Sunday, 20 November 2016

Gold Label - Tennant vs Whitbread

Was Gold Label the same beer when brewed away from the Exchange Brewery in Sheffield? Luckily, I’m in the enviable position of being able to answer that question.

Because I’ve got Gold Label brewing records from both the Exchange Brewery and Chiswell Street. They’re almost two decades apart, so it’s possible that Tennant-brewed versions had changed by the time Whitbread started brewing it in London.

One thing that struck some commenters about my Tennant Gold Label recipe was the high percentage of flaked maize in the grist. I assume this was as much to keep the colour pale as it was to keep costs down. One of the unusual features of Whitbread was that they didn’t use adjuncts, other than when forced to during wartime. Their grists were 100% malt and sugar. Except for Gold Label.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. We’ll look at the specs of the two beers first. To be honest, in most respects they look pretty similar. The OG and FG are a little higher in the Tennant version and the attenuation a little lower. But it’s not a huge difference. Remember as well that in 1955 Gold Label spent 6-12 months in wood. That would have knocked down the FG a bit.

The boils times are identical: three hours for both the first and second coppers. They’d need to this to hit the target gravity, as both were brewed single-gyle. Three hours is exceptional long after WW II. About half that was the norm. The colour for the two versions are also pretty close, with the Whitbread version being a little paler.

I was going to say that there was a big difference in the hopping rate. But I was forgetting that Whitbread’s version contained hop extract. Taking that into account the hopping is quite similar.

Gold Label - Tennant vs Whitbread
Date Year Brewer OG FG ABV App. Atten-uation lbs hops/ qtr hops lb/brl boil time (hours) boil time (hours) Pitch temp colour
8th Nov 1955 Tennant 1109.0 1022.5 11.44 79.36% 7.47 2.99 3 3 º 35
23rd Feb 1972 Whitbread 1101.8 1016.6 11.27 83.69% 5.90 2.60 3 3 68º 30
Whitbread brewing record held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number LMA/4453/D/09/141.
Tennant brewing records.

Now it’s time for the grists. There are rather more differences here, including the base malt. Whitbread used lager malt, presumably for colour reasons, while Tennant went with more traditional pale malt. Whitbread used a different sugar, SLS as opposed to No. 1 invert, and rather more of it. What does SLS mean? Special Liquid Syrup? On the other hand, Tennant’s beer had almost triple the percentage of flaked maize.

Finally the hops. At Tennant it was a very traditional combination of Fuggles and Goldings. Though it should be borne in mind that in 1955 the UK was self-sufficient in hops and only imported tiny quantities. MK (Mid Kent), KT (Kent) and Worcester hops were probably Fuggles.

Gold Label - Tennant vs Whitbread the grist
Date Year Brewer pale malt lager malt no. 1 sugar St. Neots SLS flaked maize hops
8th Nov 1955 Tennant 68.44% 10.65% 0.38% 20.53% Fuggles, Goldings
23rd Feb 1972 Whitbread 72.49% 19.62% 7.89% Hallertau, Styrian, MK, KT and Worcester hops. Hop extract.
Whitbread brewing record held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number LMA/4453/D/09/141.
Tennant brewing records.

I realise Gold Label week is becoming more like a month. Enjoy it while you can.


Paul Bailey said...

It was reported that during the late 1970’s - early 1980’s, Gold Label was being brewed at the old Leney’s plant at Wateringbury, just a few miles down the road from here. This may have been after the closure of Chiswell Street.

Jeremy Drew said...


I'm assuming that 'St Neots' is a diastatic malt extract from the Paine's Brewery used to help the conversion of the flaked maize. I seem to remember that Paine's made beer kits at some point in the distant past.