Sunday, 17 April 2011

Malt Liquors Sold in the UK - Mild Ale and Old Ale

 Part four in the British Medical Journey series on beer available in the UK in 1869 and 1870. You really can't fault the series for the overview it gives.

But there's a second insight: how Victorians classified beer. Austrian Beer, Bavarian Beer, Bitter Ale and Beer, Mild Ale And Old Ale, Porter and Stout. The latter two groupings are no mere accident or convenience. Mild and Old were seen as variations of the same basic beer. Likewise Porter and Stout.



IV.—Mild Ale And Old Ale.

The kinds of malt liquor represented by the analytical results given in the following table differ very much from what is commonly known as pale ale or bitter beer treated of in the former report,* independently of actual strength or of the peculiar flavour and bitterness given to pale ale by the large proportion of hops used in brewing it. Mild ale is generally characterised by a sweetness more or less decided, indicating the presence of sugar. In old ale, this character is less obvious — partly owing to the presence of free acid, which masks the sweet taste. The difference between pale ale and these two kinds of beer is further indicated by the amount of extract in mild and old ale being, as a rule, larger, relatively to the alcohol, than it is in pale ale. This difference is chiefly due to the way in which the fermentation of the wort has been conducted, and to its being carried further in one case than in the other.

In regard to the actual amount of alcohol in beer of this kind, it varies in mild ale from 4.41 to 7.34 per cent, by weight, or from 1.1 to 1.75 fluid-ounces of absolute alcohol per pint, the average alcoholic strength being decidedly above that of ordinary bitter beer. In old ale, the amount of alcohol is still larger, varying from 6.2 to 8.41 per cent, by weight, or from 1.5 to 2.75 fluid-ounces per pint of the beer.

The amount of extract in mild ale varies from 3.58 to 6.81 per cent, by weight, or from 0.75 to 1.5 oz. per pint of the beer; and in old ale it is from 4.56 to 13.32 per cent, by weight, or from 1 to 2.75 oz. per pint.

The amount of free acid taken as acetic acid is in mild ale from .13 to .28 per cent, by weight, or from 10.5 to 24.7 grains per pint; in old ale, it is from .16 to .56 per cent, by weight, or from 14 to 49.4 grains per pint of the beer.

The quantity of malt used per bushel in the brewing of these samples of beer, as indicated by the estimated original gravities of the wort, varies in mild ale from 1.77 to 3.2 bushels per barrel, and in old ale from 2.69 to 4.5 bushels per barrel.

From the great alcoholic strength of some samples of old ale, they partake more of the nature of wine than of beer, in the usual sense of the term. They are, in fact, quite equal in that respect to most of the cheaper wine imported from France, Germany, and Italy; while, in flavour and general character, old ale such as that brewed at Burton and in Scotland is far superior to any wines of the kind referred to, which can be sold here at a price double that of the best old ale. This kind of beer, however, is but rarely sold at public-houses.

* See British Medical Journal, No. 453, page 245.

contents per pint
Kind of Ale Obtained from price per imperial pint Specific gravity % of alcohol % of extract acetic acid original gravity of wort malt per barrel alcohol fl. ozs extract ozs. acid grs.
1. Old Burton Ale. Brewed March 1869 Messrs. S. Allsopp and Sons, Burton-on-Trent 1040.38 8.25 13.32 0.32 1121.63 4.5 2.16 2.77 29.12
2. Ditto Feathers Tavern, Hand Court, Holborn 6d 1030.11 8.32 11.14 0.25 1111.45 4.11 2.16 2.29 22.53
3. Bass's Barley Wine The Hoborn Tavern 5d 1032.31 8.41 11.75 0.23 1114.78 4.25 2.18 2.42 20.77
4. Roy's Scotch Ale The Mitre Tavern, Chancery Lane 1037.84 7.43 12.91 0.2 1111.45 4.12 1.81 2.6 18.16
5. Truman, Hanbury and Co. Bedford Tavern, Bedford St. 4d 1020.81 6.76 8 0.26 1084.95 3.14 1.71 1.57 14.29
6. Bass's Three Cups Tavern, Gray's Inn Passage 4d 1014.91 8.08 7.02 0.18 1091.47 3.38 2.04 1.43 15.88
7. Allsopp's 69, Long Lane 4d 1008.61 8.31 4.56 0.56 1086.4 3.2 2.1 0.91 49.42
8. Kennet Ale - Butler's 56, Museum Street 4d 1012.31 8.13 6.27 0.36 1090.03 3.33 2.05 1.27 31.88
9. Charrington's 160, Gray's Inn Road 4d 1017.08 7.5 7.52 0.26 1089.16 3.3 1.9 1.53 23.14
10. Ditto 92, King Street, Smithfield 4d 1013.99 6.2 6.06 0.28 1073.27 2.71 1.57 1.22 24.83
11. Elliott, Watney and Co. The Bull's Head Tavern, 1 Hyde Street 4d 1007.93 6.75 4.81 0.28 1072.81 2.69 1.71 0.96 24.69
12. Truman, Hanbury and Co., Winter Brewing Truman, Hanbury and Co. 3d 1010.76 6.54 5.4 0.22 1073.41 2.72 1.66 1.09 19.45
13. Ditto - Summer Brewing Ditto 2d 1010.3 5.62 5.01 0.19 1064.63 2.39 1.44 1.01 15.8
14. Usher's Strong Scotch 22, Waterloo Road bottled 1011.66 7.34 5.88 0.18 1081.09 3 1.87 1.19 15.93
15. Crawley's Alton Ale - Mild XXXX 260, Holborn 4d 1027.34 6.16 9.59 0.14 1086.36 3.2 1.59 1.97 12.58
16. Scotch Ale - Campbell's Brewery Blanchard's Restaurant, Beak Street 5d 1009.4 5.9 5.05 0.28 1066.86 2.47 1.5 1.02 24.73
17. Stogumber Ale Bliss Bros., 21 Upper Seymour Street bottled 1008.51 5.9 4.69 0.28 1065.62 2.43 1.5 0.93 24.71
18. Edinburgh Ale - Wm. Younger's The National Stores Tavern, 79 Farringdon Street 4d 1006.63 4.41 3.58 0.19 1048.38 1.77 1.12 0.72 16.73
19. Combe, Delafield and Co. White Hart Tavern, Chancery Lane 4d 1015.56 4.84 6.05 0.14 1061.85 2.29 1.22 1.21 12.44
20. Bass's The Holborn 2d 1016.67 5.07 6.33 0.22 1065.69 2.43 1.29 1.28 19.57
21. Goldsmith's Bedford Tavern, Bedford St. 2d 1013.15 5.45 5.61 0.21 1065.67 2.43 1.38 1.13 18.62
22. City of London Brewery Three Cups Tavern, Gray's Inn Passage 2d 1016.26 4.57 6.05 0.13 1059.56 2.2 1.16 1.22 10.56
23. Charrington's 160, Gray's Inn Road 2d 1013.31 5.15 5.5 0.2 1062.57 2.39 1.31 1.11 17.73
24. Thornton's 133, Gray's Inn Road 2d 1013.17 5.22 5.48 0.21 1062.75 2.32 1.32 1.11 18.62
25. Combe, Delafield and Co. Yorkshire Tavern, 29 Gray's Inn Road 2d 1015.69 4.91 6 0.18 1062.61 2.31 1.25 1.21 17.99
26. Elliott, Watney and Co. The Bull's Head Tavern, 1 Hyde Street 2d 1018.7 4.66 6.81 0.19 1063.76 2.36 1.2 1.38 16.93
27. Allsopp's 69, Long Lane 2d 1014.78 4.43 5.56 0.22 1057.33 2.12 1.12 1.12 19.53

"British Medical Journal 1870, vol. 1", 1870, page 68.

That first paragraph is very revealing. Particularly in regard to the differences between Mild Ale, Pale Ale and Old Ale. Notice one thing that isn't mentioned? Probably the first point that would me mentioned today were someone to describe the difference between Bitter and Mild. Colour. Because in 1870 all three types of beer were brewed from 100% pale malt (optionally with some sugar). Pale Ale, for which the best and palest malts were reserved would have been a little paler than an X Ale, but not a great deal.

It's not colour that differentiates Mild and Bitter, nor even strength. It's sweetness and the degree of attenuation. The average apparent attenuation of the Mild Ales is 78.9%. Of the Old Ales 78.56%. And of the Pale Ales 83.59%. On average, Pale Ales had a degree of attenuation about 5% higher. Given the high degree of attenuation and robust hopping, Pale Ales must have tasted pretty damn dry.

Old Ales, on the other hand, were distiguished by their higher level of acidity. The aicd content of the samples averages 0.29%. For Mild Ale and Pale Ale the average acidity is remarkably similar, at 0.2% and 0.21% respectively. It's no surprise that Old Ale was the most acidic. But, from what I've learned of the production methods of Pale Ale - specifically the long maturation - I would have expected its acidity to be higher than Mild Ale's..

The relative strength of the different styles may also come as a surprise. It syas of Mild Ale that "the average alcoholic strength being decidedly above that of ordinary bitter beer".That's no idle claim. The average ABV of the Pale Ale samples is 6.53%. Of the Mild Ales, it's 6.83%. The Old Ales, have a massive 9.7% ABV average. Like wines, indeed.

Finally there's the way Scotch Ales are classified: either as Old Ales or Mild Ales. Not in a special category of their own. And when they are put into another group, it's together with Burton Ales as examples of particularly fine Old Ales. The ones that were better and stronger than cheap wine, but weren't often sold in pubs. Buy British, is the clear message.

How many of the pubs where samples were obtained still exist? I can identify one, though it now has a different name.


Ed said...

Blimey, I've been to the Yorkshire Gray.

Gary Gillman said...

I wonder if The Holborn was what is now Cittie of York, formerly Henekey's Long Bar. Princess Louise is out, it was named that from the beginning, and was built in 1872.

At the average acidity levels for all the beers, what kind of taste would that translate to today? What beer today has an acidity level, say, of .20?

It sounds pretty high based on some of the earlier discussions about acidity.

Did all English beer then have a light sourish edge, say, the way most Belgian Saison does today?.

Yet, this seems unlikely to me because as I said before, British observers (I can give numerous examples) regularly cited the sour character of Belgian beer in this period as an off-putting characteristic.

I wonder if the samples taken had soured simply because of the time lag between sourcing and the tests done.


Ed said...

I must get the pH meter out and test some beers...

Acidity of 0.20 gives a pH of 3.73, which is within the acceptable range for cask beers (3.7 to 4.1) so not as sour as you might think.

0.29, the average acidity of the old ales, is pH 3.65 so definitely getting sour there.

Gary Gillman said...

Okay I think that answers it and it would seem then the sourness intensity is not a linear relationship...