Let's use the real name for Fowler's Wee Heavy: Twelve Guinea Ale. What does that mean? Nothing more than that a hogshead of the beer sold for 12 guineas (£12 12/-, £12.60 in new money). It's like the shilling system, just posher. Guineas weren't used for any old sums. No, they were reserved for the price of racehourses and that sort of thing. And for the very top-end Scottish beers.
Just a few days ago we heard that ten and twelve guinea ales were "rarely brewed". William Younger didn't make one. They didn't go higher than 160/- (£8). There was one brewer who did regulalry brew a Twelve Guinea Ale. You guessed it, Fowler of Prestonpans. It must have been quite famous, given the number of analyses of it that I've found.
In the 19th century, Twelve Guinea Ale had a ludicrous OG: 1159º. I think that's the highest I've seen. It's so high that even though the FG is 1068º, it's still 12% ABV. You can see that between the wars, it was still a real beast, with a gravity of over 1100º. The second war put an end to that and, by the time we reach 1955, the OG is the same as the FG had been a century earlier. Sort of sums up the decline in British beer strengths.
The colour, well that's brown A darkish brown. I wish I knew the colour of the 1862 sample. I suspect it would have been very different. Basically much paler. That's what happened to Edinburgh Ales like William Younger's No. 1 Ale. That mysteriously darkened - like many Stock and Strong Ales - sometime around 1900.
Here's a table with all the facts (at least the ones I know):
|Fowler's Twelve Guinea Ale 1862 - 1955|
|1862||Twelve-Guinea Ale||Strong Ale||1068||1159||11.99||57.23%|
|1921||Prestonpans Ale||Strong Ale||bottled||1042||1118||9.92||64.41%|
|1925||Twelve-Guinea Ale||Strong Ale||bottled||1038||1117.7||100||10.44||67.71%|
|1926||Strong Ale||Strong Ale||bottled||1031||1117||140||11.33||73.50%|
|1926||Twelve Guinea Beer||Strong Ale||bottled||1040||1115||9.79||65.22%|
|1928||Strong Ale||Strong Ale||bottled||1043||1114||130||9.24||62.28%|
|1929||Twelve Guinea Ale (carbonated)||Strong Ale||bottled||1030||1114||No. 15||11.06||73.68%|
|1929||Twelve Guinea Ale (carbonated)||Strong Ale||bottled||1030||1115||No. 15||11.19||73.91%|
|1931||Strong Ale||Strong Ale||bottled||1024||1098||9.71||75.51%|
|1933||Strong Ale||Strong Ale||bottled||1034||1108||9.68||68.52%|
|1940||Twelve Guinea Cream Ale||Strong Ale||7d||nip||bottled||0.06||1028||1094.3||14 + 40||8.66||70.31%|
|1940||Twelve Guinea Cream Ale||Strong Ale||7d||nip||bottled||0.07||1028.2||1095.3||14 + 40||8.76||70.41%|
|1947||Heavy Ale||Strong Ale||bottled||1025.5||1081.4||7.27||68.67%|
|1948||Strong Ale||Strong Ale||bottled||1019.5||1079.5||7.84||75.47%|
|1948||Prestonpans Twelve Guinea Ale||Strong Ale||bottled||1021.5||1080||7.63||73.13%|
|1949||Prestonpans Twelve Guinea Ale||Strong Ale||1/3d||nip||bottled||0.06||1030.3||1077.7||15 + 40||6.13||61.00%|
|1955||Twelve Guinea Ale||Strong Ale||1/3d||nip||bottled||0.04||1016.9||1068.1||120||6.67||75.18%|
|"The lancet 1853, Volume 2", 1853, page 631.|
|Thomas Usher Gravity Book document TU/6/11 held at the Scottish Brewing Archive|
|Younger, Wm. & Co Gravity Book document WY/6/1/1/19 held at the Scottish Brewing Archive|
|Whitbread Gravity Book document LMA/4453/D/02/002 held at the London Metropolitan Archives|