Tuesday, 10 August 2010

How beer is adulterated

Google books is brilliant. I'd never have looked in something called "Food and Sanitation" if it hadn't popped in the search results for laevuline.

This article is full of fascinating titbits:


The following extracts from transactions of the Institute of Brewing are portions of a lecture given by Mr. Salomon. They are interesting as showing the results of Sir Algernon's West's ignorance and Mr. Gladstone's folly in transferring the duty from the malt to the wort. It should be remembered that despite this enormous saving to the brewer, the price of beer to the publican who rents a tied house and to the public is the same as when beer was the product of malt and hops, and was far stronger than it now is. Mr. Salamon says:—

The question of raw-grain conversion is comparatively new to English brewers, for it was not until the year 1880, when the transfer of duty was made from malt to wort, that any such process was possible : indeed, it was expressly forbidden, as we shall see by glancing at the statutes controlling the operations of the maltster and the brewer. It is essential to bear in mind that this prohibition was exercised exclusively for fiscal reasons, and did not in any way contemplate injurious effects resulting from raw-grain conversion, nor was it because the use of raw-grain was regarded in the light of adulteration. It is important to bear this in mind, lest the point should be emphasised by pure beer advocates. In such a case, the answer is sufficiently contained in the fact that, at the present moment, such processes are under the direct sanction of the law.

In the year 1821, we first find it enacted that brewers shall enter, in a book delivered by the Excise officer, the quantity of malt intended to be used in the next brewing; and it was then further directed that the grains were not to be removed until gauged and taken account of by the officer. Of the duty collected under this and previous Acts, a very considerable proportion had been diverted to the Privy Purse. This custom dated back as far as Charles II., and the income thus derived was termed "the hereditary beer duty." This duty was repealed in the year 1830, and the sovereign was proportionately compensated. It was deemed advisable to bring about this change in order to concentrate the Excise laws, and render them easier in working. As a result of the appeal, and in |the same year, namely, 1830, brewers were compelled to pay their license duty in proportion to the quantity of malt used by them in brewing. Practically, then, it may be stated that the malt-tax dates from that year. As soon as the brewer was taxed in terms of malt, the most stringent precautions were found necessary to prevent evasion of the law. Brewers were compelled to make entry of all premises and utensils used for brewing or storing of beer and malt, and the Excise officers had the right to enter any buildings, at any time, for the purpose of inspecting or taking an account of the beer or malt stored. There was a distinct proviso forbidding the employment of raw-grain or even its storing in the brewery premises, and this section of the Act is so important as bearing upon my argument that I purpose quoting it in full. It is as follows :—

"And be it further enacted, that it shall not be lawful for any brewer of beer for sale in the United Kingdom to have in his or her brewery, or in any part of the entered premises, or in any mill connected with such brewery or entered premises, any raw or unmalted corn or grain whatsoever, either whole or unground, or ground or bruised, and that all raw or unmalted corn or grain, whether whole or unground, or ground or bruised, which shall be found in such brewery or premises or mill, and all malted corn or grain, whether whole or unground, or ground or bruised, with which such raw or unmalted corn or grain may have been or shall be mixed, shall be forfeited and may be seized by any officer of Excise, together with all sacks, casks, vessels, or packages in which such raw or unmalted corn or grain shall and may be contained, or in which such raw and unmalted corn or grain, and the malted corn or grain with which the same may or shall have been mixed, shall or may be continued. And every brewer shall, for ever)' such offence, forfeit the sum of £200."

This Act continued in force, although during the year 1847 a further Act was passed permitting brewers to use sugar in the brewing or making of beer. The collection of duty in terms of malt used led, notwithstanding, to much fraud and deception, and for fiscal reasons again, it was found expedient to pass a more stringent Act to prevent the possibility of employing raw grain. This was in the year 1855. The enactment is contained in 18 and 19 Vict., cap. 94, sec. 36, and again it is interesting to follow the exact wording:—

"And for preventing fraud and evasion of the duty of Excise on malt by the use of raw or unmalted corn or grain in the brewing of beer for sale, be it enacted that it shall not be lawful for any brewer of beer for sale to have in his brewery or in any premises belonging or adjacent thereto, whether the same shall be entered by him or not, any raw or unmalted corn or grain whatsoever, either whole or unground, or ground or bruised, except corn or grain not ground or braised being in premises entered by such brewer for the purpose of making malt, and all raw or unmalted corn or grain which shall be found in such brewery or other premises except as aforesaid, and also all malted corn or grain, whether whole or unground, or ground or bruised, with which such raw or unmalted corn or grain may be mixed, shall be forfeited, and the brewer for every such offence shall forfeit the sum of £200."

Section 37 enacts:—

"That no brewer of beer for sale shall have or use, for the purpose of grinding, crushing, or braising malt, any mill-stones, or any mill constructed otherwise than with metal rollers only, such rollers not being fluted but having plain and smooth surfaces, and no malt which shall be ground by any means or crushed or bruised otherwise than by means of such metal rollers as aforesaid, shall be used by or be received into the possession of any such brewer."

The penalty in this case was a forfeit of £200. The object of this section was to prevent barley or other raw grain being ground with malt, it being known that in such case smooth metal rollers would be unfit for the purpose, and that either fluted or stone mills would be necessary. Precautions were further taken to prevent raw grain passing into the brewery under the style of roasted malt, and according to the instructions given to the Excise officers, it was not deemed malted if the plumule of 95 per cent. of it did not extend one-half the length of the grain. The preparation of roasted malt was also strictly under Excise supervision.

The Acts above alluded to remained in force until the year 1880, when, by the well-known Free Mash Tun Act, the duty was transferred from the malt made to the wort produced and gathered.

Thus it will be seen that whatever merit may attach to raw-grain processes, it is only within the last thirteen years that the English brewer has been enabled seriously to consider them; and therefore in this particular case the familiar phrases in which the words conservative and prejudice figure so prominently do not apply. Indeed, the brewer has not been slow to avail himself of the privileges derivable under the new Act, and it was not long before he was found to be seriously considering the advisability of employing starch in some form other than malt. It is quite recently, however, that a fresh impetus has been given to the whole question, which is one of sufficient importance to merit our close attention.

The amount of starch which the brewer can obtain from a given weight of material employed will obviously determine his extract, and it is found that although the proportion of starch in any one class of seed is remarkably constant, considerable variation exists among the various plants. Thus we have t the following data supplied by O'Sullivan:—

Barley 46 per cent.
Maize 54 to 58 „
Rice 75 to 77 „
Oats ... 35 to 38 „
Wheat 54 to 55 5 „

It will be seen that barley, which is chiefly employed by the brewer, is much inferior in starch proportion to maize, and contains vastly less starch than rice. These differences become emphasised when maize and rice are prepared for the use of the brewer—that is to say, when the seeds are properly husked and the germ removed. When ready for the mash tun, we may take it that malt averages between 68 to 70 per cent, of carbo-hydrate other than cellulose, and that prepared materials from maize and rice yield from 81 to 83 per cent. Hence it is that whereas malt yields an average extract of about 90; maize and rice, if properly prepared, will give a theoretical carbo-hydrate extract of about 105lbs. It is clear then that, weight for weight, a far better yield is obtainable from rice and maize than from barley.

In view of the large saving, and of the beneficial effects attendant upon the use of rice and maize preparations, many attempts have been made to devise methods which should permit of the admixture of a largely increased percentage of these materials. Hitherto the apparatus designed have not been successful, at least in this country, although I am aware that some brewers have employed methods of their own with a considerable measure of success. The more one studies the question, the more is conviction forced upon one that the problem is extremely difficult. It is, however, well worth fighting for, because if by the present methods the limit of raw-grain that can be employed is 20 per cent., and the saving in that case is large, it follows that if 50 per cent, of a material which has not to be prepared, or flaked, can be used, the saving will be proportionately greater. This question of £ s. d. has inspired Mr. Billings to produce the most perfect machine at present known, and I have no hesitation, as the result of prolonged study of the apparatus and the method of working it, in stating that by its use 50 per cent, of maize or rice can be incorporated with the malt without the slightest injury attaching to the resulting beer."
"Food & sanitation, Volume 4", 1894, page 102.

It's worth noting the particular efforts of the authorities to prevent the roasting of unmalted grains. Yet some still persist in the fantasy of Guinness cleverly using roast barley instead of black malt in the early 19th century.

And I'm grateful for being told the year the use of sugar was legalised: 1847.


Gary Gillman said...

Very interesting once again. The comments about husking and degerming make me think that roasted maize would likely not be difficult to use in brewing, since the membrane of the kernel and the oily part would be removed (if I understand this right).

The account is a sobering reminder how palate came a long way after all the other considerations. Only at the very end of the remarks is any reference made to the subject, in the form of whether "injury" to beer would occur.

This is a good example that our consumerist perspective was rather distant to 19th brewers. It is not that they did not prize flavour in beer. Other sources show they did. But their overriding concern was to prosper (quite understandably) and if this entailed use of sugar, and later grain adjunct, so be it. Sort of similar to the approach of big brewing today.

I think probably a case can be made that the taste of beer in any given time is the result of economic and historical factors (historical meaning, old economic forces that are not quite spent). Consumer appreciation is learned, in other words, follows in turn.


Krups beertender b90 said...

I enjoyed reading this and this is truly a very interesting post about the process of how beer is adulterated. I never thought that it's a a serious and tedious task for the beer manufacturers.