I meant to point out in my previous post that brewers blending two beers was not restricted to porter, indeed it seems that London porter was the one beer that was not blended by the big brewers at least.

Mixing new and old by the brewers was a common practice with many types of beer and was called "Bringing Forward" or "Hardening" in brewerspeak. Some types of beer were always blended, but those brewers that were brave enough to brew in the summer usually blended their summer-brewed beers to get them out of the door sooner. Summer-brewed beer did not keep, so they wanted it out the door before it went off. The blending made a young beer taste old, hence the name "Bringing Forward". That is what Keeping Beers and Stock Ales were all about. They were brewed in winter to use for blending with beers brewed between, say, May and October.

Some beers were always blended. Good stouts were usually a blend of stout of three different ages.

Of the modern beers that are still made this way, I can only think of one British beer: Green King Suffolk Ale.

Newcastle Brown used to be made that way (A blend of three), in its more halcyon days of, perhaps, twenty years ago. There were several that have only disappeared relatively recently, but my forgettory refuses to remember the names. One of the Dorset brewers may still do something akin.

Many Belgian beers are blends; the Belgians preserve British brewing traditions much better than we do.

Ron Pattinson said...

Graham, I really appreciate your contributions. We may not always agree, but you always have something to back up your arguments.

Blending. It's a characteristic of British brewing. Like party-gyling. Underlet mashing. And barely-alcoholic Milds.

I'll be posting about some blending fun later this week.

Gary Gillman said...

I maintain that when Poundage said brewers began to hop and age their brown beers more, that showed the invention of porter. Many other writers in the 1700's, including Combrune refer to the "improvement" of brown beers, denoting a similar innovation.

Apart from which there is the Feltham account, which I simply take at face value. He was closer to the events than I, even if he simplified what happened.

But is all this on a continuum, a developing of what came before? Sure, I'd be the first to agree. Yet at a certain point people do recognize the appearance of something new. Part of what made it new was the ability of brewers to age very large amounts of beer and make an excellent aged yet not sour product. Many writers assert this porter could not have been made on a small scale and I agree, it is because small amounts spoiled too fast.

I think porter is the greatest development of English brewing and it is a tragedy how modern English brewing for the most part has cast it aside, I am referring to large-scale brewing (although there is the odd welcome exception, e.g., Sam Smith's Taddy porter and Imperial stout and Fullers's London Porter).


Graham Wheeler said...

Thank you for your kind words.

We do not have to agree; that is the whole point of it. One of the causes of much of the disinformation about beer, and porter in particular, is people believing everything they read. If people agreed with each other all the time there would not be any progress.

I must admit that when I first read your denouncement of me on your other web site, I was a bit peeved, and the thoughts that went through my mind at the time were along the lines of: "WotDoesThatSillyGitKnowAboutItAnyway." But I have learned an awful lot from this blog, and it has caused me to reappraise my views more than once; I would not come back here on an almost daily basis if I did not learn something from it. We both know from our private communications that we have a mutual respect for each other, and that means an awful lot to me. History, which is what we are talking about here, is a matter of interpretation anyway, nobody knows the truth, and the truth is different at different times and in different places.

At least on here, rather than arguing the toss, I have tried to explain where I am coming from and my reasoning. I will not always be right, but people can make their own minds and make their own interpretation.

If we agreed on every point it would spoil it all, for me at least.

Ron Pattinson said...

Graham, one of the reasons I post so much on this blog is because of the responses I get. And you're perfectly right - it's the dissenting opinions that are the most useful.

I've come to the conclusion, for example, that there's a lot more I need to learn about malt. A lot more.

Funny, isn't it, how the more you research the less you feel you truly know.

Graham Wheeler said...


Malt is something that I too have overlooked, but, for the pre-Victoria ea, there isn't much documentation and it is difficult to know exactly what anybody means with the interchangeable terminology of the time.

Malt in one geographical area would have been quite different to that of another area, just like local cheeses are today, and it would have evolved and changed over time.

The best indication of what was brewed at the time in any particular area would be the local malt, and the only way determining that would be to know the kiln design in use at that time. At least we can determine what they could and could not be making to a degree at least.

Unfortunately the details necessary to determine this are not the sort of detail that an author is likely to mention unless he is discussing kiln construction - rare.

Looking at surviving malthouses in Ware or looking at contemporary illustrations that may or may not be in Ware library would be the only way of determining what went on there, but it will not help with the rest of the country, which would be quite different.

Anyway, more observations on kiln design later, in another topic where there is a supporting illustration of a kiln.