Saturday, 17 September 2011

Scottish Pale Ale 1920 - 1924

Time for a look at Scottish beer in more detail. Lots more detail. More detail than you can cope with, possibly. But isn't that what this blog is all about?

I'm kicking off with Pale Ales in the first half of the 1920's. Why? No particular reason. I have to start somewhere. And I've loads of Pale Ale analyses. It will take several posts to get through the interwar years.

Scotland was a strange place, beer-wise. Quite different from England. Not so much in the beers themselves as the names under which they were sold. Rather than Bitter and Best Bitter, in Scotland they used shillings to differentiate between Pale Ales of different strengths. With 60/- being ordinary Bitter, 70/- Best Bitter and 80/- Strong Bitter. All very logical. Except when you get to 90/-. Logic would dictate that this would be stronger than 80/-. It wasn't. For some reason 90/- was used for bottled Pale Ales around the strength of draught 60/-. Make any sense to you? It doesn't to me.

The analyses below all come from brewery sources. Pretty much every beer was specifically called Pale Ale (or PA) in the  original documents. Not Light, Heavy or Export. Because, despite what later style fetishists might claim, Scottish brewers themselves considered all these beers  Pale Ales. Light, Heavy and Export were the names used by drinkers. Much in the same way English beers were called Pale Ale in the brewery and Bitter in the pub.

I'm not surprised the shilling designations have caused so much confusion. Because they don't really pin down a style of beer. Before WW II, 60/- was the equivalent of ordinary Bitter. The sixty bobs I can recall from the 1970's were all Dark Milds. I'll repeat this once again: all the shillings tell you is the relative strength of the beer. Not which style it's in. If you forget this, Scottish beers won't make the slightest sense.

Most of the beers in the table are 60/- PAs. Though not all were clearly identified as that. Their average OG is 1039.4, average FG 1009.6, average ABV 3.8%, average apparent attenuation 75.6%. Retailing for 7d a pint. The William Younger beers from 1921, though not all are identified as such, in the source, are 60/-, 70/- and 80/- PA. Retailing for, respectively, 7d, 8d and 9d per pint. 70/- having a gravity around 1046 and 80/- 1052. This is very similar to the beers brewed in London, where Pale Ales over 1050 cost 9d a pint and ones in the mid 1040's were 8d a pint.

How, in a time when beer strengths weren't public knowledge, did brewers manage to keep their beers of such similar strength? The answer lies in the sources of this information: various breweries' Gravity Books. Brewers kept a close eye on what their competitors were up to. Gravities naturally tended to align with each other.

A final point: colour. That's where there is a difference. English Pale Ales were in the range 20 to 28. I've a log of Whitbread PA where the colour is 34 and there's a note saying "Too high". Most of the Scottish examples are darker, in the 30's or 40's. Or the colour of an amber Mild like Barclay Perkins'. Two of McEwan's Pale Ales from 1924, presumably 60/- PA, seem to confirm the Scottish practice of colouring a beer differently for different markets. Their gravities are about the same, but one has a colour of 35, the other 52. It's unlikely that this could be explained by them coming from different batches or by accident. The difference is too great.

Here's the luvverly table:


Scottish Pale Ale 1920 - 1924
Year Brewer Beer Style Price size package FG OG colour ABV App. Atten-uation
1920 Usher PA 54/- Pale Ale pint draught 1010.5 1034 3.04 69.12%
1920 Usher PA 60/- Pale Ale pint draught 1012.9 1040 3.51 67.75%
1920 Usher PA 90/- Pale Ale pint draught 1016 1054 4.93 70.37%
1921 Bernard PA 60/- Pale Ale pint draught 1011 1039.2 3.65 71.94%
1921 McEwan PA 60/- Pale Ale pint draught 1007.1 1040.2 4.31 82.34%
1921 Younger, Wm. & Co PA Pale Ale 9d pint draught 1013.1 1053.2 5.21 75.38%
1921 Younger, Wm. & Co PA Pale Ale 8d pint draught 1012 1046 4.41 73.91%
1921 Younger, Wm. & Co PA 60/- Pale Ale pint draught 1011.2 1039.5 3.67 71.65%
1922 Aitken PA Pale Ale pint draught 1009.2 1036.2 3.50 74.59%
1922 Ballingall PA 60/- Pale Ale pint draught 1012.8 1040 3.52 68.00%
1922 Bernard Pale Ale Pale Ale 7d pint draught 1009.6 1039.2 40 3.84 75.49%
1922 Bernard Pale Ale Pale Ale pint bottled 1005.4 1042.5 27 4.85 87.31%
1922 Deucher, James Ltd Lochside Beer Pale Ale 7d pint draught 1011 1039.5 3.69 72.15%
1922 Hamilton PA Pale Ale pint draught 1010.2 1036 3.34 71.67%
1922 McEwan Pale Ale Pale Ale pint draught 1007.6 1039.8 30 4.18 80.83%
1922 McEwan Pale Ale Pale Ale 7d pint draught 1010 1038.7 35 3.72 74.16%
1922 McEwan PA Pale Ale 7d pint draught 1007 1039 4.16 82.05%
1922 Murray PA Pale Ale pint draught 1005 1037 4.17 86.49%
1922 Steel Coulson PA Pale Ale pint draught 1012 1040 3.63 70.00%
1923 Bernard Carbonated Beer Pale Ale 4d half pint bottled 1012.4 1037.6 45 3.26 67.02%
1923 Bernard PA Pale Ale pint bottled 1005 1039 4.43 87.18%
1923 McEwan Pale Ale Pale Ale pint bottled 1007 1040 4.29 82.50%
1923 Murray Carbonated Beer Pale Ale 4d half pint bottled 1011.8 1035.2 27 3.03 66.48%
1923 Tennent Beer Pale Ale pint draught 1006 1038 45 4.17 84.21%
1923 Tennent Carbonated Beer Pale Ale 4d half pint bottled 1007 1038 44 4.03 81.58%
1923 Tennent Carbonated Beer Pale Ale 4d half pint bottled 1005.5 1039.6 45 4.44 86.04%
1923 Tennent PA 90/- Pale Ale pint bottled 1006 1039 4.30 84.62%
1923 Younger, Geo. carbonated Pale Ale pint bottled 1007.3 1033.8 33 3.44 78.47%
1923 Younger, Geo. No. 1 Pale Ale Pale Ale pint bottled 1008.2 1014.9 31 0.87 45.27%
1924 Bernard Pale Ale Pale Ale 4d half pint bottled 1013.2 1040.2 35 3.49 67.16%
1924 Bernard 60/- Pale Ale pint 1014 1040 42 3.36 65.00%
1924 Gordon & Blair Ltd Pale Ale Pale Ale pint draught 1038.1
1924 J. Deuchar Pale Ale Pale Ale pint bottled 1005.3 1038.9 35 4.37 86.29%
1924 McEwan Pale Ale Pale Ale pint bottled 1008.6 1039.5 35 4.01 78.23%
1924 McEwan Pale Ale Pale Ale 6d pint 1009.4 1038.7 52 3.80 75.71%
1924 McEwan Pale Ale Pale Ale pint draught 1041.6
1924 Murray Pale Ale Pale Ale 4d half pint bottled 1011.1 1036.3 25 3.26 69.42%
1924 Murray Pale Ale Pale Ale pint draught 1037.2
1924 Murray Strong PA Pale Ale pint bottled 1013 1057 5.73 77.19%
1924 Tennent Pale Ale Pale Ale 4d half pint bottled 1009.8 1037.3 48 3.57 73.73%
1924 Younger, Geo. Alloa Pale Ale Pale Ale bottled 1039.7
1924 Younger, Wm. & Co Sparkling Ale 90/- Pale Ale pint bottled 1010.5 1041.5 30 4.02 74.70%
Sources:
Thomas Usher Gravity Book document TU/6/11 held at the Scottish Brewing Archive
Whitbread Gravity Book document LMA/4453/D/02/001 held at the London Metropolitan Archives
Younger, Wm. & Co Gravity Book document WY/6/1/1/19 held at the Scottish Brewing Archive

1 comment:

Barm said...

Several possible reasons for the naming of Sparkling Ale as 90/–. Bottling often took place from hogsheads, so the beer that was 60/– in a barrel would be 90/– in a hogshead. Also bottled 90/– was a premium product – I've seen photos of pubs from the 1930s where "90/– Pale Ale" is emblazoned on the windows in the same way as "Bass in bottle" etc. So they'd want a "reassuringly expensive" name for it.

I'd bet money that the 60/– you drank in the 1970s were still Pale Ales. Pale Ales which had evolved to resemble Dark Mild. Not descended from earlier Mild Ales like Dark Mild in England. You decide how important this distinction is.

Scottish Brewers were notorious for colouring up beer and selling the same stuff under several different names. Possibly 60/– grew darker because they were also selling it as Mild down south.