Sunday, 17 November 2013

Eldridge Pope Strong Ales 1964 - 1982

Two World Wars weren't great for the stronger beers in British brewers' repertoires. Most had disappeared by 1950. When gravity restrictions were removed in the early 1950's, some brewers did start to brew stronger beers again, but this was by no means universal. Eldridge Pope were one of the regional brewers with a liking for the strong stuff.

How many British breweries produced not one, but two Barley Wines? I can't think of another example. Perhaps Whitbread with their Final Selection and Gold Label. it depends on how you classify Final Selection. Was it a Strong Ale or a Barley Wine? As I've pointed out before, the distinction between Old Ale, Strong Ale and Barley Wine are pretty arbitrary. And there are plenty of beers that at different times were given a different style classification. I've used a very simple system of deciding what style a beer is: I stick with what the brewer called it.

I was going to say that, lacking any firm evidence of its colour, I was going to bet that Dorset Special Ale was pale in colour. Mostly because it was parti-gyled with IPA and a couple of Bitters. But thankfully there's an analysis of it in the Whitbread Gravity Book. Which gives the colour as 90 EBC. Or dark brown. Presumably it was darkened at racking time with caramel. I haven't had the same luck with XXXX, but, as it was parti-gyled with Mild and Brown Ale, I', going to stick my neck out and say that was dark, too.

Eldridge Pope Strong Ales 1964 - 1982
Date Year 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)
3rd Jan 1964 Dorset Special Ale Strong Ale 1074.8 1024.1 6.71 67.78% 5.10 1.52 1.5 1.5 1.5 60º 77.5º 7
22nd Jan 1964 XXXX Strong Ale 1053.2 1017.2 4.76 67.71% 5.77 1.25 1.5 59º 70.5º 9
6th Jan 1967 Goldie Barley Wine 1085.3 1029.4 7.40 65.58% 5.81 1.95 1.75 1.5 60.25º 77.75º 7
7th Sep 1967 Goldie Barley Wine 1085.3 1029.6 7.37 65.26% 9.86 3.40 2.08 59.5º 81º 8
21st Nov 1967 Hardy Ale Barley Wine 1110.2 1047.1 8.36 57.29% 4.41 3.50 2 58.5º 76º 8
12th Jan 1981 Hardy Ale Barley Wine 1124.7 1055.4 9.16 55.56% 7.57 3.73 1.75 63.5º 85º
17th May 1982 Goldie Barley Wine 1085.3 1027.7 7.62 67.53% 3.90 2.88 1.25 60º 71º 5
Eldridge Pope brewing records.

Starting with brewing techniques, there are a couple of things that jump out. First the boil times for Goldie and Hardy Ale. For beers of such high gravity they are surprisingly short, with the longest just over two hours. I would have expected a longer boil to concentrate the wort. The answer lies in the particular way they were parti-gyled. Three or four worts were produced, but Goldie and Hardy Ale were almost exclusively made up of the high-gravity first wort, with either some of the final weakest wort or water added to hit the required gravity. Combinations of all three or four worts were used in the Bitters that were also in the parti-gyle. Had they been brewing single gyle, the later worts would have required very long boils. But as they were being used in relatively low-gravity beers - the strongest other beer in the parti-gyle was just 1041 - a short boil was enough to hit the gravity.

Also striking are the fermentation temperatures of Goldie and Hardy Ale, which is some examples went over 80º F. That's very warm. The Hardy Ale from 12th January 1981 didn't just hit a peak of 85º. It was over 80º F for half of the fermentation time. I've never seen a 20th-century British beer that was fermented so warm. It looks like asking for trouble, to me. Yet they must have known what they were doing, because they'd been brewing Hardy Ale for 14 years at that point.

The attenuation of Hardy Ale, at around 55%, is pretty poor, but not so surprising for such a high-gravity beer. The rather better attenuation of Goldie meant that there was a much smaller difference in their alcohol content than their gravities. Surprisingly, Goldie and Hardy Ale weren't in the fermenters for much longer than Eldridge Pope's low-gravity beers. They averaged about 7 days fermenting.

Eldridge Pope Strong Ale grists 1964 - 1982
Date Year Beer OG hops pale malt crystal malt lager malt wheat flour invert HX Barb syrup
3rd Jan 1964 Dorset Specil Ale 1074.8 Kent, Worcester and Styrian hops 79.01% 6.16% 5.04% 9.71% 0.07%
22nd Jan 1964 XXXX 1053.2 Kent, Worcester and Sussex hops 74.31% 14.45% 4.82% 2.75% 3.67%
6th Jan 1967 Goldie 1085.3 Kent, Worcester, Californian and Styrian hops 56.78% 9.15% 22.08% 11.99%
7th Sep 1967 Goldie 1085.3 Kent, Worcester, Styrian and Hallertau hops 42.03% 8.70% 37.68% 11.59%
21st Nov 1967 Hardy Ale 1110.2 English and Styrian hops 59.84% 6.30% 22.05% 11.81%
12th Jan 1981 Hardy Ale 1124.7 English and Styrian hops 59.67% 4.97% 26.52% 8.84%
17th May 1982 Goldie 1085.3 English and Styrian hops 84.42% 7.79% 7.79%
Eldridge Pope brewing records.

As you would expect after WW II, most of the hops are English, the majority from Kent and Worcester. The only foreign hops are Styrian and a small quantity of Californian hops. Funnily enough, some Hallertau were used, but they were only put in the second, third and fourth copper, so weren't in Goldie or Hardy Ale, just the Bitters. The hopping rate, while not quite at the crazy Victorian levels, are very high at 3 lbs per barrel and more. For example, there's a Barclay Perkins KKK from 1891 with an OG of 1085 like Goldie which had 5.5 lbs of hops per barrel.

The grists are fascinating, with a large proportion of lager malt and around 10% wheat flour. Presumably the lager malt is there to keep the colour pale. Which begs the question, why were they using all that crystal then? You may be thinking, where's the sugar? That would be a good way to keep the colour down. There was in fact sugar used in all of these brews. But none of it went in the first copper and hence none of it made it into Goldie or Hardy Ale.

Wasn't that a fascinating look at comparatively recent high-gravity brewing?


Gary Gillman said...

Yes it was , for sure.

I remember that Hardy from around 1981. It was very estery, far more so than modern American examples of strong ale I've had. It lent a solvent-like note ("Turkish Delight"), not really very appetizing IMO. I think I mentioned here before that a pub manager downtown gave me the better part of a case because she thought the beer was off. I have to wonder what tradition was being followed here.

Gold Label was a much better drink IMO, not sure what it's like now.


Barm said...

I’ve only ever had Hardy Ale once (sob), but I did think it displayed substantial bitterness, which I really liked, so the high hopping rate does not surprise me. In fact, when I had Stone Old Guardian (from a brewery not known for being stingy with the hops) I thought it quite similar to Hardy Ale.

Too many strong ales are cloying and lack hop bitterness IMHO.

Martyn Cornell said...

As I've remarked on a number of occasions, THA as brewed by EP was pretty undrinkable for at least a year to 18 months after bottling: it really had to have a fair degree of maturity. After that, however ...

Tandleman said...

Two barley wines? How aboiut Greenall's and their Old Glory and er.. the other one. Can't remember its name, but of course one may have been a strong ale.