Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Let's Brew Wednesday - 1955 Flowers Stout

And finally we’re there. With the last in the set of Flowers beers. You can recreate an authentic 1950’s Warwickshire pub experience in the privacy of your own shed. Or your home, if you’re single.

I’ve argued several times that the idea that all English Stouts became sweet after WW I is way wide of the mark. Drier, quite highly-attenuated versions continued to be produced right through until at least the 1970’s. But I won’t deny Sweet Stouts were very popular. Especially in the 1950’s. This is a Stout of that type.

The lactose is a bit of a giveaway that this is a  Sweet Stout. Other than that, the grist has a fairly standard combination of pale, crystal and black malts plus sugar. The wheat malt I assume is for head retention. And, as always, there’s a touch of malt extract. The sugar in the original is something called Palatose, which I guess is some sort of proprietary dark sugar. Given the very dark colour of the finished beer, there must have been something pretty dark added. Perhaps just caramel.

Despite being a Sweet Stout, there’s quite robust hopping. Looks like they were going for the bittersweet of the stronger version of Mackeson. Which makes it more interesting than some Stouts of this type. No doubt it was eventually replaced by Mackeson after Flowers fell into Whitbread's hands. No point in competing with yourself.

The hops are a guess. All I know is that they came from Kent. Fuggles seem a good bet. This sort of Stout wouldn’t usually be a candidate for posher hops like Goldings.

1955 Flowers Stout
pale malt 5.25 lb 59.39%
crystal malt 60 L 0.33 lb 3.73%
No. 3 invert 0.67 lb 7.58%
lactose 1.00 lb 11.31%
wheat malt 0.67 lb 7.58%
black malt 0.67 lb 7.58%
malt extract 0.25 lb 2.83%
Fuggles 90 min 1.00 oz
Fuggles 60 min 1.00 oz
Fuggles 30 min 0.50 oz
OG 1039.8
FG 1014.5
ABV 3.35
Apparent attenuation 63.57%
IBU 35
SRM 75
Mash at 152º F
Sparge at 160º F
Boil time 90 minutes
pitching temp 58º F
Yeast WLP007 Dry English Ale

I’ll have to think of another brewery now. What have I got? Fullers is a possibility. As is Ushers of Trowbridge. Or maybe I’ll just go 19th century.

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

John Smith acquisitions

John Smith was one of what I call the nearly men. Breweries that expanded rapidly in the 1950’s and 1960’s, but didn’t quite make the Big Six.

Though in a way they did. Because these large brewing groups became important chunks of the eventual winners. When Courage, Barclay & Simonds took them over in 1970, they brought 1,800 pubs with them.  That was around a third of the 6,000 tied houses the whole Courage group owner after the merger.

I have mixed feelings about John Smith. They closed one of the Newark breweries (Warwick & Richardson) and one of my all-time favourites (Barnsley). Then they phased out cask beer in the mid-1970’s. When I lived in a town where they owned 90% of the pubs. I say John Smith owned them and not Courage because they didn’t sell any products from the latter’s breweries.  I virtually never went in any of their Leeds pubs when I lived there. Because they didn’t do cask.

John Smith had quite a limited geographical spread. If you look at the breweries they bought, all are North of the Trent, except Warwick & Richardson which was on the river’s southern bank. It looks from their acquisitions that they traded in the North of the Midlands, Yorkshire, Lancashire and the Northeast.

I can see why Courage bought them. Until then, Courage was pretty much exclusively southern, with the exception of the pubs that came along with Hole’s of Newark. How ironic is that? The only place they overlapped was Newark, where I grew up. Otherwise, the two tied estates were complementary: Courage in the South, John Smith in the North. In my experience, the two parts of the company operated pretty separately all through the 1970’s.

I’ll finish with a nice table.

John Smith acquisitions
year brewery address tied houses closed
1919 Fernandes & Co Wakefield 42 1919
1925 Warwick & Co Boroughbridge  42
1926 Bentley’s Milnshaw Brewery Co Accrington  12
1934 Haughton Road Brewery Co Darlington 41
1941 H Shaw Dunkinfield 60
1958 Whitworth, Son & Nephew Ltd Wath upon Derne 165
1961 Barnsley Brewery Co Ltd Barnsley 250 1976
1961 Yates Castle Brewery Ltd Manchester 175 pubs in 1896
1962 Warwick & Richardsons Ltd Newark 1966
"The Brewing Industry a Guide to Historical Records” by Lesley Richmond and Alison Turton, 1990, page 303.
A Century of British Breweries plus by Norman Barber, 2005, pages 29, 66, 94. 160, 163 and 172.

I think I’ll continue the Courage theme with a look at the growth of Simonds.

Monday, 28 September 2015

Dodgy 1950’s beer

I’m glad that Avis occasionally mentions the stuff the breweries produced: beer. Mostly when there were problems with it.

This is talking about the Tadcaster brewery. I think.

"There were frequent occurrences of cloudy beer, for which the brewer, Gerald Fielding, could not account. Being on friendly terms with Ind Coope & Allsopp of Burton, it was arranged that their laboratory would provide an inspection and monitoring service, which continued for several years from 1955. The problem was infection in the brewery and in the casks, caused in part by ignorance and in part by slackness in observing strict cleaning procedures. This led Hammond's to institute courses for staff and licensees in beer cellar management and hygiene, and the writing and issue of modern instruction manuals; it was the first step along the road of initial instruction and continuing education, so familiar today, but pioneering then. Out of this crisis developed the licensee training courses for new licensees entering the trade, replacing the traditional method of spending a few weeks working for an experienced publican in the hope of picking up the rudiments of trade expertise. There also was a renewal of the traditional brewing wisdom that cleanliness was not next to godliness, it was primary. The deadly phrase "wild yeast", a frequent entry in the company's official report books, disappeared overnight, and never resurfaced. Research began on other ways of packaging, handling and dispensing beer, lessening the role of the licensee, or other customer, in the handling of the product. There was a price to be paid for the improvement however - the loss of character in the beer, despite the protestations put out by the brewery companies."
"The Brewing Industry 1950 - 1990", by Anthony Avis, 1997, page 34.

I’m not quite sure I know what he means by “the loss of character”. Was wild yeast contributing to the flavour of the beer? I can’t see how improved hygiene would reduce character in any other way.

Bentley’s Old Brewery, on the other hand, had no problem with infected or bad beer:

"The beer from BOB was consistently good, and was economically produced. The quality was not the result of superior skills in brewing techniques and practices, although good housekeeping and cleanliness were pursued as standard; it was quick turnover through large barrelage outlets which was the secret. Stock control in the brewery and the public houses was very good; the brewer and the cellar inspectors could carry out immediate remedial action on their visits to correct any problems. Beer returns in the 1950s averaged 0.05% of sales; if the figure reached 0.75% in hot weather, alarm reached crisis level. The average time a cask was in trade was twelve days; briefly; quick delivery and quick sale ensured good beer."
"The Brewing Industry 1950 - 1990", by Anthony Avis, 1997, page 42.

That seems like a very low level of returns. Especially as the majority of the bulk beer would have been cask. Cellar inspectors? Was that common, to have people inspected the tied estate’s cellars? Sounds like good practice. At larger concerns, brewers were deeply frustrated by their lack of control over their beer once it left the brewery.  At Whitbread, for example, the pubs were run by an organisation independent of the brewing division.

To return to Home Ales, one of the reasons their beer was usually in good nick was that they had lots of pubs with a big trade. Just two draught beers, Bitter and Mild, that sold quickly. Wonder if they inspected cellars, too?

More good beer next.

Sunday, 27 September 2015

Schloßbrauerei Dessow beers

Another in my random, occasional series of DDR brewery beers.  This time, it’s Schloßbrauerei Dessow.

I never drank any of their beers, I must admit.  Dessow is a village about 35 km northwest of Berlin. A tiny place to have had a fairly substantial brewery. In the early 2000’s it was brewing around 200,000 hl a year. Sadly, owner Oettinger closed it down in 2007.

In their final days, the range was quite different from in DDR times, with only Pils and Bock surviving. As I’ve said before, Schwarzbier is much more widely brewed now than it used to be. Their old set was dead typical: Malzbier, Helles, Deutsches Pilsner, Pilsator and Bock.

Schloßbrauerei Dessow beers around 2001
Beer  Style ABV OG Plato  bitterness (EBU)
Märkisches Pils  Pils  4.90% 11.5º  30
Kyritzer Mord und Totschlag  Schwarzbier 5.30%   
Märkisches Export  Export 5.40% 12.3º 
Märkisches Urbräu  Spezial 5.60% 12º  24
Märkischer Bock  Bock 6.80% 16.3º  18
Can't remember.

That’s it. A short cheaty post.

Saturday, 26 September 2015

Bentley’s Old Brewery

Remember me telling you about absentee owners? I’ve an example of how they could paralyse a business and just leave it ticking over. It’s the case of one of the breweries Hammonds purchased in the 1950’s.

Bentley’s Old Brewery in Rotherham was bought by Timothy Bentley, of Bentley & Shaw of Huddersfield, in the 1820’s. (Bentley & Shaw itself was bought by Hammonds in 1944.) He sent his son Robert to run it. On his death it was passed on to his son, Robert John Bentley. But that’s where the family succession ended. When Robert John Bentley went crazy in the 1870’s, he had no obvious successor.

"RJB [Robert John Bentley] had four sons and three daughters. Of the sons, Netherwood and Philip worked as brewers in the brewery and lived at West House; Philip remained single and predeceased his father, and Netherwood continued living there until his death in 1893. He remained single and died in the Angel Hotel, Grantham, from tuberculosis at the age of thirty six; he had fallen out with his father and had been struck out of his will. It was generally accepted in the family that he had displayed no capacity to take over father's widespread business interests; he had been accustomed to idleness, alcohol and profitless amusement; and on the insanity of their father not one son was appointed his trustee. Of the daughters, one was mentally unstable, and the other two married as now mentioned. RJB in his will appointed Arthur Hirst and his sons in law as his trustees. One daughter had married William Needham Longden Champion of Cantley Hall, Doncaster; and another Leonard Foster of Thorne. Arthur's son, Wilfred, in addition to assisting his father in the brewery, had established his own wines and spirits firm in Rotherham, and after his father's death in 1900 he sold it and gave up management of the brewery. He moved south to Middlesex. Bentley's brewery was thereafter looked after by a general manager appointed by the trustees, and the financial affairs by a firm of Sheffield solicitors."
"The Brewing Industry 1950 - 1990", by Anthony Avis, 1997, page 40.

Arthur Hirst was the brother of Robert John Bentley’s wife, so a kind of family. But as his son wasn’t interested, that’s when direct family involvement in the brewery ended. The business was run by a manager and at first things went well:

"The brewery firm continued to expand under the control of its general manager, John T Batkin {JTB}, until after the First World War. From the 1930s it lapsed into stagnation, being restricted in financial resources and lacking direction. The handful of trust beneficiaries lived in the south of England, their only interest being in the income which could be extracted; and those members of the family who became directors after its incorporation visited the brewery just once a year, as an act of grace. The board was made up of Major G B Foster as chairman; his son Michael; his nephew Lt. Col. N P Foster; his cousin Mrs D M Follett; another cousin's husband Mr E H L Rowcliffe; and Brigadier E L G Griffiths Williams - a relative too. They all lived in distant parts of the country, other than the Fosters. A limited company was formed in 1949 to take over the business, although the business assets remained in the ownership of the trustees of Robert John Bentley. This legal structure made administration very complicated, and was done for the sole purpose of avoiding payment of stamp duty on the transfer of assets; the expectation among the beneficiaries was that the company would continue for at least another thirty years and enable the company to offer a possessory title; in fact, it lasted just a further seven years as an independent company. A further aggravation to proper administration worth mentioning is that RJB's will trusts deliberately restricted the income which the brewery could retain, insisting that most of it should be distributed to the beneficiaries."
"The Brewing Industry 1950 - 1990", by Anthony Avis, 1997, page 40.

It doesn’t sound like a construction destined for long-term success. By paying out most of the profits, there was always going to be little left to reinvest in the business. It stagnated, with no ambition or purpose in its management.

"From being a brewery business which had regularly built new high trading public houses in strategic locations and had its finger on the pulse of local affairs, it opened just one at Parkgate in the last thirty years of its existence. There was no point in the general manager asking for the resources to increase the business; his role was just to continue the status quo. In its last years its output was some six hundred barrels weekly; its tied houses numbered fifty five, painted in the company colours of brown and white - one coat only, varnished for longevity, if not brightness. It had a limited free trade, but the houses were good outlets, and the beer undoubtedly popular. The manager did his best, but as stated, was kept short of capital to build new outlets, to improve existing houses, and to modernise the brewery; he lost heart."
"The Brewing Industry 1950 - 1990", by Anthony Avis, 1997, page 41.

With an output of around 30,000 barrels, it wasn’t a huge brewery. Just one of hundreds of modest, local breweries with a few dozen pubs. It’s this class of brewery that was disappearing fast in the 1950’s, as owning families lost interest and cashed in. It was only a matter of time before that happened to Bentley’s Old Brewery.

When several trust beneficiaries died and estate duty needed to be paid, the only solution was to sell up. The remaining beneficiaries approached Hammonds and the deal was done.

Friday, 25 September 2015

Flowers Breweries Ltd. (part three)

A little background on the Flowers J.W Green merger in the 1950’s.

Why did Flowers sell up? Their brand new brewhouse seems to have been the cause. It’s funny how often you see the same stories at different times and in different places. This story immediately reminded me of the sad end of Home Ales.

Flowers built a new brewhouse in the early 1950’s, but had problems with the quality of their flagship Original Bitter after it was brought online. As the beer had a good reputation over quite a large geographical area, the company was understandably worried. Unable to sort the problem out themselves, they merged with J. W. Green. Who quickly worked out that it was a problem with the drains.

I drank a lot of Home Ales in my youth. Their beer was incredibly consistent. You virtually never had a bad pint. The company was well run, profitable and its beer cheap. Then they built a new brew house. And their beer turned to shit. It was always infected to some degree. Unable to solve the problem, they sold up to Scottish & Newcastle. Without the brew house trouble, they might still be around today.

Flowers were one of the early proponents of keg beer, specifically a keg version of Original Bitter. But their reasons for pushing it weren’t, perhaps, what you might expect:

“Whilst Flowers were not the first to brew keg beer, Watneys already having Red Barrel available, they were the first to promote it on a large scale. Contrary to popular belief keg was not produced as a premium bitter to boost profit margins on draught ales, although it is true that these were always lower than those on bottled beers. It was originally brewed, at least in Flowers' case, to provide a means of introducing Flowers' bitter to small free trade customers. These outlets might be either small in themselves or be in an area where the main demand was for some other, usually local brew, and there was only a small call for Flowers,  insufficient for keeping in good condition beers in traditional casks until they were empty. Keg was not at this time ever intended, and I stress this point, for sale in the tied trade where correct cellar management should have done this job properly. I recall that the first ever Flowers Keg Bitter dispensing unit, outside the brewery, was installed by the writer in the Napier Club at Luton airfield. (Napier aero-engines, for Luton was not then an airport). I do not remember the date but would guess 1955/6.”
Brewery History Number 70, December 1992, page 32.

It wasn’t about pushing out cask beer, but finding new outlets unsuitable for cask. That passage was written by Ivar O'Brien, who worked for J.W. Green and Flowers in the 1950’s. It seems it was the pull of customer demand rather than the push of the brewers that furthered the cause of keg:

“All the plant for brewing, racking and dispensing keg beer, plus the kegs themselves, were expensive and only justified if new draught sales were gained, usually, it was hoped, to be followed by orders for bottled beers. From our customers' point of view, here was a beer with a good profit margin which was easy to look after and dispense in small free houses and clubs. In spite of the future views of CAMRA supporters, Flowers Keg Bitter proved immediately popular and gained a constantly widening circle of consumers. In the course of lime individuals who chose keg bitter in their Working Mens' Clubs, Football, Conservative or other, came to ask for it also in their locals. For several years the brewery resisted this demand except in a few smaller pubs that were unable to keep small quantities of bitter in good condition. Eventually, however, increasing production reduced overhead costs and by 1960 keg bitter was on sale in many tied houses in addition or as an alternative to Flowers Original draught bitter.”
Brewery History Number 70, December 1992, page 32.

That’s a slightly different view from the one usually expressed by CAMRA, that it was evil breweries trying to foist an inferior and more expensive product on drinkers.

Though keg was more expensive. According to this table, around 15% dearer than the cask version of the same beer:

Flowers draught Bitter and Keg Bitter 1959 - 1961
Year Beer Price per pint d Acidity OG FG ABV App. Atten-uation colour Index of Hop Bitter
1959 Keg Bitter 22 0.04 1039 1010.7 3.54 72.56% 23
1960 Bitter 19 0.04 1040.6 1008.8 3.97 78.33% 24
1960 Keg Bitter 22 1039.1 1012.8 3.40 67.26% 33
1961 Keg 24 0.04 1039.3 1012.5 3.35 68.19% 27
Which Beer Report, 1960, pages 171 - 173.
Whitbread Gravity book held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number LMA/4453/D/02/002.

I’m pretty sure they’re the same beer. The one that appears as OB in their brewing records. Though it seems to have dropped in strength, because in the 1955 log its gravity was 1043º.

Lots more Flowers fun to come.

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Bottled IPA in 1960

We’re continuing our leisurely amble through the dales of 1960’s beer analyses. This time pausing to look at the noble vista of IPA before us.

The Which? report didn’t have a category of IPA. That’s my interpretation. But there’s no way I’m going to leave two classic IPAs, White Shield and Red Triangle, lumped with the Pale Ales. Greene King’s IPA they classified as a Light Ale. I can see the sense in that, but have still moved it in with the other IPAs. For no real reason, other than to make a slightly bigger table.

One thing really surprised me about the Which? analysis. That there’s such a difference in bitterness levels between White Shield and Red Triangle. You can see that the gravities are very similar.  I know that ten years later, they were exactly the same beer, just differently packaged. If that bitterness number is to be believed that couldn’t have been true in 1960.

It’s a pity the Whitbread Gravity Book has no White Shield entry for 1960. There is one for 1961, and it’s almost identical to the Which? beer.

Not the very high rate of attenuation of the Bass/Worthington beers. So high that they have a lower FG than the far weaker Greene King beer. Except for Blue Triangle. There’s a good reason for that. White Shield and Red Triangle were bottle conditioned while Blue Triangle was brewery conditioned. I assume the bottle conditioned beers had a longer period of maturation. The high attenuation makes Bass Red Triangle the cheapest per in terms of price per 1% ABV. In fact, it’s as cheap as some draught Bitters in those terms.

Courage Alton IPA looks to be along similar lines to the Bass examples, with a decent enough gravity of 1050º. Brickwoods Sunshine IPA is a little weaker, and looks closer to a bottled Pale Ale. The draught IPAs are a good bit weaker, though, unsurprisingly, are better value for money.

Here are the tables in all their glory:

Bottled IPA in 1960
Brewer Beer Price per pint d OG FG ABV App. Atten-uation Index of Hop Bitter price per % ABV
Worthington White Shield 32 1053.8 1007.2 6.10 86.62% 32 5.25
Bass Bass Red Triangle 32 1054.4 1004.1 6.60 92.46% 55 4.85
Greene King India Pale Ale 20 1033.2 1008.5 3.20 74.40% 24 6.25
28 1047.1 1007 5.30 84.49% 37 5.45
Which Beer Report, 1960, pages 171 - 173.

Bottled IPA in 1960
Brewer Beer Price per pint d Acidity OG FG ABV App. Atten-uation colour price per % ABV
Bass Pale Ale 34 0.04 1054.2 1008.3 6.00 84.69% 21 5.67
Bass Blue Triangle 0.04 1061.1 1012.7 6.32 79.21% 17
Brickwoods Sunshine IPA 28 0.04 1044.7 1011.4 4.16 74.50% 25 6.73
Courage, Barclay Alton IPA 32 0.05 1050 1011.6 4.99 76.80% 21 6.41
Greene King India Pale Ale 20 0.02 1033 1007.7 3.16 76.67% 25 6.32
Average 26.7 0.04 1048.6 1010.3 4.93 78.37% 21.8 6.28
Draught IPA
Mann Crossman IPA 19 0.06 1041.2 1009.9 4.06 75.97% 23 4.68
Simonds IPA 14 0.04 1035.4 1010.2 3.15 71.19% 18 4.44
Average 16.5 0.05 1038.3 1010.1 3.61 73.58% 20.5 4.56
Whitbread Gravity book held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number LMA/4453/D/02/002.

It really will be Light Ale next. I promise.

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Let's Brew Wednesday - 1955 Flowers SA

Nearly done. But just think, you’ll be able to turn your pub shed into a mid-1950’s Flowers tied house. With the full, authentic beer range.

I think I can work out what SA stands for in this case: Strong Ale. I know. I’m a genius. Actually, I’m an idiot. Because the beer is really Shakespeare Ale. At least I’ve seen labels for that. It’s probably deliberate, having the initials SA.

Strong beers started to make a comeback in the early 1950’s, after years of restrictions during and immediately after WW II. Gravities in the 1070’s were quite popular. Across the North you see strong, bottled Old Ales with that sort of gravity. And in London Barclay Perkins brought back KKKK as a winter special on draught.

Sometimes, as with Fullers OBE, these beers were simply stronger versions of Dark Mild. Not in the case of Flowers. The grist of SA is quite different to Flowers Brown Ale (BX) and XXX Mild. Both of those contain lactose. It’s also the only beer, other than BX, to contain any crystal malt. I keep banging on about this: crystal malt wasn’t that common an ingredient in the past.

Not only was SA the strongest beer in Flowers portfolio, it was also by far the most heavily hopped, more than twice as much as the next. Even taking the gravity into account, it’s the most heavily hopped: almost 9 lbs per quarter to IPA’s 7.5 lbs. Though as the attenuation is fairly low, there will be plenty of malt and body to balance out the hops.

It should be dark brown in colour. You’ll need to adjust with caramel to get the right shade as with the grist given it will come out way too pale.

Recipe time, I think.

1955 Flowers SA
pale malt 12.15 lb 77.64%
crystal malt 60 L 0.75 lb 4.79%
No. 3 invert 0.75 lb 4.79%
malt extract 2.00 lb 12.78%
Fuggles 90 min 2.00 oz
Goldings 60 min 2.00 oz
Goldings 30 min 2.00 oz
OG 1075.4
FG 1027
ABV 6.40
Apparent attenuation 64.19%
IBU 68
SRM 21
Mash at 145º F
Sparge at 160º F
Boil time 90 minutes
pitching temp 59º F
Yeast WLP007 Dry English Ale

Just the Stout and we’re done.

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

The directors of Hammonds

I’m continuing my Hammonds theme with more about the board of directors. Who seem to have been an obliging, if passive, bunch.

This might explain why:

"The board of directors was composed almost entirely of country gentlemen who had sold their breweries to Hammonds and had been rewarded with seats on the board, a nice annual fee, a rising dividend, and surrogate glory. In return they gave unquestioning and, it must be said, cheerful support to his endeavours. The heads of departments - accounts, property, transport, wines and spirits, the head brewers, and the tied estate area managers were sent for, questioned, and given their orders. The monthly board meetings were astutely stage managed, the best port drunk, egos massaged, ignorance smoothed over, and all went well, with rising profits and rising share prices."
"The Brewing Industry 1950 - 1990", by Anthony Avis, 1997, page 10.

I believe this was a common phenomenon at the time: owners who were happy enough to let someone else get on with the dirty business of running the brewery while they earned money for doing nothing. Wish I could get a job like that.

"Until the middle 1950s, whilst Bentley & Shaw was still considered an equal partner of Hammonds - believe it or not, even the company secretaryship was held jointly by Rex Tinker and Bob Tullie, who had their offices in Lockwood and Bradford and were barely on speaking terms - its share of the joint board meetings was held at six in the evening, a tradition going back a century or more. It was a civilised way of conducting business, when the owners of that business were drawn from one family and the family house stood in the brewery estate; and so the custom continued. After all, it did not interfere with the country pursuits of the directors in daylight hours.”
"The Brewing Industry 1950 - 1990", by Anthony Avis, 1997, pages 21 - 22.

Nice to see that the occasional board meeting didn’t keep the directors from doing whatever they did in the countryside. Presumably kill animals in a variety of novel and impractical ways.

Drones is the word that comes to mind:

“The business of the board meeting over, and the outcome of the monthly sweep on who could most neatly affix the company seal to official documents, the directors retired to the sitting room for a pre dinner drink, whilst Miss Roberts laid out the dining room for dinner. Needless to say, a good dinner was enjoyed and by ten o'clock they were ready for bed. There were two bedrooms in the house, occupied by Lance Dumaresq and Neville Shaw who had travelled farthest to attend, and who were in any case family. The others lived in Yorkshire somewhere and went home; they all had their own private chauffeurs - a common enough situation among the landed gentry then. The next day the two residents would be taken to the railway station and they would catch their trains back to London and Shrewsbury. They were not gluttons, they were not filled with any overweening sense of their own importance, they were not intent upon their perquisites and privileges; what they enjoyed was what was usual to their way of life and their pockets. They understood good plain English cooking, fine wines, vintage port, Cuban cigars. Seeing them in action at such occasions, made one realise it all came naturally, and their style made it informal and relaxed; something which is lost in many present and similar events attended by captains of industry, newly come to affluence and power."
"The Brewing Industry 1950 - 1990", by Anthony Avis, 1997, pages 21 - 22.

You could argue that this type of people were a factor in the decline of British industry. No real interest in producing anything, just having a pleasant, comfortable lifestyle.

But is the more professional director really such a great improvement? The author reckons not:

"They sat in the boardroom by right of family and ownership; none in the company questioned that right or envied that position. There were no promotions from the ranks of employees to the boardroom, and it was not expected. An employee rose to a senior position in the company, and was respected and had great influence, but he was different, not better not worse, just different. This personalised semi feudal social structure changed when the owners sold out, and the company became the property of a big corporate organisation, in turn owned by a multiplicity of even bigger corporations, and the directors were just employees elevated by direction to that office; they had the status, often the greed, rarely the style. In today's corporate organisations, with their depersonalised ownership, cohesion and personal loyalty give way to a different set of values. What often happens is that an employee director board will be tempted to erect its own barriers against the rest of those who work for the company, create their own privileges, vote their own remuneration, award their own perquisites. Japanese business corporations have gone some way towards meeting the hierarchical problems posed by modern company structures; let us hope the same will apply in the Western world."
"The Brewing Industry 1950 - 1990", by Anthony Avis, 1997, page 22.

A passive capitalist bastard or an active one – which is worse? I’d probably prefer to avoid the corporate type. At least the drones would have a decent drop of port to drink.

Monday, 21 September 2015

What I made yesterday

With the help of Andrew.

Coronation Beers (part five)

Something else has popped up in the newspaper archive. A few things, in fact. It would be a shame to let them go to waste.

First, about as bland an uninformative an article as you can imagine.

Coronation beer will be 'stronger'
MESSRS. Greene, King and Sons. Ltd., the well-known local firm of brewers, are planning to put Coronation Ale on the market for the Coronation next year.

Although the gravity and price have not yet been decided, an official of the firm said that it "will be stronger than the usual and will good value for the money."

Messrs. Greene. King and Sons brewed a Coronation Ale in 1937, and it proved to be extremely popular.
Bury Free Press - Friday 28 November 1952, page 3.

We’ll be brewing a beer next year, no idea what it will be like or how much it will cost. Cheers.

There’s this wonderful game brewers and drinkers played. Drinkers would complain that brewers’ profits were excessive, brewers that their costs were excessive. The two sides were very suspicious of each other.

Coronation Beer: “No Big Profit”
Brewers to-day denied that they will make big profits from specially brewed Coronation beers.

The Brewers’ Society described the suggestion as completely unwarranted.

"These special brews are uneconomic produce.” the society said. They involve changes in the brewery routine, special labels and sometimes special bottles. The demand for them is very difficult to predict.

“The purpose in brewing them to give people something special in which to drink the Queens health.

"Statements appearing recently that a Coronation ale would brewed at the usual strength and costing 2/6 a nip are incorrect. No brewery company has announced this and none has planned to produce a brew at this strength and price.

“The ale will have to be stronger than usual, but if the present average strength is doubled the beer duty goes up by about 10d a pint. The strongest brew so far announced is one three times, not twice, as strong as the average beer, and it will be sold at 2/6 a half pint, not nip.”
Aberdeen Evening Express - Wednesday 03 December 1952, page 6.

They are right about Coronation Ale not costing 2s 6d a nip. More like 1s 3d to 1s 6d for a nip. And they definitely weren’t brewed to standard strength. 2s 6d for a nip of standard-strength beer would be crazy. Who in their right minds would buy it? Unless it looked like soup and you called it unfined. I’ve heard people will pay double the going rate for stuff like that.

And finally, some light relief:

I HAD the wrong stuff down me — Coronation ale,” said Leslie James Dodd of no fixed address. When he was sent to prison for 14 days at an  Occasional Court at Bury St. Edmunds on Monday, for being drunk and disorderly on the Cornhill on Saturday night. He pleaded guilty.

P Sgt Austin Hawkes gave evidence of hearing defendant shouting obscene language. He was told to behave but became aggressive.”
Bury Free Press - Friday 22 May 1953, page 3.

I think I can make an educated guess as to whose Coronation Ale Mr. Dodd had been drinking. Almost certainly Greene King’s, which we heard about at the start of this piece. Doubtless its extra strength was the reason he was pissed. Though a fortnight in jail does seem rather harsh for being a bit sloppy in public.

I think that really is me done with Coronation Ale.

Sunday, 20 September 2015

In charge at Hammonds

I’ve only just started looking in more detail at the takeover madness of the 1950’s and already I’m starting to see a pattern.

British brewing industry was a pretty staid and conservative industry in the first half of the 20th century. Partly because many owners had lost a close connection with the business and only saw it as a convenient source of income. Professional managers, with little power or money to effect major changes, were left to keep the brewery ticking over and generating cash.

At the breweries that began rapid expansion in the 1950’s, things were slightly different. There were the same apathetic owners, but these firms had a chairman with vision and drive. And, most importantly, power and money.

Bradfer-Lawrence, long-time chairman at Hammonds, was just such a man. (HLBL is an abbreviation for Bradfer-Lawrence.)

“HLBL was in his seventieth year when I joined Hammonds. In the twenty years he had been in charge, he had built it up from being a Bradford and district brewery with two hundred and fifty six tied outlets and indifferent beer, to one spread across the West Riding (and trickling into the neighbouring counties), with nearly one thousand outlets and a growing reputation for its draught and bottled beers.”
"The Brewing Industry 1950 - 1990", by Anthony Avis, 1997, page 9.

1,000 pubs would have been easily one of the largest in the North just after WW II. Not a bad achievement. But Bradfer-Lawrence wanted more.

“He had changed its name to Hammonds United Breweries to reflect its growth. During that time he ran the company single-handed, in the sense that he was the guiding light and the moving genius, the originator of every expansionary initiative. He had taken charge of a company which had experienced no firm control by an executive manager with authority for over thirty years. After it had passed from being a family owned and directed business in 1889 to being a public company, its board of directors were all part time and it had a general manager to handle its day to day administration; this state of affairs continued until HLBL took over. Financially, the company had indifferent trading success throughout the same period, its woes added to by the trade depression prior to and following the first war. The directors had their own local businesses to look after, also in recession; unwise purchases of brewery companies in the short-lived economic boom of the early 1920s deprived Hammond's of such capital reserves as it had accumulated.”
"The Brewing Industry 1950 - 1990", by Anthony Avis, 1997, page 9.

At a brewery where the owning family had been more engaged with the business Bradfer-Lawrence wouldn’t have had the same opportunity for total control

“The founding family of Hammond, now Aykroyd through marriage, still held a significant slice of the company's equity and large debentures on its assets; the ordinary shares could hardly be given away, let alone sold. HLBL came to this situation with experience - of managing real estate, of running a brewery company, of being ruthless with assets and employees. He had some advantages too - the national economy was just beginning to recover, and he was in sole charge, as the principal shareholders had brought him in to deal with a mess and were glad to leave him to it. His style and demeanour were those of an authoritarian; he did not encourage dissent of any degree. He had confidence in his own ability, which he made apparent in his manner, and endorsed financially by purchasing all the parcels of Hammond's ordinary shares he could from vendors only too relieved to get some money for their declining holdings. He built up a large portfolio, which in turn bolstered his position within the company, and quietened his fellow directors.”
"The Brewing Industry 1950 - 1990", by Anthony Avis, 1997, pages 9 - 10.

It’s ironic that a stronger board would probably have curtailed Bradfer-Lawrence’s activities and ultimately weakened the company. This attitude of family owners who felt that they had inherited an income rather than a business wasn’t unique to brewing. It was just as true in other industries.

Clearly Bradfer-Lawrence was a man with vision:

“He told me, when recalling his early years in Yorkshire, that he could see the future for Hammond's and the way the 1930s were going, and was astonished his fellow directors could not; it was not often, he said to me, that the opportunity was given to a man to be able to control his major investment so closely. And that was what he did for the ensuing ten years, to his good fortune and that of the rest of the shareholders. Hammond's success was due to him and dependent on him, a one man band operation. His health was good and he had no problem of stress, overwork or being beyond his capabilities.”
"The Brewing Industry 1950 - 1990", by Anthony Avis, 1997, page 10.

I’m surprised that the whole dynamic of the company relied so heavily on a single man. I’m intrigued to see if this was the case at all the ambitious players in the 1950’s.

Saturday, 19 September 2015

Drying hops at home

Just harvested some hops. What's the best way to dry them?

Bottled Pale Ale in 1960

I told you I’d be annoying you with more of this junk. I jumped all the way from Bitter to Pale Ale. Basically the same stuff, just from a bottle rather than a pump.

As before, we’ll be looking at the beers from both the Which? report and the Whitbread Gravity Book. I must admit that I’ve fiddled with the Which table a bit. Some of the beers just weren’t Pale Ales. Double Maxim and Younger’s No. 3 are obviously totally different styles. While White Shield and Red Triangle I have to class as IPA.

One thing immediately about the Which list: most of the examples were also keg beers. Brewmaster, Double Diamond, Red Barrel, Ben Truman and John Courage. Though the keg versions were usually weaker. It’s really weird how the OG averages out to exactly 1048º. Which makes them look rather like continental Lagers in terms of gravity and ABV.

The bitterness levels are all over the place, with the two hoppiest being more than double that of the least hoppy, Long Life. I remember that. It used to be advertised a lot. I think it was exclusively a canned beer. Can’t say I ever drank it. Looked like complete crap.

There’s not much to choose between them in terms of value for money. Other than Red Barrel Export, which is a bit worse value than the others.

As if to prove how good my collection of analyses is, I’ve ones from 1960 for every one of the Which examples except for Long Life. You can see that the gravities match pretty well from the two tables. At least now they do. I’d made a mistake transcribing the Double Diamond OG from the Whitbread Gravity Book and had it as 1038.4º.

There’s an interesting variation in colours in the Gravity Book examples. Stroud Cotswold Ale is very dark for a Pale Ale. Assuming that’s what it was. I can’t be sure, based on the name. Below 20 is on the pale side. I’d put money on Abbot being considerably darker than 19 today.

At least the prices are consistent: around 30d (2s 6d) a pint for the ones with gravities in the high 1040’s.

Bottled Pale Ale in 1960
Brewer Beer Price per pint d OG FG ABV App. Atten-uation Index of Hop Bitter price per % ABV
Charrington Toby Ale 29 1047.6 1010.7 4.80 77.52% 36 6.04
Flowers Brewmaster 30 1047.3 1011.2 4.70 76.43% 39 6.39
Ind Coope Double Diamond 30 1047.3 1011.2 4.70 76.43% 25 6.39
Watney Red Barrel 30 1048.0 1014.8 4.30 69.17% 36 6.98
Watney Red Barrel Export 36 1048.7 1014 4.50 71.25% 31 8.00
Truman Ben Truman 30 1049.3 1011.6 4.90 76.47% 37 6.12
Courage & Barclay John Courage 30 1050.3 1011.9 5.00 76.44% 39 6.00
Ind Coope Long Life 32 1045.1 1009 4.70 80.04% 19 6.81
Average 30.9 1048.0 1012 4.70 75.47% 32.8 6.59
Which Beer Report, 1960, pages 171 - 173.

Bottled Pale Ale in 1960
Brewer Beer Price per pint d Acidity OG FG ABV App. Atten-uation colour price per % ABV
Charrington Toby Ale 29 0.04 1046.5 1014.8 4.10 68.17% 23 7.07
Cheltenham & Hereford Brewery West Country Ale 30 0.03 1044.1 1011.7 4.05 73.47% 28 7.41
Cobbold Cardinal Ale 30 0.04 1048.6 1015.8 4.10 67.49% 24 7.32
Flowers Brewmaster Export 30 0.02 1047.4 1011 4.55 76.79% 17 6.59
Georges & Co. Export Port Ale 30 0.04 1043.4 1012.8 3.83 70.51% 18 7.84
Greene King Abbot Ale 30 0.03 1048.6 1006.7 5.24 86.21% 19 5.73
HE Thornley TK Pale Ale 32 0.03 1043.8 1009.5 4.29 78.31% 22 7.46
Ind Coope Double Diamond 30 0.04 1048.4 1012.4 4.68 74.38% 18 6.41
John Smith Pale Ale (sold in Belgium) 0.04 1055.5 1013.7 5.22 75.32% 17
Marston Burton Keg 21 0.05 1036 1006.8 3.65 81.11% 20 5.75
Morland Viking Ale 28 0.04 1045.1 1012 4.14 73.39% 30 6.77
Strong Special Pale Ale 0.02 1041.3 1009.7 3.95 76.51% 23
Stroud Brewery Cotswold Ale 24 0.02 1034.8 1004.3 3.81 87.64% 45 6.30
Truman Ben Truman 30 0.05 1049.4 1012.1 4.85 75.51% 17 6.19
Watney Red Barrel 30 0.05 1048.9 1015.2 4.37 68.92% 23 6.87
Average 28.8 0.04 1045.5 1011.2 4.32 75.58% 22.9 6.75
Whitbread Gravity book held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number LMA/4453/D/02/002.

Light Ale is next on the agenda. Sometime.