Friday, 4 November 2016

Barley Wine bollocks

As you bloodthirsty lot seem to enjoy it when I get the hatchet out, here's another critique of a beer history article.

This time the object of my hacking is an article on Barley Wine published on the Glasshopper blog last year:

https://theglasshopper.wordpress.com/2015/07/27/a-history-of-barley-wine-is-barley-wine-wine-where-did-it-come-from/

I noticed it because it's cited as a reference in the Wikipedia entry on Barley Wine.

Let's start at the beginning.

"We will begin our story back in England, circa 1903, Bass & Co. Brewery is the first advertised time that a beer was called a barley wine."

Actually Bass had been calling No. 1 Ale Barley Wine since at least 1870.

The author is totally clueless about part-gyling:

"The commonly accepted practice at the time, for breweries, was that a single mash was used for all of the planned beers that they were going to brew. This process, called Parti-Gyle, involved using one wort, and then taking the first runnings from the mash and using it for the strong and stout beers (if you didn’t understand the pun; this first batch was normally used to produce stouts). The brewers would use later runnings for progressively lighter style beers."

This is the pre-industrial way of parti-gyling and not the way anyone brewed in the 19th-century. Not all beers were and could be parti-gyled together. And the worts were blended post-boil with some of each wort going into every beer. You'd get shit beers if you made them from all later worts because they aren't as high quality.

This next bit is just total made-up bollocks:

"All of that explanation leads me to how the first marketed barley wine was created. Circa the turn of the century, Bass & Co. Brewery was a large (relative for the time) brewer that used this method to brew, and as such would number their beers in order of creation. Since they used the Parti-Gyle method, the first set of beers would tend to be very strong. At the time, they wanted a beer that would rival the attributes of grape wine. They wanted a very heavy, ABV beer that would look similar to a red wine, and taste more malty than what was currently out there. The goal partially being to offer wine drinkers a beer option."

Bass had been nrewing No. 1 since at least the 1860's. That stuff about trying to create a beer that was malty and like wine is total crap. The original Barley Wines were very heavily hopped. 1931 Truman No. 1 Barley Wine was 137 IBUs according to BeerSmith. I call that pretty effing bitter. And pre-WW I English beers had been even more heavily hopped.

Number their beers in order of creation? As Bass went as far as No. 6, that would mean that they had to have six worts from a single mash. I've never seen more than four. And if No. 1 meant a beer from the frist wort, how come Bass's Stouts started at P2? Did they just throw away the first Stout wort?

Unbelievably, the article manages to get even worse.

"Bass followed a process in which it would name their beers with the number beer it was from the runnings. Therefore, what would eventually be named and be called a barley wine was Bass No. 1, because it was the first beer bottled from the mash. The traditional European barley wine is now described as low levels of bitter, but characterized by large quantities of pale malt. It was billed as a sherry or brandy substitute in historic advertising. It was marketed mainly to upper class English, and CAMRA’s (Campaign for Real Ale) description of barley wine describes it as a nationalist attempt of English to get fellow English men to switch to this instead of French Claret (a red wine from Bordeaux, or wine of a similar character made elsewhere)."

It's a big assumption that Bass No. 1 was always parti-gyled. I've single-gyle example of the Truman's equivalent. The first beer bottled from the mash? Does he have no understanding of brewing? What about fermentation? And if it had been parti-gyled with a wekaer a beer it wouldn't have been the first bottled, but the last as it would have been aged a year at least. Another famous Barley Wine called No. 1, Tennant's Gold Label, was also brewed single-gyle, both at Tennant in Sheffield and later at Whitbread in London.

I've never seen Barley Wine billed as a sherry of brandy substitute. Whitbread's Gold Label advertising used to say it was as strong as a double whisky, but half the price. That's the only comaprison with another drink I'm aware of.

There's still so much of this bollocks masquerading as history out there. My work clearly isn't done.

10 comments:

Lee said...

Bloody hell, I got my fix out of that,for sure!
Way to slap the poor bugger back into his hole.

Jeremy Drew said...

Ron,

Well, in fairness to this scroat, he only claims that he is telling a 'tale' and the advert does include a comparison to sherry, but that was by a Canadian distributor.

Otherwise, though, a grouped series of arguments based on synthesis and guesswork rather than facts and historical method. Or 'guff', as my old history teacher used to put on my essays.

Does anyone know when they stopped selling Gold Label in bottles? In one of the pubs I worked at in the mid 80s there was an elderly West Indian gent who would have two of them in a pint glass with a dash of lime: 3 or 4 of those in an hour at Sunday lunchtime. Impressively, he walked home.

Phil said...

Not marketing exactly, but popular songs often seem to have claimed that such-and-such a beer was just as good as your fancy foreign wine & brandy, and in some cases even that it was just as strong: see October Brew and Blann's Beer. (Have you written about 'good honest October', btw?)

Anonymous said...

airhorn.mp3

THOMAS CIZAUSKAS said...

Mr. Glasshopper does not further his cause when he composes his thoughts in English as a second language.

Sic1314 said...

So were the original Barley Wine style beers only brewed at country houses and not by commercial brewers? Or is the story about them being a Napoleonic era replacement for Claret just a myth?

Mick said...

Rottweiler Ron

Anonymous said...

Was there not a suggestion that the country gentry at the time of the Napoleonic wars substituted strong beers (I think Mitch Steele described them as October Beers in his IPA book? - and I know that concepts of stong changed over time) for brandy. I thought there was quotes from Jane Austen or something similar praising a country squire's potent homebrew as being superior to French brandy?

I think there's a tendency to equate such early strong beer with barleywine, at least in some of the home-brew literature.

David Boshko said...

"Bottled from the mash." The fuck? Much worse than I expected.

Reed Antis said...

Ron, way to kick ass once again. I hope you drink one or two barley wines after writing this blog. Your friend Saratoga Springs, NY.

Reed