Sunday, 6 November 2011

Edinburgh And Aloa Ale

No, I haven't lost the will to spell. The article I quote today misspelled Alloa. As I am quoting it, I've left in the mistake.

It's a bit of a funny article. I'm not quite sure what its point is, other than to tell everyone how great Scottish beer is.

"Edinburgh And Aloa Ale. An extensive provincial brewer of our acquaintance informs us, that he once formed the ambitious project of making his porter equal to London, and his ale to the genuine Aloa, in body and flavour. He accordingly procured a situation for his son in the extensive brewery of Meux and Co., London, to learn the porter process—and he engaged an intelligent Aloa brewer as superintendant, with a share in his business as a handsome douceur. But it would not do (and you may see why, at page 114): his porter and his ale were in fact injured by the newfangled processes from London and Aloa. As Burns says—
The best laid schemes of mice and men
Gang aft agley.
and so it will happen in all such brewing projects, unless you can transport both the water and the weather.

Although, therefore, you use, as the Scots brewers do, nothing but the best malt and hops—and in this way make excellent home-brewed, you can never come near the character of the genuine Aloa or Edinburgh. We cannot put down tastes upon paper as we can do colours, or we could at once tell you how to distinguish the genuine—it must be learned by experience alone.

Scots ale is always best when bottled, and kept for three months before using it in a warm cellar. It often happens that the good quality and flavour, though perfect when brewed, are destroyed by improper management; to prevent this, you must have it bottled very bright and transparent; and take care that it be not exposed to cold, which will render it thick, muddy, flat, and unpleasant. Before the cork is drawn it should stand for about half an hour near the fire, but not so as to expose the bottle to bursting.

It appears from this, and many other things recorded in our pages, that Scotland is truly the land of good living, both in substantial solids and pleasant liquors. In fact, no amateur of gourmanderie can be reckoned finished till he have been a three months guest at Ambrose's, and been initiated into the mysteries of the Glasgow Punch Club—two of the most distinguished brotherhoods of good fellows in the known world. Turtle and turbot and ambrosial liquors are in fact their commonest fare, and it appears most gloriously on their bright faces and ample rotundities.

Pure ale drinkers are among the healthiest and freshest looking members of our population; for example, our country gentlemen and wealthy farmers. In training, too, good ale is indispensable—(see page 194.) We have only to add, for the information of our readers in the metropolis, that the best Edinburgh ale we have met with out of Scotland, was procured from Mr. G. F. Morton, ale merchant, 78f Margaret-street, Cavendish-square. At a full meeting of our committee, assembled expressly to taste Mr. M.'s ale, it was unanimously voted to be altogether equal to what we had had at Ambrose's, in Edinburgh, and that we need not say was ambrosial.

On the high authority of Sir Lucas Pepys, Edinburgh ale is pronounced to be the safest liquor for those whose constitutions have been weakened by gout. The late celebrated Dr. Gregory,of Edinburgh, recommended it in indigestions; and by its means, along with laxatives to keep the bowels open, our friend, Dr. Marshall Hall, of Nottingham, has successfully cured many cases of weakness."
"The Family oracle of health: economy, medicine, and good living" by A.F. Crell and W.M. Wallace, 1824, pages 308 - 309.

Ah, the beer terroir idea. That the water and climate make it impossible to brew certain types of beer anywhere but in a certain location. No-one had much time for that idea any more. Not since temperature control and water treatment became widespread.

Paragraph three is the reason I've reproduced this article. Because of what it says about the tresatment of bottles Scottish Ale. Remember that in the 18th and early 19th centuries, strong Edinburgh Ale was usually bottled.

What constitutes a warm cellar is open to interpretation. It sounds as if, like Moortgat warm-conditioning Duvel, the idea is to encourage a secondary fermentation to condition and ripen the beer. Was the cloudiness caused by exposure to the cold a sort of chill haze? They clearly didn't prefer their beer extra cold, if they stood it by the fire for half an hour. Men after my own heart. I love a nice refreshing room-temperature beer.

Next time I'm in 1820's London, I'm going to check out Morton's Edinburgh Ale. It shouldn't be too difficult to find. Hopefully the journey back won't disturb the sediment too much.

2 comments:

Arctic Alchemy said...

Spent some time with a Scottish brewer yesterday in NYC , Bruce Williams ( he's from Alloa including his brewery) and I would have to say that not only is the water and climate important to brewing Scottish ales, but also, the personalities of it's people. BTW, he kept correcting me on the proper pronunciation of Alloa, I just couldn't get it right. Great guy and great ales !

marquis said...

Water is important but a glance at the meteorological records show that Alloa's climate is pretty well the same as Burton's.A degree or two cooler in summer,same in winter.