Sunday, 25 July 2010

Let's Brew Wednesday - 1951 Lees "C" Ale

What a rare treat this is. It seems like only yesterday we were speculating about what a "C" Ale might have been like. And now here's a recipe. Cool or what?

I'm still none the wiser as to what the C might stand for. But I do t least have a pretty good idea of what the beer itself was like. Dark, moderately strong, medium hopping. Sounds like a variation on the Burton/weaker Old Ale theme.

Lees didn't brew their "C" Ale for long. Just for a few years at the end of the 1940's and beginning of the 1950's. Other brewes in the region, such as Groves & Whitnall, had already brewed one in the 1890's.

Here's a quote from page 12 of "Manchester Breweries of Times Gone By, Vol 2":

"The brewery's [Openshaw] included best mild and bitter, Grade A pale ale, Openshaw Stout and also a "C" Ale. "C" Ale seems to have been a local brew, the origin of which is uncertain. Groves and Whitnall of Salford became well known for their version of "C" Ale in the 1890s; it was discontinued during the last war but reintroduced in 1950. John Henry Lees of Moss Side also brewed a "C" Ale, as did Wilsons Brewery."

That's me about done. Time for Kristen to do his thing . . . .

Lee's - 1951 - C-ale
General info: Finally, after hundreds of logs, scouring the planet, we finally have found it. A 'C'-ale. What is it? I have absolutely no idea! Its some sort of very dark ale (112EBC), coloured mostly with coloured malt extract and caramel color, with a touch of hops and a good portion of regular invert and a vast amount of pale malt. How to explain this? Well, you really gotta taste it. So get out there and make it. Take pictures and lets compare!
Beer Specifics

Recipe by percentages
Gravity (OG)

56.9% English Pale malt 1
1.1% Black malt
Gravity (FG)

17.1% English Pale malt 2
15.2% Invert No1

2.8% American 6-row
2.5% C.M.E.
Apparent attenuation

4.3% Crystal 75L

Real attenuation






1.75 hours

Homebrew @ 70%
Craft @ 80%
English Pale malt 1
English Pale malt 2
American 6-row
Crystal 75L
Black malt
Invert No1





Fuggle 5.5% 90min
Fuggle 5.5% 30min

63°F /17.2°C

Manchester ale

1318 London Ale Yeast III   -

Tasting Notes: Deep dark fruits. Very little roast. Quite similar to a Caribbean stout. No real hop character but enough to clean up the finish. Lots of biscuits and bread from the pale malt. Very different but smooth.

That's one legendary but obscure beer style done. Where next? Broyhan, perhaps.


Korev said...

CME - what do you suggest we use for this ingredient. Dark DME?

Anonymous said...

Could C ale have been a variant of Brown Ale?

The tasting notes are reminiscent of some versions of brown ale, and there is no brown ale listed in Openshaw's line-up.

Matt said...

Is it possible that 'C' doesn't actually stand for anything and it was just a brewery designation that became a trademark (like KK or XX)?

Bill said...

As soon as the temperature gets below 95° (35°C) I'll be making this beer. One of the disadvantages of brewing outside.

Ron, when are you coming to the US and will you have an evening for your mid Atlantic friends to buy you a beer?

Velky Al said...

Looks like an interesting recipe to try, I wonder though Ron when will you be adding to your book collection by producing a volume of recipes???

Martyn Cornell said...

For what it may be worth, C was the designation Worthington gave to its third-best Burton Ale.

Oblivious said...

For what it may be worth, C was the designation Worthington gave to its third-best Burton Ale.

Do you think this was just a more economical Burton fpr them to brew and make more profit. Or was it third best in relationship to its alcohol content?

StuartP said...

Does anyone out there know about CME? Is it something the brewery manufactured or did they buy it?
Kristen, what did you use?

Graham Wheeler said...

StuartP said...
"Does anyone out there know about CME? Is it something the brewery manufactured or did they buy it?"

I doubt if they would use malt extract for colouring at that time; it could be black-malt extract, but colouring with that is a modern thing, introduced when the EEC made some types of caramel illegal in the early 1990s and put maximum percentages on the others.

One or two breweries, Gales being an example, added diastatic malt extract to the mash, supposedly "to aid conversion", but it was rather pointless in my view. It would, however, make sense of the term "enzymic malt" used in the chart posted by Patto.

Enzymic malt usually refers to Dixon's Patent Malt - sometimes called Dixon's Enzymic Malt, but it is not much more enzymic than any other malt - it is an acid malt. It is termed enzymic because it is used to lower mash pH to the optimum for the enzymes. Nevertheless, the term "enzymic malt" could justifiably be applied to diastatic malt extract; more so than to Dixon's.

So it depends upon where they put the malt extract. If it went into the mash tun, then it would need to be diastatic malt extract; if it went in the copper it can be any old malt extract.

It wouldn't be missed if it wasn't there.

Ron Pattinson said...

Velky Al, eventually Kristen and I will collect these recipes into a book.

Ron Pattinson said...

Graham, the CME wasn't added to either the mash tun or the copper. It was added to the fermenting vessel.

Ron Pattinson said...

Anonymous, C Ale is too strong for a Brown Ale of that period.

Martyn Cornell said...

Martyn Cornell: For what it may be worth, C was the designation Worthington gave to its third-best Burton Ale.

Oblivious:Do you think this was just a more economical Burton for them to brew and make more profit. Or was it third best in relationship to its alcohol content?

It was the third-highest in alcoholic content, which would have been about the same as Lees' "C" Ale.

Kristen England said...

CME is coloured malt extract and as Ron says it wasn't added to the mash or the copper. This beer was massively dark and was some CME but my guess it was tinted in the bottling house, probably with caramel colorant which is what i used and would not have made it into the brewery logs.

Graham is right for the enzymatic malt part. People during this time also were calling/using american 6-row as enzymatic malt or a replacement for it. People were also adding the straight enzymes to the mash that we've also seen. For this recipe however, as you can see, there is very little of it that was added so it would not be missed.

Gary Gillman said...

Cornbrook Brewery in Manchester used the C symbol too, but presumably in its case denoting the company's name. Or maybe a double reference was intended.

My thinking is, the C probably derives from the term City in Manchester's official name. Unlike most other cities, Manchester had (still has?) an extended designation, Manchester City Corporation. The first two words were commonly used until recently to refer to the Manchester area.

Maybe over time the standard ale of Manchester City was referred to laconically as City ale. I too have seen an occasional C in the listing of some breweries' beers, i.e., as part of an alphabetical scheme of description, but I think here it probably means City.


Mike said...

Gary said 'Unlike most other cities, Manchester had (still has?) an extended designation, Manchester City Corporation.'
Manchester Corporation was a name used to describe entities owned or run by the City of Manchester; the buses, water supply and parks etc. I grew up there and it was the City of Manchester, not the corporation. I believe that Manchester was incorporated at one time but since them was granted City status.
Corporation pop was what we called water.
The Cornbrook brewery used the "C" as a trademark.
J W Lee's isn't in Manchester, it is in Middleton Junction, which is now part of Greater Manchester but it was Lancashire until the county boundaries were redrawn in the '70's.
I doubt that "C" ale has anything to do with Manchster City.
There were shedloads of breweries around Manchester; Trelfall's, Chester's, Wilson's, Garside's, Groves and Whitnall, Openshaw, Cornbrook, Boddington's and more.Bass Charrington took over some,so maybe some where in the Bass archives there is a description of "C" ale. Or is it lost in time like "AK"?

Gary Gillman said...

Good information, and perhaps I didn't have the full current name correct, but I wanted just to show that the term "city" has been used in popular designations for a long time, as e.g., Manchester City Football Club. (And there are many other examples, specifically the term Manchester City).

It's just speculation though that the practice is connected to C ale.

A.K. almost certainly means ale for keeping. Some time back I gave the URL of an 1800's article (it was a letter by an informed party to a popular journal) in which the writer stated in passing that A.K. had that meaning.

Ah good old Manchester! Some of the best beers in England are there! Even Boddington's on cask was great, in one of the big houses off that large square down from Princess Station. (Two for one after work, do they still do it?). Pints of Holt's further down from there in the handsome older commercial part that survived the bombing. And then beers chalked on a blackboard in a group of pubs not far from the river, one of which had a sloping floor built they said to facilitate the barrels rolling down. Great Balti and other Indian food, too in Manchester, on that long road just out of town.

I can't recall what Hyde's tasted like, whether it was more bitter than Holt's. I think Holt's was the really bitter one. You have to have a couple of Holt's and wander around the Granada Studios site, and the river, to really suss that town, or so it was for me.

One of Englands great cities to be sure, didn't Churchill get his start there in politics?


P.S. Harry Ramsden in Salford! The families on Sunday and car park and all it spelled England, at least for this visitor.

Martyn Cornell said...

A.K. almost certainly means ale for keeping.

AK certainly doesn't mean ale for keeping, whatever guess one writer might have made about it, as it was only about 1045OG, too weak for a keeping beer, descriptions of it in the 19th century regularly called it a family ale, or similar, and at least one 19th century source said it was meant to go on sale only two to three weeks after it was made.

Gary Gillman said...

Both A.K. and pale ale were forms of bitter beer. That was stated, in an uncontested way, in that 1880's judicial case discussed here some time ago concerning trade restrictions. Trade ads regularly classified AK with pale ale and the latter, as Martyn has argued convincingly in his books, was a form of season beer. All storage time diminished or was eliminated as the 19th century wore on.

It's true that generally AK seems to have been of a lower gravity than pale ale so-called or IPA, but I don't see why that would have prevented some from being stored. Even small beer was stored sometimes - Combrune's pale small keeping beer was, and it was even weaker than AK. Plus, some AK was ranked ahead of the standard bitter in the range:

Ales for keeping (that expression or similar) are used habitually in many 19th century brewing texts. The K when placed with an X also indicated aging, the trade ads show that too. And that letter-writer, albeit making a comment in passing, had an evident technical knowledge of brewing, which gives the statement more credit than one normally might in my view.

This theory at any rate seems better to me than the alternative explanations. I was intrigued by the keut theory of origin, and I don't rule it out, but thus far I feel the simple explanation, AK means ale for keeping, is the most logical.


Ron Pattinson said...

From what I've seen, A is used as a strength descriptor, just like X. A being one rung down the strength ladder from X. So AK is a weaker version of XK. XK was the equivalent of standard Bitter, so AK was low low-gravity Bitter. Simple.

Now to explain AKA, KA and AKK.

StuartP said...

I have to say that this beer didn't do much for me, but was very popular with an older (60+) generation of drinker.
It seems to be how these oldies think beer should taste.
I prefer a bit more assertive malt and hops myself.

Ron Pattinson said...

StuartP, did you taste a C Ale? You jammy, jammy bastard. No matter how shit it tasted, you have the story.