Sunday, 13 September 2015

Coronation Beers (part four)

The Yorkshire newspapers seem to have been keen on Coronation Ale. Because here’s a report of another West Yorkshire version.

Once again, they don’t disclose the name of the brewery. Though, having told us the name of the beer, that wasn’t hard to track down.

Coronation ale 'strongest for 40 years'
By a Yorkshire Post reporter
The brewer had waited years to make such strong ale and when he took a sample he said, simply, "I am quite delighted with It."

Officially he described his Coronation ale as "a beautiful round, full drinking beer" which the relaxation for Coronation year of certain brewing restrictions had made possible. This I learned yesterday when I visited a West Riding brewery which is among the companies already marketing the better beer.

'Old Brown'
First I met the managing director. Mr. W. Charles Brown, who is proud that the new beer has been named after him — "Old Brown." "I don't mind being called 'Old Brown.' " said, " In another few days I shall be 74. Of course both words are familiar beer terms," he said, "and the directors decided that should be the name — after me."

Mr. Brown has been managing director of the company for 30 years and admits there are a few secrets In brewing beer. He explained that with the limit on gravity lifted they were now only regulated by the commodities they could buy.”
Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer - Saturday 21 February 1953, page 7.

If I’d just seen the name, no way I would have guessed that the beer was named after someone. As Mr. Brown himself remarked, both words are common beer terms. I hadn't even realised it was a Coronation Ale.

I’m still searching for details of the brewing restrictions mentioned. I know there was some sort of limit on gravity, I think both an upper limit and an overall average. It’s frustrating not to have pinned them down yet.

You probably want to know the brewery. It’s Samuel Webster. I drank a fair bit of their beer when I lived in Leeds.  They were based in Halifax, also in West Yorkshire, and had a tied pubs in Leeds. I can’t say it was my favourite – Tetleys was much better – but the Dark Mild was OK on cask. They were owned by Watney, but had mostly retained their identity and produced a reasonable amount of cask beer. It closed in 1996.

I can remember spending a day in Halifax in 1979. One of the Websters pubs there still had a “men only” sign above the public bar door. Even though that was illegal by then. Wonder if they still really kept women out?

No chemicals
"Lots of people think because we employ chemists that we use chemicals." said Mr. Brown. "That is not so. We are only allowed to use certain materials. That is why beer is such good drink — nothing harmful can go into it."

The new-quality beers are being sold In "nip" size bottles containing one-third of a pint at prices varying from 1s. 4d. to 1s. 6d.

"One of the things about this beer," said Mr. Brown, "Is that it will keep longer than the ordinary beers. But we haven't brewed it to keep — we have brewed it to sell." “
Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer - Saturday 21 February 1953, page 7.

Nips seem to have the favourite package for Coronation Ales. As for the price, a pint of draught Mild would only cost you 1s in  the 1950’s. As we’ll see later.

Now it’s the turn of the head brewer to Speak:

“Mr. F. W. Bodger, the brewer there for 43 years, showed me how the gravity is varied by the malt and sugar content, and added: " This is as strong a beer as has ever been made by this company."

It had, he told me, the qualities of a barley wine and produced a warming effect on the drinker. "With this there's no back bite," he said.
Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer - Saturday 21 February 1953, page 7.

Was it really the strongest beer they’d brewed in 40 years? I suspect not. Luckily for me, Old Brown wasn’t a one off. Because they were still brewing it in 1959:

Samuel Webster beers of the 1950s
Year Beer Style Price size package FG OG ABV App. Atten-uation colour
1955 Sam Brown Ale Brown Ale 9.5d half bottled 1013 1035.7 2.93 63.59% 95
1956 Velvet Stout Stout 1/2d half bottled 1022.3 1045.1 2.93 50.55% 425
1959 Velvet Stout Stout 13d half bottled 1019.8 1040.1 2.61 50.62% 300
1959 Dukes?? Ale Pale Ale 10d half bottled 1006.8 1035.3 3.56 80.74% 19
1959 Old Brown Brown Ale 15.5d nip bottled 1023.1 1071.4 6.27 67.65% 110
1959 Velvet Stout Stout 14.5d half bottled 1019.3 1046.1 3.45 58.13% 300
1959 Old Tom Old Ale 13d half bottled 1012.5 1045.1 4.23 72.28% 150
1959 Green Label Ale Mild, Light 11.5d half bottled 1006.7 1039 4.20 82.82% 24
1959 Sam Brown Ale Brown Ale 9d half bottled 1011.1 1036.8 3.33 69.84% 95
1959 Bitter Pale Ale 16d pint draught 1004.7 1038 4.16 87.63% 22
1959 Best Mild Mild 13d pint draught 1004.4 1034.9 3.81 87.39% 20
1959 Mild Mild 12d pint draught 1005.7 1032 3.29 82.19% 50
1959 Bitter Pale Ale 15d pint draught 1005.4 1037 3.95 85.41% 20
1959 Best Mild Mild 13d pint draught 1005.9 1035 3.64 83.14% 20
1959 Mild Mild 12d pint draught 1004.8 1031.6 3.35 84.81% 55
Whitbread Gravity book held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number LMA/4453/D/02/002.

At just a touch over 1070º, I doubt it was stronger than anything they brewed in 1914. Though they could have dropped the strength after the coronation. As you can see, at 1s 3.5d per nip, it is a little cheaper than quoted in the newspaper.

The Milds are interesting. Webster still brewed a Light and a  Dark Mild in the 1980’s. Which look direct descendants of the 1950’s Mild and Best Mild. Even the gravities are pretty similar: Dark Mild 1032º, Green Label Light Mild 1033.8º. The colours of the 1950’s Milds are interesting. It was usual for the Best Mild to pale, but the ordinary Mild isn’t that dark. Normally Dark Mild is 80 to 100 on this scale. 50 is just a bit darker than Newcastle Brown.

I think that’s me about done for Coronation Ale. Unless something else pops out of the newspaper archive.

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