What style is this exactly? The style Nazis would struggle to pin it down. Too weak for a Dry Stout, not sweet enough for a Sweet Stout. And definitely not any Stout with American or Imperial in the name. Personally, I’d call it a post-WW II English Stout.
There are quite a few Stouts with similar specs from just after WW II. A gravity in the high 1030’s or low 1040’s, 70-80% apparent attenuation and always only sold in bottled format. But as the 1950’s progressed, many began to evolve into something much sweeter and lower in ABV.
Black Bess was no exception. By 1960 its OG had fallen to 1035º, but it’s FG had risen to 1015º, leaving it a puny 2.5% ABV. Not really very Stout at all. I can only assume that this change was in reaction to drinkers’ expectations. Popular Milk Stouts like Mackeson must have led them to assume English Stout was sweet and weak. Ironically, it was the beginning of the 1950’s that Guinness went in the opposite direction, upping its attenuation for 75% to 85%.
A few of this drier type of English Stout did cling on, for example that from Home Ales in Nottingham. A beer I’m ashamed to say I never tried, though I spent many happy hours in Home Ales pubs in various Midlands towns.
This beer has two base malts, of which two thirds was mild malt, the other third pale malt. It’s common to see this in beers of the 1950’s, especially darker ones. I assume mild malt was chosen for reasons of economy. And in a Stout, how much can you taste the base malt anyway? Unlike Pale Ales, where the malt needs to shine.
There’s no brown malt, just black and crystal. While London brewers kept faith with brown malt until the bitter end, many regional brewers had already ditched it in the 19th century.
I’ll confess to having simplified the sugars used. No.3 invert does appear in the original, but there’s also an array of proprietary sugars: Dutton’s CP, Durax, CWA and the enigmatic Am. The exact composition of that lot is anyone’s guess. A combination of No. 2 and No. 3 probably is the closest approximation you’ll get. Oh, and some caramel, too. Without it you won’t get a dark enough colour.
That’s me done, so over to me . . . . .
|1952 Strong Black Bess Stout|
|mild malt||3.00 lb||46.15%|
|black malt||0.50 lb||7.69%|
|crystal malt 40 L||0.50 lb||7.69%|
|pale malt||0.50 lb||7.69%|
|no. 3 sugar||1.50 lb||23.08%|
|no. 2 sugar||0.50 lb||7.69%|
|Fuggles 90 min||0.75 oz|
|Fuggles 60 min||0.75 oz|
|Mash at||154º F|
|Sparge at||175º F|
|Boil time||90 minutes|
|pitching temp||61º F|
|Yeast||WLP007 Dry English Ale|