Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Bottling in 1901 - other factors affecting flavour (continued)

Still no end in sight to my look - with the help of the Journal of the Institute of Brewing - at bottling at the start of the 20th century.

We're now longer at substances added to beer after the completion of primary fermentation.

"G. Priming, finings, antiseptics.

Each of these may have a more or less marked influence on the flavour of the ale, and I know that they are occasionally accountable for unpleasant flavoured ales.

The distinct flavour of many of the sugars specially recommended for priming is, more especially in the case of stout, a feature of considerable importance.

Finings made in the old-fashioned way with sour beer may and do seriously affect the flavour of ale in which they are used. The various sulphites used as antiseptics may almost invariably be detected by a skilled palate for some days after they are first added, but fortunately their action is only transient in this respect, and it is quite the exception to find a beer properly matured having any appreciable flavour of sulphites.

More powerful antiseptics, such as salicylic acid, are, I am glad to say, condemned by the county authorities, so are but rarely used, for although there is no evidence that such a small amount as two or three grains per gallon has any harmful effect when taken into the system— in fact, in cases of rheumatism it might be distinctly beneficial—there is always the risk of larger amounts being introduced, and if a man must take drugs he prefers to have them administered by a doctor. I may say that I have seen salicylic acid tried in the full dose of half an ounce to the barrel in badly brewed ales, and these beers have not kept any the better, and have developed a flavour infinitely more
objectionable than when not so treated.

The use of sanitas, formalin, and silico-fluorides is I consider subject to serious objections, the first two having decidedly objectionable flavours, and the latter have recently been proved to be poisonous.
Journal of the Federated Institutes of Brewing, Volume 7, Issue 2, March-April 1901, pages 201 - 202.
Primings - a high gravity sugar solution added at racking time to promote fermentation in the cask - were gaining popularity at the end of the 19th century. They helped to bring cask Running Beers into condition quickly.

Letting the primary fermentation run its course then adding more fermentable material was an easier and more reliable way of quickly producing well-conditioned cask beer. Ttrying to guess when there was just enough fermentable material left for secondary conditioning was much trickier and could lead to beer that either wasn't properly carbonated or too lively. The same was also true of bottled beer, if it were left unpasteurisaed and so still contained active yeast.

I'm intrigued  that Stout is specifically singled oput as a type of beer where primings were particularly necessary. If you've been reading this blog for long, you'll know that Guinness had their own particular way of fining. They used high-gravity wort called "heading" instead of a sugar solution. A sort of Reinheitsgebot version of priming. Or an Irish take on kräusening.

Which reminds me that I've some good stuff lined up about American Ale brewing from around this period and the use of kräusening. I should be getting around to it in a few days.

I've always read with horror the descriptions in old brewing textxs of how to dissolve isinglass in sour beer to make finings. Sounds like a great way to infect your beer.

I'm pretty sure salicylic acid was quite commonly used as a preservative. It was one of the things American health authorities looked for when they analysed beer. And they regurlarly detected it. It sounds a pretty useless additive: it could be dangerous to health, adversely affected the flavour of the beer and didn't really help preserve beer. The other preseervatives mentioned sound even scarier.
"H. Alcohol and carbonic acid.

The characteristic effect on the palate produced by these two normal ingredients of all beers is not perhaps what people usually mean by flavour, but they are so closely associated with it, and so markedly influence the power of distinguishing the true flavour, that I think they must be included here; more especially carbonic acid, as it is really the most important factor in producing the difference in flavour of bottled and draught ales.

I would in this connection draw your attention to the difference between the effect on the palate of carbonic acid gas held in true solution in a liquid, as compared with the same amount of gas merely mixed with the liquid, as it is this difference which very materially causes old bottled beer to taste so much nicer than newly bottled ales, even when the latter are highly charged with carbonic acid gas."
Journal of the Federated Institutes of Brewing, Volume 7, Issue 2, March-April 1901, page 202.
The amount of carbonic acid gas - or CO2 as we call it - is certainly the one of the biggest differences between bottled and draught beer. Or perhaps I should say cask beer, as artificially-carbonated keg beer can have CO2 levels similar to bottled beer.

The second paragraph brings up a topic that has puzzled me for a long while: can CO2 be held by beer in different ways. I've often seen it claimed that in a naturally-conditioned beer smaller CO2 bubbles form than in a force-carbonated beer. The counter-argument is that CO2 is just CO2 and there's no difference between that formed naturally in the beer by fermentation and that added externally.

I've been reluctant to take a position on this, because I've heard such conflicting opinions and I don't understand the science personally. But experienced brewers have assured me that there is a difference. Is it possible to mix beer and CO2 without the latter fully dissolving? I've no idea. I'll welcome comments from the more scietifically educated amongst you.

This article is really jam-packed with good information. And we're not finished yet. Next we'll be looking at the effect of kilning temperatures and mash heats on the fermentability of wort.


Anonymous said...

CO2 is just CO2 once it's free but it isn't as simple as that.
Yeast digests sugars and by a complicated process involving intermediate compounds a substance is created which in turn breaks down to yield carbon dioxide.It's entirely feasible that under pressure this breakdown is inhibited (look up le Chatelier's Principle)but once the pressure is released by removing the cork or cap the reaction resumes and CO2 continues to be formed.In this way the bubbles are smaller and continue for a very long time.
It's certainly strongly believed in the sparkling wine industry that the mousse is vastly superior in a bottle where secondary fermentation occurs than if force carbonated.

StringersBeer said...

[draws breath] what these CO2 arguments tend to ignore is that filtered carbonated products are, well, filtered. Whereas BC beers have suspended yeast (and other particulates) in them. I suspect this has more of an effect on bubble formation (by nucleation?) than any magic of the carbonation process. Or invocation of le Chatelier.