Friday, 31 May 2013

Export Pale Ale Brewing in 1903 (part one)

I'm so pleased to have access to the all the back issues of the Journal of the Institute of Brewing. There are so many useful articles. And not just about the two World Wars. There are also detailed descriptions of methods of brewing various types of beer: Belgian low-gravity stuff, Lager and, most interestingly, Export Pale Ale.

The date it was written is significant: 1903. That's just about when the Export markets from British Pale Ales were being swept away by a tide of Lager. And also before the drop in gravity caused by WW I and the massive changes to British brewing that entailed. It captures the tradition of brewing Export Pale Ale, just before it disappeared.

The article begins with some comments of clarity and fining.

"In the first place: In brewing for the class of ale referred to, the main point to be borne in mind is soundness. The question, which in the production of certain classes of beer is a very troublous one, namely, will this ale drop bright in twenty-four hours, need not here concern us. It will be found that if treated in the proper way subsequently, there need be no anxiety on the question of brightening. If a cablegram be received, "Delivery per such and such a vessel, all tart," the brewer cannot offer to see it or change it, and he will probably look up the records in the brewing room, but if confident of the soundness, he is not likely to be worried much, for export ale customers do not expect these ales to be like a fined ale, but give their ales in cask a reasonable time to brighten spontaneously, which they will do if there is no disease of greyness."
Journal of the Federated Institutes of Brewing, Volume 9, Issue 2, 1903, page 147.

One of the big differences between Running Pale Ales and Stock Pale Ales was the use of finings. Running beers, which were meant to be consumed soon after racking, were fined so that they would drop bright quickly in the pub cellar. Basically these were beers like modern cask Ales, and were handled in a very similar way. Stock Pale Ales, which were left in trade casks for extended periods of time - possibly as long as 12 months - were expected to become crystal clear without the need for any finings. As the beer didn't need to be turned around quickly, giving it time to clear itself wasn't a problem.

Next best type of malt to use is discussed:

"In considering the question of the malt to be used, I must say, I prefer no substitutes for brewing the class of ale under consideration, and have proved to my own satisfaction that where the ale has to stand a severe test, such as a high temperature for a lengthened period, an all malt ale will certainly stand it better, given the right sort of malt, than that brewed with a proportion of substitutes. The malt I use I prefer to have seen malted myself, so that I may know its history on the floor, kiln, and store, and I think the best plan is to set aside as much as you may require in your best bins from those floors which, while tender, has gone to the kiln without any trace of mould. In the curing I like to go as high as the colour of the ale required will allow me to go. If you are brewing a light bulk export ale of 1050° you can, as you can readily see, go to a fairly high temperature, without much risk, but if it is to be for an ale of 1060º or so, you must watch your colour, at the same time I do not like any taste of rawness, and if the malt gets a full 48 hours, at a temperature of from 180º to 190º, with very little draught going, it should suffice."
Journal of the Federated Institutes of Brewing, Volume 9, Issue 2, 1903, page 147 - 148.

In the 19th century it was fairly common for brewers to have their own maltings, but Pale Ale specialists like those in Burton invariably made their own malt. Partly for the reason mentioned: colour. Pale Ale brewers wanted a beer as pale as possible, which is why, despite the author's insistence on the superiority of an all-malt grist, most used a proportion of brewing sugar. Note the distinction made between light Pale Ale of 1050º and the stronger type at 1060º. In the lower-gravity type getting a pale enough colour wouldn't have been as much of a problem, due to the smaller quantity of malt used. It was only after WW I, when the gravity of most standard Bitters fell below 1050º that brewers started to darken them either with caramel colouring or crystal malt, though the latter wasn't common until after ww II.

"I like a blend of long foreign in the malt, but the amount will naturally vary with the quality of the home varieties one is using. This season one cannot find a great deal of choice English, but I think the Hungarian or Palatinate makes a good blend with a Californian or sound Smyrna malt."
Journal of the Federated Institutes of Brewing, Volume 9, Issue 2, 1903, page 148 - 149.

This sort of mix of malt from home-grown and foreign barley was typical of pretty much all British beers, but was especially true of Pale Ales. The reason was simple: brewers thought that foreign barley, especially Californian helped produce a clear beer. It was all to do with the amount of permanently soluble nitrogen, which was around 50% lower in malt from Californian barley.

I've found a really good example, albeit a few years earlier, of the difference between a domestic and an export Pale Ale. It's from Truman's brewery in Burton. In 1887, just a few days apart, they brewed P2 and P2 Export.

1887 Truman P2 and P2 Export
Date Year Beer OG FG ABV App. Atten-uation lbs hops/ qtr hops lb/brl pale malt sugar malt hops
24th Jan 1887 P2 1062.0 1017.7 5.86 71.43% 14.63 4.00 96.69% 3.31% various English Californian, Kent and Worcester hops
27th Jan 1887 P2 export 1057.9 1018.3 5.24 68.42% 20.27 4.84 100.00% 0.00% "own make" Kent and Worcester hops
Truman brewing record held at the London Metropolitan Archives document number B/THB/BUR/11

You can see that there are some clear differences between the two beers. The Export is not just all malt, all the malt was made by Truman themselves. The domestic P2 has malt from three different English maltsters (including Gilstrap of Newark). The hopping was different, too, with more and better-quality hops in the export version. All the hops it used were from the 1886 season, while the domestic version had 50% from the 1885 season, including some cheaper Californian hops.

You may be surprised that the export version had a lower OG. That wasn't unusual pre-WW I. It's only after the war, when the gravity of beers for domestic consumption had been drastically reduced, the export beers became stronger. Not that their strength had changed, it hadn't. They remained at their pre-war gravity.


Rob said...

Do you have any breakdown on where the export pale ale was going?

Was it consistent or any interesting trends in this time period?

Ed said...

Interesting stuff, the JIB archive is great isn't it?

A quick look at a text book give me final kilning temperatures of lager and ale malt as 176 and 212 degrees F receptively, so they're definitely at the lager malt end.

Gary Gillman said...

This is a gem of an article, balanced as it is on the point where new techniques were effacing the old, but you can still see both sides of the chasm.

Some thoughts:

1) Does the insistence on all-malt for export, as also in the Truman notes mentioned, not argue for the view that all-malt brewing was viewed as superior? One might argue that stability was the only concern but I think it is more than that as evidenced by the use of the finest hops available in the Truman export beer and the desire to keep close track of the malting process.

2) Does anyone know what the barley variety was in this famous (at the time) California malt? 2-row, 6-row? I've read that a choice variety of 6-row, equating to 2-row in quality, was grown in CA then, perhaps it was that one? Incidentally today barley cultivation is minimal in CA today. As for hops cultivation, the crops went elsewhere in later years..