The first top-fermenter we’ll look at is American Stock Ale. This had been around for a while, probably since at least the middle of the 19th century and was derived from English Keeping or Stock Beers. Though the American versions had fared somewhat better than their British counterparts: by the 1930’s very few Stock Beers of any type were being brewed in Britain. The occasional strong Stout or Old Ale was about all that remained and the quantities brewed were tiny.
“American Stock Ale
If an alcoholic content is desired in a brewed product higher than the Muenchener type of beer, the preferred method of brewing is with ale production methods. A brewed product with 6% alcohol by weight has such a large proportion of alcohol that its taste cannot readily be covered even with the flavor derived from malt and it is then necessary to use an entirely different yeast in its production. This is best accomplished by using top fermenting yeast and fermenting at relatively high temperatures. The flavor resulting from this type of fermentation is stronger and readily covers the ordinary alcohol taste.”
"Beer from the Expert's Viewpoint" by Arnold Spencer Wahl and Robert Wahl, 1937, page 172.
I find the first statement an intriguing one. Is it really true that you needed a top-fermenting yeast to cover up the alcohol flavour? I do know that it’s rare to find bottom-fermenting beers above 7.5% ABV (6% ABW). The Wahls do seem to have a thing about the alcohol flavour. And keep using it as an excuse to load up grists with adjuncts.
“The English method of brewing ale requires mashing in at relatively high temperatures (150 degrees F.) but it is preferred in making a stable bottle ale for American consumption to use all the principles of fine brewing such as observance of proper peptonization temperatures and the proper rest for saccharification, it being desirous in brewing ale to have a high percentage of sugar in the wort. Therefore, we prefer to brew American stock ales using regular mashes of the type for brewing a strong Pilsener beer, that is, a substantial percentage of brewing adjuncts and a strong powerful low-dried malt. Such a brew in the kettle will be approximately 13% original extract to which sugars are added to build up the original extract in the final wort to 16% or over. This type of ale should have a proper bitter character requiring approximately .7 pounds hops per barrel and after proper fermentation and storage the ale should be dry hopped considerably to give it the added fragrance of fresh hops. (See analysis on American Stock Ale.)”
"Beer from the Expert's Viewpoint" by Arnold Spencer Wahl and Robert Wahl, 1937, pages 172 - 173.
So they basically just mashed it like any other beer and used the same base of pilsner malt as their Lagers did. And, just like the Lagers, the grist was loaded up with adjuncts. I assume though that the colour was darker than Lagers, so where did the colour come from? There’s no mention of any darker mats. But . . . .
There is a lot of sugar being added in the copper. Raising the OG from 13º to 16º Balling implies that sugar forms about 19% of the grist. If there was the usual 30% unmalted grain, that’s leaving the malt component at barely more than 50%.
The hopping doesn’t seem very high to me. And it’s not much higher than for the other styles, despite having a higher gravity and supposedly having a bitter taste.
Compare the hopping with that of these Barclay Perkins beers:
|Barclay Perkins Strong beers in 1928|
|Beer||Style||OG||FG||OG Plato||ABV||App. Atten-uation||lbs hops/ qtr||hops lb/brl||hops lb/US brl||dry hops (oz / barrel)|
|KK bottling||Strong Ale||1069.4||1021.5||16.96||6.34||69.04%||11.00||2.99||2.15||8.00|
|PA export||Pale Ale||1058.6||1017.5||14.44||5.43||70.12%||9.00||2.15||1.54||4.00|
|Barclay Perkins brewing record held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number ACC/2305/01/614.|
The closest in terms of style and gravity is the KK Bottling, which was Barclay Perkins’ Old Ale. You can see that it’s hopped at three times the rate recommended for an American Stock Ale.
I wonder what quantity of dry hops was added to American Stock Ale? The half pound per barrel KK got is quite a lot. I can’t imagine it was anything like that much, based on the amount of copper hops.
Before I forget: remember that IPAs of the period were Stock Ales. Judging by descriptions of Ballantine India Pale Ale, it was considerably more heavily hopped than the Wahls recommended. But I suppose that beer was a bit of an exception.
Here’s the Stock Ale analysed by the Wahls:
|AMERICAN STOCK ALE|
|Reported by Wahl Institute, April 2, 1936|
|This beer is composed of the following substances, reported in percentages or pounds per hundred:|
|Alcohol (by weight)||6.06|
|Real extract (dry substance)||4.2|
|The real extract (4.2) is made up of the following substances:|
|In Percentage||In Percentage|
|of the beer||of the extract|
|The following are important brewing figures:|
|Specific gravity of beer||1.007|
|Original balling of wort||16.32|
|Apparent extract of beer (balling)||1.65|
|Fermentable sugar in the wort||13.93|
|Alcohol (by volume)||7.58|
|Percent of extract fermented||74.3|
|Percent of extract unfermented||25.7|
|Percent of sugars in original wort||85.3|
|Percent of non-sugars in original wort||14.7|
|Carbonic acid by volumes||3|
|Beer from the Expert's Viewpoint by Arnold Spencer Wahl and Robert Wahl, 1937, page 178.|
I’m struck by the very low finishing gravity. Which gives an apparent attenuation of 90%. You know what it reminds me of? Bottled Bass Pale Ale of the 19th century. That sometimes went up to 95% attenuation. But then again, that was getting help from Brettanomyces.
The loads of sugar added in the copper doubtless aided attenuation. You’ll note that the percentage of sugars in the wort was very high at 85%. The other styles we’ve seen were around 70%
I suppose the low FG would have made such a beer taste more bitter as the hops would have had little to compete with.
I’m slightly surprised that the lactic acid level is about the same as for the other styles. Then again, I doubt these beers underwent a real secondary fermentation where lactic acid would have developed.
Just one more style to go: Half and Half. And no, it’s not what you think.