It’s Easter weekend but I’m, chained to my keyboard, trying to pump out enough posts to cover for next week when I’m in the US. This week, when you’re reading this. That’s what I get for insisting on having a new post every day.
This is getting repetitive, but it’s true. Old Ale is yet another beer designation which is used in an arbitrary way. Stronger ones could easily be called Barley Wine. Weaker ones could be just Strong Ale. There’s no way I can think to define them other than what the brewer called them.
I realise that there are many who prefer the world of beer styles to be neater. But it isn’t. Especially not in the UK, where inconsistencies go back 150 years or more.
At one time I wouldn’t have been so reticent. I’d have said pale colour = Barley Wine or Strong Ale, dark colour = Old Ale. I realised a while ago that wasn’t really true. Though Old Ale is mostly dark, there are also dark Barley Wines. In fact in the 1950’s, as we’ve already seen, most Barley Wines were dark.
And, just to make everything complicated, there’s one beer clearly labelled “Old Ale” that’s pale, M & B Amba Pale Old Ale. It’s a bit awkward with the colour because Whitbread changed system. The older ones are in Lovibond, red and brown cells. The later ones are EBC. I’ve done a sort of rough conversion to EBC and I get an average colour of 82.5 EBC. Which is dark brown. The Gale’s and JW Green examples are significantly paler than the others.
|Old Ale in the 1950's|
|Year||Brewer||Beer||Price per pint (d)||Acidity||OG||FG||ABV||App. Atten-uation||colour|
|1958||Mitchell & Butler||Amba Pale Old Ale||45||0.04||1056.3||1012.4||5.49||77.98%||18|
|1953||Duttons||O.B.J. Old English Ale||32||0.07||1060.9||1013.7||6.15||77.50%||11+40|
|1953||McMullen||Old Time Ale||45||0.06||1062.1||1015.1||6.12||75.68%||16+40|
|1953||Greene King||Suffolk Ale||36||0.05||1062.8||1020.7||5.46||67.04%||4+40|
|1953||John Smith||Magnet Old Ale||39||0.07||1068.5||1024.5||5.70||64.23%||11+40|
|1953||John Smith||Magnet Old Ale||42||0.06||1072.5||1022.9||6.44||68.41%||11+40|
|1953||JW Green||Dragon's Blood Old English Ale||48||0.06||1073.4||1024.5||6.34||66.62%||4+40|
|1953||JW Green||Dragon's Blood||45||0.05||1073.6||1028.1||5.88||61.82%||56|
|1953||Youngs, Crawshay & Youngs||Old John||54||0.06||1075.2||1025.3||6.47||66.36%||10+40|
|1953||Steward & Patteson||Old Ale||48||0.06||1080.3||1011||9.13||86.30%||10+40|
|1959||George Gale||Prize Old Ale||0.07||1089.3||1006.9||10.95||92.27%||56|
|Whitbread Gravity book held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number LMA/4453/D/02/002.|
In terms of strength, diverse is all I can say. Gravities range from 1045º to 1090º and the ABV 4.25% to 11%. Though the vast majority are over 1060º, which was pretty strong for the day.
My guess is that many recipes were just beefed up versions of the brewery’s Dark Mild. That’s certainly what Fullers did. Their Old Harry was parti-gyled (OG 1052º) with Hock (OG 1032º). I’m sure they weren’t the only ones. Which reminds me. I really should put together some recipes to go with this series.
By this time Old Ale didn’t really mean an aged beer. I doubt many of this set were aged. Though there’s one obvious exception: Prize Old Ale. With attenuation of over 90%, looks to me like Brettanomyces had been time for a leisurely meal. That was possibly also the case with Steward & Patteson’s.
That’s me done for now. I think I might go for Brown Ale next time. Or at least one sort of Brown Ale.