Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Malt Liquors Sold in the UK - Porter and Stout

It's a sad day. We've come to the end of the British Medical Journal's series of articles on the beers on sale in Britain.

The final article covers Porter and Stout. That in itself tells us something. The series appears to be in reverse order of fashion, starting with the very new and trendy Lager beers, followed by Pale Ale, the Mild and Old Ale, with Porter bringing up the rear. The first paragraph sums up why: Porter was on the way out.

Porter hadn't had a bad run by any means. It had been the preferred tipple of the labouring classes for more than a century. Especially compared to something like Bitter, which barely managed 25 years on top.



V.—Porter And Stout.

The kinds of malt liquor represented by the following analyses have hitherto been the chief beverage of the working class in London, but they are now being in great measure superseded by ale. Both in porter and stout, the deep brown colour is due to the use of a certain proportion of roasted malt in the brewing; but in other respects there is no special difference between them and other kinds of malt liquor.

The amount of alcohol in these examples of porter varies from 3.22 to 5 per cent, by weight, or from .82 to 1.27 fluid-ounces per pint; and the amount of extract, from 3.92 to 6.91 per cent, by weight, corresponding to .79 and 1.20 ounces per pint.

In the stout, the amount of alcohol varies from 5.09 to 6.81 per cent. by weight, or 1.30 to 1.74 fluid-ounces per pint; and the amount of extract is from 6.17 to 11.37 per cent., corresponding to 1.25 and 2.35 ounces per pint.

The quantity of malt used in brewing porter and stout, as indicated by the computed original gravities of these samples, varies from 1.68 to 2.22 bushels per barrel in the case of porter, while in stout it varies from 2.38 to 3.40 bushels per barrel.

Perhaps the most striking feature of these results is that brought out by comparing them with the price at which the beer is sold in particular instances. Thus, in the case of porter, several of the samples sold at 2d. per pint appear to be decidedly inferior to some of those sold at 1.5d. per pint.

Again, the stout Nos. 22 and 27, though sold at 4d. per pint in both instances, is far from being equal to the samples Nos. 21 and 28, which were sold at 3.5d. and 3d. per pint respectively.

If, in addition to such a disproportion between the quality of beer and the price charged for it by retailers, it be further taken into account that, in the sale of beer by the glass, there is a further large addition to the price per pint, in consequence of the glasses being frequently very much smaller than they should be, it will be evident that the public suffer considerably from the absence of a due relation between the value of beer and the price paid for it. Probably this is of more importance than any actual adulteration of malt liquor; and it is certain that in many cases the price charged for beer at places of public resort is such as to be almost prohibitory of its consumption. For example, Allsopp's best pale ale costs less than 3d. per pint when purchased by the barrel, while the price charged for it at the Crystal Palace and several other places of the kind is actually 6d. per pint."

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. Reid's  Taphouse, Liquorpond Street 2d 1014.08 3.69 5.13 0.2 1048.76 1.8 0.94 1.04 17.74
2. Ditto 20 Orange Street 2d 1014.44 3.59 5.2 0.2 1048.22 1.78 0.91 1.05 17.75
3. Ditto The Redan, 34 Farringdon Street 2d 1018.01 3.22 5.93 0.21 1048.3 1.78 0.82 1.2 18.7
4. Combe, Delafield and Co. Yorkshire Tavern, 29 Gray's Inn Road 2d 1014.63 4.2 5.31 0.16 1053.51 1.98 1.7 1.07 14.2
5. Ditto The Old Bell, New Tothill Street, Westminster 1.5d 1020.25 3.82 6.91 0.2 1057.16 2.11 0.99 1.41 17.85
6. Field and Co. The Ship Tavern, Gray's Inn Road 2d 1010.27 3.93 4.04 0.16 1045.46 1.68 0.98 0.82 14.14
7. Elliott, Watney and Co. Bricklayers' Arms, Eagle Street 1.5d 1015.91 4.73 5.75 0.2 1054.09 2 1.18 1.17 17.78
8. Ditto Monster, Pimlico 1.5d 1010.08 4.16 3.92 0.21 1048.02 1.77 1.06 0.79 18.55
9. Truman, Hanbury and Co. The Peacock, Gray's Inn Road 1.5d 1013.16 4.02 5.12 0.24 1051.53 1.9 1.03 1.01 21.27
10. Ditto Sugar Loaf, Fetter Lane 2d 1013.56 3.95 4.68 0.18 1049.33 1.82 1.04 0.94 15.96
11 Meux and Co. The Horse Shoe, Tottenham Court Road 2d 1011.4 5 4.63 0.19 1057.96 2.14 1.27 0.93 16.81
12. Courage and Co. White Horse, Fetter Lane 2d 1011.82 4.57 4.96 0.21 1055.16 2.04 1.19 1 18.59
13. Whitbread's Dicussion Hall, Shoe Lane 1.5d 1014.04 4.28 5.15 0.18 1054.11 2 1.09 1.03 15.97
14. Ditto Blackwall Railway Tavern, Fenchurch Street 2d 1016.21 3.61 5.85 0.24 1051.31 1.9 0.92 1.19 21.34
15. Barclay's Red Hart, Fetter Lane 2d 1017.08 4.49 5.84 0.19 1058.5 2.16 1.15 1.18 16.89
16. Lightfoot's Gentrleman and Porter, New St. 2d 1015.15 4.72 5.78 0.19 1060.12 2.22 1.2 1.17 16.88
17. Hoare's Red Lion Tavern, Fenchurch Street 1.5d 1012.99 4.18 5.04 0.18 1052.42 1.94 1.06 1.03 15.95
18. The Lion Brewery's The Hatchet. Little Trinity Lane 2d 1016.3 3.75 5.87 0.18 1052.26 1.93 0.96 1.19 16
19. Hoare's Red Lion Brewery, East Smithfield 1025.94 6.63 10.31 0.23 1090.85 3.36 1.64 2.12 20.54
20. Ditto Ditto 1014 5.57 6 0.2 1068.04 2.52 1.46 1.2 17.95
21. Ditto Red Lion Tavern, Fenchurch Street 3.5d 1014.5 6.25 7.21 0.22 1078.37 2.9 1.6 1.46 19.53
22. City of London Brewery The King's Head, Stew Lane 4d 1015.43 5.68 6.43 0.26 1071.12 2.63 1.45 1.3 23.1
23. Whitbread's Chiswell Street Brewery 1030 6.05 10.34 0.3 1089.7 3.32 1.57 2.13 27.04
24. Thorne's Nine Elms Brewery 1027.15 5.38 9.17 0.28 1080.15 2.97 1.39 1.9 25.17
25. Meux's Horseshoe Brewery 1035.6 5.09 11.37 0.24 1086.76 3.21 1.32 2.35 21.75
26. Barclay and Perkins Railway Store, Fenchurch Street 4d 1029.31 5.24 9.66 0.28 1081.21 3 1.36 1.99 25.22
27. Lightfoot's Red Lion, Princes Street, Westminster 4d 1025.87 4.84 8.88 0.2 1074.03 2.74 1.25 1.82 17.95
28. Truman's Porkman Tavern, Fish Street Hill 3d 1020.14 5.78 7.63 0.21 1076.57 2.83 1.43 1.55 18.74
29 Guinness's No.1 Guinness and Co.
1015.51 6.81 6.17 0.24 1078.06 2.88 1.74 1.25 21.32
30. Ditto No. 2 Ditto 1019.56 6.2 7.11 0.2 1078.01 2.88 1.59 1.45 17.84
31. Ditto No. 3 Ditto 1015.97 5.09 5.89 0.26 1064.49 2.38 1.3 1.19 23.11
"British Medical Journal 1879, vol. 1" June 25th 1870, page 658.

This is an intriguing statement about Porter and Stout: " there is no special difference between them and other kinds of malt liquor". So other than the colour from a bit of roasted malt, they were basically the same as Pale Ale, Mild or Old.

Once again it seems there was often no relation between price and quality, with many of the Porters costing 2d a pint weaker than those sold a halfpenny cheaper. I was surprised at the low OG of Reid's Porter: only around 1048º. In the brewing records, the average OG at this time was 1055º or so.

Adulteration. I wondered when that would come up. People were especially suspicious of Porter. How well founded were these suspicions? It's hard to say. But I can compare the OG's of some of the pub samples with that given in the brewing records.

Whitbread, for example. The Porter in the table has an OG of  1054. The ones I have from Whitbread's brewing records for 1869 and 1870 are: 1050º, 1050º, 1050º, 1058º, 1056º, 1056.5º. So the pub sample looks to be about right. Their Stout in the table has an OG of 1089.7º. In the brewing records SSS (I'm pretty sure this is the flavour of Stout) 1092.5º and 1098.3. Not so sure about that one.

What about Truman? In the table, their Porter has an OG of 1051.5º. In the brewing records, it's 1056.8º, 1054º, 1055.4º. Looks a bit on the low side to me, that pub sample.

Oh yes, and that last sample of Guinness looks like their Porter, not their Stout. Guinness were reluctant to ship their Porter for this very reason: they feared it being passed off as Stout. 

But, compared to 50 years earlier, there's been a definite improvement. Fredrick Accum's 1820 work "A Treatise on Adulterations of Food" contains analyses of the same beers purchased at the brewery and in a pub. There was quite a difference between the two:

Brown Stout: brewery 7.25% ABV, pub 6.5% ABV
Porter: brewery 5.25% ABV, pub 4.5% ABV

How did Accum explain the difference?

"Whence can this difference between the beer furnished by the brewer, and that retailed by the publican, arise? We shall not be at a loss to answer this question, when we find that so many retailers of porter have been prosecuted and convicted for mixing table beer with their strong beer;"

By 1870 Table Beer, and the tax system that supported its misuse, had disappeared. It seems the method of cheating the public had changed. Rather than tinkering with the beer itself, pubs just served short measures. Annoying, true, but far preferable to having god knows what mixed in with your beer.

I thought you might enjoy an overview of the different beer types. These are averages taken from the British Medical Journal tables:

Beer OG FG ABV acetic acid apparent atten-uation
Pale Ale 1059.10 1009.85 6.54% 0.206 83.59%
Old Ale 1095.22 1021.48 9.71% 0.289 78.56%
Mild Ale 1065.51 1013.87 6.84% 0.198 78.90%
Porter 1052.57 1014.41 5.21% 0.196 72.56%
Stout 1078.26 1022.23 7.29% 0.24 71.94%

Surprisingly Pale Ale was, on average, the second weakest type with only Porter below it. at 3.5d to 4d a pint, it was far worse value than other beers. Mild Ale, half the price at around 2d a pint and a little stronger, was much better value. Once again the lesson is: Drink Mild!

The relative acidity levels are more as expected. Pale Ale, Porter and Mild Ale are all around 0.20%. In Stout they're a little higher and in Old Ale greater still. Attenuation, as you would expect, was greatest in Pale Ale. Probably a good bit more than today. With the greatly reduced gravities, it's no shock that the level of attenuation has been reduced to leave body.


Jeff Renner said...

Ron - Fascinating stuff. Could you post images of these charts so we can view them in their entirety? Thanks.

Graham Wheeler said...

If you zoom out, Control-Minus in Firefox, enough times, you get to see the edge of most charts, with the disadvantage of a smaller text size.

Control-Zero to restore to normal

Jeff Renner said...

Thanks, Graham. That works.

dave said...

That post about "India PAle Ale vs. India Porter" was interesting... though it seems to have disappeared from the site. Cant' wait to try Pretty Things' East India Porter.

Ron Pattinson said...

Dave, you'll have to wait until next Tuesday for the completed version of "India PAle Ale vs. India Porter". And exactly one week after that I'll be drinking some of the Pretty Things East India Porter in NYC.

I've been saving up material about Porter in India to coincide with the release of the beer.

Gary Gillman said...

Ron, don't omit The Gingerman on this trip. If you do, you will miss out on the best NYC has to offer in the beer world IMO. Just don't go too late, when it can get very crowded.

Also, Stout, which you have visited, is better than ever in terms of the resolute focus on the drink of that name. If the draft list does not appeal (unlikely), it has a superb bottled selection of stouts, both American and International.

One last recommendation is the bar at DBGB on Bowery. Apart from an excellent U.S. selection, it has a very well chosen international one including usually different historical German beers (on draft) made by a revivalist in Bavaria, I can't recall who now. Last year I tasted a Lichtentainer there (sorry for any misspelling, but I mean the sourish wheat beer connected to Berliner Weisse) that was amazing.


The Beer Wrangler said...

Just as an informational.. the"British Medical Journal 1879, vol. 1" June 25th 1870, page 658.

lists "Kind of Ale" and then goes on to list Porter and Stout. Is this an early 'evolution' of the word ale to mean Porters and Stouts?

Ron Pattinson said...

Beer Wrangler, it's an early example of someone not being very precise.