Sunday, 4 March 2018

Boddington beers in 1923

1923 is the year when UK beer reached a new normality. The dramatic changes of the war years were finally over and average gravity hit 1043º, the level it would remain art for the rest of the decade.

WW I had an enormous impact on UK beer. It wasn't just gravity that was reduced, but also the range of beers. Anything that was marginal or very strong got the chop towards the end of the war. Some returned once things had settled down, but most didn't. Boddington is a fairly typical example.

In 1914, Boddington brewed eight different beers:three Milds, three Pale Ales, a Strong Ale and a Stout. That wasn't a particularly large set before the war.

It was normal for provincial breweries to have three or even four Milds in their portfolio. Though often they were all parti-gyled together. Boddington, on the other hand, brewed all their beers single-gyle.

Boddington beers in 1914
Beer Style OG FG ABV App. Atten-uation lbs hops/ qtr hops lb/brl
IP IPA 1053 1016 4.89 69.81% 4.00 1.35
B Mild 1037 1010 3.57 72.97% 2.86 0.51
BB Mild 1048 1016 4.23 66.67% 3.28 0.88
XXX Mild 1051 1015 4.76 70.59% 3.67 0.99
AK Pale Ale 1044 1013 4.10 70.45% 2.92 0.57
PA Pale Ale 1046 1014 4.23 69.57% 3.33 0.97
Stout Stout 1054 1018 4.76 66.67% 3.10 0.94
CC Strong Ale 1062 1020 5.56 67.74% 3.53 1.18
Boddington brewing record held at Manchester Central Library, document number M693/405/126.

Nine years later, only three of those beers survived, IPA, CC and Stout. In addition, there was a new Mild, XX.

Boddington beers in 1923
Beer Style OG FG ABV App. Atten-uation lbs hops/ qtr hops lb/brl
IP IPA 1049 1015 4.50 69.39% 5.29 1.54
XX Mild 1034 1010 3.18 70.59% 6.17 1.19
Stout Stout 1050.25 1014 4.80 72.14% 5.63 1.52
CC Strong Ale 1057 1018 5.16 68.42% 5.16 1.64
Boddington brewing record held at Manchester Central Library, document number M693/405/127.

What's interesting is how little the gravity of the three surviving beers had fallen. It's only 7% or 8%. While average gravity for the UK fell from 1053º in 1914 to 1043º in 1923, or about 19%. So why such a small decrease at Boddington? There is an explanation.

There was considerable variation in beer strength in different parts of the country. In particular, London beers were quite a bit stronger than those from elsewhere. For example, A London X Ale was over 1050º in 1914, a standard London Stout around 1065º-1070º and a Strong Ale 1070º-1075º.

After the war, beer strengths became much more standardised across the country. Generally fitting in with the gravity bands of the last set of price controls. Which meant that the fall in gravities was greater in London than elsewhere.

Boddington continued to brew those four beers until WW II.


qq said...

Interesting - in 1923 IPA had a pretty "normal-for-British-yeast" 69% attenuation for an FG of 1.015.

By 1947 they were getting 81% attenuation for an FG of 1.007.

That's a massive difference. My bet would be contamination with a long-chain-sugar-munching yeast of some kind, I can't imagine there's any process change that would make such a difference. Improved varieties of barley and better malting might make a bit of a difference, but not that much surely. Is there any obvious changes in process between '23 and '47? Can you narrow down when the change happened?

Ron Pattinson said...


well they had started using Diastatic Malt Syrup and enzymic malt. That could account for a more fermentable wort.