Friday, 1 August 2014

Lion Porter quality 1922 - 1923

I'm still rolling around in the smelly slops of Porter that's gone off. Pity me.

I'll remind you that the Lion Brewery was an impressive neo-classical structure on the banks of the Thames in Lambeth. It really was an impressive building, looking more like a country house than industrial premises. The giant lion that stood atop it only added to the effect. Sadly, the lion is all that remains, the site now being home to part of the dismal South Bank complex.

Lion Brewery in 1921

I've just had another thought about why the Porter might be so crap. My guess is that Porter was the traditional destination of all recovered slops. For a couple of reasons: it was dark, it was cheap and poor people drank it. Having all sorts of dubious crap added to it couldn't have helped its quality. Especially when it was sitting around in the cellar too long anyway.

While we're on this topic, it connects with my theory (wild-arse guess, really) of why Mild started getting darker around 1900: publicans needed a dark beer to dump their slops in. Dark Mild starts to appear at the time when draught Porter was disappearing from large parts of the country. That the process of darkening Mild began in the provinces earlier than in London reinforces my theory.

Now it's time to look back at Lion's performance so far. Scoring an average of 0.40 and coming seventh from seventeen, their Mild did reasonably well. The performance of their Burton was slightly worse in terms of position, eighth from fourteen, but better in terms of score, a very decent average of 1. Bitter is where the problem lay. It came joint eleventh of fourteen, averaging zero.

In terms of specs, the beer is towards to the top end in terms of gravity and ABV. Though they are all much of a muchness. The gravity was determined by the retail bracket they chose to drop Porter into. Pre-WW I, Porter and X Ale had been around the same gravity and price. After the war, many London brewers had X Ale as a 7d beer, implying a gravity of around 1043º. Sometimes they also kept the weaker type of Mild which evolved during the war, which was a 5d beer, with a gravity of around 1028º. A few opted for 6d Milds. But Porters were universally 6d beers, with gravities of around 1037º. I'm not sure why they did this. Presumably because people expected Porter to be cheap.

Let's look at how Lion Porter fared:

Lion Porter quality 1922 - 1923
Year Beer FG OG ABV App. Atten-uation Flavour score Price
1922 Porter 1009.5 1034.5 3.24 72.46% good ?? 2 6d
1922 Porter 1008.2 1040.2 4.16 79.60% poor -1 6d
1922 Porter 1009.2 1039.2 3.89 76.53% v poor -3 6d
1923 Porter 1009.8 1038.3 3.70 74.41% fair 1 6d
1923 Porter 1010 1037 3.50 72.97% fair 1 6d
1923 Porter 1010.8 1038.3 3.56 71.80% fair 1 6d
1923 Porter 1009.6 1035.1 3.30 72.65% v fair 2 6d
1923 Porter 1010 1039 3.76 74.36% v fair 2 6d
Average  1009.6 1037.7 3.64 74.35% 0.63
Whitbread Gravity book held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number LMA/4453/D/02/001

The answer is not that badly at all. 75% of the eight samples got a positive score and three got a healthy score of 2. Leaving a good overall average of 0.63. It's not a fantastic score, but much better than most so far.

Time-traveller advice: Lion houses are mostly a reasonable bet and some of the few where I'd advise risking ordering Porter.

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