Sunday, 28 November 2010

A Bass brewer speaks

I was so pleased about finding this. Where a Bass brewer of long standing tells us about how they brewed. Straight from the horse's mouth.

Let's dive straight in:

"2802. {Chairman.) I believe you have been nearly 30 years in the employ of Messrs. Bass, Ratcliffe, and Gretton as a chemist and brewer ?—Yes.

2801. And you consider yourself, and most people would consider you, second to none in knowledge on the subject of brewing ?—I may say so, both practically and scientifically.

2804. We have had the Burton brewers referred to on many occasions by different witnesses we have had before us, and we are very anxious to have some evidence from Burton as to the general system of brewing there, and some other information besides. Speaking generally, do the Burton brewers brew solely from barley-malt and hops, or do they use adjuncts to any great extent?—To some extent they use adjuncts ; that is to say, speaking of the brewers of Burton generally. I will not say that all of them use them, but taking them generally they do.

2805. Does that refer to the higher class ales, principally, or to the working-man's beer—ordinary public-house beer—or to both ?—With some of them, I should say, it applies chiefly to beer that is sold to the private customer, but in the higher class of Burton pale ale, and such beers, no adjuncts are used.

2806. And they are brewed entirely of barley-malt and hops ?—That is so.

2807. I suppose there is some sugar used for priming ? —As a general rule, that is employed at the present day.

2808. You would not consider that it would be advisable to prevent by any law the use of adjuncts in brewing—so long as they were not deleterious ?—I do not think it would be advisable in any view.
2809. You think it would not be advisable for the sake of the consumer?—Nor. I believe, even for the sake of the farmers; taking every thing into consideration, I do not think it would be advisable.

2810. You consider that, even in the case of the Burton brewers, it would be a hampering and restriction of their trade if such a law were passed ?—I believe it would.

2811. I suppose you buy very largely of English barley, and also of foreign barley ?—Yes.

2812. And you have agents all over the country for purchasing your barley ? —That is the fact.

2813. Do you buy mostly in the English markets, or do you send abroad also for barley ?—I believe we have buying agents abroad, but I will not say definitely. We know where the variety that suits our purpose can be found, and we send there, either by agent or otherwise ; I think that is the fact, but I am not absolutely conversant with the buying of the barley.

2814. Do you find in your experience that it is more necessary to use these malt substitutes when yon are brewing with English barley, than when you are brewing with foreign barley ? — Taking the English barley as a whole, I should say so decidedly.

2815. Will you explain that a little more ?—I should like to point out that in really good years, when we have sufficient ripening powers, and when we can get a good crop of well ripened English barley, we can no doubt use a much larger quantity of it than we can at other times. I daresay a very large quantity of that barley could fairly well be used without any adjunct, but taking it as a whole even if there was sufficient of it, at the present time brewers would have to seek a portion of their material elsewhere than from even the highest class of English barley. There would not be sufficient of it to fulfil their requirements.

2816. You mean you would have to get other barley, or to get other adjuncts ?—I beg your pardon; we would either have to get foreign barley, or to use adjuncts.

2817. As a matter of fact you use both ? —As a matter of fact we use both, but as far as we are concerned the adjuncts are only used to a very small extent, and that in low-priced beers. I do not think these beers are sold to public-houses; they are simply sold to private consumers, generally farmers in the neighbourhood; they are beers we would not send over the country.

2818. In what particulars do you find it necessary to use these adjuncts ?—The reason is very definite. I am now speaking of Bass and Company alone. We brew a large quantity of strong high-priced beers of a high gravity, and it is absolutely impossible to get the whole of the extract out of the malt and keep the strength to the proper gravity. Therefore, we have a certain amount of washing, rich in albuminoids and ash, which by itself would scarcely ferment at all, and would yield no satisfactory result. The addition of malt would only modify that to a certain extent, but if we have clean starch transformation products, and if we select these and add them to an extent sufficient to bring up the proportion of albuminoids to the normal of malt extract, then we have a product which is really satisfactory and gives good results.

2819. {Professor Odling.) When you say bring up, do you mean bring up or bring down?—It lowers the proportionate quantity of the albuminoids and brings up the composition to the normal; the other constituents besides the albuminoids and ash are brought up to the normal.

2820. The carbo-hydrates are brought up to the normal ?—That is so. I may say definitely that we find such beer keeps excellently.

2821. {Chairman.) How long does it keep?—I have seen it keep for two years.

2822. Have you altered your system of brewing, or altered the sort of beer which you brew, much during the last 10 years ?—Certainly not.

2823. You brew exactly the same beer now as you used to brew from 10 to 20 years ago ?—Yes, practically, 30 years ago; taking it altogether 1 should say that gravity for gravity—I have not the exact figures, but looking at it broadly—the proportionate number of barrels of beer produced by us per quarter of malt, is practically the same now as it was 30 years ago— that is to say, the strength is practically the same as it was then. The strength may not be exactly the same, but I believe that with careful manipulation, and a better knowledge of the condition of things, we now get better results.

2824. So far as colour is concerned, Bass has always brewed a bright light-coloured beer?—Yes, pale ale being the principal ale brewed by us, it is always of a light colour.
2825. You do use a certain proportion of sugar, or sugar solution, for priming ?—Yes.

2826. Is that invariably used ?—Invariably, except for in the export beer and the higher class keeping beers, in which it is unnecessary to use it. Priming is used in order to mature the beer in a moderately short time. When we have to deal with the higher priced beers, such as the export and strong ale, No. 1 as we call it, and other varieties of strong beer that have to be kept some time, there is no necessity to use the priming. The system of Burton brewing is such that the whole of the fermentable matter is reduced down to almost the smallest possible point by the time the yeast is separated from the beer. When the beer is put into the casks, it has a tendency to remain flat, and in that condition it is practically unconsumable. This small quantity of sugar revives the yeast and sets up a fresh fermentation, bringing the beer thereby into condition, and, further, it helps to carry on the fermentation afterwards, according to the well-known scientific fact that one sugar which is fermenting will carry another sugar with it, which is not easily fermentable by itself. For instance, as Professor Odling will understand, lactose and some others of the higher sugars will scarcely ferment by themselves; they do so, however, in the presence of a more fermentable sugar fermenting. If fermentation is carried on so that the sugar that is left in the beer after the chief fermentation is finished, is no longer capable with any degree of rapidity of further fermentation, and, therefore, of supplying the carbonic acid gas which is necessary to keep the beer in condition, the beer would remain flat and unsaleable for a longer time if this small quantity of priming, which consists of an easily fermentable sugar, were not added. That sugar carries on the fermentation, or helps the yeast to carry on the fermentation in the sugar that was previously only slowly fermentable.

2827. In the case of export beer, when you do not want the beer to ferment soon, you leave out the priming ?—Yes.

2828. Does the beer after a certain time get all right by itself?—Oh yes; in two or three months or so; it goes through a series of changes, which put it into a condition in which it is fit for consumption. There are certain conditions which render it necessary to allow the beer to mature in casks.

2829. Do you export beer in the cask to places like India ?—Yes.

2830. Which do you do most of, exporting in cask or in bottle ?—We sell no beer in bottle. We export a considerable quantity of bulk beer in cask to India, and also to Australia and America, not so much to Australia now, but still what we send we export in cask. A large quantity of our beer is bottled by exporters and exported ; we sell them the beer, and they bottle it and export it.

2831. Your beer goes out to India in casks?—Yes.

2832. But in addition to that the exporters bottle it before sending it out ?—Yes, and we send some out to India which is bottled there."
"Minutes of evidence taken before the Departmental committee on beer materials", 1899, pages 89 - 90.
Evidence given by Mr. C. O'Sullivan, brewer and chemist at Bass.

Let's summarise that, shall we?

  • Bass's Pale Ales were 100% malt
  • some of their cheaper beers used adjuncts
  • other Burton brewers used adjuncts in all their beers
  • they did prime their weaker domestic beers with sugar
  • strong keeping beers like No. 1 Ale and export beers were not primed but allowed to mature naturally
  • the naturally-matured beers were aged for two months in cask
  • Bass's beers were so highly-attenuated that without priming they would be flat
  • Bass's beer could be kept for as much as two years without spoiling
  • Bass sold no beer in bottles themselves
  • Bass exported beer in casks to India
  • Bottlers exported Bass beer in bottles
  • Bass's beers were much the same as they had been 30 years previously
  • Bass's Australian trade had declined

I think you'll agree that Mr. O'Sullivan's interview was most informative.

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