Friday, 14 February 2014

Barclay Perkins Burton Ale quality 1922 - 1924

You must have guessed what's happening. The title has given that away. I've moved on to Burton Ale.

This will take a while so I'd make yourself comfortable. Once again we'll be trundling through the breweries in alphabetic order because, er, I can't think of anything better. And the tables are already in that order. Makes it easier for me to keep track of who I've already done.

We begin with my fave, Barclay Perkins.

They did seem interested in doing up their pubs:

"Public-House Improvements.
At the annual meeting of the Barclay Perkins Brewery Company the chairman stated that the best way to defeat the prohibition and local option movements was by the improvement of the public-house. According to this representative of the liquor trade, the Trade can do as well or better than the Government in improving the public-houses. This deliverance is an admission that there is room for improvement of the public-houses and also that the Trade can do something for the ensuring of improvement. As matter of fact, prohibition and local option movements are making progress because the Trade has not succeeded in improving the public-houses or the conditions of the working of the liquor traffic. The Trade lavishing money on opposition to the local option movement, and this means opposition to freedom to the full majorities of citizens declaring for or against the maintenance of unimproved public-houses in their areas."
Evening Telegraph - Tuesday 29 June 1920, page 2.

So why was their beer often in shit condition? "Local option" was a system where an area would vote for or against having licensed premises. In never became law in England. In Scotland it did, but suppression of pubs only ever happened in a few places.

As you'd expect, Barclay Perkins Burton had a gravity in the 1050's. In contrast to before WW I, when it was 68-70%, the rate of attenuation is quite high, around 80%. Then again, the gravity had been over 1070º in 1914.

The example at 1046.3 looks wrong. My guess would be that it had been watered or slops of another beer added to it. It doesn't sound very appetising.

Barclay Perkins Burton Ale quality 1922 - 1924
Year Beer FG OG ABV App. Atten-uation Appearance Flavour score
1922 KK 1012 1056.2 5.80 79.18% cloudy fair 1
1922 KK 1011 1052.3 5.41 79.35% not bright yeast bitter -1
1922 KK 1013 1052.5 5.20 76.19% not quite bright fair 1
1922 KK 1011 1054.1 5.67 80.41% bright fair 1
1923 KK 1010 1051.9 5.41 79.96% almost bright fair 1
1923 KK 1010 1050 5.21 80.00% brilliant rather bitter -1
1923 KK 1010 1050 5.21 80.00% hazy v poor -2
1923 KK 1011 1051.4 5.21 77.82% not bright full 1
1923 KK 1009 1046.3 4.88 80.99% very thick very sour -3
1924 KK 1012 1055.5 5.64 78.02% brilliant good 2
1924 KK 1010 1056.5 6.02 81.59% bright going off -2
Average  1011 1052.43 5.42 79.41% -0.18
Whitbread Gravity book held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number LMA/4453/D/02/001

They're having problems with clarity again. Only four of eleven are bright. Really poor. Six get positive scores for flavour, but only one is higher than a one. There are three pretty bad ones. I'd take them back.

I'm very disappointed by my heroes. I'm starting to think I won't rush into their pubs when I'm back in 1923. Maybe the brewery tap. The beer would have to be in good nick there. Wouldn't it?


Gary Gillman said...

Brilliant, bright, almost bright, not quite bright, even hazy would today all be very acceptable. The bright line (sorry!) is between those and "thick" and "cloudy". London Murky, if anything like its presumed inspirations here, is cloudy or thick, not any of the other adjectives.

It is understandable that a big and established concern like Whitbread would seek maximum clarity in its beers, like Watney achieved say, hence all the studied sub-sets of clarity for its chemists. But if London Murky was presented to them as the norm for a part of the industry, I think they would have been taken aback. Last night I had a Toronto area beer called Durham ESB on cask. It was lightly hazy but not murky or cloudy as most of the beers others were drinking were. Perhaps Whitbread, with its hyper-attentiveness to the desirability of maximum brightness, would call that "hazy" and people might think today the beer was deficient, but it was very good bitter indeed, not an APA style by the way, but quite English in taste. In a word, anything short of unqualified brightness (and preferably brilliance) was probably to the Whitbread technical team something like the impossibility of being a little pregnant.

The 1920's, and presumably extrapolated, clarity issue therefore, unless a specific table would show a high proportion of terms like cloudy, turbid, muddy or thick, may be more apparent than real.


Rob said...

"rather bitter" is a negative in burton ales?

Gary Gillman said...

Well Rob, yes. Burton Ale was a stored ale but historically not a "beer" (vs. ale), not a pale ale or a porter/stout. Bitterness that was too pronounced would be "out of style", to use a modern term.

If a taster in this group was 65, and I'd think plum assignments like writing this book were reserved to the senior of the firm, he would have remembered Burton Ale in the 1880's - still plenty early to ensure the beer was historically accurate.

The tech team knew their stuff, the formulations are often lapidary, but you can tell.