Monday, 6 September 2010

Barclay Perkins Table 1836

Hah! Fooled you. This post isn't a table of Barclay Perkins beers. No. It's about Barclay Perkins Table Beer.

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.
mash 1 139 160 144
mash 2 141 166 144
mash 3 222 168 155.5
mash 4 230 150 143.5
total 732

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:

quarters % age
pale malt 65 85.19%
brown malt 12 11.84%
black malt 3 2.96%

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:

OG 1033.0
FG 1008.0
ABV 2.9
attenuation 75.73%

I'm intrigued to know how it would taste. Probably a bit thin, but nice and roasty. Anyone fancy giving brewing it a try?


Anonymous said...

Forgive my ignorance, but I'm _sure_ you can fill me in... Porter or Dark Mild? With so little hopping?

Ron Pattinson said...

Anonymous, Dark Mild didn't exist in the 1830's. So it has to be a Porter.

Barm said...

It looks rather like a modern-day 60/– with that gravity and the bit of roast.

Oblivious said...

"It looks rather like a modern-day 60/– with that gravity and the bit of roast"

12% brown would a good bit of roast/flavor, the percentages of brown and roasted malt are pretty similar to fullers London porter

Thomas Barnes said...

Ron, is there any specific mention of reusing hops in these historic recipes? It would certainly make sense once hops were taxed.

In modern practice, brewers will sometimes reuse spent flavor or aroma hops as bittering hops for another batch of beer, especially when using whole hops. The late hop additions just extract essential oils, leaving behind most of the alpha acids used for bittering.

I could imagine a frugal brewer doing exactly like you said; perhaps using the flavor and aroma hops from a bitter, Burton ale or IPA as bittering hops for lower-alcohol, lower-quality products like table beer.

Ron Pattinson said...

Thomas, yes, there is specific mention of re-using hops in William Younger's brewing records. Brewing manuals mention the practice, too.

I don't think they were hop sparging at this time. So there may have been wort in the used hops.

It's pretty hopeless trying to guess the effect. An idea might be to brew a strong Stout - 1090 plus - and re-use the hops in this Table Beer. Someone should give it a go.