Thursday, 18 October 2012

Maclays beers in WW II (part one)

Did I mention that I've a good set of Maclay records? I did. Apologies for repeating myself. Just warning you, really, that this may take a while. They may not be the most exciting records in the world, but they are teaching me about 20th-century Scottish brewing.

In many ways Maclay are the antithesis of William Younger. Younger had a huge product range, running to a couple of dozen beers. Maclay only really brewed one beer in a couple of different strengths. All I can say is keep a close eye on PA 6d. Because it's going to do something weird.

At the outbreak of WW II, Maclay were pootling along with PA 7d, 6d and 5d (at 1042, 1037 and 1032) plus a Strong Ale (at 1082). All the beers were parti-gyled with each other in various combinations and had identical recipes, save for the amount of water used. It reminds me of Russell of Wolverhampton, who also only had a single recipe that was spun out into several beers. But that was a very small local brewery.

That's just made me realise what's missing from Maclay's records: any sort of export beer. The only possibility is the Strong Ale. Odd, given that Alloa was a noted exporter of Pale Ales. None of these Pale Ales could have been exported. The gravities are just too low. Export beers tended to have pre-WW I type gravities. For a Pale Ale, that meant around the 1060 mark.

I want to say something about the ingredients. This is something I noticed while scraping information from these records last week. It's not so much the type of ingredients as their source. This is the grist (in quarters) of PA 6d from 16th August 1939, just before the outbreak of war:

Californian A 1
Californian S 3
Scotch 3
Australian 2
Maize 1
total  10

Assuming that the maize was also foreign-grown, only 30% of the grist is British.

Compare that with the grist for PA 6d from 29th June 1943:

Scotch B 10
Scotch O 7
malted oats 2
flaked oats 1
total 20

The grist is at least 85% Scottish and, as the oats were probably Scottish as well, possibly 100%. Certainly 100% British.

There's a similar, though not quite as extreme, trend with the hops. Here's the hops schedule for PA 6d from 16th August 1939 (in pounds):

Bannister 31
Williams 31
Styrian 16
total 78

And here are the hops for PA 6d from 29th June 1943:

Repacks 20
Williams 25
Low 24
Highwood 23
total 92

That's quite a transformation. In 1943 Maclay were brewing from 100% British ingredients. Mostly Scottish ingredients, even. Something that hadn't occurred in peacetime for probably 100 years.

I'm not surprised by the presence of oats in the 1943 grists. Brewers were asked to use flaked oats in 1943 so that some barley could be used in bread. It was used as a replacement for the flaked barley that had been forced on brewers in 1941. Though the use of flaked oats was tricker.

I am curious about the malted oats. That wasn't the form of oats rthe government tried to persuade brewers to use. I can see why they would have preferred brewers to use flaked rather than malted oats: they took less energy to produce.

Mmmm. Starting to get a bit long. I'll need to divide this into at least two posts.


Craig said...

It's actually not as surprising as you might think. The infamous "wolf packs" of German U-Boats don't seriously begin hitting supply lines in the Northern Atlantic until the second half of 1940—the boats being launch from captured French bases. Yes, there were skirmishes and attacks in 39 and early 40, but nothing like the devastating losses of later in the year and into 1941. RCN escorts reduced these losses going into 1942. The US Navy, having just entered the war in December of 1941, simply was unprepared for Naval engagements of that scale. German strategy changed during early 1942, concentrating in and around the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico, closing the port of New Orleans temporarily, and hampering U.S. oil supply lines to Europe. Germany was essentially ignoring the mid-Atlantic, and allowing for fairly unobstructed supply between the Northeastern US, Canada and the UK. Their strategy changes in July of 42 when they begin refocusing on the Northern Atlantic. U boats sank well over 50 ships in October of 1942, alone. By the spring of 1943 the supply situation in Britain had become dire.

As I said before, convoy routes in 1939 and early 1940 were fairly open, so North American grain was still coming into the UK. Maybe not as much as before the war, but enough to sustain the brewing industry. I can't say for certain, but I'd imagine that there may have been a fair amount of both barley and corn on board those supply ships in late 1942 and early 1943 that just may not have made it to Britain, and you can't use what you don't have.

Gary Gillman said...

Everything I've read, here and elsewhere, has convinced me 100% that pale ale and bitter (originally called bitter beer) were and are the same thing. I agree too that pale ale was viewed by brewers as the more correct term, and given this, labels of bottled bitter generally were called pale ale or India pale ale or pale beer in some cases, but that in and of itself denotes no difference of style of course.

Because these bottled pale beers were at one time long stored in wood before bottled and received further aging by virtue of being shipped or stored for a time in bottle, and because draught bitter became a running beer, I can see that some people might think the two names denoted not just a difference of brew-house vs. pub terminology (brewers would want the pump clip or posted name to reflect the latter), but different styles of beer. But that is not right IMO because most pale ale became a running style anyway in the form of pasteurized and the dinner ales, and the old bottle-conditioning which denoted some kind of (potential at any rate) stockage or aging virtually died out in England until recently.

By the way, I am now thinking that given that both pale ale and mild ale relied on sugar extensively by about 1900, and again that pale beer became mostly running with a concomitant drop in hop rate, perhaps mild became dark to distinguish it better from bitter beer (not because of its sugar content as such, that is).

The "proof" is that for those pale milds that survived into the 1970's, it was often difficult, as Michael Jackson wrote then, to distinguish them from ordinary bitter.