Wednesday, 9 July 2014

British versus Foreign Beer (part three)

We've now got to the interview with a second brewer, this time from London.

He starts by confirming the small, middle-class market for Lager.

"After this conversation with a gentleman who spoke, as it may have been perceived, in the interests if the Burton trade, I sought an interview with another authority whose position gives him a strong claim to represent the immense brewing industry of London. I asked this gentleman whether he found that London beers were being pushed out, not merely by the introduction of the light lager, but by the popularity of the ales brewed at Burton.

"The consumption of lager beer has not," he replied, "reached in this country, or in London, anything approaching large proportions, as compared with the sale of English-manufactured beer. A certain quantity of German beer is consumed at restaurants and at places frequented by the middle class particularly, but it certainly has not become the ordinary beverage of the working man — even to the smallest extent. No doubt the modern taste for beer, both as regards the palate and the pocket, is in favour of a less heavy article than used to be brewed years ago. If it were possible to introduce the German system of brewing light beers something might be done to foster the trade; but it certainly would not answer the purpose of the English brewer to change his plant to produce a description of beer which is not sufficiently in favour to justify such an outlay of capital. Now, with regard to the other competitor, Burton ales, the consumption has been pretty steady for the past ten years, and possibly within the last year or two there may have been an increase; but the expansion has not been equal to the growth of population, and the consumption per head would, I think. show no rise. A great improvement in the brewing of ale throughout the country has tended to check the development of the Burton trade in the provinces generally."
Isle of Man Times - Tuesday 31 January 1893, page 3.

I've seen various explanations as to why Lager-brewing took so long to really catch on in Britain. This seems as good a one as any: the market wasn't big enough to justify the amount of money needed to re-equip a brewery.

The situation was different in this respect to much of the rest of Europe. Britain was already full of modern, well-equipped breweries. Whereas elsewhere modern kit and brewing methods only arrived with bottom fermentation.

You only need to look at the price charged for Lager compared to British beers to understand why the working classes weren't knocking it back down their local. It was way too expensive. What labourer was going to volunteer to pay double for his pint?

If Lager wasn't adversely affecting London brewers, was Burton-brewed Pale Ale?

"What of London in particular?"

"Here the consumption of Burton ale is very large, but it does not appreciably affect the sale of London ales, beer, and stout in those houses more particularly used by working men. The working man prefers London brewed ale, thinking that he gets meat as well as drink in it, for it is softer, sweeter, and heavier than the Burton brews. But then, again, it is a question of price. Burton beer to taste as full in the mouth as our London beer would have a higher gravity and be much more expensive. Probably an article to satisfy the palate of the working man brewed in Burton could not be supplied at a less price than 42s per barrel, as compared with 32s to 33s for the beer brewed is London."

"There is a cause for that?"

"The water at Burton is very hard and suitable for brewing beer which is intended to be kept, but it is not suitable for drawing out of the material the same amount of strength as that which is used in London. The softer water employed In the metropolis and in Dublin is much more serviceable for the production of the sweeter beer, which, whilst it is not so stable as that of Burton, will nevertheless keep in good condition and perfectly sound long enough for all practical purposes."
Isle of Man Times - Tuesday 31 January 1893, page 3.

And the answer? Not really. The London-brewed Ale they're talking about is Mild Ale. Just making that clear. The difference between this London Mild Ale and Burton Pale Ale is clearly all top do with the finishing gravity. Burton Pale Ales were extremely well attenuated by 19tth-century standards.

These tables illustrate the difference nicely:

Burton Pale Ales
Year Brewer Beer Acidity OG FG ABV App. Atten-uation
1887 Bass Pale Ale 0.117 1064.2 1009.3 7.08 84.75%
1887 Bass Pale Ale 0.12 1063.5 1009.5 7.08 85.04%
1888 Bass Pale Ale 0.189 1069.6 1010.6 7.58 83.82%
1888 Bass Pale Ale 0.19 1069 1011.2 7.58 83.77%
1892 Bass Extra Pale Ale 1059.2 1009.1 6.55 84.62%
1897 Bass Pale Ale 1060.4 1004.1 7.41 93.21%
1897 Bass Pale Ale 1062.8 1005.6 7.52 91.08%
1897 Bass Pale Ale 1058.9 1005.4 7.03 90.83%
Wahl & Henius, pages 823-830
"Chemie der menschlichen Nahrungs- und Genussmittel" by Joseph König, 1889, page 836
Wisconsin Dairy and Food Commission
"Report, returns and statistics of the inland revenues of the Dominion of Canada", By Canada. Dept. of Inland Revenue, 1898, pages 34-49

London Mild Ales
Year Brewer Beer OG FG ABV App. Atten-uation
1891 Barclay Perkins X 1058.0 1015.8 5.58 72.78%
1891 Barclay Perkins X 1057.0 1016.6 5.34 70.84%
1892 Whitbread X 1060.9 1018.0 5.68 70.46%
1893 Whitbread X 1058.2 1015.0 5.71 74.21%
1897 Fullers X 1049.6 1012.2 4.86 75.42%
Whitbread brewing record held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number LMA/4453/D/01/058.
Barclay Perkins brewing record held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number ACC/2305/1/587.
Fullers brewing records

You can see that the finishing gravities of the Mild Ales are much higher, even though their OGs are lower than the Pale Ales.

Finally, had the beer preferences of Londoners changed?

"You have noticed of course, an alteration in the public taste of London?"

"Yes dining the last twenty-five years the tendency has been growing in London to drink ale rather than beer and stout, although there is still a large consumption. of the latter. Thirty or forty years ago most of the large firms in London brewed brown beer only, but at the present time there is no London brewery which does not make ale, and indeed it forms much the largest portion of the manufacture. We ourselves brew five times as much ale as we do beer and stout. By the way, it is a mistake to suppose that porter, as brewed in London, is of a heavy character. It is probably as light as any beer produced in this country except that which is brewed in a few country places. Porter, as you may know, obtained its name about 1730, when a brewer named Harwood succeeded in brewing a malt liquor combining the flavours of ale, beer, and "twopenny," then generally asked for in third parts. The publican drew from one cask, instead of three, and hence it was called "entire," and as the drink was healthy and nourishing and suitable for porters, it took its name from the class which chiefly patronised it. The dark colour is derived ftom the black or burnt malt, from which no saccharine worth mentioning is got, but it is used for the flavouring. There are several qualities of stout, of varying strength, and in those of the highest gravity (Imperial) there is the same amount, of strength as that which is to be found in the strong ales of Burton. Guinness's Irish stout appears to have taken the place to very large extent of London stout, especially bottled, but this observation of mine does not at all apply to the sale of stout in ordinary public-houses, which is affected solely by the increasing preference for ale. Stout is really a more nourishing and wholesome drink than many ales; but one reason why the latter have come into demand is the greater difficulty of detecting cloudiness or want of brilliancy in stout than in ale. Brilliancy in beer is now the essential requisite. In the olden days beer might be drunk as thick as soup; but people now will complain should there be the least 'greyness' in their ale. London and Burton brewers have been affected in the same way, for the country brewers have begun to manufacture stout for themselves, whereas in times past they brewed their own ale, and bought their stout in London."
Isle of Man Times - Tuesday 31 January 1893, page 3.

Pretty simple answer to that question. Porter-drinking went into decline after 1830, a date which doesn't appear to be arbitrary. The Beer Act of that year, which allowed pretty much anyone to open a beer-only pub, greatly boosted the popularity of Ale. Whitbread, Barclay Perkins and Truman all started brewing Ales in the 1830's. Before then they had only tied their pubs for Porter and Stout, allowing publicans to choose where they bought their Ales. Basically the opposite of what country brewers did.

A five to one ratio of Ale to Brown Beer doesn't sound typical of a London Porter brewery. In the brewing year 1892-1893, Whitbread brewed 306,774 barrels of Ale and 150,644 barrels of Porter and Stout*. Or just about exactly two to one.

The stuff about Guinness is interesting. How it had replaced Stout, but not in pubs. I'm not sure how true Guinness's dominance was, even in the bottled trade. London brewers were still churning out large quantities of Stout after WW I.

Just one part left in this series. But you're glad about that.

* Whitbread brewing records held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document numbers LMA/4453/D/01/058 and LMA/4453/D/09/088.

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