It gives me an unrivalled insight into the development of Whitbread's beers over the course of 170 years. A better knowledge of the long-term changes than any of Whitbread's brewers would have had. And being the generous, giving type, I'm going to be sharing that information with you. Whether you want to share it or not.
I would say that this kicks off a series of posts on their Whitbread's Pale Ales. But I've already done one. Part Three. This is the second instalment, but really Part One. If you understand what I mean. These are the early years. Documenting the introduction of Pale Ale in 1865, up to 1879, the year before the Free Mash Tun Act.
Whitbread's first brew of Pale Ale was in 1st November 1865. As I'm sure you're all aware, Whitbread had been one of the big London Porter breweries that emerged in the 18th century. The world's first truly industrial breweries, they were on a scale never seen before. By the early years of the 19th century, Whitbread was producing nothing but Porter variations. The vast majority standard-strength Porter, the numbers filled out by a little Stout. The first big change came in 1834, when they began brewing Ales.
This was the beginning of Porter's long decline. Responding to demand, London's Porter brewers introduced Ales in the 1830's. Mild X Ales, principally, but with some Keeping versions as well. These should not be confused with Pale Ales, a completely different beast. It would be another couple of decades before Pale Ale started to gain popularity and even by the end of the century, it remained a niche product, mostly consumed by the better off.
The table below demonstrates just how insignificant Pale Ale was for Whitbread:
The most Pale Ale they produced in any year in this period was just less than 3,000 barrels. Or a tiny bit more than 1% of their total production. The vast majority of beer they brewed (together accounting for between 72% and 83% of production) were Porter and X Ale. Significantly, this is just the period when X Ale caught, and then outstripped, Porter. A beer which had been the backbone of Whitbread's business for a century at least. The two beers almost exactly swapped positions. The percentage of Porter brewed dropped from 53% to 30%. While X Ale's share rose from 19% to 53%.
Getting back to Pale Ale, it isn't the most complicated beer I've ever come across. Pale malt, sugar, hops. There were plenty of the latter, mind you. Four or five pounds a barrel, which is a fair amount. The sugar content averages about 18.5%, which is a bout what you would expect. Pale Ales tended to contain the largest amount of sugar of any type of beer. Presumably to keep the body and colour light.
As for gravity, PA hovered around 1060, ranging from 1058 to 1065. The weaker Family Ale (FA) was 1052 to 1055º. This was also less heavily hopped, at 3 to 3.5 pounds per barrel. Still a more than reasonable amount, given the gravity. The short-lived HA (no idea what that stands for) seems to have been an early version of FA. To put these into context, X Ale had about the same gravity as X Ale, FA as Porter. I know. Let's have another table to demonstrate the relative strengths. Here you go:
|Whitbread beers in 1876|
|Whitbread brewing records held at the London Metropolitan Archives.|
|Document numbers: LMA/4453/D/01/042, LMA/4453/D/02/024|
As you can see, the two Pale Ales were at the bottom of the strength (though not price) pile.
I promised you a table and look what you got: three. I told you I was the generous, giving type.