Friday, 10 April 2015

Beer, scientifically and socially considered (part two)

We’re back again with that very long article about adulteration and how great Lager is.

Before going through adulterants in detail, the author tells us about non-adulterants: the ingredients which beer is supposed to contain. Just to remind you that very little was legally allowed to be used in beer at the time. Just water, malt, hops, yeast and sugar.

“We shall presently have an opportunity to consider scientifically the character of those precious ingredients, grains of paradise, cocculus indicus, and other substances not mentioned by the candid brewer whose remarks I have just quoted, with which the poor man’s beer is drugged ; but, before doing so, I propose to give a short account of the materials which ought to be used in the production of wholesome beer. Those are, or should be, water, malt (barley), hops, and yeast, and these substances possess not only practical value for the brewer, but many special points of interest for the chemist and the student of botany. There has long been, to the uninitiated, a mystery connected with the water of Burton-on-Trent, the prevalent notion being that it is the river water which possesses some special virtue for brewing purposes. The fact is, however, that it is the spring-water of the district which is well adapted for the manufacture of beer ; and although the effect is not yet clearly understood the cause has long been well known chemists. It arises from the presence in the water of “earthy sulphates and carbonates,” and the absence of organic matter which is fatal to the brewing process. Analysis has shown the Burton water to contain nearly 19 grains of sulphate and 15 grains carbonate of lime to the imperial gallon (besides sulphates of potassa and magnesia) ; and the theory is that these alkalies combine with the acid of the malt extract, and, in the form of insoluble salts, are precipitated and carry down with them the nitrogenous substances which it is desirable to get rid of in the brewing process ; so, for the same reason that the presence of salts of lime and potash in the Burton water is advantageous, that of organic matter would be injurious, and the freedom of the water from the latter is therefore very advantageous to the brewer. Should any of readers desire further information on this subject for practical purposes, they may obtain it in the able article "Beer,” in Dr. Muspratt’s "Dictionary of Chemistry,” or in those the same subject in Ure’s "Dictionary of Arts,” and Watt’s "Dictionary of Chemistry" while Mr. Molyneux’s work, already named, also contains an excellent chapter on the "Waters of Burton,” and the effect upon them of the strata through which they percolate. “
Liverpool Daily Post - Tuesday 05 July 1870, page 6.

Give the author his due, he’s as equally enthusiastic about Burton Pale  Ale as he is about Lager.

Is that really what the minerals in Burton water do, help precipitate out nitrogenous substances? It sounds dead scientific the way he explains it. But I still suspect its bollocks.

“These are the materials which should be employed in the brewing of good ale. Water, free from organic matter and containing sulphate and carbonate of lime; barley, in the form of malt; hops and yeast; and although the reader will have gathered from the preceding short account of these substances, what leading principles are involved in their use and treatment, I propose briefly to recapitulate the changes which occur in the brewing process, before attempting to describe the practical operation. In the malting or germination of barley the albumen in the grain becomes converted into diastase, the property of which is to change the starch (also constituent in the barley) into soluble dextrin of gum and sugar, and, consequently, the malt possesses a sweet taste which is not present in the grain previous to malting. In the mashing process, this sweet substance is washed out of the malt, and with the water employed for the purpose goes to form the wort, or stock of the beer. This "wort” is subsequently boiled with hops, which contain a bitter principle, lupulite, and an essential oil, of which the effect is to impart a bitter aromatic flavour to the beer, at the same time the chief organic constituents of the wort are removed. And finally through the introduction of yeast, a minute plant, the cells of which multiply with incredible rapidity, fermentation is set up, the chemical effect of which is to convert the sugar contained in the “wort” into carbonic acid and alcohol. The brewer takes care, however, to stop the fermentation at a certain stage, so that a portion of the sugar may remain unconverted ; and the chemical change is then completed in the cask or bottle, the carbonic acid being held in solution until the beer is drawn or otherwise exposed to atmospheric action. This gives good beer its brisk sparkling appearance, and puts a head upon it; in no case is the effect so conspicuous in the bottled German beer, and English and Scotch pale ales, which continue to effervesce and sparkle like champagne, long after the liquid is poured into a tumbler.”
Liverpool Daily Post - Tuesday 05 July 1870, page 6.

I’ve only included this paragraph for one reason. I’m sure you already understand the concept behind the fermentation of beer. It was the last sentence that grabbed me. Because you rarely get many descriptions.

The author tells us that British Pale Ales were as highly carbonated as German bottled beer and continued to fizz in the glass. I assume he means bottled Pale Ales. But that’s still an impressive degree of carbonation. Especially as it was produced by natural carbonation. And the bottles were only sealed with corks.

Next time we’ll see what muck went into beer in Lverpool.

1 comment:

Gary Gillman said...

"Is that really what the minerals in Burton water do, help precipitate out nitrogenous substances? It sounds dead scientific the way he explains it. But I still suspect its bollocks".

Is anyone reading resident in the Stafforshire area and familiar with craft breweries or Marston's there? Why not ask one of the brewers? Very simple.