Sunday, 31 May 2015

Brewing in the 1950’s – British barley

I’ve an idea. Let’s look at barley for a while rather than hops. Since my visit to John Innes in January, I’ve become much more interested in barley varieties.

Here’s an overview of the types of malting barley grown around the world:

“As far as barley suitable for malting is concerned, it can be stated that all the varieties grown in the British Isles are two-rowed; two-rowed barleys are also grown in Australia, Ouchak and Chile, while six-rowed varieties are grown in California, Australia, Morocco, Smyrna and Chile, as well as in some other countries. Prior to the 1939 war considerable quantities of foreign six-rowed barleys were used by British brewers, mainly from California and Chile, as well as some Chilean two-rowed. Due to the sunnier and more equable climates of these countries as compared with the British climate these barleys were more uniform in quality and this was of distinct advantage to the maltster. Further, the coarser husk of the six-rowed varieties tended to give a better filtration in the mash tun and to prevent those filtration troubles caused by the too-close packing of the undissolved parts of the malt (known to the brewer as grains'), which form the medium through which the solution containing the extractable materials is filtered off. In fact most brewers used from 30% upwards of Californian or other similar foreign malt and many brewers considered that they could not brew satisfactorily without them. However, experience dining and since the war has shown that present-day beers can be satisfactorily brewed from all British malt.”
"Brewing Theory and Practice" by E. J. Jeffery, 1956, page 129.

British brewers had this thing about Californian malt and got most upset when it was unobtainable during the two world wars. But the last one seems to have weaned them off it.

He’s right in saying loads of six-row barley was imported before WW II. That’s very clear from brewing records. Britain at the time produced way too little barley for its own needs. But that all changed during WW II, when there was a massive increase in barley production. As this table shows:

UK barley production and imports 1938 - 1960
Year ended Dec. 31. Acreage. Estimated Product Quarters (400 lbs.). Average Price per Quarter.  Barley. Imports. % homegrown
1938 988,000 18,080,000 10 2 19,876,000 47.63%
1939 1,013,000 17,840,000 8 10 13,740,000 56.49%
1940 1,339,000 22,080,000 18 2 9,146,000 70.71%
1941 1,475,000 22,880,000 24 0 1,277,000 94.71%
1942 1,528,000 28,920,000 45 8 0 100.00%
1943 1,786,000 32,900,000 31 5 0 100.00%
1944 1,973,000 35,040,000 26 5 0 100.00%
1945 2,215,000 42,160,000 24 5 2,037,000 95.39%
1946 2,211,000 39,260,000 24 3 2,195,000 94.71%
1947 2,060,000 32,380,000 24 0 2,257,000 93.48%
1948 2,082,000 40,540,000 26 10 15,618,000 72.19%
1949 2,060,000 42,580,000 25 10 9,223,000 82.20%
1950 1,778,000 34,220,000 27 11 15,289,000 69.12%
1951 1,908,000 38,780,000 38 10 24,270,000 61.51%
1952 2,281,000 46,680,000 32 7 22,641,000 67.34%
1953 2,226,000 50,420,000 30 1 28,702,000 63.72%
1954 2,063,000 44,880,000 25 9 18,602,000 70.70%
1955 2,295,000 58,720,000 26 0 18,554,000 75.99%
1956 2,323,000 56,000,000 25 8 16,215,000 77.55%
1957 2,622,000 59,140,000 23 2 20,168,000 74.57%
1958 2,755,000 63,400,000 22 11 26,504,000 70.52%
1959 3,057,000 80,320,000 22 7 19,939,000 80.11%
1960 3,372,000 84,820,000 21 3 14,083,000 85.76%
Source:
1971 Brewers' Almanack, page 61.


This can’t have all been barley for brewing. Slightly less beer was brewed in 1954 than 1938, while the total amount of barley both home grown and imported had grown significantly, from just under 38 million  quarters to 63.5 million.

It’s clear from this next table that only a small percentage of barley was used in brewing:

Malt use in brewing 1938 - 1959
Year cwt. Malt qtrs. malt bulk barrels
1938 9,378,888 3,126,296 24,339,360
1939 9,884,803 3,294,934 25,691,217
1940 9,857,838 3,285,946 24,925,704
1941 10,988,413 3,662,804 28,170,582
1942 10,918,102 3,639,367 29,584,656
1943 10,287,322 3,429,107 29,811,321
1944 10,621,168 3,540,389 31,380,684
1945 10,435,212 3,478,404 31,990,334
1946 9,976,998 3,325,666 31,066,950
1947 9,454,253 3,151,418 30,103,180
1948 9,499,794 3,166,598 28,813,725
1949 9,087,351 3,029,117 26,744,457
1950 9,094,097 3,031,366 25,339,062
1951 9,282,152 3,094,051 24,870,564
1952 9,312,437 3,104,146 25,285,589
1953 9,085,688 3,028,563 24,789,130
1954 8,629,252 2,876,417 24,153,387
1955 8,635,522 2,878,507 24,324,623
1956 8,630,145 2,876,715 24,187,096
1957 8,872,468 2,957,489 24,839,755
1958 8,642,500 2,880,833 24,129,462
1959 8,885,364 2,961,788 25,023,044
Sources:
1955 Brewers' Almanack, page 62
1971 Brewers' Almanack, page 54


“At the time of revision (1956) increasing quantities of Australian Cape barley (6 rowed) are coming into the country again, but even so, beer in Britain is still brewed mainly from malts made from barleys grown in Britain.”
"Brewing Theory and Practice" by E. J. Jeffery, 1956, page 129. 

You can see in the table that barley imports had risen from zero in the final war years to about their pre-war level by the mid-1950’s. But I don’t see foreign barley mentioned in brewing records.

Taking Whitbread as an example, in 1938 all their Ales contained malt made from Californian barley. About a third of malt in the case of Bitter and IPA, 15% for Mild. While their Porter and Stout had about 5% malt from Ouchak barley from Turkey. In 1954, when barley imports were at pre-war levels, there’s no foreign barley in any of their beers.*

After WW II British beer was being brewed mostly from British ingredients for the first time since the mid-19th century. Until the British hop industry collapsed in the 1980’s.





* Whitbread brewing records held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document numbers LMA/4453/D/01/121, LMA/4453/D/01/121, LMA/4453/D/09/125 and LMA/4453/D/09/133.

3 comments:

Teemu Strengell said...

I would love to hear comments on my related barley arcticle from distillery perspective. http://whiskyscience.blogspot.fi/2015/03/scottish-whisky-mash-bill.html

Ron Pattinson said...

Teemu,

interesting stuff.

marquis said...

It's interesting that older ducuments cite sunnier climes as adding to malting barley quality.Since the Clean Air Act of 1956 the UK's sunshine hours have increased significantly and I wonder how this has affected matters. I don't hear of brewers favouring foreign malt in favour of that produced in the UK these days , in fact it's UK malt which is highly regarded.