Sunday, 18 November 2012

London X Ales in the 1830's

Mild. Not written anything about it for a while. It must be time to give it another go. I know, early London X Ales. They're fun.

The 1830 Beer Act is one of the most important pieces of British legislation regarding beer. Its main provision was the shifting of taxation from finished beer to the raw materials. Another which had an even bigger impact on brewing was with regard to a new type of licence. The beer-only or beerhouse licence. These were issued automatically (once a few basic criteria had been filled) without the need for approval from local magistrates. Thousands of beer houses opened almost immediately.

This new market caused a rethink amongst the large London Porter brewers. Before 1830 most of them brewed no Ales at all, concentrating 100% on Porter and Stout. They had tied customers in the London pub trade, but the tie was only for Porter and Stout, not for Ale, which was supplied by other brewers. Beer houses appeared just at the time when Porter's long ascendancy began to be challenged by Mild Ale. Mild Ales popularity surged along with beer house number. It was a trend the Porter brewers couldn't afford to ignore and in the 1830's they started to brew Ales.

I love these early Milds. My favourite historical recreation brew is Pretty Things version of an 1830's Truman XXXX Ale. It's a ridiculously simple beer with just one type of malt and one type of hops. I do wish other commercial brewers would give this type of Mild a go. I think there would be a ready market for them. Even the session-strength X Ales of just 6-7% ABV.



London X Ales in the 1830's
Date Year Brewer Beer Style 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)
5th Dec 1836 Whitbread X Mild 1077.0 1029.4 6.30 61.87% 6.55 2.33 2 2 3 63.5º 74.5º 4 + 2
17th Feb 1837 Whitbread X Mild 1066.2 1030.5 4.73 53.97% 7.65 2.15 2 2 3 63º 72º 5 + 4
13th Dec 1838 Barclay Perkins X Mild 1072.6 1013.0 7.88 82.09% 6.32 2.30 3 58.5º º
31st Dec 1838 Reid X Mild 1073.4 6.75 2.06 1 3 60º
3rd Dec 1831 Truman X Ale Mild 1072.3 1021.6 6.71 70.11% 7 2.33 62º 77º 8
3rd Mar 1836 Truman X Ale Mild 1075.3 1024.9 6.67 66.91% 6 2.07 60º 70º 8
15th Mar 1837 Whitbread XX Mild 1091.4 1035.5 7.40 61.21% 6.05 2.35 2 2 3 59º 74º 6 + 2
27th Dec 1838 Reid XX Mild 1088.6 8.8 3.12 1.5 3 57º
25th Jul 1839 Barclay Perkins XX Mild 1088.6 1015.0 9.74 83.08% 9.10 4.21 3.75 58º 76.5º 5 + ?
24th Dec 1831 Truman XX Ale Mild 1083.1 1030.5 6.96 63.33% 6 2.63 59º 77º 10
18th Jul 1835 Truman XX Ale Mild 1092.5 1027.7 8.57 70.06% 10 4.46 59º 71º 10
11th Nov 1836 Whitbread XXX Mild 1102.8 1036.0 8.83 64.96% 6.09 2.80 2 2 3.5 62.5º 74.5º 5 + 4
3rd Aug 1839 Barclay Perkins XXX Mild 1104.4 1017.6 11.49 83.15% 8.17 4.93 3.25 58.5º 77º 6 + ?
18th Mar 1839 Reid XXX Mild 1105.3 8 3.75 1.5 3 57º
1st Dec 1831 Truman XXX Ale Mild 1086.4 1016.6 9.23 80.77% 8 4.00 62º º 13
11th Aug 1835 Truman XXX Ale Mild 1109.4 1034.3 9.93 68.61% 10 4.65 59º 69º 9
23rd Dec 1836 Whitbread XXXX Mild 1114.7 1039.3 9.97 65.70% 7.00 3.64 2.17 2 2.5 60º 73º 7 + 1
21st Nov 1835 Truman XXXX Ale Mild 1116.3 1045.4 9.38 60.95% 8 5.97 58º 69º 12
Sources:
Whitbread brewing record held at the London Metropolitan Archives document number LMA/4453/D/01/001.
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.
Reid brewing record held at the City of Westminster Archives document number 789/266.


Looking at the gravities of the beers in the table, I'm struck by how similar the gravities are across the different breweries. I suspect that they were keeping an eye on each other's gravities and prices. One word about beer strengths. In general, the large London brewers made stronger beers than other brewers. Their economies of scale and high degree of mechanisation meant that they could brew more cheaply than their smaller competitors. As prices were constant across different brewers, lower production costs were expressed in greater strength.

X Ales had gravities around 1075º, XX Ales 1090º, XXX Ales 1105º and XXXX Ales 1115º. So they basically started at around double the gravity of modern Milds and worked up from there. Why isn't there any wailing about modern Milds being completely inauthentic? I know, because only IPA is judged by early 19th-century standards. I still can't work out why that is.

You can see that the attenuation is all over the shop, from a low of 54% to a high of over 80%. The ones at the top end are more the exception. In general, Milds of this period had about 65% attenuation. Around 10 points lower than you would expect today.

In common with all 19th-century British beers, they contained a shed-load of hops. Not quite the several shed-loads of a Pale Ale, but still serious quantities. There's still a fair bit of variation in hopping rates amongst the beers in the table. Some of that is probably explained by when they were brewed. Summer brews normally received more hops than winter ones.

Fermentation temperatures are one thing that seem to have changed little over the years, remaining in the 60-70º F range right up until after WW II.

Excuse me if I haven't mentioned the ingredients. In my defence, they are pretty dull. Pale malt and Kent hops. See what I mean? There's not much to be said about them.

What next? X Ales in the 1840's? It's a possibility.

6 comments:

Martyn Cornell said...

Fascinating. And the X ale was presumably the public house four-ale, ie the basic four (old) pence a (quart) pot working man's drink.

Ron Pattinson said...

Martyn, yes, that's the one.

ealusceop said...

X Ale at 7% is a regular brew here at the Albion and it's a favorite. We even have some regulars who drink it like a session, pints and pints of it. You have 2 options, one your a serious drinker, two you have a good slow pace of drinking. Because this kind of ale is treacherous. The attenuation (63% in our case) and the solid but not aggresive hopping make it pretty easy to drink, just like a modern mild in fact, but stronger.

Arctic Alchemy said...

Nothing worse than talking to the Homebrew twats about "Mild " ales, both from a strength perspective and the hopping rates, they just don't get it thanks to the BJCP

Gary Gillman said...

Ealusceop: what type of hops do you use for your X ale?

Gary

ealusceop said...

W.G.V, E.K Goldings and Fuggles.