Saturday, 9 April 2011

Malt Liquors Sold in the UK

I've just tripped over a great series of articles that appeared in the British Medical Journal in 1869 and 1870. Entitled "Malt Liquors Sold in the United Kingdom", it's exactly what you would expect: an overview of the beers available in Britain.

There are five parts, each covering a different type of beer. What caught my attention were the analyses of beers. I can never get enough numbers.Especially 19th century ones. They provide a wonderful snapshot of a beer landscape that's very different from today's. Reason enough for me to pester you with them.

It's a key moment spot in beer history. When continental breweries were beginning to catch up - and indeed overtake - their British rivales. Both in terms of technology and scale. For the previous century and a half British brewers had led tyhe way. Now it was time for them to start paying attention to developments elsewhere.

We're going to kick off, appropriately enough, with the introduction. Enjoy.



Although the recent introduction of the cheaper kinds of wine into this country has led to their being used much more largely than was the case before the alteration of import duty, it appears to have had little influence on the. habits of the chief beer-consuming class, and our national beverage is still, for a large portion of the community, as important an article of diet as ever; while its manufacture, employing a large amount of capital and labour, and constituting a gigantic industry, is a great source of trade, of individual profit, and of revenue to the state.

The following statistics* will furnish an idea of the extent of the business of beer brewing in this country.

Malt Sugar total quantity of malt equivalent to the malt and sugar used in brewing

charged with duty used in brewing used in brewing Equivalent in malt, 200 lbs sugar to 8 bush. Malt

bushels bushels lbs bushels bushels
1865 48,538,412 45,093,778 3,698,180 140,883 45,234,661
1866 50,163,487 50,777,200 7,628,206 290,598 51,067,798
1867 50,915,828 49,392,856 26,532,403 1,010,758 50,403,614

At the rate of 2.5 bushels per barrel, these quantities would represent about 20 million barrels of beer brewed annually in the kingdom.

The general excellence of British beer, in its various modifications, has long been recognised ; and although beer is largely consumed in other countries, it has been customary to consider both the method and system of manufacture adopted in this country, as well as the product itself, as being in most respects far superior to any other. But, as in other branches of industry, the preeminence we have held in regard to foreign countries has, during late years, been lessened or done away with by their more rapid progress in manufacturing arts; so in the production of malt liquor, we are now threatened with a foreign competition which would probably have been regarded as ridiculous a few years ago.

Of other countries than this, where beer is consumed and produced, Germany has long been famous, both for the capacity of its beer-drinkers, and for certain peculiarities of the beer made there; especially that kind known as Bavarian beer, which is brewed in a manner somewhat different from that generally practised in this country. During the last thirty years, great attention has been paid in Germany to the brewing of malt liquors by some of the most eminent chemists and scientific men, among whom the name of Liebig stands prominent. The various governments have also given great assistance in promoting and improving the manufacture ; so that while very great progress has been made in the rationale and practice of the art of brewing, the manufacture has considerably increased, and beer is now largely brewed, upon the Bavarian system, in many other parts of Germany, even in the wine districts, especially in the neighbourhood of the Rhine, and in Austria, ** where its production has extended, since 1848, through all the provinces along the Danube, even to the Black Sea. So great, indeed, is the repute of the German brewers, that it is now customary with some of our largest brewers to employ in their establishments German chemists ; from which fact, it may be inferred, that persons with the requisite technical skill and scientific acquirements cannot be obtained in this country. At the Paris Exhibition, last year, the Viennese and Bavarian beer attracted great attention; and as it is from this direction that the competition, already referred to in the production of beer, is now commencing to be exercised, it is conceived that it would be of interest to examine what are the qualities of this beer as compared with the various kinds of malt liquor made here.

In making the comparison, the question of actual or possible adulteration will be, for the present at least, left out of consideration, and it will be, meanwhile, assumed that the various kinds of beer are simply the fermented product of malt and hops. Thus considered, beer should consist chiefly of water, alcohol, and extract,—consisting of sugar, dextrin, and nitrogenous substance,—together with carbonic acid, small amounts of acetic and lactic acids, and the saline substances partly originating from the water used in brewing, and partly extracted from the malt and hops.

From this point of view the quality of beer, independently of its characteristics of flavour and aspect, will vary according to the proportions of malt and water used in the brewing. This is indicated by the relative! amounts of alcohol, acetic acid, and extract contained in the beer, since the amounts of these constituents together bear a definite relation to the specific gravity of the unfermented wort, which is greater or less according to the proportion of malt to water.

The degrees of attenuation, or loss of gravity of beer-worts, corresponding to various amounts of alcohol produced, by fermentation, have been very carefully determined ; so that by estimating the amount of alcohol in beer, and adding the corresponding degrees of gravity lost by the wort, to the specific gravity of the beer after being deprived of its alcohol, the specific gravity of the unfermented wort — or the original gravity of the beer, as it is termed — is ascertainable. The amount of malt used in producing the wort is then indicated by the rule, that it is at the rate of 1 bushel per barrel of beer for every 27 degrees, by which the specific gravity of the wort — or original gravity of the beer — exceeds that of water.

* For these data, we are indebted to the knowledge of Mr. G. Phillips, Chemist to the Inland Revenue Department.

** The total quantity of beer brewed in Austria, during 1866, is stated to have been about 4 millions of barrels, of which quantity upwards of 200,000 barrels was brewed in three breweries situated near Vienna and Pesth."
"British Medical Journal 1869, vol. 1", 1869, page 83.

What had attracted in Britain attention was the new Bavarian Beer (or Lager) that was taking continental Europe by storm. It's the beginning of the Lager explosion that was about to transform brewing everywhere in Europe. Apart from Britain.

I find it astounding that British breweries employed German brewing chemists. Why couldn't Britain educate enough of its own?

Next its Austrian beer. Another one of my special interests. Especially when a certain Mr. D gets a mention.


Ed Carson said...

"I find it astounding that British breweries employed German brewing chemists. Why couldn't Britain educate enough of its own?"

A different Philosophy of education? By that I mean who gets taught, what they get taught and maybe even how.

Rod said...

I love it when you write about German and Austrian brewing at this period. It's full of such interest, with the bottom fermentation revolution getting going, and there is very little written about it (that I can find) either in English or German.
Lager! has to be written,Ron!