Monday, 29 December 2014

American beer styles of the 1930’s - Mild Pilsener

I’m still busy mining the Wahls’ book. And we’re just getting to the mother lode.

Because this is the section that discusses in more detail American beer styles of the day. Which, if you’ve been paying attention, was the late 1930’s.

It starts with what was probably the most popular style of the day: a pale, quite light-bodied Lager, vaguely in the Pilsener style. It looks very much like the forerunner of the industrial Lagers that dominate the American market today.

Mild Pilsener Type Beer
It is not unusual for American brewers to place on the market several varieties of products brewed in the same brewery or brewed in separate manufacturing plants but offered for sale by the same organization. The justification for this practice is that each type is correctly brewed only if each conforms to definite properties.

An extra pale beer with a hop character both bitter and aromatic is properly brewed only as a mild beer. Alcohol has a strong taste when created in any grain mash. The strong disagreeable taste of alcohol so created is due to the presence of such higher alcohols as butyl-alcohol, propyl-alcohol and amyl-alcohol which form about 2% of the total alcohol created.

The delicate fragrance of fresh hops blended with the aroma of boiled hops does not cover the strong alcoholic taste when the percentage of alcohol brewed in exceeds 3.5%. Therefore, to correctly brew this beer, generally called the Bohemian or Pilsener type, the beer should be produced with brewing adjuncts such as rice or refined grits which have a very neutral flavor. The mild flavor possessed by these brewing adjuncts then will not dominate even when a large proportion of them is used.”
"Beer from the Expert's Viewpoint" by Arnold Spencer Wahl and Robert Wahl, 1937, page 169.

When it says that it should be brewed as a mild beer, I think what’s meant is that it’s a beer to be sold relatively young.

The argument for using adjuncts in this type of beer is a strange one: that an all-grain mash produces a strong flavour which can’t be covered up by the modest hopping so the more neutral character of rice or grits. Not sure I totally agree with that. I think it’s really about getting a light-bodied beer, which isn’t so easy in an all-malt brew.

Next some more details about the grist:

“In this mild Pilsener type of beer approximately 30% brewing adjuncts are employed and 70% malt. The malt must be of the type which has been dried at very low temperatures by the maltster. Such a malt will not have a strong caramel taste; it being desirous in this type of beer to have no taste quality excepting that of hops. The delicate nature of hop fragrance to be detected in the finished beer necessitates, besides brewing materials with mild flavor, brewing methods that do not introduce strong flavor qualities. Therefore this type of beer is made with a short boiling period in the kettle.

This mild Pilsener type of beer is made from worts brewed in at original extracts below 12% with the amount of hops employed approximately .6 pounds per barrel if the wort can be removed from the hops in less than one-half hour's time.
"Beer from the Expert's Viewpoint" by Arnold Spencer Wahl and Robert Wahl, 1937, pages 169 - 170.
Here's the Wahls' analysis of a beer of this type:

Reported by Wahl Institute, January 24, 1936
This beer is composed of the following substances, reported in percentages or pounds per hundred:
Alcohol (by weight)  3.55
Real extract (dry substance)  4.85
Carbonic acid 0.59
Water 91.01
The real extract (4.85) is made up of the following substances:
In Percentage In Percentage
of the beer of the extract
Acid (lactic) 0.108 2.23
Acid salts 0.117 2.41
Protein 0.492 10.14
Ash 0.150 3.09
Sugar (reducing) . 1.141 23.53
Dextrins 2.842 58.6
4.85 100
The following are important brewing figures:
Specific gravity of beer 1.013
Original balling of wort 11.95
Apparent extract of beer (balling) 3.3
Real attenuation 7.1
Fermentable sugar in the wort  8.24
Apparent attenuation 8.65
Alcohol (by volume) 4.44
Percent of extract fermented 59.4
Percent of extract unfermented 40.6
Percent of sugars in original wort 69
Percent of non-sugars in original wort 31
pH value 4.5
Total acidity 0.225
Carbonic acid by volumes 3
Amylo dextrins none
Beer from the Expert's Viewpoint by Arnold Spencer Wahl and Robert Wahl, 1937, page 174.

30% adjuncts is a lot compared to British usage, where 10-15% flaked maize was more normal. Plus, of course, sugar, but the total of the two combined wouldn’t usually exceed 25%. Except at William Younger where they used up to 40% grits.

The desire to have no flavour other than malt confirms what I suspected about adjuncts being used to lighten the body and flavour. In a all-malt beer there tends to be an, er, malt flavour.

0.6 lbs per US barrel is a very modest level of hopping for a beer of about 4.5% ABV. As this table of Whitbread beers from the same period demonstrates:

Whitbread Ales in 1937
Beer Style OG FG ABV App. Atten-uation hops lb/US brl
LA Mild 1028.4 1008.5 2.63 70.07% 0.68
X Mild 1035.5 1010.5 3.31 70.42% 0.80
Ex PA Pale Ale 1048.2 1013.5 4.59 71.99% 1.07
IPA IPA 1037.7 1008.5 3.86 77.45% 1.12
PA Pale Ale 1048.8 1014.0 4.60 71.31% 1.12
33 Strong Ale 1061.4 1020.5 5.41 66.61% 1.63
DB Brown Ale 1054.6 1016.5 5.04 69.78% 1.65
Whitbread brewing record held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number LMA/4453/D/01/104.

The beer with a similar gravity, PA, has about double the rate of hopping. Even the puny LA, a watery, cheap Mild, is hopped at a higher rate. No wonder they had to keep the body really light if they wanted Mild Pilsener to taste of hops.

“All these operations above stated result in a beer of extra pale color and when properly hopped the product will have a delicate fragrance which taste quality has proven most popular to American beer consumers. (See analysis on Mild Pilsener Type Beer).”
"Beer from the Expert's Viewpoint" by Arnold Spencer Wahl and Robert Wahl, 1937, page 170.

So Americans preferred a very light, vaguely hoppy beer. Sounds much like today, except without the vague hoppiness.

I had been going to say that it was a shame I had no brewing records for this type of beer to consult. Then I realised that I do. Just one, but it’s better than nowt.

Here you go:

Lager Experimental brew 1941
lbs  %
Malt 147 65.33%
fine grits 67 29.78%
wheat flakes 11 4.89%
total 225
Yakima 3
seedless 1
total 4
barrels wort 4.5
lbs hops/brl 0.89
OG (Balling) 12
FG (Balling) 3.5
ABW 3.7
ABV 4.6
Typed sheet headed United States Brewers' Academy.

Note that the malt percentage, at 65%, is a bit lower than the Wahls specified, while the hopping rate, at 0.89 lbs per barrel, is almost 50% higher. Not sure what that tells us. Interesting to see Yakima hops mentioned.

Next time it’s the Strong Pilsener Type.

1 comment:

MikeS said...

Hi Ron-

You write:

"30% adjuncts is a lot compared to British usage, where 10-15% flaked maize was more normal."

To which I may add that I agree, that's a lot- but one big difference is that American brewers generally were/are using North American "six row" barley malt, rather than European "two row" barley malt.

Six row barley has a significantly higher husk to endosperm ratio and if used in an all malt beer will contribute a disproportionally high level of tannins to the wort: the "strong flavor" you mention.

I've heard anecdotally that this, indeed, is the primary reason that American brewers used such high levels of adjuncts and the lightness and economic benefits were secondary but came to define the style as it developed.

Cheers- Mike