Thursday, 15 March 2012

America here I am

Yes, I'm here in Boston. And the odd beer has featured. But a couple of very special ones. Namely, X Ale and X Ale.

Tasting them wasn't like a dream come true. It was a dream come true. I've been waiting, tongue polishing my shoes, to try it since that first day I dropped by the London Metropolitan Archives. Barclay Perkins X Ale.

Pretty Things have brewed two versions of X Ale. Based on the 1838 and 1945 versions. Words can't convey the pathetically puerile excitement I felt when pouring out the first glass. As I've said many times before, I'm pretty sad when it comes to stuff like this.

I wasn't afraid of disappointment. Dann knows what he's doing. I was certain the beers would taste good. And they did. A history lesson in a glass. Or two glasses, as comparing the two was the whole point.

Oddest was the launch. Watching Americans slurp down a 2.9% ABV Mild. I was pleasantly surprised at how popular the weaker of the two was. Maybe session beers will take off here.


BryanB said...

Great work! I wish I could've been there.

ennislaw said...

Re: "Oddest was the launch. Watching Americans slurp down a 2.9% ABV Mild. I was pleasantly surprised at how popular the weaker of the two was. Maybe session beers will take off here."

LOL, it's taken me years to find a decent brown ale and amber ale below 5% ABV. As one local (keg) brewer told me, "It's easier to extract more flavor out of higher ABV brews." I seriously doubt if milds take off in any fashion over here, unfortunately.

And I'll add that on my trips to the UK, milds are as rare as hen's teeth to find. Glad you enjoyed your trip!


doug said...

I'm glad this day arrived for you. I am very much looking forward to trying the two X ales myself, once they show up in NYC.

Anonymous said...

It's natural that session beers will be embraced in the states... I think that we are learning that well-made, flavorful beers don't have to be strong or otherwise extreme. Additionally, we Americans like to drink lots of beer, and, if the price point and marketing were right, milds, and ordinary bitters could unseat cheap yellow lager as the "all day beer" of choice for many people.

Great blog! I especially like the historic beer recipes.

Duncan said...

OK Ron, you've drawn me in with all your tables - where can I get these beers in the UK?

Ron Pattinson said...

Duncan, I'm not sure any will be crossing the Atlantic, other than a few bottles in my luggage.

Andrew Elliott said...

Ron, how long are you on this side of the pond? I'll follow up this post with an email, but I still have some SSS to send you.

Jeff Alworth said...

Fantastic experiment--I wish I wasn't on the wrong coast.

As for milds and other low-alcohol beers, don't expect Americans to adopt them anytime soon. At best they will be a niche style, at worst (and most likely) beers brewed in single, slow-selling batches.

Last summer, I organized a festival of small beers (everything under 4.5%, with strong encouragement to keep it under four). The breweries loved it and they made some exceptional beers. One of my faves was called Voodoo Mild, and I could have taken it around the country as the refutation to the argument that strength and flavor are correlated. I talked to the brewer later, and he said it was the slowest-selling beer they ever made.

Put another way, milds will sell in America about as well as saisons will sell in Germany.

ifolic said...

In New York, and sometimes in Canada, I'm struck by the high ABVs of many IPAs and other styles. often 7-10%. There is usually some beer at 5-6%, but first, that is not a session range, second, sometimes it is a wheat beer or some other style you don't want.

But here is my solution: I pour that 10 or 12 oz. of 8% DIPA in a pint glass, or ask that it be poured in same, and ask for a top-up of soda water. I've never been charged extra for it, and you end up with a circa-4% sessionable beer.

Given that the 7-10% ABV beers of modern craft brewing are often stuffed to the gills with malt and hops, cutting with water by 50 or 25% often results in a perfect sessionable balance. (I doubt anyone could tell, who didn't know, how the 4% ABV was arrived at). I don't say it's a permanent solution to the need for more session beers but in a pinch it works just fine.

Just another point is that high ABV beers do suit many bar experiences in North America. I may be wrong, but I don't think the culture of spending hours in a pub is as prevalent as in centuries past. The average pub stay is probably not that long and if you add to it that most modern bars are really restaurants too and people often ending up eating in pubs, they will tend to drink something shorter but stronger than normal if available. This explains I think the increasing availability of these strong beers.


dana said...

I'll gloat that I was there and that both beers were very delicious and vastly different. And that Ron's even more charming and full of fun, beery facts in person.
Please let Dann of Pretty Things know that his -and your- fans want more history lessons as soon as may be.
Thanks, Ron!

Duncan said...

Hmm - does that mean I'm going to have to learn to brew my own, if I want to drink beer like this?

Unknown said...

What a great time we had with the launch of these two beers. Thank you to Ron for making the trip and for doing everything it does. Ron and I had a great time talking and drinking beer on every single day of his time here - except the last day when the world was falling down at the brewery.

Regardless of strength or style I think we can be drawn to the lessons in flavour we get from these beers. I'm drawn to the fact that the 1938 X Ale which is 7.5% or so, might be a bigger lesson for American brewers than a dark mild. This is an insanely hoppy beer that doesn't put forward the precious oils that we know of today - but it masticates your palate with a bitter, smokey, hoppy, resiny, pipe tobacco-like character. It's a novel flavour that we also had in the 1832 XXXX from Trumans which was the first beer in this series a few years back. When we tell people that this is a hoppy beer they seem to have a hard time figuring out what we're talking about.

Bless those Kent Goldings and the fact that they're still here to open their portal onto 19th century flavours!

Cheers from Dann

Matt said...

It might just be the photograph but the 1945 Barclay Perkins X Ale looks quite light in colour. I'd assumed - dangerous I know - that London milds were darker by then, in contrast to the light milds still brewed in the North West.

Ron Pattinson said...

The 1945 X Ale is in that netherworld between pale and dark. Very similar in colour to Boddies Mild. They had multiple versions, some of which had caramel added to make them darker.

James said...

I loved the 1838 X ale and would like to try and recreate it since it was only brewed once by pretty things. Any chance you could share the recipe?

Ron Pattinson said...


here you go:

22nd November 1838 Barclay Perkins X Ale
OG: 1072
FG: 1016
53% white malt
47% pale malt
3.54 lbs hops per barrel
50% EK hops
50% MK hops

180 barrels with strike heat of 172º F
70 barrels with strike heat of 190º F
Stood 105 minutes
tap heat: 151º F

190 barrels with strike heat of 200º F
Stood 45 minutes
tap heat: 176º F

Boiled for 5 hours
Pitched at 59º F
Max fermentation temperature 72.5º F

James said...

Thank you much Ron!