Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Brewing Ale the Irish way

Time for some real detail about Irish Ale brewing, courtesy of Mr. Morewood, the man with an ear for titles.

"The common process of brewing is to bruise or grind the malt; the bruising by cylinders is preferred. The grain is then put into the mash-keive which is supplied with water at a heat of 160°, where it is well raked to saturate it with the water, and is allowed to remain for three hours, during which it is covered with a lid, to prevent it absorbing so much of the oxygen of the atmosphere as would render it liable to become sour, to get too cold and not take out the extract. The liquor is now drawn off, when another mashing at a temperature of 180° takes place in the usual manner, and is allowed to stand covered for one hour. A third or final mashing at trailing heat and then standing for one hour, covered as before, completes the operation. If, by any accident, the keive should be set, as it is termed, or not run off, as sometimes happens, boiling water is then introduced and remashed, in order that the extract or fluid may flow the more readily. The produce of the mashing is called worts, and is successively conveyed to the coppers, in which, for about three hours, it is boiled with a proportion of 2.5lbs. of hops for every barrel intended to be made. This liquor is sent to the coolers, where it is allowed to reach the temperature of 63° or 64° before it is conveyed into the fermenting-tun, where from 40° to 43° gravity by Dicas's Saccharometer is considered a sufficient strength to yield beer at 20s. per barrel. Half a gallon of good, thick barm is considered necessary to ferment each barrel of malt brewed or mashed. If the malt be good, it should produce 2.5 barrels of 32 gallons English, or from 40 to 41 gallons Irish. If ale be brewed at 40s. the barrel, worts of from 70 to 75 lbs. gravity will be sufficient, and each barrel of malt employed in this way, will, after taking off the ale at the gravity above specified, give one barrel of table beer, the worts of which require four hours' boiling on the same hops. The heat in the fermenting-tun should never be allowed to rise more than from four to five degrees, to regulate which, the thermometer is commonly suspended in the vessel. In summer, the heat of the worts put into the tun should be the lowest possible ; but in no season should they be allowed to remain more than twelve hours in the cooler. Worts running into the tun generally cool at two degrees, and an allowance should be made on that account; but it is better to have them rather cool than warm, as a few gallons can be easily heated to bring them up to the necessary temperature. After being fermented in the tuns, the time for removal into the casks is indicated by the froth in the tun becoming rather settled ; but it is never allowed to fall or get down, as it was termed in the old distilling laws. Every three hours, for the first twenty-four, while the beer is working in the casks, it ought to be filled up by its own discharge collected from the troughs, on which the casks are placed. After the first twenty-four hours it is filled occasionally, in the same manner, every five or six hours ; and so on in proportion as the working ceases : in three days it is commonly fit for use. Brown patent malt should be employed to give the liquor colour, if designed for publicans; but if for private use, pale drink is preferred. For fining the liquor, isinglass dissolved in sour beer and strained, is the material generally used, a pint of which is sufficient for a barrel: more than what would clear, would injure it, as it thins it and gives it a tendency to become acid."
"A philosophical and statistical history of the inventions and customs of Ancient and Modern Nations in the Manufacture and Use of Intoxicating Liquors" by Samuel Morewood, 1838, pages 625 - 626.

Contextualisation. That's what I'm all about. Let's see how that mashing scheme matches with English practice. Looking at London brewing records from about the same period, the first thing I noticed was that most only performed two mashes. Here's the comparison in a tidy table:

Mashing temperatures

water temp
Beer Mash 1 mash 2 mash 3
Irish Ale 160º F 180º F ??
1838 Barclay Perkins X  172º F 190º F 200º F
1840 Truman 40/- Ale 176º F 190º F
1840 Truman XXX- Ale 176º F 190º F
1852 Reid X 172º F 182º F
1852 Reid XXX 175º F 185º F

Truman brewing record document B/THB/C/122 held at the London Metropolitan Archives
Reid brewing record document 789/273 held at the Westminster CityArchives
Barclay Perkins brewing record document ACC/2305/01/550 held at the London Metropolitan Archives

The main difference is the water temperature of the initial mash: over 170º F for the English Ales, just 160º F for the Irish Ale. The water temperature for the second mash was also higher in England, though not by as much.

A three hour boil in Ireland. What about England? A bit more complicated, because each wort was boiled separately. And to be honest, I don't have enough boil times to make a useful comparison.

Strength and hopping rates. There's something I do have enough information to discuss. Dicas's Saccharometer. Yet another different bloody system of measuring gravity. I'm not 100% sure about this, but 2.5 lbs on the Dicas scale seems to be 1 lb per barrel. The first beer mentioned, that retailed at 20 shillings a barrel, is fairly weak. Luckily, I've an English 40 shilling beer I can use for a direct comparison:

Gravity and hopping rate

gravity lbs/barrel
Irish 20/- Ale 1044-1048 2.5
Irish 40/- Ale 1078-1083 2.5
1840 Truman 40/- Ale 1086 2.42
1841 Truman X Ale 1076 1.95
1840 Truman XX Ale 1083 2.66
1840 Truman XXX Ale 1106 4.97
1837 Whitbread X 1074 2.65
1837 Whitbread XX 1089 2.38
1836 Whitbread XXX 1102 2.8
Truman brewing record document B/THB/C/122 held at the London Metropolitan Archives
Whitbread brewing record document LMA/4453/D/01/001 held at the London Metropolitan Archives

The Irish 40/- bears an uncanny resemblance to the London 40/-. In terms of both gravity and hopping. But that makes no sense. The Irish didn't grow hops. Like Scottish brewers, wouldn't they have used very few hops? (Bit of heavy-handed satire there.)

"Brown patent malt should be employed to give the liquor colour, if designed for publicans; but if for private use, pale drink is preferred." What a fascinating statement. By brown patent malt I believe they mean black malt. An English brewer wouldn't have used black malt in an Ale in the 1830's. Or only in the tiniest of amounts. Brewers had swapped to 100% pale malt for all Ales by about 1800. Did some Irish Ale remain dark into the 19th century? That would be a real difference with England.

"When sending out beer and porter from the public breweries, it is a common practice to put in two gallons of unfermented worts into each barrel which causes a sort of fermentation, throwing up a head at the bung and making the liquor appear strong and fresh.

In extensive breweries, the malt is commonly ground by rollers, of which there are more or less employed, according to the extent of the concern, but the mode of brewing is the same. To regulate the heat in the keive, some brewers use what they term a dash-box, which is a species of cylinder placed in such a position as to have discharge pipes running into it from the different coppers, with fixed thermometers to ascertain the heat of the liquor, while a tube with a cock conveying cold water, is attached, in order to enable the brewer to convey the liquor into the keive at whatever temperature he may desire. This obviates the old method of taking the heats in the coppers, and saves much time and trouble. The mashing of the grain is usually performed by machinery as in distilleries, manual labour being dispensed with. When the mashing is completed, in order to prevent the escape of heat, the tun is covered by a fixed suspended lid, around the circumference of which there hangs about two feet of canvass, which, when the raking is finished, is drawn round the circuit of the keive, thereby forming a complete covering : in some large breweries no covering is used. In this stage the liquor is permitted to remain, till the solid parts settle, when the liquor is drawn off into the underback. Three mashings are commonly made to extract the whole of the saccharine matter, the produce of which is sent to the copper, where it is boiled with the hops in the proportion of one pound and an half to a bushel of malt, and when boiled for some time, it is discharged into the jack or hop-back. This vessel has a double bottom, the upper one of which serves as a strainer, being made of iron perforated with holes, through which the liquor exudes, leaving the residuum.

This residuum of the hops is conveyed back to the copper and boiled with the second or third worts, while the liquor thus drained is sent to the cooler. In this stage of the process, the worts remain thinly spread over a large surface for cooling, and sometimes fans, worked by machinery, are placed on the coolers to accelerate this object; but where expedition in cooling is required, a refrigerator is generally employed. That of Mr. Avyard is commonly used, which consists of a number of thin metal tubes, arranged in a horizontal position in a cistern, into which there is a constant run of cold water, made to flow over the tubes in order to cool the fluid running through them. Various contrivances for the same purpose have been made, such as metallic plates, so placed in a cylindrical vessel, as to form conduits for the warm worts to flow through one set of plates, while through another set, in a contrary direction, a corresponding quantity of water runs, absorbing the caloric from the worts, and reducing them with great rapidity to the desired temperature. The average temperature at which the worts are set is about 60°, when they are sent into the squares or gyle-tuns, and yeast is added. As soon as the fermentation begins to subside, the liquor is conveyed into fixed fermenting vessels, usually small casks, where the liquor cleanses itself by working off the yeast, carrying with it a quantity of the fluid which falls into troughs prepared for the purpose. The beer thus carried over, is replaced by a quantity taken from a small reservoir adjoining, and the liquor is maintained at the same level in all the fermenting vessels by means of a regulating cock. When the fermentation has ceased, the liquor is sent into large vats, or barreled and sent into market."
"A philosophical and statistical history of the inventions and customs of Ancient and Modern Nations in the Manufacture and Use of Intoxicating Liquors" by Samuel Morewood, 1838, pages 626 - 628.

That's a good one. Early evidence of worting in Ireland. This was something I've only read bout in conjunction with Porter up until now. Adding unfermented wort at racking time is an early form of priming which appears to have been a particularly Irish practice. I assume the idea was to provoke a secondary fermentation to give the beer plenty of condition in the cask.

The next paragraph deals with practice in large Irish breweries. I assume when it's stated that the mashing is performed mechanically that it means an internal rake mashing machine was used rather than by men with paddles. The reference to distilling implies that distillers were quicker to adopt mashing machines than brewers. I wonder if that was just an Irish thing?

The hopping rate give, 1.5 lbs to a bushel of malt is 12 lbs hops per quarter. That's high for an Ale. Here are some London Ales, of varying strengths, for comparison:

Hopping rates
beer gravity lbs/qtr
1840 Truman 40/- Ale 1086 6
1840 Truman X Ale 1076 6
1840 Truman XX Ale 1083 9
1841 Truman XXX Ale 1106 7
1837 Whitbread X 1074 8.07
1837 Whitbread XX 1089 6.11
1836 Whitbread XXX 1102 6.09
Truman brewing record document B/THB/C/122 held at the London Metropolitan Archives
Whitbread brewing record document LMA/4453/D/01/001 held at the London Metropolitan Archives
The first description gave a pitching temperature of 63-64º F, the second 60º F. All fall in the range used by London brewers, who pitched stronger Ales a little below 60º F, and weaker ones a little above 60º F. As this table shows:

Pitching temperatures
beer º F
1840 Truman 40/- Ale 59.5º
1840 Truman X Ale 60º
1840 Truman XX Ale 58.5º
1841 Truman XXX Ale 59º
1837 Whitbread X 63º
1837 Whitbread XX 59º
1836 Whitbread XXX 62.5º
Truman brewing record document B/THB/C/122 held at the London Metropolitan Archives
Whitbread brewing record document LMA/4453/D/01/001 held at the London Metropolitan Archives

The cooler sounds like the standard refrigerator of the day. A relatively simple affair, where wort in metal pipes was cooled by cold water flowing over them. The cleansing system - fixed casks and troughs - sound like pontoes, method popular amongst London breweries. It was a precursor of the Burton union. Then the final process: vatting or racking into trade casks. The former for Stock Ale, the latter for Mild Ale. It all sounds very similar to English practice.

Next we'll take a look at Porter brewing in Ireland. Again, courtesy of Mr. Morewood.


The Beer Nut said...

The Irish did indeed grow hops, mostly in the Sunny South-East.

Oblivious said...

An I would suspect that most of them where fuggles as Guinness switched over from Goldings at the start of the 20th C when it was proven that the acid contents provide the antibacterial effect

Oblivious said...

Traquair house is probably a good example of what a small brewery looked like at the time (ish)


Here is a view of the cooling system, a better view that the French brewing museum

Gary Gillman said...

The hops argument (satiric) cuts even more effectively with regard to the rise of porter brewing in Ireland in this century.

I still feel though there is validity to the argument that the early Scotch ale did not use much hop and indeed its defining characteristics, when you read narrative descriptions of taste, are that it was a heavy, honeyed beverage.

I think the reason is intuitive. Brewing started on farms and manors, not in well-equipped and reasonably financed town breweries. That came later. You use what is available. The southern English in many districts had hops. They didn't have them in Scotland. So the Scots used, sometimes, heather and other non-hops grasses and herbs to flavour beer; still, it is easy to make an inference that a lot of their artisan ale was malt-rich and the strongest type, reflecting the oldest style of Scotch ale, remained that way into the late 1800's.

I don't say the best of them weren't well-hopped by today's standards but that they seemed Burton-like in richness if not in taste is undoubted. Not the Scotch ales which were brought in as pale ale clones, not Scots-made porters, but its best Scotch Ale.

Just read what George Saintsbury said whose experience straddled the late 1800's to circa-1930. He used the adjective treacle, and for something he aged about 17 years.

One thing that has struck me in these historical perambulations is how industrial brewing became, and how national too (now it is international), so early. And the key is porter, always porter. Then pale ale. Then pale and other lagers.


Gary Gillman said...

Did Guinness source the majority of its hops needs from the South East of Ireland?


Oblivious said...

"Did Guinness source the majority of its hops needs from the South East of Ireland?"

Doubt it, but maybe some

Anonymous said...

Main brewing centres would have access to ports so the transport of hops to them would be cheap and easy.

Martyn Cornell said...

Incidentally, you'll note there's not a mention of "red ale" anywhere …

Anonymous said...

Have I missed something? but there seems to be no mention of alpha acids,or any mention of hops being of different strengths.they just say,"one pound to the barrel" etc.so presumably the beer must have varied in bitterness quite a bit?

Oblivious said...

"Incidentally, you'll note there's not a mention of "red ale" anywhere …"

Nor was London X ales dark at the time either but that did change

An we know there the X ales been produced in the country at the time

Gary Gillman said...

But adding the dash of dark malt was giving a reddish colour Martyn (brownish in some older accounts, or for Dublin ale at any rate), that's how I read it.