WW I had a devastating effect on British beer, especially when it came to strength. Average gravity fell by almost 25% between 1914 and 1922. But the beers at the very top end were the most badly affected. Few could afford to buy beers with gravities over 1100º and most such beers disappeared.
Barclay Perkins, of course, were famous for their extremely strong Russian Stout. It was discontinued during WW I, but then brought back in 1921. But the gravity had tumbled from over 1100º to just 1061º. Not very imperial, really. They did also brew an export version at the old strength, though I’m not sure when that returned. The first record I have of it is in 1924, but it could have been earlier than that.
At not much more than half the strength of the original beer, you really could call it a session version. I’m not sure how this version was matured, if at all. Given its modest gravity, I can’t imagine it being vatted for two years. Though it might have had a few months in vats.
I know that it was usually a bottled beer. Though there is one Whitbread Gravity Book entry from 1925 for a draught version, selling at 8d a pint. From other Whitbread Gravity Book entries it looks like the weaker version was called Imperial Stout and the stronger one Russian Imperial Stout. There was a big difference in price. In 1937 a nip of the strong version cost 10d, while a half pint of the weak one cost 6d.
Both beers were discontinued during WW II and only the stronger version seems to have returned after the war. The first record I have is from 1950, when a half pint bottle cost 22.5d. Though that’s good value compared to their Lager, which cosy 12.5d per half pint despite only having an OG of 1036.5º. So a third of the strength, but almost half the price. I know which I’d have been drinking.
Here are some details:
|Barclay Perkins Session Imperial Stout 1921 - 1941|
|Year||OG||FG||ABV||App. Atten-uation||lbs hops/ qtr||hops lb/brl||dry hops (oz / barrel)||Pitch temp||boil time (hours)||colour|
|Barclay Perkins brewing records held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document numbers ACC/2305/01/608, ACC/2305/01/611, ACC/2305/01/614, ACC/2305/01/621, ACC/2305/01/623 and ACC/2305/01/624.|
Next time we’ll be looking at the grist.