Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Let's Brew Wednesday - 1885 Usher's IP

Scotland month eh? As never-ending as a wintry February.

Just to change things up a bit, we've finally left William Younger. And moved across town to Thomas Usher. Across town? I mean a little to the south. When this beer was  brewed, Thomas Usher had already moved from Cowgate to St Leonard’s Street. The brewery is listed in the 1978 Good Beer Guide, which I've just been going through. At the time, it was owned by Lorimer.

Scottish IPA. I'm going to get it recognised as a style if it kills me. It's easily as identifiable as all those other supposedly Scottish styles. As we've learned over the past few weeks, some Scottish breweries were quick to jump on the IPA train. And were just as famous as their Burton rivals.

What jumps out at me about this beer is the gravity. Just 1046º. In England, very little was brewed that weak. You know what it looks like to me? A Light Bitter. A light beer in both senses, colour and strength. I know I don't need to tell you this, but I'm going to say it in case any strangers have wandered in. IPA wasn't a strong beer in the 19th century. Even so, 1046º is pretty weak.

Here's another assumption that shouldn't be made: that IPA was stronger than Pale Ale. I can think of plenty of examples of the opposite. Like at Usher. They had three Pale Ales in their range: PA 60/- at 1060º, PA at 1054º and IPA and 1046º. Sometimes they parti-gyled them together, others they brewed them entire gyle.

What was the difference between Pale Ale and IPA? There's no hard and fast rule. At one brewery the IPA would be stronger, at another the Pale Ale. And the hopping. IPA wasn't necessarily more heavily hopped. At Usher it wasn't. Being parti-gyled with Pale Ale, the hopping rate per quarter was identical. Being lower gravity than Pale Ale and parti-gyled with it, the hopping rate per barrel had to be lower.

That's me about done. Except to draw your attention to the use of black malt. I've never seen black malt in an English Pale Ale in the 19th century. Or the 20th, come to think of it. Maybe all that stuff about roasted barley in Scottish beer isn't the load of bollocks I've always assumed. Something to think about . . .

Kristen time . . . . . .

Kristen’s Version:

First Usher’s logs of a lot we’ll be doing. They do things a bit differently but have a lot of similar feel too them. Lots of ingredients and such will be the same throughout so follow along to see the differences.


Grist – Unlike Younger’s, Usher’s uses a good deal of Scottish base malt. If you have access to anything Scottish other than Golden Promise give that a shot. If not, use Golden Promise. It’s a great malt. You’ll notice the black malt. Yes, you are correct! However, don’t you go throwing that in the mash. No sir! That goes directly in the boil kettle! Yes, I said that correctly. Right in the boil kettle. I find that if I micronize it (aka stick it into a coffee mill and destroy it) I get much better extraction, flavor and it drops like a rock in the hot break and subsequent whirlpool. Also, if you remember, Barclay Perkins did the same for a lot of their stouts. I’ve received numerous emails with numerous theories of why this is a bad idea. None of them make scientific sense.  Give it a shot, you won’t be sorry.

Hops – Lots of really cool stuff here in these Ushers logs. Specifically, American and French hops, specifically Alsace. Here’s the rub. During the late 1880’s, Alsace were probably the cheapest hops you could buy on the English market and were also thought to be the lowest class. Google eBooks. House of Commons. 1890. Vol 13. Lots of great stuff about the cost and quality of hops. Saaz, Spalt and EKG were the thought to be the best quality and got the highest price. Continuing…Happy Cluster hops give a really nice deep bitterness that hangs on and the late addition of the Hallertauer-esque hops really add to the huge hop flavor of this beer. I was out of Hallertauer but used some Strisselspalter from, yep, you guessed it, Alsace itself. Never used them before and at 1.8% there really wasn’t much to them. Definite Hallertauer-y.

Yeast – Lets start off with two yeasts very easy to use. Nottingham or Fullers. I prefer the fruit of the latter for IPAs but its your choice.  


half_man_half_pint said...

"The brewery is listed in the 1978 Good Beer Guide, which I've just been going through. At the time, it was owned by Lorimer."

Usher was taken over by Vaux in 1959.
The story I've heard is that their beers got such a bad reputation in the 70's that they changed their name to Lorimer's.

Usher's/Lorimer's closed in 1980. Vaux also owned Lorimer and Clark until 1987 (now Caledonian).

Brewery was here -

Bob_in_USA said...

This recipe is perfect for what I was looking to brew next weekend.

I have a lot of Cluster hops, so that works. I have access to Hallertauer as well.

I have a coffee grinder and will definitely give the pulverizing of the black malt a shot. It's new to me.

Instead of Nottingham, I can make a starter with either Safale33, Safale05, or the Wyeast 1728 (Scottish strain). Would one of these three be an acceptable substitute?

Adrian Avgerinos said...

"I’ve received numerous emails with numerous theories of why this is a bad idea. None of them make scientific sense. Give it a shot, you won’t be sorry."

I agree, this works great. I've added 1-2 ounces to the kettle to get a little extra color with minimal flavor impact on a small number of homebrew batches.

The argument I've heard against this practice is that boiling grains makes beer taste bad and therefore tossing black malt in the kettle is bad.

I haven't noticed any off flavors.

Kristen England said...


The dry yeasts don't need a starter, just use enough of them. If you like 1728, use it. I, do not. Out of those three I'd probably choose the US05.


Its funny how things on a general level turn into never evers! Yes, you really don't want to boil a lot of raw grain in the kettle. However, this is black malt. There is no start laying around to much up the works. The only think you'll get is the color, tannin and a little bit of sugar. Funny this is that back in the day, 100% roast malt mashes were common. They just got in the way of the proper base mash. Frankly all you need to do is steep them anyway. I think Tetley's still do this for their mild. They use 'micronized' roast for the color. That to me infers powderized. I'm addicted to that stuff also.

Adrian Avgerinos said...

For the record, Briess makes a dry black malt extract:

However, I imagine it would be difficult to procure at the consumer level.

Kristen England said...


Its very much like Sinemar (TM). Works in the same way. Not a lot of character out of it. Great for color.

Bob_in_USA said...

Brewed this one up today.
I should have taken into account that I typically get good efficiency. This time I got REALLY good (89%) and my OG was 1.053.

It's fermenting now.
Thank you very much for sharing this recipe. I can't wait to try it when it's ready.

Andrew Elliott said...

Brewed this 11 Aug, 2012 and sampled yesterday (21 Aug). Absolutely fantastic! Very strong on the UK flavor but with the Hallertauer providing an earthy, spicy, almost minty hoppiness. Must Brew Again !

Kristen England said...


Most bloody excellent!!! Aren't the Hallertauer great in it!

Andrew Elliott said...

The Hallertauer (I used Mittelfrüh) really surprised me, truly fantastic! I got lucky that the Fuller's is my favorite ale yeast strain, and this was a 13gal starter batch for 13gal of 1918 Whitbread SSS going into a small bourbon barrel. Glad the starter beer turned out so awesome -- I really enjoy doing these "Let's Brew" recipes when I get the chance! Certainly appreciate all that you guys put into it.

Andrew Elliott said...

Kristen, you were bang-on with that "Suicidally Drinkable" note. I'm tempted to brew it again, but perhaps will slide over to do the PA's (1885 and 1894). Then there's the lagers... I guess the club is going to be getting a few kegs out of me.

GRR said...

Brewed this at the weekend ... but it seems the colour was way out of whack with the colour you've listed.

My calc's using Golden Promise (99.2%) and black malt (0.8%) gave +20 EBC? And the final product looks that dark too. Not that it matters, too much, but wondered if there was a mistake there?

Ron Pattinson said...

GRR, you'd have to ask Kristen about that, he made the colour calculation. The recipe is the same as the original.

Kristen England said...


Lets just do this by hand, you can use either lb or kg.

3.925kg Pale malt x 2Lovibond = 7.85 colo(u)r units

0.032kg Black malt x 500L = 16 colour units

7.85 + 16 = 23.85 total color/ 3.957kg total weight = ~SRM OR 12 EBC

GRR said...

Thanks Kristen.

I brewed at a different scale, checked the calc's using your method and agree with your numbers.

Yet, the spreadsheet calculated higher, and the actual beer looks darker...

The spreadsheet I used wasn't my design and the calcs are pretty involved so I haven't fully teased them out yet I might need to contact the developer.

BTW - This is about the tenth beer i've brewed from this site and using the same spreadsheet. I've never had the colour issue before, and i've been hugely impressed with both the recipes and the spreadsheet. I'm brewing beer which way surpasses my original expectations and i'm really grateful to you and Ron for making all this available to us.