Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Brewing IPA in the 1850's

Want to know how they used to brew IPA? Yeah, sure you do.

Old brewing manuals can be frustrating. For what they miss out. Often it's assumed that you already know how to brew standard stuff like Ales. So they don't bother describing the recipe or process. Where detailed instructions do appear, it's usually for new-fangled things. Like Pale Ale.

That's what we'll be looking at today. Instructions on how to brew the latest fad: India Pale Bitter Ale.


This beverage, so highly recommended by the Faculty for its digestive and invigorating properties, has become, from its extensive demand, a profitable branch of business.

Bitter Ale differs from other ale only in the quantity and proportion of material employed in its production; that prepared for the home market is, however, less bitter and spirituous than that which is prepared for exportation to India. The spirit of hop, which enters largely as a constituent in this beer, has ascribed to it several valuable qualities,—the following among others:—that it is cordial and warm, aperitive, digestive, diuretic, stomachic, and sudorific. It certainly acts as a tonic and anti-spasmodic; and its aromatic bitter restores the depraved appetite, corrects unwholesome nutriment, promotes digestion, and increases the nutritive virtue of all food united with it.

The malt employed should be of first-rate quality, of the lightest possible colour, and thoroughly dried. The hops of the palest growth; those known as the Farnhams, Golding's, or the very best East Kents, are to be preferred; about 18 lbs. per quarter of malt are needed for the home, and 23 lbs. for the foreign, market. Mash as for other ales, drawing a length of about three barrels per quarter for the home, and full that for the export, trade. It would be advantageous to steep the hops for nine hours in water of any temperature between 142° and 172°, when such a heat can be conveniently sustained, as the extract would be much improved thereby. Hops absorb a considerable quantity of raw wort, averaging a barrel to every 60 lbs. used. This wort they retain after the operation of mashing is closed, together with much of their original bitter: they may, therefore, be employed profitably in brewing porter next day, as the absence of aroma in the half-spent hops will not be so much missed in that beverage as in any other; and, in such a case, half or a third only of the usual quantity of new hops will suffice for the brewing. You should guard against leaving these partially-spent hops in the hop-back all night, or even more than four hours, before their bitter is extracted for future use; because within that period a partial decomposition sets in, by which the quality of the bitter is deteriorated in proportion to the time they are exposed to the air. It is best to boil them moderately in each of the after worts. The fermentation should be slow and gradual; and to secure this, the gyle must be pitched at a low heat—say, when the brewing waters are soft, at from 55° to 62° ; when hard, some degrees higher: but here is ample scope for judgment and experience, as temperature and season will severally call for their exercise. A portion of the yeast may be mixed with the wort as it flows into the tun, and other portions occasionally added afterwards. The heat of the gyle should not be suffered to increase more than 3° or 4°, during the first fifty hours, by which time the saccharometer should indicate a diminished gravity, of some 8 lbs. or 9 lbs. As soon as the saccharometer indicates a 7-lb. gravity in the gyle, and the temperature stands about 66°, a third or more of the yeasty head may be removed ; another portion when the gravity is reduced to 5 lbs.; and when reduced to 4 lbs. gravity, it may be skimmed close; repeating the operation whenever the light head thickens. It should then be allowed to cool and clarify for two or three days, at the end of which it will be found fit for vatting. If racked into store casks, 2 lbs. of the best and fullest flavoured hops per barrel should be added, and the casks rolled over every day, that the liquor may impregnate the hops, and extract their flavour. Cane vents may be used with advantage, after fermentation is partially complete.
"The brewer: a familier treatise on the art of brewing" by William Loftus, 1856, pages 59-61.
Let's explain those numbers. 18 lbs of hops per quarter a 3 barrels per quarter is 6 lbs a barrel. Or a load. Assuming a yield of 80 brewers pounds per quarter, that would give a gravity of about 1074, which seems rather on the high side. The finishing gravity of 4 lbs per barrel is about 1011. Or around 85% apparent attenuation, which does seem more like it. Early Pale Ales had a very high degree of attenuation.

The range of pitching temperatures suggested, 55 to 62º F, is pretty wide. A few years later, in 1866, Whitbread's PA was pitched at 58º F, or just about bang in the middle.

Great care in was taken to fully ferment out the beer before racking. But that dry hopping. That's just crazy, man. Two pounds per barrel. One pound is the most I've seen in brewing records. Though many logs don't record the dry-hopping so my sample size is smaller than usual. In 1900, Barclay Perkins used 0.75 lbs of dry hops in their PA, half a pound in the their weaker Bitter, XLK.


realale said...

So how about your theory that IPA was not a strong beer? My opinion is that having said that you need to add one small notice: "comparing to other contemporary beers". Comparing to current average beer is was strong and hoppy.

Craig said...

I glad to see you've been on a bitter kick recently. It warms my heart.

Ron Pattinson said...

realale, well obviously I'm judging it against other beers of the day.

The normal story goes "brewers deliberately brewed a strong and hoppy beer". By their (the brewers making it) standards, it wasn't strong at all.

Craig said...

How's this for an argument:

5-1/2 to 6% ABV would not be enough alcohol to create an antiseptic environment. Had 19th century brewers sincerely worried about IPA making the trip from the UK, they would have likely been 9, 10 or 11+ ABV, making it harder for contaminates to take a foothold. We know by Ron's work, that they were nowhere near that level. It is more likely that brewers needed to keep their strength down due to cost. Shipping ANYTHING, beer or otherwise, thousands of miles away from their place of origin had to have been expensive. More malt, to create higher ABV, meant more outward cost and more taxes. Brewers would have had to pass that cost onto the consumers, and I'm sure that they also knew that the consumer would not pay for it.

Ergo, IPA were not strong beers.

Seanywonton said...

But clearly this text, at least, states that the IPA exported was brewed stronger and hoppier than that which stayed at home. Isn't that the fairly common conception?

Anyway, I don't care because it clearly says that IPA is good for you, and that's about as much of and excuse as I need.

realale said...

Well, OG of 1074 with high attenuation down to 1011 gives you 8.3 ABV which is not 5-1/2 - 6...
I agree that comparing it with other beer styles of that times IPA was not strong and hoppy, but thing is that people in India wanted thirst quenchers, they didn't wanted heavy Burton ales or Porters, they needed Pale Ales and that's what IPA should be compared with to be honest

Ron Pattinson said...

Seanywonton, it says that the beer for export was more heavily hopped, but where does it say that it was stronger? I'll be honest with you, I don't understands what the second half of this means:

"drawing a length of about three barrels per quarter for the home, and full that for the export, trade"

I've no idea what "full that" means.

And we need to be careful with a gravity that I've merely estimated from the brew length. If they were only getting 72 brewers pounds per quarter, the OG would drop to 1066.

Ron Pattinson said...

realale, but they did want Porter. Whitbread shipped huge amounts of Porter to India in the 1850's. As much as 50,000 barrels in some years, or something like 20% of all Indian beer imports. And they weren't the only London brewer exporting Porter to India. Fascination with IPA has distracted attention from the other types of beer that were exported to India. Here's something else worth pondering: there are many breweries in the tropics that still produce a Stout. How many brew a Pale Ale?

Whitbread and Barclay Perkins, when they brewed both PA and IPA, the IPA was always weaker.

realale said...

Ron, for sure I know about large import of porter...
Regarding comparison of PA and IPA I was trying to find in your amazing notes something about it. My point is that it's not quite correct to do this comparison at the end of 19th century - my understanding (correct me if I'm wrong) that boom of IPA was in first half of 19th, so it's interesting to compare beers at that period. What was the import during 1900th (if even East India Company was defunct 25 years before)?
Here are some examples about more earlier comparing:
http://barclayperkins.blogspot.com/2010/09/burton-ale-1856.html - here Allsopp's PA costs less than IPA, I assume because of strength;

Rob Sterowski said...

With respect, Craig, your argument is the kind of speculation that got us the legends about IPA in the first place.

I could make an equally plausible argument that the colonialists going to India to make their fortunes wouldn't care too much about the cost of their beer in the grand scheme of things.

Or that the cost of the extra malt would be such a small proportion of the final purchase price that it wouldn't matter.

Are either of these true? I don't know. Possibly in some periods but not others. It depends if there is evidence that supports them.

What we do know is that brewers wanted to ferment their India beer as fully as possible to leave no food for spoilage organisms. Which is easier in a weaker beer than a strong one.

Martyn Cornell said...

Ads in the Calcutta Gazette in the 1780s mention imports from England of small ale, which would have been relatively unhopped, and probably not more than 5 per cent of so abv, so the idea that ale/beer had to be strong and well hopped to survive the journey seems to be a myth perpetuated because people THINK that's what ought to have been happening. Those early ads also mention porter.

Craig said...


I agree with you 110%. My point is that there were, assumably, a number of reasons that IPA was not a strong beer.

Some modern commercial and home brewers have take the notion that only strong, hoppy, bitter could have survived a long journey, They in turn have used this as a blessing from the past, to create hop-bomb, monstrosities. Make whatever beer you like, just don't proliferate misinformation and then use "history" as a justification.

As far as speculation goes, remember that critical thinking has to start somewhere. My argument might not be the answer, but it may be a possibility. Hard evidence helps to fill in the blanks, but not all the blanks.

Rod said...

Craig -

"Shipping ANYTHING, beer or otherwise, thousands of miles away from their place of origin had to have been expensive."
That's quite a natural assumption, except it doesn't seem to be true. Most of the trade was from India to Britain, so the ships were in danger of going out under-laden. Martyn Cornell (I think) has shown that shipping a barrel of beer to India was no more expensive that shipping it to Edinburgh.

"It is more likely that brewers needed to keep their strength down due to cost.... More malt, to create higher ABV, meant more outward cost and more taxes."
Again, not an unreasonable assumption, but again assumption is going to get us into trouble wiithout facts to back it up - this is how these myths start.
In fact, brewers would have liked to brew it weaker but couldn't do so economically -

"Ale, Pale or Bitter ; brewed chiefly fur the Indian market and for other tropical countries.—It is a light beverage, with much aroma, and, in consequence of the regulations regarding the malt duty, is commonly brewed from a wort of specific gravity 1055 or upwards; for no drawback is allowed by the Excise on the exportation of beer brewed from worts of a lower gravity than 1054. This impolitic interference with the operations of trade compels the manufacturer of bitter beer to employ wort of a much greater density than he otherwise would do; for beer made from wort of the specific gravity 1042 is not only better calculated to resist secondary fermentation and the other effects of a hot climate, but is also more pleasant and salubrious to the consumer."

This is from Ron's recent post on IPA in the 1860's.