Friday, 8 January 2010

Whitbread, doctors and the family

There's so much we can learn from old documents. As today's demonstrates.
 
One of my dreams before I discovered brewing logs was to know more about the beers listed in Victorian price lists. The dream has become reality, occasionally. Nothing like as often as I would have wanted. But here's an example:



The advert dates from 1874 and I've brewing refords from 1876. Close enough. Here's what they say:



Whitbread beers 1876 - 1877
Date
Year
Beer
Style
OG
FG
ABV
App. Attenuation
lbs hops/ qtr
hops lb/brl
11th Jul
1876
FA
Pale Ale
1054.8
1019.9
4.62
63.64%
12.24
3.15
17th Apr
1877
KK
Strong Ale
1073.4
1021.6
6.85
70.57%
15.87
5.44
19th Jan
1877
KKK
Strong Ale
1086.4
1034.1
6.93
60.58%
14.99
5.94
13th Jul
1876
P
Porter
1056.2
1011.4
5.94
79.80%
8.49
1.98
11th Apr
1877
PA
Pale Ale
1058.7
1014.7
5.83
75.00%
15.95
4.65
12th Jul
1876
SS
Stout
1080.6
1027.4
7.04
65.98%
9.50
3.95
12th Jul
1876
SSS
Stout
1092.8
1030.5
8.25
67.16%
9.50
4.54
10th Jul
1876
X
Mild
1061.2
1014.1
6.23
76.92%
8.08
2.16
27th Jul
1876
XL
Mild
1069.5
1017.5
6.89
74.90%
8.03
2.63
29th Jan
1877
XPS
Stout
1072.3
1021.1
6.78
70.88%
14.73
5.41
Source:
Whitbread brewing records

Now let's try and match the two. Not as easy as it might seem. Porter, Pale Ale and Family Ale are easy enough. But which of the two Strong Ales (KK and KKK) is on the price list? And is SS Double Stout? That would make sense, but where's the ordinary Stout?


Price per gravity point (pence)
beer
price per barrel
OG
price per gravity point
Porter
40
1056.2
8.5409253
Stout (SS)
50
1080.6
7.4441687
Stout (XPS)
50
1072.3
8.2987552
Double Stout (SSS)
60
1092.8
7.7586207
Double Stout (SS)
60
1080.6
8.9330025
Family Ale
44
1054.8
9.6350365
Pale Ale
54
1058.7
11.039182
Strong Ale (KK)
64
1073.4
10.463215
Strong Ale (KKK)
64
1086.4
8.8888889
Source:
1874 price list
Whitbread brewing records


That's clearer, eh? Working on the assumption that Porter was the cheapest beer for its strength, SS must be Double Stout. Either KK or KKK could be the Strong Ale on the price list.

But let's not get distracted. I had some other points to make.


First, what bad value Pale Ale was. But that's typical of the 19th century. Pale Ale was a premium product with a premium price.And Whitbread brewed only tiny amounts. Their biggest selling Ale by several street was X (or Mild). It accounted for 75% of Whitbread's Ale production in 1871. PA wasn't even good for 2%.

Which brings me onto my second point: why isn't X on the price list? A bit weird leaving off one of your biggest seller, don't you think?

Missing from the bottled range is Porter, which seems to have been pretty well exclusively draught by this time. Instead there's Cooper, a mixture of Porter and Stout. Cooper is a bit of a bastard to track down in the records as it wasn't brewed but blended.

I'm glad to see my guess of what FA stood for vindicated. Family Ale. It's a great name, Family Ale. I wonder what shit you'd get if you called a beer that in Britain now? Some twat would be bound to complain the name would encourage parents to feed their kids with it. How times have changed. Tetley's still made a Family Ale when I lived in Leeds in the 1970's. It was a sort of bottled Dark Mild.

And lastly, one of the funniest bits of all. (If a price list can ever be amusing.) Where the advert appeared. In "The Medical Times and Gazette", 1874, page 652. Beer advertised in a medical journal. I wonder what Professor Ian Gilmore would say?

15 comments:

Barm said...

I think that X isn't on the list either because Whitbread wanted to promote their more profitable beers, or because the Gazette's middle-class readers didn't want to buy working-class X. Or both.

Ed said...

Maybe the X wasn't bottled.

Alan said...

The ad is not only for the middle class but also for the bottle buying public. Is it also possible that X wasn't a bottled product, that it would be bought by the growler or the bucket (or handful) and taken home?

Ron Pattinson said...

Ed, Alan, X probably wasn't bottled. But the price list includes pretty much a full set of Whitbread's draught beers. And Porter, the archetypal drink of the poor, is included.

Graham Wheeler said...

Your statement that Whitbread Pale Ale only amounted to 2% of sales is curious. I wonder if that was par for the course. It is notable that Whitbread were one of the London Brewers that did not scuttle off to Burton in the 1870s to brew their pale ales.

This gives three options. Their P.A. was as cloudy as hell. They imported their water for P.A. from Burton. Or they had acquired the art of water treatment ahead of the others.

Chap said...

“Wholly destitute of acid” – doesn’t CO2 dissolved in water make carbonic acid?

The Medical Times and Gazette seems to be a precursor of CAMRA in its concern about being served a full Imperial Pint.

For what it’s worth, I still have in my cellar three pint bottles of the Whitbread Celebration Ale (OG 1100.5 and 11.5% ABV) brewed in 1992 to celebrate the brewery’s 250th anniversary. The label recommends storing it for at least three years and says that it will continue to mature for 20 years or more – sad and ironic that the Celebration Ale outlived the brewery!

Ron Pattinson said...

Graham, the quantities of PA brewed by Whitbread were insignificant until after WW I.

I'm not sure I understand why their PA would have been cloudy. They had been brewing pale beers - such as X - for several decades by the time they started brewing PA.

Alan said...

But isn't "small cask" a middle class residential serving method as well?

Ron Pattinson said...

Alan, yes. Posher house would have bought full barrels, the poorer jugs at the pub.

Anonymous said...

Porter, the archetypal drink of the poor …

In its later incarnation, certainly, but the middle classes and gentry were happy to drink porter and/or half-and-half (ale and porter mixed) in the earlier decades of the 19th century.

1874 is a bit late for the pot-boy to still be delivering porter by the pot from the pub to homes nearby, but families would send out a child with a jug to the pub to buy some beer - hence the "bottle and jug department" - and if you wanted X, that's probably the way you bought it, at a ha'penny (20 per cent) less per pint than the cheapest bottled beer.

On the subject of Whitbread's pale ale, Berry Ritchie's An uncommon brewer: The story of Whitbread, IIRC (I'm 3,000 miles from my copy right now) says the Chiswell Street brewery was adding gypsum to its brewing water to make pale ales with as early as 1866. Now, Graham will say, rightly I'm sure, that's not a very efficient way to make good pale ale brewing water, but they were having a go …

dave said...

On a completely unrelated note... can't wait for Feb 27, the release date for the beer Dann P. brewed with a recipe you gave him (http://prettythingsbeertoday.com/site/node/80). Is it a Mild style?

Ron Pattinson said...

Dave, yes, it is a Mild. An Imperial Mild.

rod said...

Graham Wheeler says -
"Their P.A. was as cloudy as hell."
Why would it be?

Zythophile says -
"the Chiswell Street brewery was adding gypsum to its brewing water to make pale ales with as early as 1866. Now, Graham will say, rightly I'm sure, that's not a very efficient way to make good pale ale brewing water, but they were having a go …"
Surely, that's Burtonisation, an industry standard practice, which continues to the present day?
Or have I missed something?

Graham Wheeler said...

Zythophile said...
"Now, Graham will say, rightly I'm sure, that's not a very efficient way to make good pale ale brewing water, but they were having a go"

No, not at all. That was all that was needed, and explains why they did not go for a Burton, so to speak.

Doesn't explain why the others did though.

It seems that they kept it well under wraps, either as a trade secret or, more likely, to avoid accusations of chemical adulteration of their beers; a controversial subject at the time.

Ron Pattinson said...

Zythophile, 1866 is probably when they started brewing Pale Ale. In 1861 they weren't and in 1871 they were. I'll have to look at some of the logs in between to check the exact year.

I'm not so sure the middle classes were still drinking Porter in the 1870's.

BTW, my mum was sent to fetch beer for her mother in the 1920's. Old and Mild, it was.