Friday, 9 August 2013

Early brewing experiments in India

Remember Captain Ouchterlony? A pioneer of brewing in India. I've managed to unearth some of writings about experimenting with brewing in the Neilgherries in the 1850's.

Like many other officers, one his main motivations for promoting brewing was to keep the ordinary soldiers awway from spirits. That and saving the army money:

"I allude to the subject of fermented malt liquors which can be made on the Neilgherries with the greatest facility in all the details of the process, and at a cost so trifling as to enable the commissariat to supply the European troops at the three stations more immediately in the vicinity of the Hills, viz., Bangalore, Trichinopoly and Cannanore, with both ale and porter, at a rate, calculated on an extreme estimate, not exceeding 10 annas per imperial gallon delivered to the men from the cask in the canteen, or 2.5 annas per quart, equivalent to 3.5 d. per pot.

Independent of the importance, both in a moral and economic point of view, of supplying to the troops a liquor which, from its goodness and cheapness, will induce the majority to prefer it to ardent spirits, the subject becomes still more entitled to consideration from the advantages which must result from its successful issue, when the projected measure for the permanent location of a regiment of European troops on the Neilgherries shall be carried out: for as the chief item in the estimate of cost is the carriage from the brewery to the station in the plains, beer will be supplied to those resident on the spot at a greatly diminished rate."
"The Neilgherries: including an account of their topography, climate, soil and Productions", by R. Baikie M.D., 1857, appendix page liv.

I'm not so sure I would have shared his optimism in finding men with the appropriate brewing skills withinn the ranks:

"A very favorable opportunity will also be offered for bringing the project into practical operation when a regiment is stationed on the Hills, because amongst the men many brewers and malsters by trade will no doubt be found, and by the practical knowledge of these men many difficulties in the details of the process which experimentalists like myself encounter, will be speedily overcome. An inspection of the Tables of temperature given in the appendix to this memoir will at once show that the first part of the process of the manufacture of beer, viz., the conversion of barley into malt, can be carried on here as well as in any part of Great Britain; for although the range of the mercury may appear so great as to endanger the success of the process by causing the germination to proceed too rapidly, this evil can be readily averted by placing the malting floors in buildings with thick stone, or even mud walls, covered with thatched roofs elevated considerably so as to deflect the rays of the sun, and preserve an even and low temperature throughout the day. The temperature found most suitable to malting in England is about 60° to 62°, and this degree of heat could be maintained, without excess, in malting sheds on these Hills throughout at least 9 months in the year."
"The Neilgherries: including an account of their topography, climate, soil and Productions", by R. Baikie M.D., 1857, appendix pages liv - lv.

What sets Captain Ouchterlony apart from most other Indian brewing pioneers is that he also planeed to grow and malt barley close to the brewery. Obviously that would save large amounts of money. And trouble, as it would avoid the need to transport grain up into the hills. I'm not so sure these plans ever came to anything, but it was a good idea.

There was a downside to using locally-grown barley: it was shit quality:

"I must observe, however, that the barley grown here is so poor in quality, so light in the grain, and containing in a given measure so large a proportion of husk in excess of what the same quantity of English barley would produce, that the malt made from it yields in the mash but a very disproportionate quantity of saccharine matter, rendering it necessary to employ raw sugar as an adjunct, to produce a wort of sufficient strength. But this, which might elsewhere be considered an objection on the score of expense, is here of easy remedy, since in the immediate vicinity of the Neilgherries, viz., in Mysore, excellent sugar is manufactured in great abundance, and, at a rate so low, that at this present time, February, 1848, it is being sold in the bazar of Ootacamund at 3 Rs. 12 annas per maund of 25 lbs. weight, being equivalent to 33s. per cwt. Formerly, a prejudice existed against the employment of sugar in the manufacture of beer, but, as it is now seen that the permission to introduce it into breweries in England, which has been recently granted by the legislature, is regarded by the public as a signal boon, it must be self-evident that since this important article is, comparatively speaking, indigenous to the spot, cheap, excellent and abundant, and as the climate is in all respects eminently well adapted for carrying on the process of vinous fermentation, as well as that of malting, beer and porter can, under proper management, be produced on the Neilgherries, in every respect as wholesome and good as that now imported from England, and at a cost less by one-half, even including cartage to the station where it is to be consumed."
"The Neilgherries: including an account of their topography, climate, soil and Productions", by R. Baikie M.D., 1857, appendix page lv.

On the other hand, there was plenty of cheap sugar knocking around to beef up the wort. Swings and roundabouts, I guess.

Now we're getting on to an account of the captain's experiments in brewing:

"I beg leave to observe, that in advancing these remarks, I do not base my expectations and assurances on mere surmise or theoretical views of the subject, but upon the results of actual experience, as I have now brewed several casks of beer without a single failure in the principal parts of the process, viz., malting, fermentation, and fining, while its quality has been much approved of by many persons who have tasted it, amongst whom I may enumerate, Mr. Drury, the senior member of the Board of Revenue; Captain Bell, Secretary to the Board; Major General Kennett, Lord Gilford, General Gibson, with many others. In consequence of the success which attended my early experiments, in conducting which I employed Malt prepared by myself from Hill-barley, with hops and dried yeast imported from England, and my confidence in the success of the scheme if entered into by Government, I addressed a letter to the Commissary General upon the subject, communicating such details as seemed of interest, and offering to carry on further trials on a small scale, at my own expense, if a copper could be supplied to me temporarily on Indent from the commissariat stores. I also sent samples of some beer which I had brewed, but which had an unpleasant taste communicated to it owing to my having employed "gour" or "raw jaggery" in the brewing in place of refined sugar, without taking the precaution of cleansing it from the dirt and gummy matter with which this article is generally contaminated. I was not so fortunate as to receive a reply to this letter (beyond a message through a third party) and this absence of encouragement prevented me from following the matter further, but I may add, that for my own use I continued the manufacture with a success, which convinces me that it is only necessary to extend the scale upon which my operations are carried, and to secure practical knowledge in the more important details of the process, to ensure the most complete realization of my anticipations regarding the vast benefits to be derived by this item in the list of productive resources of the Neilgherries."
"The Neilgherries: including an account of their topography, climate, soil and Productions", by R. Baikie M.D., 1857, appendix page lv - lvi.

I'm impressed that he malted the barley himself. It sounds like quite a tricky process, especially on a small scale. Using raw jaggery seems like a bit of a schoolboy error. The unpleasant taste of the beer it produced could explain the lack of reply from the Commissary General. I wonder what he used as a copper in his experiments, if he so urgently needed one?

Here's a cost breakdown of Ouchterlony's beer:

"The following is an estimate of the cost of ale brewed here, from actual experiment. In England to make a hogshead (66 gallons) of strong ale intended for export to the tropics, the brewers use 6 bushels of malt, and 6 lbs. of hops: now, it has been ascertained, since the introduction of sugar into British breweries, that

180 lbs. of moist sugar are equivalent to 1 quarter, or 8 bushels of malt. If therefore both malt and sugar are employed in equal proportions, the hogshead will require 3 bushels of malt and 72 lbs. of sugar. Considering the Hill-malt to be 100 per cent. inferior to English malt, I made use of 6 bushels of malt and 72 lbs. of sugar.


6 bushels of barley, or 60 kolagums at 12 kolagums per rupee, Rs. 5 0 0
72 lbs. (3 maunds) of sugar, at 4 rupees per maund, „ 12 0 0
7 lbs. of hops, imported from England, ,, 7 0 0
Fuel for kiln drying malt, and boiling, „ 1 4 0
Proportion of labour in steeping barley, turning malt, drawing water, brewing, &c „ 2 0 0
Sundries „ 1 4 0
Cartage to Bangalore (1 cask a load,) „ 9 0 0
Total Rupees 37 8 0

A hogshead should run 60 gallons of clear beer, hence Rs 37.8 = 10 annas per imperial gallon, for the gross cost.

This estimate might be reduced in many of its items, if a Government brewery were established here upon an extended scale. In the first place, all the yeast produced would meet with a ready sale in Ootacamund for the bakeries, which are now dependent on the low country for a supply of toddy, with which bread is fermented all over India, and which, having to travel a considerable distance before it reaches the settlement, is often found to have passed into the stage of acetous fermentation, rendering it either unfit to make bread with, or causing the bread to have an unwholesome and bad taste. A large quantity of yeast would also be daily required for the bake-houses of the European regiment located here. The estimate for hops, at 1 Rupee per pound delivered here, is far too high, as, if sent out by the Home Government in quantity, they could not possibly stand in, at the brewery, at so high a rate; and the cost of labour would be diminished if a large quantity of beer were brewed daily.
"The Neilgherries: including an account of their topography, climate, soil and Productions", by R. Baikie M.D., 1857, appendix pages lvi - lvii.
Interesting, that price per gallon. From earlier in the article we've learned that 2.5 annas = 3.5 d. Which means 10 annas is 14 d. How did that compare to the price of beer in Britain? Remember that 14d. is the cost of brewing. The wholesale price would have been higher. In Britain, brewers made about 7 shillings on a barrel that cost 36 shillings. so about 20%. Add 20% on to 14d. and you get about 17d. Or 1s 5d.

You'd get a pretty fancy beer for that price in Britain:

E. Robins & Son, Hove beers in 1854
beer price per gallon
Family Table Ale 10d
Family Table Ale 1s
Family Table Ale 1s 2d
Pale East India Bitter Ale 1s
Pale East India Bitter Ale 1s 3d
Strong Ale 1s 6d
Strong Ale 2s
Brighton Stout 1s 4d
The Original Brighton and Hove Directory, 1854.

Though not a Burton-brewed IPA:

Allsopp's beers in 1856
beer price per gallon
Pale Ale 1s 10d
Mild Ale 1s 6d
Mild Ale 1s 8d
Mild Ale 1s 10d
Strong Burton Ale 2s 6d
Daily News Feb 1st 1856.

Of course, we don't know what type of beer Captain Ouchterlony brewed. It would be easy, and dangerous, to assume it was IPA. I'd like to think it was Mild Ale. I've no evidence that was the case, but I'd like to believe it. Plenty of other writers use their fantasy as a research tool. Why can't I?

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