Thursday, 24 July 2014

Cannon Brewery Porter quality 1922 - 1923

As we penetrate further into the jungle of 1920's draught beer, we're being swallowed by the darkness.

Which is another way of saying their beers are getting even worse. Cannon, if you remember, was a fairly small company (they had 110 tied houses in 1895, according to Norman Barber*) with a  brewery crammed into the middle of Clerkenwell. They were bought by Taylor Walker in 1930 but surprisingly kept brewing until 1955.

Cannon's scores have been, to be polite, patchy so far. Their Mild Ale came a respectable fifth of seventeen with an average score of 0.54. It wasn't such a happy story for their Burton Ale which came last of fourteen with a poor average score of -0.73. Barclay Perkins Burton was the only other one with a negative average score. It was a similar story for their Pale Ale, which was joint last of fifteen with an average score of -0.9. Again, only two beers had negative average scores, the other being Charrington.

Their Porter is a little weaker than the average, but other wise unspectacular. Let's see how it scored:

Cannon Brewery Porter quality 1922 - 1923
Year Beer FG OG ABV App. Atten-uation Flavour score Price
1922 Porter 1010 1035 3.24 71.43% nasty -3 6d
1922 Porter 1010 1034 3.11 70.59% poor -1 6d
1922 Porter 1010.2 1036.2 3.37 71.82% sour -3 6d
1922 Porter 1010.2 1035.2 3.24 71.02% v poor -3 6d
1923 Porter 1009.8 1032.8 2.98 70.12% nasty -3 6d
1923 Porter 1008 1033.5 3.31 76.12% sour -3 6d
1923 Porter 1009.4 1034.9 3.30 73.07% sour -3 5d
1923 Porter 1009.4 1033.9 3.17 72.27% thin poor -2 6d
1923 Porter 1009 1036 3.50 75.00% v poor going off -2 6d
Average  1009.6 1034.6 3.25 72.38% -2.56
Whitbread Gravity book held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number LMA/4453/D/02/001

That's impressive: not one good score. In fact, "poor" is the best score any sample could muster. An impressive two-thirds of the examples get the worst score of -3.

My guess is that Porter sales were slow and that, combined with the low gravity, left it going off, unloved in the cellar while the punters tucked into Mild or Stout. Something that didn't taste like vinegar. By this time draught Porter was available in few parts of the country. Probably hardly anywhere other than the London area and Ireland.

I wonder what London brewers thought? They must have realised Porter was dying. But I suppose while there was still a market, however small and diminishing, it was worth their while to brew it. That's the joy of parti-gyling: it allows you to brew very small batches economically, as long as there's a more popular beer in the same general style. The continued thirst for Stout in London meant that was the case for Porter. It took the upheaval of WW II for London brewers to finally pull the plug on Porter.

My advice should you find yourself in a Cannon pub? Drink Mild!

Loads more of this to come, as I'm sure you realise.

* "A Century of British Brewers plus" by Norman Barber, 2005, page 83.

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