Monday, 8 October 2012

American Mild Ale

I told you Vassar was one of my new obsessions. A new drum to bang, dog to kick, whatever you want to call it. Plus, as I've already spent so much time on the research, I can knock out a series of these posts double-quick. An important consideration for someone as compelled to post every day as I am.

Here's an admission. When I spotted the words "present use" in the Vassar records, I did a little joy dance. Quite literally. Because I know exactly what that phrase means. It crops up occasionally in British records, too. I don't know why, because the alternative is much more concise: mild. Yes, I'd not only found definite proof of Mild Ale being brewed in 19th century America, I'd even got a recipe. 

How does this work? I remember. First I throw a couple of tables full of numbers at you, then I attempt to make some sort of sense out of it.

Let's ball-up with Vassar's beers. You'll notice that they are a powerful bunch. Beers of this gravity, called Double Ale, were pretty much all Vassar brewed. Only 500 barrels of the weaker Single Ale were brewed in the brewing season 1833-1834, compared to 11,000 of Double Ale.

I'd best mention that this was just one flavour of Vassar Mild Ale. There were also Double Ale and Pale Double Ale versions.


Amber Double Ale Present use
Date Year OG FG ABV App. Atten-uation lbs hops/ qtr hops lb/US brl hops lb/Imp. brl boil time (hours) boil time (hours) Pitch temp max. fermen-tation temp length of fermen-tation (days)
5th Nov 1833 1101.1 1044.3 7.51 56.16% 5.00 1.98 2.78 1.5 3 60 75
18th Nov 1833 1099.7 1044.3 7.33 55.56% 5.00 2.16 3.02 1.5 2.5 60 75
8th Jan 1834 1101.1 1042.9 7.70 57.53% 5.00 2.08 2.92 1.5 2.5 62 78 8
8th Nov 1833 1108.0 1048.5 7.88 55.13% 5.20 2.24 3.14 1.5 3 62 80
17th Mar 1834 1097.0 1038.8 7.70 60.00% 5.26 1.84 2.58 1.25 2 60 72
18th Mar 1834 1099.7 1038.8 8.06 61.11% 5.26 2.02 2.83 1.25 2 60 76
19th Mar 1834 1099.7 1047.1 6.96 52.78% 5.26 1.87 2.62 1 2 60 78
24th Mar 1834 1099.7 1041.6 7.70 58.33% 5.26 1.98 2.78 1 2 60 73
25th Mar 1834 1099.7 1041.6 7.70 58.33% 5.26 1.98 2.78 1.25 2.25 58 72
26th Mar 1834 1098.3 1045.7 6.96 53.52% 5.26 1.98 2.78 1.25 2.5 60 75
27th Mar 1834 1098.3 1041.6 7.51 57.75% 5.26 2.05 2.87 1.25 2.5 60 75
31st Mar 1834 1099.7 1041.6 7.70 58.33% 5.26 1.95 2.74 1.25 2.25 61 80 8
1st Apr 1834 1099.7 1042.9 7.51 56.94% 5.26 1.92 2.70 1.25 2.25 60 76 8
2nd Apr 1834 1098.3 1041.6 7.51 57.75% 5.26 1.98 2.78 1.25 2.25 60 76 8
7th Apr 1834 1097.0 1044.3 6.96 54.29% 5.26 1.98 2.78 1.25 2.25 60 76 10
8th Apr 1834 1097.0 1044.3 6.96 54.29% 5.26 1.95 2.74 1.25 2.5 62 77 9
14th Apr 1834 1094.2 1041.6 6.96 55.88% 5.33 1.96 2.75 1.25 2 60 75 10
15th Apr 1834 1094.2 1041.6 6.96 55.88% 5.33 1.96 2.75 1.25 2 61 76 10
3rd Apr 1834 1097.0 1041.6 7.33 57.14% 5.47 2.06 2.89 1.25 2.25 60 78 8
4th Apr 1834 1099.7 1038.8 8.06 61.11% 5.47 2.17 3.04 1.25 2.5 62 77 9
17th Apr 1834 1092.8 1036.0 7.51 61.19% 5.87 2.16 3.02 1.5 2.25 61 76 9
Average 1098.7 1042.3 7.45 57.10% 5.28 2.01 2.82 1.29 2.32 60.4 76.0 8.8
Source:
Matthew Vassar's Brewing Accounts 1833 - 1837

Next are a selection of British Mild Ales. As I've tried to match up the average OG, these are mostly XX, XXX and XXXX Ales. To give some diversity, I've included William Younger Ales as well as London ones.

British Mild Ales
Date Year Brewer Beer OG FG ABV App. Atten-uation lbs hops/ qtr hops lb/brl boil time (hours) boil time (hours) boil time (hours) Pitch temp max. fermen-tation temp length of fermen-tation (days)
11th Jul 1835 Truman X Ale 1080.3 1020.5 7.92 74.48% 8.0 2.74 58 69 8
24th Dec 1831 Truman XX Ale 1083.1 1030.5 6.96 63.33% 6 2.63 59 77 10
1st Dec 1831 Truman XXX Ale 1086.4 1016.6 9.23 80.77% 8 4.00 62 13
3rd Sep 1839 Barclay Perkins XX 1087.3 1015.5 9.49 82.24% 9.00 4.08 2.5 58 76
19th Sep 1839 Barclay Perkins XX 1087.5 1015.5 9.53 82.29% 8.89 4.03 3 58 77
25th Jul 1839 Barclay Perkins XX 1088.6 1015.0 9.74 83.08% 9.10 4.21 3.75 58 76.5
27th Dec 1838 Reid XX 1088.6 8.8 3.12 1.5 3 57
26th Dec 1831 Truman XXX Ale 1088.6 1033.8 7.26 61.87% 7 3.54 58.5 75 10
27th Feb 1837 Whitbread XX 1088.9 1033.2 7.37 62.62% 6.11 2.38 2 2 3 59 72 8
2nd Nov 1835 Truman XX Ale 1090.3 1028.3 8.21 68.71% 7 2.82 58 67 8
4th Aug 1835 Truman XX Ale 1090.9 1027.7 8.36 69.51% 10 4.76 59 72 7
15th Mar 1837 Whitbread XX 1091.4 1035.5 7.40 61.21% 6.05 2.35 2 2 3 59 74 8
18th Jul 1835 Truman XX Ale 1092.5 1027.7 8.57 70.06% 10 4.46 59 71 10
9th Apr 1832 Younger, Wm. 100/- 1093.0 11.86 6.60 1 53 70
27th Dec 1831 Younger, Wm. 80/- 1094 3.73 1.93 1.25 50 70
27th Feb 1832 Truman XXX Ale 1097.0 6 5.13 58.5 70
27th Jan 1832 Younger, Wm. 84/- 1101 4.40 2.24 1 55 70
11th Nov 1836 Whitbread XXX 1102.8 1036.0 8.83 64.96% 6.09 2.80 2 2 3.5 62.5 74.5
19th Aug 1839 Barclay Perkins XXX 1104.4 1018.3 11.39 82.48% 8.58 5.31 4 58 77
3rd Aug 1839 Barclay Perkins XXX 1104.4 1017.6 11.49 83.15% 8.17 4.93 3.25 58.5 77
19th Oct 1835 Truman XXX Ale 1104.7 1033.2 9.45 68.25% 8 3.45 56
18th Mar 1839 Reid XXX 1105.3 8 3.75 1.5 3 57
3rd Dec 1835 Truman XXX Ale 1105.3 1034.9 9.31 66.84% 8 4.00 58
25th Jul 1835 Truman XXX Ale 1106.6 1034.9 9.49 67.27% 10 5.37 58 68 8
26th Dec 1831 Younger, Wm. 100/- 1108 3.73 2.00 1.25 51 70
11th Aug 1835 Truman XXX Ale 1109.4 1034.3 9.93 68.61% 10 4.65 59 69 9
27th Feb 1832 Truman XXXX Ale 1113.6 8 4.32 59 67
14th Oct 1835 Truman XXXX Ale 1113.6 1045.7 8.98 59.76% 7.5 4.35 57 65 11
23rd Dec 1836 Whitbread XXXX 1114.7 1039.3 9.97 65.70% 7.00 3.64 2.17 2 2.5 60 73 8
5th Nov 1835 Truman XXXX Ale 1114.7 1037.9 10.15 66.91% 12 8.73 57 9
21st Nov 1835 Truman XXXX Ale 1116.3 1045.4 9.38 60.95% 8 5.97 58 69 12
6th Jan 1832 Younger, Wm. 120/- 1117 4.07 2.79 1 54 70
30th Dec 1831 Younger, Wm. 140/- 1135 5.42 5.16 1 52 70
Average 1100.2 1029.5 9.06 70.2% 7.65 4.01 2.01 2.33 3.00 57.4 71.7 9.3
Sources:
Barclay Perkins brewing record held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number ACC/2305/1/550
Truman brewing records held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document numbers B/THB/C/115 and B/THB/C/119
Whitbread brewing record held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number LMA/4453/D/01/001
William Younger brewing record held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number WY/6/1/2/1


To make the comparison easier, I've created a third table with just the averages from the first two.


Date OG FG ABV App. Atten-uation lbs hops/ qtr hops lb/ UK brl boil time (hours) boil time (hours) boil time (hours) Pitch temp max. fermen-tation temp length of fermen-tation (days)
British Mild Ale 1100.2 1029.5 9.06 70.2% 7.65 4.01 2.01 2.33 3.00 57.4 71.7 9.3
Amber Double Ale Present use 1098.7 1042.3 7.45 57.10% 5.28 2.82 1.29 2.32
60.4 76.0 8.8
difference -1.5 12.9 -1.61 -13.12% -2.37 -1.18 -0.72 -0.01 3.03 4.30 -0.45
% difference -1.51% 30.44% -21.61% -22.99% -44.96% -41.97% -56.32% 0.00% 0.00% 5.02% 5.65% -5.09%


Moving from left to right, we can see that even though there’s only a small difference between the OG of the two groups, there’s a massive difference in FG: a full 13 points. Which naturally has an effect on the next two columns, the ABV and apparent attenuation. Vassar’s beers averaged 1.6% less ABV and 13 fewer points of attenuation. In percentage terms, differences of 22% and 23% respectively.

It’s clear that Vassar’s beers would have been sweeter and thicker than their British equivalents.

Next let’s take a look at the hopping. The rates in terms of both pounds per quarter and pounds per barrel were lower at Vassar. About 45% lower in case of the former and 42% in the case of the latter.

If you combine the lower attenuation of Vassar’s beers with the lower hopping rate, then their beers must have been thicker, sweeter and less hoppy than British Milds of the period.

The first boil was about 45 minutes longer on average amongst the British beers. The second boils were of almost identical lengths.

I was surprised that the pitching temperature was so much lower for the British Milds. Then I remembered those William Younger beers. They were all pitched in the low 50’s Fahrenheit. If I remove those, though, the average is 58.4º F – still more than two degrees cooler than the Vassar average.

The maximum fermentation temperature is also clearly higher at Vassar. More than 4 degrees higher. I suspect the explanation for this is simple: better control of the temperature of the wort through the use of attemperators.

The British fermentations took an average of three quarters of a day longer. I wouldn’t say that is very significant.

I'd usually say, "That was fun wasn't it?" at this point. But I've done that way too often. I need to find another ironic comment. I'll get back to you when I've thought of one.

10 comments:

Oblivious said...

Great post Ron, is there any data on pitching rate could this explain the massive attenuation difference?

Ron Pattinson said...

Oblivious, although the pitching rates vary quite a bit, there's no direct corrolation between low pitching rate and high FG.

Gary Gillman said...

Good work Ron (this is usually understood, but it is good to say it once in a while!).

Based just on this group of data, I'd guess Vassar's yeast wasn't as effective as the English ones, perhaps "languid" due to constant re-use or some other factor. As a newbie (relatively) in brewing in the area, Vassar mightn't have had the possibility to renew its yeast as often as the British breweries.

Outside just this frame though, maybe the famous American sweet tooth (think colas, donuts, etc.) is older in origin than many think. Maybe people just liked that taste.

Gary

David Naugle said...

Interesting. I remember attempting to recreate a Vassar ale years ago. I ended up lost in my data search and gave up. But I remember seeing some very similar accounting tables like you show in the local library. I live about a mile from the old Vassar Farm that is now mostly the college. The farm still contains many buildings from the brewing days. One is either an old hop or malt kiln. Hard to tell which but based on the size I would guess hops. I've always wondered where a brewer in that period got fresh yeast. I'm sure there were plenty of brewers in New York City, and ships from Old England sailed right up the Hudson to his brewery, so he may have had multiple sources. I believe he also had relatives in England at that time. Perhaps they helped procure yeast from breweries there? It would be interesting to see a piece on how yeast was managed in that period. Anyways, enough rambling, this was a nice piece of work. I enjoy brewing archeology like this.
Dave

Ron Pattinson said...

David, I imagine that like other brewers of the period, Matthew Vassar pitched yeast harvested from an earlier brew. Should his own yeast have failed, he'd have got yeast from a nearby brewery.

Kristen England said...

We'll be doing a Vassar beer for this weeks Lets Brew. The pitch rates and such and such about finishing are usually null and void. Most brewers pitched more than enough yeast and controlled the ferments via temperature knockdowns and such.

Carl Miller said...

Ron, great stuff! Welcome to the New World. Apologies for this marathon comment. But, now that you've crossed the Atlantic, I finally have something to add!

Yes, the many brewers along the Hudson were actually in very close cooperation with each other. Yeast would have been shared freely. I've seen evidence that they bought hops in multi-brewery coops during the 1820s and 30s, and frequently held meetings to discuss the myriad issues that affected beer production along the river during that period -- and this some 30 years before the formation of the United States Brewers' Association!

Another thought: True, Vassar was perhaps the guru of the Hudson Valley brewers (a reputation only bolstered by the later fame of America's premier educational institution for females). And true, Albany was, if not the American beer capital, certainly second only to Philadelphia, during the pre-lager era. But, the bigger picture is that the entire Hudson River region from Troy down to Newburgh was absolutely loaded with thriving breweries during the early- to mid-1800s.

The main reason for their success was the ever-exploding population (and thirst) of New York City. But, NYC had a serious and chronic shortage of pure water until the completion of the Croton Aqueduct in 1842. And so, there were relatively few breweries in the city itself. Even after Croton water arrived, it was still an expensive commodity in the city. For brewers, it often made more economic sense to build their breweries up river where water was endless and often free, and then simply tap into the well-established Hudson River transportation system to send their beer to thirsty throngs in the city. Many of the Hudson river breweries operated depots in NYC. From here, they could also access Boston, Philly, Baltimore, etc. via Atlantic transport.

One more blather, then I'll stop. Promise. The other major factor that made the Hudson River region America's early ale center was the completion of the Erie Canal in 1825. Barley and hops came flooding into Albany from Western New York, and later from further West. Albany became such an important clearing house for brewing materials, that brewers from all along the Eastern seaboard were said to make trips to Albany every Fall to lock up their supplies for the coming brewing season.

Gary Gillman said...

Carl Miller's note is obviously valuable, but I'd point out that the fact of sharing yeasts and other brewing inputs is no necessary guarantee of using optimum materials. One British brewing author of the mid-1800's pointed out dryly that if an area shared a deficient yeast, the deficiency would simply spread to everyone and he said sharing exacerbated this problem. Thus, if low attenuation was an unintentional characteristic of Vassar's beer - and it may not have been - this may have resulted from available sources of brewing not using something as good as was generally available in England. (Although England experienced problems too, as the author I mentioned stated and I can find the reference if necessary).

As I recall the numbers, the OG Ron reported for Vassar was very close each time he brewed, essentially 1100, but his FG did vary quite a bit, sometimes varying by 1% in the ABV which is a lot for a 7 or 8% ABV beer. Control was an issue, clearly.

Gary

David Naugle said...

Gary, it would be interesting to compare the attenuations that Ron posted for Vassar to other breweries along the Hudson during that specific time period to see if other's had the same. As well as looking at a wider time frame for Vassar to see if the low attenuation was only a temporary thing.

Gary Gillman said...

Good point David and I was (honestly!) thinking the same thing. Hopefully Ron will increase the scope of his work to any other available records.

I've had the good fortune to drink beer in Albany and Troy back in the 70's and early 80's. By then little was left of the ale tradition but you always buy Ballantine IPA there, and you would see faded Beverwyck (good Anglo-Dutch name?) signs on walls. Bill Newman was trying to revive part of this past. He was too early sadly...

Gary