Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Whitbread in Bottle

Here's something else I found while searching for the title of a book about bottling that I own.

It's an advert, but it did teach me something. Or rather confirm something I've suspected. What FA stood for. No, not Football Association. Nor Fanny Adams.





"To get a good sound beer in bottle we want two things—absolute cleanliness and good material—to begin with. We lay especial stress on the former, for it ia that, simple though it be, which is too often neglected. And if you put ever so good beer in dirty bottles, the result will be the reverse of satisfactory. We have been induced to make these observations & propos of certain specimens of bottled beer submitted to us. The beer is Whitbread's, and it is bottled by Mr. Robert Baker, of 277, Gray's-inn-road, W.C. We have since visited the bottling premises, and can say this, that there cleanliness rules and reigns. And the product is good ; the beer fairly tested is excellent. Six kinds of beer altogether is bottled. Two of these—the extra stout and old ale—are very fine ; but it is of the former we mainly desire to speak. It has often been our desire to prescribe stout for a patient who could digest it, and we had only Guinness's to fall back upon. Now, without derogating for a moment from the admirable qualities of the Dublin product, we can obtain here in London a beer—if you know where to go for it—which, in the estimation of many, is far superior. Such a beer we have frequently desired to obtain in bottle, but never could until we came across this, which is Whitbread's best, duly matured in wood and bottled with all proper precautions when fully ripe. This beer we can fully commend to our readers, though even the inferior quality—ordinary stout—is very much better than that usually obtainable. The price, too, is most moderate : the ordinary stout is sold retail at the rate of threepence per pint ; the extra stout costs a halfpenny more. It is, moreover, to be noted that the bottles are all imperial pints, no 'reputed' measures being used. We should say, ' Give it a trial.' "—Medical Times and Gazette, June 1, 1872.

"We have received samples of several varieties of malt beverage—as pale ale, family ale, and strong ale, London cooper, and extra stout—from Messrs. Whitbread and Co.'s stores, 277, Gray's-inn-road. These beverages, being bottled on their own premises, possess a guarantee of genuineness that has long been desired, and is worthy of recognition. We have so far tested the samples as to be in a position to pronounce an opinion upon them. We believe them to be perfectly genuine, well-brewed, and of excellent quality. They are free from acidity, well-up, and in first-rate condition."—The Lancet, March 16, 1872.

"Dr. Paul, the principal English authority on this subject, says—' I have examined the six samples of bottled beer received from Mr. Baker, of Gray's-inn-road. All these samples were of excellent quality, and the original gravities of the worts from which they were brewed showed that the full proportions of malt had been used in each. The pale ale was remarkable from being almost wholly destitute of acid, and on this account would probably be specially adapted for invalids.' "—British Medical Journal, March 9, 1872.

Prices and full particulars can be obtained at the Stores, 277, Gray's-inn-road (W.C).


"The Era Almanack" by Edward Ledger, 1871, page 112.

I'm slightly confused as to the status of Mr. Baker's bottling stores. The first quote implies that it's an independent operation, the second that the stores belong to Whitbread. I believe the former to be true. It would have been exceptional for a brewery to be bottling itself at this date.

Better than Guinness? Praise, indeed, for Whitbread's Stout. And cheaper, too. Guinness Extra Stout cost 4d an imperial pint*. Not just cheaper. It had a higher gravity, too.

The great thing about Whitbread is that I have details of their beers for pretty much the whole of the 19th century. Here are those from 1871:

Whitbread's Ales in 1871/2
Date Year Beer Style OG FG ABV App. Atten-uation lbs hops/ qtr hops lb/brl
30th Nov 1871 KK Stock Ale 1075.1 1027.1 6.34 63.84% 15.11 5.29
27th Mar 1871 KKK Stock Ale 1085.0 1035.5 6.56 58.31% 13.51 5.97
10th Dec 1872 FA Pale Ale 1051.2 1011.6 5.24 77.30% 10.09 2.44
24th Mar 1871 PA Pale Ale 1063.7 1019.4 5.86 69.57% 17.30 5.57
6th Oct 1871 P Porter 1058.2 1017.7 5.35 69.52% 13.28 3.07
16th Oct 1871 XP S Stout 1070.4 1023.8 6.16 66.14% 17.33 5.88
13th Jul 1871 SS Stout 1077.6 1027.7 6.60 64.29% 13.39 5.04
25th Sep 1871 SSS Stout 1099.7 1041.0 7.77 58.89% 13.81 6.17
19th Jul 1871 X Mild 1061.8 1022.2 5.24 64.13% 8.99 2.61
28th Jul 1871 XL Mild 1067.9 1020.5 6.27 69.80% 9.95 3.26
3rd Apr 1871 XX Mild 1080.3 1032.7 6.30 59.31% 8.53 3.33
13th Mar 1871 XX xpt Mild 1080.6 1033.2 6.27 58.76% 14.08 5.90
Whitbread brewing records held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document numbers LMA/4453/D/01/036, LMA/4453/D/01/037, LMA/4453/D/01/038 and LMA/4453/D/09/065.

I assume that SS = Ordinary Stout and SSS = Extra Stout as XP S was an export beer. Both have very respectable gravities. In 1870 Guinness Extra Stout had an OG of 1078.1**, so about the same as Whitbread SS.

It's a shame not more was said about the Old Ale. Then I might have been able to narrow it down a bit more. But it was definitely either KK or KKK. My guess would be KKK.

Let's see if we can identify some more of Whitbread's bottled range.  The first quote mentions that they bottled six of their beers, but only names Stout, Extra Stout and Old Ale. The second mentions five: Pale Ale, Family Ale, and Strong Ale, London Cooper, and Extra Stout. My guess is that the Strong Ale and Old Ale were one and the same. Was the sixth beer the ordinary Stout? Or was that another name for Cooper? I usually assume that, by this date, what's called Copper is bottled Porter.

FA and PA are clearly Family Ale and Pale Ale. FA was a weaker version of PA, though they weren't parti-gyled. While KK/KKK and SS/SSS were.

Have you noticed what's odd about the list of bottled beers? Whitbread's second best-selling beer, X Ale, is missing. It accounted for almost a third of Whitbread's total output in the year ending July 1871***.

The advert has also taught us that Whitbread matured their bottled beers in wood. I would have assumed that, but it's nice to have it confirmed. In the case of the Stouts, that would probably have been vats. The others were more likely matured in hogsheads.

One last point. It's noteworthy that in the first quote there's surprise expressed at finding a Stout brewed in London that's better than Guinness. Fifty years earlier it would have been the other way around. It's a sign of how even in the 1870's Stout, whose origins lay in London, was being associated with Ireland and specifically Dublin. Quite an impressive achievement for Guinness.

* Source: an advertisement in the Lincolnshire Chronicle of Friday 22nd December 1876, page 1.
** "A dictionary of chemistry and the allied branches of other sciences", Volume 6 by Henry Watts, 1872, page 256
*** Whitbread brewing record held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number LMA/4453/D/09/064.


Jeremy Drew said...

I wish that medical science would revert to this enlightened approach.

Anonymous said...

Been doing some research on a whiskey jug I have with the whitbread logo on it along with its address. With the name Robert Baker on the jug.