At one time London brewers turned out large quantities of Table Beer. There was one good reason why: it was taxed at a much lower rate than full-strength beer. The tax per barrel of Table Beer was just 2/6d. Whereas for the strong stuff it was 10/-. But this all changed in 1830, when the excise tax on beer was abolished. Tax on beer was then collected indirectly, through a tax on malt and hops.
Of course, one of the classic wheezes of unscrupulous publicans was to buy a cask of Table Beer and one of strong beer. They'd mix the two together and hey presto, two barrels of "strong" beer. Which is why there were all sorts of rules to discourage the practice, including huge fines.
After 1830, the market for Table Beer contracted, partly because of a reduced price differential as a result of the tax changes. And partly because of social changes. Like the provision of clean drinking water. As it became increasingly safe to drink water, there was less need for Table Beer.
The role of Table Beer as a drink with meals also came under pressure from the new bottled beers that appeared in the final decades of the 19th century. Many of these were relatively low-gravity Dinner or Luncheon Ales, designed as a light accompaniment to food.
There's the background. On to the specifics of Barclay Perkins Table Beer. A fascinating beer. Because it's a type of Porter. A very weak one. Though, ironically, stronger than many beers of the final generation of London Porter in the 1930's.
Here's the beer itself:
You can see that they were still using a multiple mash system without sparging. These are the details of the four mashes:
|barrels||water temp.||tap temp.|
Nothing too weird there. I've seen some weird mashes in other Barclay Perkins logs. Where some of the striking heats were over 200º F.
The ingredients. I forgot to mention those. This is the grist:
I told you it was a type of Porter, didn't I? I bet you're wondering about the hops. Well there aren't any. At least none are mentioned in the log. I guess they used second-hand hops from another brew. When they did use fresh hops, it was at a rate of about half a pound per barrel.
These are the basic specs:
I'm intrigued to know how it would taste. Probably a bit thin, but nice and roasty. Anyone fancy giving brewing it a try?