Sunday, 2 February 2014

Courage Mild Ale quality 1922 - 1925

Here's a brewery that shouldn't need much of an introduction. Courage at their still brewed in their Horselydown Brewery next to Tower Bridge within my drinking memory. It finally closed in 1981.

I must have drunk beer from the brewery sometime. What am I thinking, of course I did. Getting back to when I lived in the East End in 1979. I can remember drinking in a really grotty Courage pub on the Roman Road in Bethnal Green. No cask beer, but it did have Russian Stout. The East End was weird like that back then

I'm not so sure about any of their other beers. According to the 1980 Good Beer Guide, they brewed two cask beers: Best Bitter and Directors Bitter. I think I had both, but they haven't left any lasting impression. I didn't frequent many Courage houses in London because cask beer was rare. When more of their pubs did start stocking it, Horselydown had closed and it was shipped in from Bristol.

Back in the 1920's, Courage brewed an odd selection of beers. They didn't brew any Bitter in London, getting it instead from a brewery they owned in Alton, Hampshire. In Horselydown they brewed Mild, Porter, Stout and Burton. Plus one beer I can't place for certain, XXX. At 1053º, the gravity looks to high for it to be a Mild. It looks closer to a KK. But their KKK was surely their Burton, even though its gravity also looks too high at 1073º. Later in the 1920's they did introduce a Mild, called MC in the brewery, with a gravity that was right for an X Ale, 1043º.

The gravity of Courage X Ale in the Whitbread Gravity book is a bit higher than appears in the brewing book - that was 1032.69. The difference is accounted for by the primings which were added at racking time. The recipe is pretty simple: pale malt, crystal malt, No. 3 invert, flaked maize and caramel added at racking time along with the primings. How are it is to find a Mild of this period that contains any dark grains. All the colour comes from sugar and caramel.

Let's have a look at what condition  you were likely to find Courage X Ale in down the boozer.

Courage Mild Ale quality 1922 - 1925
Year Beer FG OG ABV App. Atten-uation Appearance Flavour Score
1922 X 1007 1033.3 3.47 80.18% bright moderate 1
1922 X 1008 1033.7 3.36 76.85% brilliant v fair 2
1922 X 1009 1034.3 3.31 74.34% bright poor & thin -2
1922 X 1009 1035.3 3.44 75.07% bright fair 1
1922 X 1009 1033.7 3.17 72.70% bright fair 1
1923 X 1006 1033.9 3.57 81.12% brilliant fair 1
1923 X 1007 1034.3 3.57 80.17% bright fair 1
1923 X 1007 1034 3.51 79.41% bright v good 3
1923 X 1007 1034.1 3.57 80.65% bright fair 1
1923 X 1007 1033.2 3.37 78.31% bright fair 1
1923 X 1008 1034.5 3.51 78.26% not quite bright nasty flavour -3
1924 X 1034.8 bright moderate 1
1924 X 1005 1034.9 3.87 85.10% bright fair 1
1924 X 1008 1036.9 3.77 78.59% brilliant burnt flavour -3
1925 X 1007 1035.6 3.72 80.34% brilliant v good 3
1925 LA 1007 1035.5 3.70 80.28% bright sour & without character -3
Average 0.38
Whitbread Gravity book held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number LMA/4453/D/02/001

It's obvious that they didn't have the clarity problems of some of their rivals. Only one example is not completely bright. Pretty good so far.

Only four of the 16 examples get a poor score for flavour, though they are all pretty bad. Balancing that out are a couple of very good ones. I guess you would have to chose your Courage pub wisely. The average of 0.21 I would judge as OK, but not great.

I know where one of the samples came from. The one with an OG of 1034.1 was from Princess of Wales, 88 Grove Street, Deptford, London SE8. It's still standing but no longer a pub.


porchfiddler said...

I've really been enjoying reading your home Brewers guide to historical beers. It's fascinating how the styles have evolved over the years due to wars taxes etc. and each generation evolves with whatever the brewers throw at them within those confines. As for these mild records, it seems that the quality was not that great, are we in a renaissance of cask beer now, are beers kept really well or are their always landlords who will give you any old swill. I recently visited the Melbourne Bros. Brewery in Stamford and was fascinated by their steam engine equipped brewery used by Sam Smiths for their fruit beers. Do you have any info on steam used in brewing or a historical recipe from them. Thanks, for the great book and insight to the past, fabulous! P.s keep the profanity and debunking of the brewing myths.

Willie said...

One of the best pints I've had was a Courage Directors in Woolwich around 1970, it was quite cloudy.

Some better scores on the mild but still some -3's