Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Truman's Burton-brewed beers in WW I

I love WW I. It's such a pivotal event in the development of modern British beer. So excuse me if I go into it in ridiculous detail once again. Focus of my attention this time around is Truman's brewery in Burton.

Truman bought a brewery in Burton in 1873 for the express purpose of brewing Pale Ales, which were very much in fashion. The brewery made a wide range of Burton Ales, not just Pale Ale. There was no overlap in products with the original Truman brewery in Brick Lane, which concentrated on Porter and London Ales.

1917 was a cataclysmic year. The German U-boat campaign was at its peak and Britain was down to just a few week's supply of grain. Knowing the background makes the draconian restrictions on brewing imposed in April of that year more understandable. Output was limited to 10 million standard barrels per annum. That was about a third of the pre-war level.

The effect was dramatic. Breweries slashed both their product range and the gravity or their remaining beers. The table below demonstrates this perfectly.

Truman's Burton brewery discontinued all of its beers. The three Pale Ales (P1, P2 and P3) and its number Burton Ales (1 to 9). Hardly any ever returned. P1 was the first to be revived, in early 1919. P2 came back a little later. Most numbered Ales disappeared forever. For two years (march 1917 to March 1919) Truman's Pale Ale brewery produced no Pale Ale whatsoever.

In their place, five new Ales were brewed, though two, S1 and XM, only very occasionally.

XX and XXX continued to be brewed, at 1033.8 and 1047.4 respectively, throughout the 1920's.

Truman’s strongest Pale Ale, P1, suffered a relatively minor drop in gravity across the war. 14% as opposed to an average for all beer of about 25%. It fell from 1064º in 1914 to 1055º in 1921, which is where it remained for the rest of the 1920’s.


Gary Gillman said...

Cool label of Truman's barley wine. I will never forget that Truman's pale ale at the bar of New Berners Hotel in Berner's Street, Soho some 25 years ago. Ah the good old days. It wasn't barley wine but it was very good with a particular aromatic quality. A lost beer.

However, I might mention here for the English-based folks that on August 1, Sam Smith released a Yorkshire Stingo, 8% ABV, aged at least one year in wood before bottling. Surely a modern example of a XXK or multiple K beer. I believe it should be very good. Never been a huge fan of the Sam Smith bottled beers except for its Imperial Stout which I believe is export only. When the house puts its mind to it they do great work. I'll bet the Stingo is of similarly high quality.


First Stater said...

I guess my biggest complaint about British beer is that in the last 100 years the brewers have seized at every opportunity to make a less desirable (to me) product and when the reason for the change goes away they do not return to the earlier incarnation of their beer. I wager the low rumblings of the new dries or prohibitionists will eventually be the roar to outlaw beers over a certain ABV. Witness the outrage over the Brew Dog Tokyo.

Ron Pattinson said...

Gary, Stingo used to be a pretty common name. Mostly in Yorkshire and East Anglia. Sam Smith's sounds like a beer worth trying.

Ron Pattinson said...

First Stater, beer evolves by moving forwards and not back. And the maintenance of low ABV beers had more to do with drinkers than brewers. Stronger beers - Burton, Old Ale, strong Bitter - were available, but not terribly popular. Can't blame brewers for that.

Barm said...

I suspect Stingo may be for the US market, but I'll keep an eye out for it. What does Stingo actually mean?