Thursday, 17 March 2011

Let's Brew Wednesday - 1942 Barclay Perkins XX

You must be getting pig sick of WW II. Not me. As today's recipe illustrates.

We're nearing the end of my Barclay Perkins 1942 price list series of recipes. It's the turn of XX, or Best Mild. I've always liked the idea of Best Mild. When I were a lad, there were even a couple of breweries that still brewed an ordinary Mild and a Best Mild. Thwaites and Border, for example.

Barclay Perkins XX was a beer with a long history. For around 100 years it was called simply X. Then, in response to a swinging tax increase in 1931, it was renamed XX. The X name continued to be used, but for a lower-gravity version of the beer. XX remained at the old X gravity of 1043º.

Over that long history, the beer went through many incarnations. When first introduced in the 1830's, it was a 100% pale malt beer with a gravity of 1071º. That's stronger than contemporary IPA. By the 1850's the gravity had fallen to 1065º, but it was still brewed from just pale malt. In 1890 it was 1056º and contained pale malt, a dash of crystal malt, sugar and flaked rice. By the outbreak of WW I, its gravity had dropped to 1051º and it was brewed from a grist of pale malt, amber malt, No.3 invert sugar, flaked maize and a drop of caramel.

At the time of this recipe, it was one of Barclay Perkins biggest sellers. It and the other Milds (X, Ale and their variations) were parti-gyled, though by 1942 there was a great deal of difference in the gravities of the three. X and Ale were a tad under 1030, XX a tad over. This compression would eventually lead to Ale being discontinued.

What you see here is very much the blueprint for post-war Mild. About 3% ABV and lightly hopped. The type of beer that springs to mind when the word Mild is mentioned today. Remember that those were just the characteristics of the final version. A couple of decades earlier, it was a very different beer.

That's me done for now. Let's go over to Kristen . . . . .

Kristen’s Version:

This XX ale was parti-gyled with a single X ale. The first time I made it I did the actually gyle and two beers. Heres the thing. The difference between the two beers is 1.002 gravity points. After tasting them both they are nearly spot on identical so this beer is definitely not worth the time nor the effort to properly gyle them. Keep this one simple as I had it in the keg and drinking it 4 days after it was brewed.


Grist – This mild is very unique from the other ones we’ve done as its basically a pale bitter with a ton of caramel added to it to darken it. Paul’s mild malt and Golden promise were used. I like Golden promise for milds as it’s a bit apply and I like the extra fruit layer on these guys. The two types of non-malt barley were new to me. Usually one choses one or the other. I do find the combination better than the individual but in a pinch you can really choose either. Flaked is easier to use for most people. The crystal is the standard ~75L UK-type and the Invert No3 is pretty important as its really the only dark flavor in this mix. I took about a gallon of one of the examples I did and used pomegranate molasses instead of invert No3 directly in the carboy. If you have never seen, nor heard of it, google it. Its wickedly fruity without the massively dark black strap flavors and direct substitution for No3 invert gives you a very very unique and wonderful product. Very much non-traditional. That’s why I only did it to part of the beer.

Hops – It really doesn’t matter what you use for this beer. There is little hop character. I’d suggest using something older to use it up as its really not going to come forward very much.

Yeast – The yeast really depends on you. I used the Fullers strain as I love the fruitiness. I do have to say that the Whitbread strain really didn’t work very well.


Advanced Mash – There was a short under let but the single infusion worked pretty much exactly like the multi-infusion.


Unknown said...

Kristen- Where do you get your invert sugar? I know you can make it at home, but its hard to hit a target you have never seen.

Kristen England said...


Many home brew shops in the UK sell it. In the US get in good with a bakery or a bakers shop as they usually have it or can get it.

I would suggest making it at home your first time through.

You are trying to get close. It depends on how good your blackstrap is. Its a good starting point.

Craig said...


If it helps, I use 2/3 white sugar and 1/3 demerara sugar, water and tartaric acid for invert no. 1. I simmer this for a few minutes until it becomes a syrup, and go. This yields a really nice light amber/honey color. For invert 2, I use all demerara, and cook using the same process as for invert 1. All demerara produces a rich dark, cherry, tone, quickly, with a nice caramel flavor. For No. 3, again all denerra, but I let it simmer for quite a while, adding water as needed. The longer it's cooked, the darker it gets.

Adrian Avgerinos said...

Observations and tidbits I've come across after cooking sugar and reading about sugar:

1) Invert sugar won't darken on its own. At cool temperatures it won't get much darker than a pale golden wheat color. 2 hours at up to 253 degrees yields a syrup the color of pale apple juice.

2) Cooking at temperatures below 266F (130C) promotes a positive colloidal charge. Good for beer as the proteins have a positive charge. Otherwise the sugar will bind with the proteins and drop out as brown sludge. Test your sugar by putting a few drops in a glass and mixing with beer. Let it sit overnight and see if anything drops out.

3) Blackstrap is a more concentrated version of conventional molasses. It's good for coloring and/or promoting the Maillard reaction (because of the proteins and amino acids).

4) Adding a small amount (1/8oz per 2lb sugar) will take clear invert to a "Golden Syrup" color. Cook this below 266F for another 3 hours and you’ll get something that looks like espresso.

5) Nobody advertises their products as “good quality” blackstrap. No clue what a good versus a bad one tastes like.

6) Diammonium Phosphate can be used to synthesize the stuff needed to produce a Maillard reaction. Effectively this is how Caramel Class III (e150c) is created. Best I can tell all the US manufacturers of caramel claim that Class III is the only one appropriate for beer due to the positive colloidal charge. Ragus, in the UK, uses e150a. Not sure how they can do that and get it to be beer stable.

7) I believe DAP can be used in lieu of an acid as it will also acidify the solution. DAP will also yield a dark sugar but without the molasses taste.

8) To make caramel I think you’ll need to cook this ammonium solution, below 266F, for many hours. I’ve seen 2 to 7 hours quoted depending on the caramel class. I tried recently but heated over 300. 2 hours. Not only was it not as dark as the commercial stuff (which was class IV), but it dropped out after mixing with beer. The commercial stuff will turn a 12 ounce glass of water black with 1/4 tsp.

9) Caramelizing fructose (thanks to the inversion process) promotes red hues in the sugar. I think with commercial caramel they use mostly or all glucose.

10) Belgian sugar is a whole different beast that seems to defy sugar physics. It’s dark, supposedly 100% plain white sucrose based, doesn’t used acids, ammonias or any sort of molasses, and it’s highly fermentable. Witchcraft I tell ya.

11) Commercial caramel is made by boiling in a vacuum. It’s also hard to source at the consumer level. I have yet to come across any beer stable caramel color available for purchase. Baker’s caramel may or may not work depending on the class. So far all I’ve seen in powdered baker’s caramel is Class IV, which won’t work.

unholymess said...

Adrian - #1 is only true if you use white cane sugar. Several articles here show that demerara sugar is the way to go for brewers inverts. Demerara invert syrup will color fairly rapidly - turning very dark (40 SRM) after 3 hours or so at 240F.

Adrian Avgerinos said...

"#1 is only true if you use white cane sugar."

I guess I wasn't clear. That was exactly my point. Demerara, Turbinado, Muscovado, Jaggery, hell even regular ole American style "brown sugar" will do just as you say thanks to the molasses content of the sugar. Cooking sucrose + blackstrap will do the same thing. When I say "on it's own", I mean just sucrose in it's purest form. i.e. refined white sugar. I'm fairly sure this is the type of sugar that sugar companies today start with to make their brewing sugars. From there they acid invert, add glucose, and then colorize using molasses. At least that's how they do it at one company.

According to what I was told, cooking plain invert sugar (not the raw stuff containing molasses) will only bring the color up to "100 to 200 EBC and looks more wheat yellow rather than brown or black."

Incidentally, I tried making caramel color again only to find that it looks to be impossible in the home setting. Cooked for 5 hours below 260 degrees and it still came out much lighter than the commercial stuff and failed the "beer test". Looks like I'll need to continue my seach for a commerial product that's compatible with beer.