Monday, 28 November 2016

Pleasing all palates (part three)

We’ve finally got to the wet brown alcoholic stuff – beer.

Starting with an explanation of the terms Beer and Ale:

In Tudor England the word ale distinguished the traditionally unhoped malt liquor from the new product, beer flavoured with hops. To-day the two terms are synonymous, except that stout is a beer, not an ale. There are regional differences of nomenclature; in London, for example a customer ordering "an ale" will be served with a mild ale. In the United States, on the other hand, beer means lager, produced by “bottom fermentation," in which the yeast settles to the bottom during fermentation at a lower temperature; whereas American ale is "top-fermented" at a higher temperature, as are all English beers other than lager.”
"Beer in Britain", 1960, page 98.

It’s amazing that even as late as 1960 Stout was still considered a Beer and not an Ale.

“British beer is brewed from barley-malt (sometimes with the addition of other grains), hops, yeast, water, and sometimes sugar.

Porter, the strong dark staple beer of 18th century England, is no longer brewed in Great Britain. In Ireland it means a light stout, usually sold on draught; in Scandinavia it is a strong dark bottled beer.”
"Beer in Britain", 1960, page 98.

In my experience, very few breweries didn’t use sugar in the 1950’s. Guinness was one.

A pretty weird description of Porter there. It was never a strong beer, but a standard-strength one. And was always weaker than Stout.

Now descriptions of the styles available in 1958, starting with draught beers:

“DRAUGHT BEER is drawn either directly “from the wood" when the cask is fitted in the bar or, much more generally, by beer engine or pump from the cask in the cellar to the bar. The types vary in colour, strength and character from one brewery to another and with the parts of the country where they are brewed. Their colour is largely determined by the colours of the malts used. The main types are:—

Bitter: Heavily hopped, usually pale in colour, with a dry flavour.
Mild: Generally darker, sweeter and less strong than bitter.
Burton: A strong, dark beer, not necessarily brewed at Burton-on-Trent.
Stout: Darker still, and generally brewed with roasted malt or barley. Occasionally sold on draught.”
"Beer in Britain", 1960, page 98.

The author doesn’t seem to have been that well acquainted with the inner workings of British breweries. The colour of beer, other than Stout, was mostly derived from sugar, not malts.

It looks like a very limited range of draught beers. And it looks very London-centric. Burton was very much a London thing and draught Stout had disappeared from the rest of the country. I’ve racked my brain for what other styles might have appeared on draught. Old Ale, I suppose. Things like Old Tom or Owd Roger.

Finally, bottled beers:

“BOTTLED BEER is brewed in a wide range to suit every taste. The main varieties are;—

Best Pale Ale: A matured beer of high gravity.
Light Ale: As its name implies, light in taste and colour.
Brown Ale: Dark and generally rather sweeter.
Stout: Darker again; there are many variations in flavour, both sweet and dry.
Burton (or Old Ale): The bottled equivalent of draught Burton.
Barley Wine, Audit Ale, &c.: A very strong matured ale, popular in university circles.
Lager: A lightly hopped beer produced by fermentation at a lower temperature, stored or "lagered " for prolonged periods. It should always be served cool.”
"Beer in Britain", 1960, page 98.

I’ve just realised which beer style doesn’t get a mention at all: IPA. Off that, isn’t it? Though they’re probably classifying beers like Bass Red Triangle and Worthington White Shield as Best Pale Ales.

Two styles in that list – Light Ale and Brown Ale – are virtually extinct today. There are only a couple of examples of either left.


Dan said...

Is that an early sighting of the US 'ale = top fermented' usage or was it well established even back in 1960?

Anonymous said...

I love the authoritative claim about beer and ale in the United States - it shows that silly blanket statements in beer writing go back a long time.

What people called beer and ale in 1960 varied from region to region and even from bar to bar, and could sometimes have a specific meaning, sometimes be used interchangably, but in other places if you used the word ale people would think you were some kind of weirdo or foreigner.