Saturday, 28 February 2015

Cask beer in the 1950’s – finings

This is such fun. And just wait until we get to the next chapter which deals with handling cask beer in the pub. That’s a real eye-opener.

Let’s get started.

The composition of finings has already been described, also reason why they are used. Their aim is to effect as rapidly as possible the condition of clarity which, provided the beer has been properly brewed, would doubtless have resulted spontaneously in the long run. It remains now to deal with the quantity of finings which should be used, and the best time at which to use it.”
"Brewing Theory and Practice" by E. J. Jeffery, 1956, page 246.

So they are a shortcut to clarity, really. Stock Pale Ales in the 19th century weren’t usually fined but expected to drop crystal clear during the long maturation process. I wish some modern brewers would take note that unfined doesn’t mean that the beer has to look like mud in the glass.

This is an interesting point:

“It is hardly necessary to point out that the addition of finings, besides increasing the sludge and bottoms, takes something out of the beer and decreases the palate-fullness. Wherever possible, especially in the case of stock ales and beers for bottling, the use of finings should be dispensed with. Where necessary, as is always the case with running ales, the least possible quantity should be used which is compatible with satisfactory results. One pint of well-made finings per barrel should be the maximum quantity used for running beers, one and a half pints for pale ales, where the finings are called upon to do more work on account of the large amount of hops present in the cask. Even these quantities may be reduced where the finings are made from the best Saigon leaf. This leaf undoubtedly has very strong fining powers. Curiously enough, these finings are rather deceptive in appearance. They seem to be weak and unduly thin. The appearance is deceptive, however, and a proof that apparent strength as revealed by viscosity is not always reliable.”
"Brewing Theory and Practice" by E. J. Jeffery, 1956, page 247.

So maybe the anti-finings brigade do have a point. Finings thin a beer out. Still doesn’t mean I want to drink a pint of sludge, though.

The large amount of hops in Pale Ales would be the dry hops. Though surely a running Bitter would also be dry hopped. He seems to be assuming that running beers were always Mild, which wasn’t usually dry hopped.

Now the tricky question or when to add finings:

“The question of when most suitably to add finings is a debatable one. At one time opinion was in favour of fining in the houses, but with the quicker deliveries that are now possible with modern transport, the major objection to fining in the brewery is removed. If finings are added just prior to despatch from the brewery, the beer will fine satisfactorily within a few hours of its receipt at the cellar of the house. When fining in the houses was the rule, it was sometimes found that better fining was achieved when both beers and finings had been delivered together and stored in the same cellar not less than 24 hours previous to the beer being fined down. Both beers and finings had become acclimatized to the surrounding temperatures, and the action of the finings was more regular and efficient than was the case when the beers were fined down at the brewery. Few breweries now fine in the houses, however.

The advantage of fining at the brewery lies in the knowledge that the job has been done properly. Also, a certain quantity of beer is saved per cask, which in some breweries means quite a large barrelage per annum. Against this might be placed the poor results which could be obtained due to exposure of the fined beer to many variations in temperature in the course of delivery.”
"Brewing Theory and Practice" by E. J. Jeffery, 1956, page 247.

So fining had first mostly been done in pubs, but had shifted to the brewery. I’m surprised at fining only taking a few hours after delivery. I’d have thought 24 hours was more like it. Though I know that the Nottingham breweries’ beer used to drop bright pretty quickly.

I can understand why brewers wanted to do the fining themselves. They had more control over what went on and removed a possibility of the landlord cocking it up. You’ll have noticed that the author clearly doesn’t trust publicans to handle beer properly.

There were times when fining needed to be done earlier, even before racking:

“Sometimes one hears of fining taking place in the racking back. It is a practice of which we  are not in favour unless the fermentation has been very sluggish, and the emission of yeast unsatisfactory. Of course, if the beer is yeast-bitten, and it is essential to avoid the introduction to the cask of a large amount of undesirable sludge and sediment, part fining in the racking square is not only advisable, but necessary.”
"Brewing Theory and Practice" by E. J. Jeffery, 1956, pages 247 - 248.

Only to be done when the fermentation hadn’t gone well and the beer still contained large amounts of yeast.

Next time it gets really exciting when we learn what went on in the pub.

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