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)|
|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|
|26th Dec||1831||Truman||XXX Ale||1088.6||1033.8||7.26||61.87%||7||3.54||58.5||75||10|
|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|
|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|
|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|
|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|
|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|
|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|
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.