Tuesday 16 October 2012

Oh dear

I've a really good collection of Good Beer Guides. Only a few from the 1970's are missing. It's a brilliant resource, providing a snapshot of British brewing in a given year.

It's because I appreciate the book so much, that I get so annoyed. About the rubbish in the chapter "Britain's Classic Beer Styles". This is what it says about Stout:

"During World War One, when the British government prevented brewers from using heavily-roasted malts in order to divert energy to the arms industry Guinness and other Irish brewers came to dominate the market."

Where to start with that steaming pile? Heavily-roasted  malt was so scarce in WW I that brewers started using brown malt in their Milds. I've looked through the food control orders, in particular the ones relating to malt and I've found no restrictions on roasting malt.

London brewers continued to brew Porter and Stout right through WW I and beyond. In considerable quantities. Here's an example: in 1943 Whitbread sold 24,703 barrels of Guinness and 156,813 barrels of their own Porter and Stout (document LMA/44503/C/08/063 held at the London Metropolitan Archives). Doesn't look to me as if Guinness was "dominating the market" in London. You can find more evidence to the contrary here.

"Barley wine dates from the 18th and 19th centuries when England was often at war with France and it was the duty of patriots, usually from the upper classes, to drink ale rather that (sic) French claret."

Nice story. But Barley Wine as a name is first recorded in the 1870's in reference to Bass No. 1 Ale*. A strong Burton Ale. And long after Britain's last war with France (that ended at Waterloo in 1815). The country gentry did make strong beer for their own consumption. But it had little to do with patriotism. More to do with practicality (most decent-sized country houses had a brew house), economy and showing off (boasting who had the strongest or oldest Ale). But there's no direct link between the gentry's October Beer and strong Burton Ale.

Talking of Burton Ale:

"In the 20th century Burton Ale was overtaken in popularity by pale ale and bitter but it was revived with great success in the late 1970's with the launch of Ind Coope Draught Burton Ale."

Wow. The skill to get so much bollocks into one sentence. Burton Ale was never that popular, certainly less popular than Pale Ale. "Pale ale and bitter"? They're the same effing thing. How could anyone mistake Ind Coope Burton Ale for a Burton. It's a Pale Ale. A Burton Pale Ale. For god's sake, it's a cask version of Double Diamond.

It pains me to say that I've not finished yet. Lots more bollocks to come.

* "A dictionary of chemistry and the allied branches of other sciences, Volume 6" by Henry Watts, 1872, page 256.


Anonymous said...

I had a similar feeling of dismay when I read it too. Presumably it was another Protz corner cutting exercise.Is he not aware of the excellent work people like you and Martyn have put into dispelling myths and folklore?It's not as if you charge for the information!

Anonymous said...

I wonder if the Oxford Companion to Beer was used as a source...

I'll get me coat...


Ed Carson said...

The sad thing is these guides will be seen as authoritative for years to come, despite all of your work.

Craig said...

At least we can all rest easy knowing that IPA was brewed strong to make the trip to India.

Barm said...

Protz was repeating the stuff about roasted barley on Twitter just a week or so ago. He seems happy to keep recycling the same stories he first wrote 20 years ago. The pale-ale-and-bitter-are-different-things theory is as characteristically Protz as the expression "biscuity malt". Any time it crops up you immediately know where it's come from.