Wednesday 24 March 2010

Let's Brew Wednesday - 1839 Barclay Perkins XXX

It's Mild month. I keep telling myself that in case I forget. "Mild March is Month." I mutter as I stand at the tram stop. At least it gains me plenty of personal space.

First, forget everything you think you know about Mild. Things like colour and strength. Mild isn't necessarily meek. Or dark. Or lightly-hopped even. All of those characteristics are 20th century innovations. We're going back to a proper Mild. Beers brewed when Queen Victoria was still a randy teenager.

Barclay Perkins, like the other large London Porter breweries, for a while only brewed Porter and Stout. But sometime around 1830 they moved into the Ale market. Just as well. By the middle of the 19th century Ale, mostly Mild Ale, was all the rage and beginning to make a serious dent in Porter sales.

There were three Mild Ales, imaginatively named X, XX and XXX. Let's take a look at them more closely.

Barclay Perkins Ales in 1839
App. Attenuation
lbs hops/ qtr
hops lb/brl
Pitch temp
Barclay Perkins brewing records

The weakest was more than double the strength of a typical modern Mild. The strongest was, well, not for the faint-hearted. To give you an idea of how these beers fitted into the strength hierarchy of the day, here are the typical gravities of some other styles:

Porter: 1060-1065
IPA: 1055-1065
Stout: 1070-1075
Double Stout: 1080-1090

X Ales were, even comparatively, strong beers. Unlike IPA, which was, if anything, below average strength.

I think that's about all I have to say for the moment. Except this: "Drink more Mild!".

It's now Kristen's turn . . . .

Barclay Perkins - 1839 - XXX ale
General info: Mild. Simple right? Dark, weak, no hops. We've been over how wrong that statement is for sometime now. Here is another cog in the wheel of illumination. This beer resembles almost nothing of the current mild as we know it. Its huge. Its very high in alcohol. Its very hoppy. Its nothing like you've ever had before. This is truely history in a glass. This is something that everyone should try. For all of you that don't like mild, we salute you!
Beer Specifics

Recipe by percentages
Gravity (OG)

100% Mild malt
Gravity (FG)


Apparent attenuation


Real attenuation






4 hours

Homebrew @ 70%
Craft @ 80%
Mild malt





Goldings 4.5% 240min
Goldings 4.5% dry hop

76°F /24.4°C

Nottingham ale yeast

1028 London Ale Yeast  - WLP013 London Ale Yeast 

Tasting Notes: Big. Very big. Lots of booze and spice. Layers and layers of biscuity malt blended with hop tannins and bitterness. A round sweetness in the middle that is full of fruity hop resins and malt. The bitterness, tannins and spice really dry out the end which lasts well after is is swallowed.
Ingredients and technique
Grist & such
How many times have we seen simple milds with 5, 6 or 7 ingredients. 3 different sugars with a caramel addition and some colored priming sugar. This, sorry to disappoint, is made up of a single malt. One. Single. Pale. Malt. To get as close as possible to the original version I would use mild malt. Paul’s Mild, if you can find it, is the best you can buy.

The hops were all very fresh, barley being a year old. Per the usual for BP beers they were all middle Kentish. One single addition at makeup was the extent of the kettle hopping. That being said, the single hop addition totaled a whopping 75-80 BU’s. Just as important as the BU count is the huge amount of tannins this much hop material would deliver. Using anything other than low alpha acid hops in this recipe will significantly change the flavor profile of this beer. A small amount of dry hops were added that would have given just a slight hint of the spicy Goldings.

Mash & Boil
Per the norm, a simple single infusion along with a single underlet kept the mash right in the middle ‘sweet’ spot. The boil is an entirely different story. FOUR hours. The long boil would have added another layer of complexity for this big beer.

Fermentation, Conditioning & Serving
This is another point where this beer has strayed into the unusual. The fermentation was allowed to rise to extraordinary temperatures. For a beer this size this would have meant a completely different profile. The high temperatures would have surely made this beer less smooth and fruity and more harsh, phenolic, spicy and hotly alcoholic. It would have been conditioned for a few weeks and served with about 2.0 volumes of CO2.

Gyling & Blending
Another interesting thing with this beer is that there was no gyling. With such a huge beer it would only make sense to gyle or one would lose a huge amount of sugars and was a lot of the malt. That being said, when you go over the log in detail there was a huge amount of ‘return’ that they took from this beer. Another neat way to save money!


Gary Gillman said...

I'm always struck by the hop levels in these early historical milds. I believe Martyn's Amber Gold and Black states that hops per barrel for ale by the early 1900's were about 1.25 lbs per barrel and pale ale about 2.25 lbs (this from memory but I believe in the ballpark).

And of course that went down a fair bit by about 1940 never mind to today.

I wonder what present (circa-2010) hop levels in standard English ales would have said to a typical ale drinker in the early 1800's, whether such beers would have even been recognizable.


Ron Pattinson said...

Here are some hopping rates for Barclay Perkins:


1.25 - 1.5 lbs/barrel (Winter)
1.5 - 2 lbs/barrel (Summer)

XLK (ordinary Bitter)
1.8 - 2 lbs/barrel

3 lbs/barrel


0.8 - 0.9 lbs/barrel

XLK (ordinary Bitter)
1.25 lbs/barrel

1.5 lbs/barrel

A drinker from the early 1800's would think modern beers were like table beer. And they won't know what the hell type of beer a modern Mild was.

Graham Wheeler said...

Is it mild ale month or mild beer month? There should be a difference in theory.

This is not a mild in the original sense of the term. This stuff could not have been drunk before it had seen two Sundays. It would have needed a few months. It would have been sacrilege to have drunk it any earlier.

I have my doubts about the colour of this. It is lighter than even the typical pales ales of the day. Barclay's would certainly have had clarity problems with a beer as pale as this if they used London well water. I find it hard to believe that they would have brewed beers that pale at that time.

I would not regard any beer of this nature as a mild, because no definition that can be applied qualifies this as a mild. Just because it has an X in the designation does not count.

Of the ten cask beers that Wheeler's brewed, albeit almost 40 years later, XXX and XX are called strong ales, and only X is called a mild (and PX as pale mild). XXX was the strongest beer they produced, but was really winter-brewed Stock stuff. It did not go straight out of the door.

Martyn Cornell said...

I'm inclined to think Graham is semi-right, in that beers like BP XXX were very probably aged - but they were very probably also drunk quite new and "mild" as well. I just came across an ad for RW Miller's brewery, Bristol, admittedly from 1891, which, along side five "Bitter and Pale Ales" and four "Porters and Stouts", sold five grades of "Mild Ales" from X to XXXXX - the XXXX, sold at a price suggesting an OG of 1060, has "(Mild or Old)" after it, the XXXXX, at a price suggesting an OG of 1070-1075, is called "(Strong Old)". To me that suggests you could buy the XXXX at two ages, either mild or old, while the XXXXX was only sold old. To Victorian brewers (and 18th century ones as well) any beer that was young was "mild". I'm increasingly convinced that an "old ale" was a strong mild ale that had been aged.

Ron Pattinson said...


I've seen loads of XXX and XXXX Ales specifically called Mild on price lists. And London brewers either stuck a K on the end, called it keeping, of designated it with K's if it was meant to be aged. Barclay Perkins stuck a K on the end in this period. I know that from their Porter logs.

"Mild" is a relative term. No full-strength beer was sold immediately in the 1830's. Keeping beers would have been kept at least 6 months. Mild Ales a few weeks.

London X Ales were 100% pale malt for most of the 19th century. I don't see how you can argue with a brewing record that only contains pale malt. Or in the case of some of their ales of this period, white malt. Pale Ales had exactly the same grist so why should they have been any paler?

Graham Wheeler said...

Cumon Ron,
How long have you been at this?

You cannot honestly believe that a beer of barley wine strength in 1839 was going to be drunk mild. That does not happen today, so it certainly would not have happened then. If this stuff went out the door mild, then it would have gone into publican cellars or beer agencies to be matured for several months, before consumption.

It is a bit of a jump to assume that because it was designated XXX in the logs, that it was a mild. Whether or not it was a mild cannot be known until it goes out the door. The fact that some of it might have been sold mild, does not necessarily mean that all of it was sold mild, and beer sold mild does not mean that it was consumed mild. It could even have been vatted internally as a basis for blending with something else.

You can't get much better than 11% alcohol for a Keeping Beer, particularly if it was winter brewed.

I will agree that mild is a relative term, and it would have been unusual for a mild of any strength to have been consumed immediately.

However there is a certain pointlessness in consuming a beer of this strength after a few weeks. By modern rule-of-thumb it would require a minimum of three months, optimum at twelve, but would be much better if kept much longer.

Heck, even Fuller's Vintage ale at 8.5% is reputedly matured for 9 months. There are examples of other strong ales that are matured for a year or more.

I would have thought that 1839 standards would have been longer if anything.

Arctic Alchemy said...

I am gonna brew this just to mess with the BJCP judges here . 11.5 mild with 75 IBU's . What a find!for a 1839 brew log , it's even more proof that beer styles weren't invented in the 20th century. Graham has some very good points , this ale had to be aged, and Martyn backs that up . A SMASH like this a puritans dream . I haven't the time to boil for 4 hrs though.

Ron Pattinson said...

Graham, I have to totally disagree with you. Take a look here:

You'll see Barclay Perkins full range of Ales, both Mild and Keeping, from a couple of decades later. There's an XXX and a KKK.

They demonstrate well the difference between a Mild and a Keeping Ale: same graity, far greater hopping in the Keeper.

It's not right that the beer only became Mild when it was sold. The Keeping Ales were always brewed differently. I've seen enough of these records to be pretty certain about that.

In the 1830's nothing was sold anything like as fresh as it is now, with the exception of Table Beer. But a Keeper would have been kept for a really long time, often more than a year.

It's also to do with the method of conditioning. Keeping Ales would have been vatted and only racked into trade casks when ready for sale. A Mild Ale would have gone straight into a trade cask where it would have been left to condition. Big difference.

Gary Gillman said...

I think all here know David Booth's Art of Brewing. It is easily to be found on Google books. At pp. 40 et seq Booth sequentially treats of mild ale, old ale (which he also calls keeping ale), small beer and porter. He relies in part on Richardson, apparently due to the value he perceived to the practical brewer of the latter's explanations.

In this schema, it clearly appears that mild ale can be very strong and is hopped at 1-2 lbs per barrel depending on the season. For old ale, it gets a bit for confusing because he switches calculation methods and speaks of using 1 lb per bushel. As I read what he is saying, the hopping for old and mild ale should be similar. It is only (he says) if you want to "prolong the mildness" that more hops should be added and the rest of the discussion shows that frequently this was done for old ale. Eg., when speaking of small beer made after old ale, often the latter had so much hops that you have to remove part of them so the small beer will not be too bitter. For small beer made after mild ale, he states you can simply re-use the original hops. This shows old ale generally used more hops than mild ale.

Apart from old ale having more hops, Booth explains numerous other differences between mild ale and old ale. One is in the mashing heats. Another is in cleansing. Another is in boil times (more variable for mild ale because "nicety of flavour" is requisite).

What I find particularly intriguing is when Booth states if you want to prolong the mildness of ale by all means add more hops, but "bye the bye, this is answering to a very useless purpose". I think he is saying here, that the essence of mild ale is not to be very bitter and it won't prevent acidity anyway. The implication as I glean it is, adding lots of hops to ale to keep it, crosses into keeping beer territory. He doesn't (that I could quickly see) treat of keeping beers, perhaps this was more an English thing (Booth was Scots) and to the extent he was interested in them he spoke only of porter (not pale strong keeping beers or stock/October-type).

So if I can summarize as I read Booth/Richardson at any rate: mild ale can be strong or very strong. It won't be kept long (he doesn't say how long but other evidence suggests to me anything kept more than 2-3 months was not mild). Old ale is made differently in a number of respects including often as to hopping.


Kristen England said...

Lots of theories thrown around here. Ron presented the data on milds. Gary gave the exact explanation I was going to quote. Thanks Gary.

The most arguements continue to come on how these beers tasted and when you could drink them. I've made a vast majority of these recreations to the LOGS specifications. Disagreeing with data that has been logged is purely asinine and trying to come up with an alternate theory as to what a KNOWN number is even worse. The grist is the grist. The numbers are the numbers. Lots of 'look at me' hand waving does nothing but continue to confuse people to what beers were actually like.

Kristen England said...


Re your point on sourness/acid. Lactobaccilus especially doesn't like hops and that's the major sour bug that contributes to the souring of beers. This is a very good reason you rarely see beers that are just 'off' sour and not sour and 'ropey' (read Pediococcus).

Martyn Cornell said...

So are you suggesting, Ron/Kristen/Gary, that RW Miller's XXXX Mild, for example, was a different brew entirely from its XXXX Old, different mash heats, boil regimes, different hopping rates and each called XXXX solely to indicate the strength/bushels of malt per barrel? Sadly we don't have RW Miller's logbooks, but my feeling, from years of studying old brewers' ads, is that an XXXX Old was a different beast from a KKK keeping ale/stock ale, and that the former would have been more like Gale's Prize Old Ale, the latter on the way towards Bass No 1, or, indeed, Fuller Vintage. Evidence to show that I'm talking shite always welcomed.

Ron Pattinson said...

Martyn, I've seen plenty of examples of standard and keeping versions of Ales. The only difference I've spotted is the hopping.

And various London K Ales were marketed as Old Ales.

Paul! said...


What would be a good temperature to ferment this at on a homebrew scale? My understanding is that fermenter geometry has a lot to do with hot alcohol and ester/phenol production.

Kristen England said...


Not entirely, no. I think there a lot of the 'how' was what changed with a lot of the beers and the grists, during this time, held pretty constant across a lot of beers. The hopping was a very easy thing to change (lb/bbl and such). Also the type, age and quality of the hops were also a very big deal.

Two beers, with exactly the same gravity, could have different final gravities. On top of that the way the brew was done would play probably the biggest factor.

Lets use the 'general' XXX mild and XXX old ale for this example. There were a few of these at this time (pre-1880 Im thinking). The 'aged' brett character thta one found in stouts would have definitely been in the aged examples of the day. I'm not talking sour, I'm talking Brettanomyces clausenii. Think hints of pineapple and fresh leather. Anyway, a beer of high gravity that was mashed at a moderate temperature would have fermented much more fully out than one that was mashed at a high temp. The higher temp mash is a very good way to get more Brett charcter in ones beer b/c Brett will eat a lot of dextrinous matter that regular yeast will not. Once aged, these beers would be markedly different.

If we talk about the hopping, as I said before, its definitely not just the amount that is used. Its also the quality. Most people so far have taken the lb/bbl to mean a whole lot. Its only a relative term. If both of these beers, XXX Old and Mild, were made with the exact same type of hop from the same yard BUT the old ale used 3 year old hops and mild used one year old hops, these beers would have a huge difference. The entire hop profile would shift completely.

If we move even farther down the list of things to consider is the beer fermentation temperature. This BP 1839 XXX ale was fermented at tremendous temperatures. The EXACT same beer, fermented at much cooler temperatures would be so different it would be extremely hard to say that they were exactly from the same wort.

The term 'old' has always bothered me also. It would seem to me that the concept on a whole would be that the aged beer would take on more aged character. A BIT HOWREVER, I think it makes much more sense if the 'old' was treated as a relative term just like we do now for Stout and porter. 'Old' may just mean that the beer is aged more than another beer, lets say mild. Meaning that one Old ale from Trumans may have been aged for much less time than one at Barclay Perkins.

Point short, I very much do not think it was one answer. I do think that the most of the the answer is contained in the log books and gravity books.

Make sense?

Also, there is nothing to me that I have seen that says an XXX Old ale and XXX mild were not very very similar beers, maybe even the same, per the recipe is concerned. The process and finish, as we have seen, can completely change the entire story. However, until i see this with my own eyes I can only make correlations (never assumptions).

Gary Gillman said...

Martyn, I think it is very difficult to know. Had Booth been the brewer, I believe he would not have hopped the old XXXX differently than the mild XXXX because he would have wanted to encourage acetic development (to a point) and not turned an ale into a beer. However, Booth himself writes that the practice was often to the contrary: old ale often had more hops than mild. But even had Booth (and Richardson I guess) been brewer of the beers in the advert you mentioned and not changed the hop rate much or at all, his comments on mashing and cleansing suggest to me he would have handled the ale meant for aging differently.

On the other hand, other brewers may have felt these latter refinements were not necessary: I am sure some probably did. With hop rates even for mild ale at between 1-2 pounds per barrel (and higher in some cases as we have seen for some early 1800's ales), it seemingly would have been possible to age them quite nicely on their tod. (I've wondered if that barrel was the old ale barrel but even at 36 gallons that's a lot of hops, about 55 IBUs potentially even at one lb per barrel).

I'm not trying to sit on the fence by saying that everyone may be right because practice probably varied enormously. It was probably like Belgian beer has been in the last generation, there is so much individuality and quirks of local practice that you can't really classify the beers with real precision.


Kristen England said...


yes you are correct. There have been many dissertations written on fermenter geometry. Your fermentation vessel is your decisions. I prefer open fermenters for these recreations. When I mean open, I mean wide open. Cheesecloth over the top is fine.

As for the temps, its up to you. Why not split the batch. Do one at normal, moderate ale temps and do one just as the recipe (read high). Then you'll be able to see how the beer was supposed to be. you can even blend the two after fermentation if you like.

Gary Gillman said...

I think a XXXX Old might indeed have tasted like Gales Prize Old Ale - somewhat hard but not very bitter really - or say like some of those Flanders Red Ales where you get a pH balance from the acid that encourages preservation and hops play second fiddle. This would be quite different to strong mild ale - which the original Burton or original Edinburgh ales were like, I believe (or Kennet or the other "syrupy" regional ales as one writer put it).

Now, both would differ from English stock beers, the top of the pale ale/KK range. These would have been much more bitter. An old ale and an old beer might have shared some Brett character but this other difference remained (I believe). The stock beers would need up to two years to come to the best condition, maybe more. Stale porter was their black counterpart (5-6 lbs per barrel hops).

The very best of all these oldsters may have avoided any sourness - various comments in the old books suggest this. But the old ales were much less bitter than the stock beers. So: mild sweet aleish still but still with a certain bite (from the hops); old ales made a little tart or acid but not that bitter really; young AK beers moderately bitter and then upwards through PA and IPA and into KKKK stock (and porter as a subset of the latter). That is as best as I can glean it but it can be only approximate and subjective.


Graham Wheeler said...

Kristen England said...
The most arguements continue to come on how these beers tasted and when you could drink them. I've made a vast majority of these recreations to the LOGS specifications. Disagreeing with data that has been logged is purely asinine and trying to come up with an alternate theory as to what a KNOWN number is even worse. The grist is the grist. The numbers are the numbers. Lots of 'look at me' hand waving does nothing but continue to confuse people to what beers were actually like.

Don't be so effin' pompous. Half the people sitting around this particular table have far more idea of what an 1839 beer is likely to be than you ever will. I will refrain from commenting about your pseudo science.

Graham Wheeler said...

Gary said,
What I find particularly intriguing is when Booth states if you want to prolong the mildness of ale by all means add more hops, but "bye the bye, this is answering to a very useless purpose". I think he is saying here, that the essence of mild ale is not to be very bitter and it won't prevent acidity anyway. The implication as I glean it is, adding lots of hops to ale to keep it, crosses into keeping beer territory.

There is a cause-and-effect thing here with hops. Although popular history says that ales were lightly hopped and beers were heavily hopped, it is not the real story. Beers were a weaker product and thus needed more hops to preserve it through the maturation stage so that it was fit to drink before it went off. High hopping rates were a consequence of beer being weak, not the other way round.

A consequence of the high hopping rates was that a lengthy maturation period was required to mellow the harshness imparted by the hops to make the beer drinkable.

If you are going to produce a beer that is meant to be consumed relatively quickly, you could safely reduce the hopping rate (which also meant that it would have to be consumed relatively quickly), and you could employ old hops. Old hops are far less harsh, requiring less time to mellow.

I think Booth with:
bye the bye, this is answering to a very useless purpose
was saying that you are defeating the object by adding more hops, because it is going to need time to mellow, and is therefore no longer a mild. Of course, Booth was quoting Richardson, from a book that was published thirty years earlier. Richardson used the term "mild" in the old sense, whereas Booth uses the term in the modern sense when describing the quality of hops elsewhere.

Of course a mild beer is not going to have the esteemed flavours of a matured beer, but, as we know, this can be offset by adding a dash of something old and strong to the mild.

The highly kilned malts of the day also imparted a harshness (and smokiness) that mellows with age, and the gradual reduction of brown malt towards mostly pale was probably more to do with reduction of maturation time than with issues of poor extract. Ellis, in 1736, was quite aware that "greater lengths can be drawn from pale than brown" (paraphrased because I cannot be bothered to look it up), so the move towards all pale probably had very little to do with Richardson's saccharometer and more to do with a faster time to gullet.

Kristen England said...

Very nice and classy Graham as always. My point was that data should be taken as it and not argue with something that was written down a hundred years ago. How is defending the data pompous?

Your point was that since I'm half your age I have no idea what I'm talking about. Yes, please do refrain from commenting on my pseudo science as you call it. I wouldn't want to start talking about another thing I have no idea about.

Why don't you stick to talking about the facts of the matter than spending your time flaming me.

Mark Oregonensis said...

Weeks late to the party here, so I hardly expect an answer to this question. It is something I've pondered some previously, but this recipe has brought it back to the fore.

When was there first a product available called "mild malt?" I have only begun using it in the last year or so, since embarking upon trying my hand at some of these old recipes -- and Ron's work seems to reveal that there are log entries for "MA" malt in the early 20th century (perhaps earlier, but you'd know better than me).

It just has such a distinctive flavor, and is so infrequently used at present, that it is something of a curiosity to me. There seem to be a number of maltsters still making it, and it is readily available at brewing retailers in such far-flung regions as the Pacific Northwest.

The history of its production must be fascinating.

Okay, thanks.