Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Labatt beers 1893 - 1894

I'm continuing my North American theme with a look at Labatt's beers from the 1893-1894 brewing season.

The range is a little bigger than at Vassar. Sort of. For, though superficially Vassar only had to products, Single and Double Ale, that broke down into multiple subtypes. Labatt only brewed four beers. Three, really, as there was just a single brew of ES.

Which table to start with? Let's begin with how much of each type they brewed:

Labbatt beers 1893 - 1894
barrels %
Brown Stout 2,165.5 9.10%
ES 160 0.67%
EIP 17,613 74.00%
Pale 3,863 16.23%
total 23,801.5
Labatt brewing records.

You can see that their IPA was easily the top seller, accounting for almost 75% of what they brewed. Followed by Pale. I'm not 100% sure what Pale was. It could have been marketed as a Pale Ale, but it could also have been an Ale, that is a Mild Ale. I'd have to see some adverts from the period to be sure.

On to the next table. Of the beers themselves. It contains averages of all the beers brewed in that season. Except for ES, because there was only one brew of that:

Labbatt beers 1893 - 1894
Beer Style OG FG ABV App. Atten-uation lbs hops/ qtr hops lb/brl boil time (hours) boil time (hours) Pitch temp max. fermen-tation temp length of fermen-tation (days)
BS Stout 1066.4 1015.7 6.70 76.34% 7.30 1.79 2 2.70 58.2 72.8 10.4
Pale Pale Ale 1049.4 1012.0 4.95 75.67% 7.88 1.49 2 2.68 59.4 67.1 10.2
EIP IPA 1055.2 1012.2 5.69 77.83% 8.38 1.82 2 2.61 58.2 70.0 10.4
ES Stock Ale 1063.7 1009.7 7.15 84.78% 8.93 2.41 2 2.67 58 72 19.0
Labatt brewing records.

At first I thought ES probably stood for Extra Stout. Then I noticed that the recipe contained no patent malt like the Brown Stout did. So my new best guess is Extra Stock. I could be wrong (I have been in the past). Though I have found a label for a Labatt beer called Extra Stock Ale.

An obvious difference with the Vassar beers is the degree of attenuation. Much, much higher. And averaging around the 75% found in most modern beers.

I'll be getting into a more detailed comparison with British beers later, but the gravities look a little lower than in London. And the IPA has a level of hopping  more in line with a London mild Ale than a Burton Pale Ale. The hopping is only a half pound more per quarter than for Pale, which is increasingly looking like a Mild Ale to me.

Little points like that aside, that range looks remarkably similar to a British brewery's. IPA, Stout, Mild Ale and Stock Ale. Not a Lager or Cream Ale in sight.


Gary Gillman said...

Interesting. I suspect the hop levels were lower because of the more pungent flavour of North American-grown hops. The hop rates would have been toned down in my view to offset their pronounced taste. E.g., the regular 5% Ballantine that is the sole survivor in the Ballantine line, called XXX, uses Cascades currently and formerly Cluster or another traditional U.S. type, but the hop rate is "reasonable" in relation to the pungency of the hops.

True, a taste for American hops in heavy doses has developed via modern craft brewing, but I doubt people in the 1800's wanted beers like that. It is always hard to know due also to changes in AA content and other such changeable factors, but I think the gap vs. British hopping in this period is essentially explained by factors particular to U.S. hops and the need again not to feature too much flavour.

I believe similarly the lower Vassar hopping rate you showed vs. British beers was compensated by the stronger taste, coarser if you will, of American hops as reported often in the period in U.K. circles.

What a different world the Labatt beers presented then to today, there is still an Extra Stock, which is a kind of malt liquor I believe, i.e., the stronger type of beer you sometimes saw in the pre-craft world era and still do sometimes, Schlitz Malt Liquor and that type. Malt liquor used to be reliant, or in some areas, on enzyme use to boost fermentability, I'm not sure if that is still done.

I happened just to be reading IPA Labatt ads from the 30's. At the time, it was the fashion to show gray-haired, distinguished-looking gents with a younger man alongside, probably a son or son-in-law. The elder was counselling the younger and in one such ad, the elder states, or it is in the ad copy, that Labatt acquired the recipe for its IPA during the Civil War era from a British brewer working in the U.S. The beer as pictured in the ad is a nice pinkish amber, very Burton pale ale-looking.

Once again I suspect all these beers were good examples, albeit distant geographically, of English brewing. England itself, it never hurts to remember, had countless examples of its main ale and porter types all over the country, writers often pointed out the diversity of taste. And this probably extended to hop taste, some brewers would have used second-grade hops, others a particular local type that has long since died out, etc. etc. I don't think any of them ever rose to a prominence as Scotch Ale acquired as a category in the early 1800's, or Hodgson's pale ale before "its special reputation passed". But there would have been some good beers and recreation again can offer a picture on local variants that can be absorbing.

The brewing change, and not for the better, really came when as you say cream ale and cold lagering came in, generally this was in the early 1900's. Thus, Molson Export Ale, still sold but not as good even as in the 1970's IMO, derives from circa-1904, not much earlier in the company's history, and would represent this new hybrid lager-ale. For a time it was known as Canadian sparkling ale.


Edward said...

"Then I noticed that the recipe contained no patent malt like the Brown Stout did." You have recipes for old Labatt beers? I thought something like that would be highly guarded.

Ron Pattinson said...


Labatt's IPA appears during the period covered by these brewing records. So in the late 1880's or early 1890's.

The English hop growing regions haven't really changed in 200 years. Local hops are long gone for commercial brewing. And lots of the hops were imported after 1840. I see the same types of hops crop up in brewing records from around the country.

Ron Pattinson said...

Edward, the information is taken from a Labatt brewing record. Which is effectively a recipe. The records are in a public archive.

No-one usually cares about recipes that are more than 100 years old.

Gary Gillman said...

Maybe Ron but anyway American hops were generally only a minority taste in the British hop grist. They didn't want the piney foxy flavour to dominate. It had to in American recipes though, ergo they used less of them. It's an inference of course, an interpretation.


BrianW said...

At Fanshawe Pioneer Village in Ontario there is a recreation of the 1828 brewery that eventually became Labatt's brewery. It was built in 1967 for the Canadian Centennial. A few links to it here:

I'd love to recreate something like this on a smaller scale for some historic homebrewing.

aaron brown said...

Hey Brian,

Sadly, the installation at Fanshawe Pioneer village is not a working brewery. It's basically a barn with some old brewing equipment in it.

General comment -- it was interesting to see that the hops were from all over the world (Canadian, English, German). The only local ingredients are the yeast and the malts. Like the Vassar records the farmers are often listed by name.