Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Pale Ale at the Great International Exhibition of 1862

A Great Exhibition. Not the Great Exhibition of 1851 (the bash celebrating Britain's industry organised by Prince Albert held in the Crystal Palace), but the follow-up, just over a decade later. Not quite so well known, perhaps, but they did have beer exhibited.

It's shocking how much good beer material I've found in The Lancet. Who'd have thunk it? I stumbled across this report of the beers exhibited when searching for Australian Ale. I'm so glad I did. It's full of handy details.

"ALE AND BEER.

From the waters, natural and artificial, we proceed to malt liquors, of which there are several exhibitors; and, first, we shall notice the Pale Ale or bitter beer.

In our judgment, this is the most perfect, as well as the most wholesome description of malt beverage known in this country. Its characteristics are medium strength in alcohol, a small amount of extractive matter, and especially of sugar or glucose, and an aromatic and bitter taste due to the hops; its properties are that it is moderately stimulant, tonic, and anodyne; it contains so little sugar and extractive matter, that it may, in many cases, be taken with advantage by even the gouty and the diabetic.

The exhibitors of Pale Ale are Messrs. Bass and Co., Fowler and Co., Salt and Co., Garton and Co.; and to these we presume we must add Messrs. Allsopp and Sons.

It is quite unnecessary that we should say aught in praise of the pale ale of Messrs. Bass and Co.: its reputation has for a long series of years been established, and is testified by the fact of its enormous consumption over nearly the whole world, in the table given below some analyses of Bass's pale ale in bottle will be found; the specific gravity of these range from 1012.4 to 1017.2 per cent., and the anhydrous alcohol from 5.31 to 5.59 per cent.

The pale ale exhibited by Messrs. Fowler and Co., the brewers of the celebrated Prestonpans beer, agrees in its general characters with other pale ales of good quality, but it possesses in addition a flavour, not easy to describe in words, characteristic of all the Prestonpans beers, alleged to be due to the water used, and which by persons accustomed to it is so much liked; its specific gravity was 1008.1 per cent., and it contained 5.15 per cent, of absolute alcohol.

The pale ale of Messrs. Salt and Co. was perhaps of a rather deeper shade than some of the others, but, as shown by its specific gravity (1007.7), it was well attenuated, and was moreover very strong, containing 7.76 per cent, of alcohol.

That of Messrs. Garton and Co. was of a very pale straw colour, very clear and bright, and was particularly clean on the tongue — that is, when drunk no stickiness or clamminess was perceptible in the mouth. It was not analyzed until some time after the barrel came into our possession, and therefore no reliance can be placed upon the result of its subsequent examination. It should be understood that this is a peculiar description of ale, differing much from other pale ales, in its manufacture sugar is used, this having been converted by a process patented by Messrs. Garton into a very perfect form of glucose, termed by them "Saccharum." This saccharum is supplied to the trade by this firm in any quantity, the advantages claimed for it are — the excellence of the ale made with it, its freedom from acidity, and its comparative cheapness.

Although the names of Messrs. Allsopp and Sons do not appear in the Catalogue, and althongh they do not occupy any space in the Eastern Annex with the other British exhibitors, yet, according to the decision of the jurors, they are to be regarded as exhibitors. While, therefore, the ales and beers of all other exhibitors were contained in casks or bottles, placed for some weeks previous to examination in situations more or less exposed to the sun, and consequently very trying to the quality, those of Messrs. Allsopp and Sons were taken by the jurors from the extensive and cool cellars which they held in the Exhibition building as contractors. This was considered to give the Messrs. Allsopp an unfair advantage over other competitors, and was loudly protested against by Messrs. Salt & Co., who were supported in their protest by the Committee of Exhibitors, to whom was entrusted the allotment of space. There is no doubt a great deal of justice in this complaint, and it would have been far better if Messrs. Allsopp and Sons had exhibited on the same conditions as the other exhibitors; not however, that we believe for a moment that, had they done so it would have made any difference with respect to the medal awarded them. It is well known that their pale ale, for delicacy and quality, is second to none. Of the four samples tested by us, the specific gravity ranged from 1007 to 1009.1 and the alcohol from 6.15 to 8.46 per cent, these analyses proving that their ales were thoroughly refined and of considerable average strength.

There are two exhibitors of mild beer, as contradistinguished from strong beer. The Prestonpans beer of Fowler and Co. is a very light, nice beverage, as pale as India ale, and suitable particularly for use in summer; its specific gravity 1010 and it contained 3.80 per cent, of anhydrous alcohol. The mild beer or ale of Messrs. Allsopp and Sons had a specific gravity of 1024.7, and contained 5.02 per cent, of alcohol.

The exhibitors of strong beer are Bass and Co., Fowler and Co., and Salt and Co. Messrs. Bass and Co. exhibit their strong ale and their No. 3 Burton or Australian ale. The sample of the latter obtained by us was excellent, but from an oversight was not subjected to analysis when first procured. Messrs. Salt and Co. exhibit several qualities of their strong or Burton ale. Three of these were subjected to analysis. As shown in the table one had a specific gravity of 1010, and contained 9.3 per cent alcohol; the second, of 1021, with 9.53 per cent, of spirit; and the third, of 1034, and 9.18 per cent, of absolute alcohol. They were all, therefore, very strong ales, and their flavour and condition were also excellent. The excellence of the Burton ale is, with reason, believed to be in part due to the specific qualities of the water used, and which contains a large amount of sulphate of lime. In this respect the water used by Salt and Co. agrees with that of the wells of Messrs. Bass and Allsopp. Amongst the samples shown by Messrs. Salt and Co. was a bottle of their No. 1 or six-guinea Australian ale, which had been brewed eighteen years, and which had been in bottle fourteen years. This, Messrs. Salt allege, the jurors just broke off the neck of the bottle in place of drawing the cork gently so as not to disturb the sediment which always [illegible word] and then proceeded to pour it out. Of course ale thus treated could not be otherwise than somewhat turbid. We have examined a bottle of this ale, which is now in course of analysis, it is obviously as sound as the day it was brewed, and nearly as free from that hardness and tartness which characterises most old ales.

Messrs. Fowler and Co. also are exhibitors of Prestonpans strong ales. One of these they denominate their "Twelve Guinea Ale;" the alcohol in this amounted to 9.11 per cent and its specific gravity was no less than 1068. It possessed the flavour peculiar to, and so much admired by many in Scotch ales.

Lastly, Messrs. Richardson, Sanders, and Co. exhibit, under the name of "Pale Stout," what is stated in the Catalogue to be "a new description of beer." It is said to combine the properties of both ale and stout, without producing the heaviness or headiness of either the one or the other. It contained 6.62 per cent, of absolute alcohol.

Of the several exhibitors of ale and beer, Allsopp and Son, Bass and Co., and Garton and Co., were awarded medals the latter for "a new kind of beer from grape sugar," and Fowler & Co., and Salt and Co., honourable mention. The beers of these latter exhibitors were so excellent that it is not easy to discern upon what grounds the higher award was withheld.

ANALYSES ILLUSTRATING THE COMPOSITION OF DIFFERENT KINDS OF ALE AND Beer

specific gravity acidity in 1000 grs absolute alcohol** glucose in 1000 grs*** extract in 1000 grs
Allsopp's Mild Ale or Beer (in draught) 24.7 2.4* 5.02 82.9
Allsopp's Pale Ale (in draught) 8.6 2.2 6.15 44.9
Allsopp's Pale Ale (in bottle) 9.3 2.5 6.59 47.1
Allsopp's Pale Ale (in bottle) 8.6 3.1 8.46 44.9
Allsopp's Pale Ale (in draught) 7 2.7 6.72 40.9
Bass's Pale Ale (in bottle) 14.3 2.6 5.59 60.4
Bass's Pale Ale (in bottle) 17.2 1.9 5.4 1.8 62.2
Bass's Pale Ale (in bottle) 16.9 2.2 5.46 2.3 65.6
Bass's Pale Ale (in bottle) 12.4 2.3 5.31 3.9 55
Bass's Pale Ale (in bottle) 15.6 2.2 5.35 2.1 60.1
Garton and Co.'s Pale Ale (in cask) 11.6 3 3.94 55.1
Fowler and Co.'s Prestonpans Beer 10 1.6 3.8 45
Fowler and Co.'s Pale Ale 8.1 3 5.16 41.1
Fowler and Co.'s Twelve-Guinea Ale 68 4.4 9.52 84.2 210.9
Richardson, Sanders, and Co.'s Pale Stout 15.8 4.6 6.62 3.7 66.2
Salt's Burton Ale 12 3.9 9.3 4.4 60.2
Salt's Burton Ale 21 7.3 9.56 19.4 86.6
Salt's Burton Ale 34 4.7 9.18 30.3 122.8
Salt's Pale Ale 7.7 3 7.76 2.7 48.4

* Grains of anhydrous carbonate of soda. ** Specific gravity 793.9. *** Estimated by the copper test."
"The lancet 1862, Volume 2", 1862, pages 630 - 631.

Wow. Where do I start? Maybe the beginning is a good idea.

The article starts with a nice summary of the characteristics of Pale Ale:
  • medium strength 
  • very little residual sugar
  • aromatic and bitter taste
Bass, Fowler, Salt, Garton and Allsopp exhibited Pale Ales. Three of those were well-known Burton brewers (Bass, Allsopp and Salt). You may not have heard of the other two. Fowler, of Prestonpans in Scotland were probably more famous for their strong Ales. In a way they live on vicariously today. Fowler's Wee Heavy was, I believe, the first beer of that name.

Garton I've heard of. But not as a brewer. They were one of the principal manufacturers of brewing sugars. Based on what's in this article, it sounds as if they started out as brewers and then moved into the sugar trade. I often come across saccharum in brewing records. Does it always mean "a very perfect form of glucose", I wonder? I'm not convinced how much of an innovation their sugar beer was. While from other sources it does appear that Bass and Allsopp's Pale Ales were pure malt, the use of sugar was nothing new.

You can understand why the exhibitors whose beer had been standing in the sun objected to Allsopp taking its entry from a nice cool cellar. I'd agree that Allsopps beers were "considerable average strength". The one Pale Ale is the strongest I've seen at 8.46% ABW (10.7% ABV). I'm not sure how that tallies with the prior description of them as "medium strength in alcohol". The alcohol levels are much higher than in the analyses we saw from the 1850's.

The alcohol level in Bass's Pale Ales are much more in line with those from the 1850's. Which makes the Allsopp ones seem all the stranger. All of the Pale Ales are well attenuated, though Bass's at around 75%, rather less than the others that range from 85% to 90%.

There are a couple of tantalising references to the colour of the Pale Ales. Salt's were somewhat darker than average. And Fowler's Prestonpans beer is described as being "as pale as India ale". That implies that IPA was paler in colour than standard Pale Ale.

So Bass's No. 3 Burton ale was also known as Australian Ale. Nice to know. Just a shame they forgot to analyse it. Though, using information on drawback in combination with an old price list, I know that Bass No.3 was either 1075 or 1085, depending on which version it was.

Salt's Burton Ales were a funny bunch. They all had similar amounts of alcohol, but very different gravities. I calculate the OG's to be 1100, 1111 and 1121. And for Salt No. 1 was the Australian Ale. It's a shame that wasn't identified in the table. The fact that it was still sound after 18 years demonstrates the remarkable keeping qualities of Burton beers.

Fowler's Twelve Guinea Ale is a real beast. With an FG of 1068 it must have been like treacle. I calculate the OG to have been a massive 1159. It's frustrating that the mention the flavour peculiar to Scotch Ale, but then don't describe what the hell it is. Brilliant.

And finally there's Richardson, Sanders Pale Stout. It's funny that they should claim it to be an innovation. Because I've seen a beer called Pale Stout in Barclay Perkins 1804 brewing records. And the term was used fairly commonly in the 18th century to describe a strong beer brewed from pale malt.

Now wasn't that instructive? Unbleievable how much information you can glean from a relatively brief article.

6 comments:

marquis said...

Ron, am I right in assuming that the alcohol percentages quoted would be ABW rather than the ABV which we use today?

Ron Pattinson said...

Marquis, that is indeed ABW.

Velky Al said...

I wonder if the term "Scotch ales" refers to a specific style a la Wee Heavy, or Scottish ales in general?

Martyn Cornell said...

Garton brewed in Southampton, and eventually moved to become the Anglo-Bavarian brewery in Shepton Mallet (yes, them) - see here.

Velky Al, I believe what was referred to as "Scotch Ale", and also as "Edinburgh Ale", was the style of darkish, slightly sweet beer that was the Scots equivalent of Burton Ale and is now best represented by McEwan's Champion.

Velky Al said...

Martyn,

Thanks for that! Time for some reading methinks....

Traci Cooper said...

an original fowlers pale ale advertising mirror with acid etched border and medalions for the 1862 exhibition, for a gold medal
and the show medal, is up for sale at lawrences auctioneers in Surrey on the 10th september 2015. Estimated at £800-1200.
Its about 8 feet tall with multiple colour wording and gilt decoration all applied on the back of the mirror.