Thursday, 23 May 2019

Vienna Beer arrives in London

It was only in the 1860’s that Lager became regularly available to drinkers in Britain. Two events were the catalyst to Lager’s arrival: the 1867 Great Exhibition in Paris the hot summer of 1868.

One of the big hits at the Paris Exhibition was the Vienna beer hall. Inspired by its success, similar beer halls began to spring up in Paris . British visitors to the exhibition were suitably impressed. A particularly hot summer the following year made cool Lager beer seem particularly inviting. In the southeast of England there was at least one day over 32º C in every month between May to September and in July alone there were 9 days over 32º C – . It sounds like the weather was very similar to 1976: a long drought and high temperatures for months on end.

By the end of 1868 there were five places selling Viennese Lager in London, two on the Strand and three in the city . The beer they sold was Märzen, either from Dreher’s brewery in Schwechat or from Liesing:

DREHERS BEER, bought at the Vienna Restaurant, 395, Strand. LIESING BEER, bought at the Crown Coffee-house, 41,  Holborne. 
Specific gravity 1,019.76 1,019.11
Alcohol 4.43 4.45
Acetic acid  0.12 0.13
Extract 7.05 6.82
Original gravity 1,062.27 1,061.67

Some things never change. The Austrian Märzen sold in London was more expensive than locally-brewed beer. Much more expensive. A pint of Dreher or Liesing Märzen would cost you 6d . Or 2.5p. Sounds pretty cheap, doesn’t it? But let’s put that into perspective. A pint of Mild Ale, also with a gravity in the low 1060’s, was only 2d, a third of the price .

Bavarian Beer, presumably from Munich, was also available in London. At the Royal Bavarian Restaurant, at 30 Oxford St., for example. This was a little weaker than the Viennese Märzen at 1058º and 5% ABV, but still cost 6d a pint. Compared to British beers, it was terrible value.

Looking at the wholesale price of Vienna Lager, it’s not surprising that it retailed at three times the price of Mild. The importer paid £5 6s. 6d for a 36-gallon barrel:

The beer itself in Austria  46s. 
carriage to England,  26s.  
duty,  24s.  
return of cask,  7s. 6d
Pall Mall Gazette - Thursday 28 January 1869, page 5.

£5 6s. 6d is 106s. 6d, almost exactly triple the 36s. a 36-gallon barrel of Mild Ale would cost.

It didn’t take long for Lager to spread outside London. In December 1868, the Bavarian Beer Hall, at 204 Oxford Street, Manchester was advertising “Genuine Bavarian Lager, Vienna & Bock Beer. In March 1869 the Dundee Courier reported that a “well-known establishment in Miller Street”, Glasgow had started selling Vienna beer.

Like this? Then you'll love the book it comes from, Lager! (UK):

Support independent publishing: buy this book on Lulu.

Wednesday, 22 May 2019

Let's Brew Wednesday - 1917 Whitbread X

April 1917 was a momentous month for British brewing. As that’s when gravities started to fall. A drop from which most British styles never recovered.

At this point, Whitbread X Ale had lost 10 gravity points since the outbreak of war. But things were going to get much worse over the next two years. X Ale itself was dropped in July 1914, just a couple of weeks after this example was brewed. It was replaced by Government Ale, a much more watery beer.

Other than the fall in gravity, not much had changed since 1916. The grist is still a very simple combination of pale malt and sugar. Though there were four different types of pale malt, including some made from American barley.

The hops were all English, Mid-Kent from 1916 and East Kent from 1915 and 1916.

Whitbread never brewed a Mild Ale as strong as this again.

1917 Whitbread X
pale malt 8.25 lb 89.19%
No. 3 invert sugar 1.00 lb 10.81%
Goldings 105 mins 1.00 oz
Fuggles 60 mins 0.75 oz
Goldings 30 mins 0.50 oz
OG 1044.5
FG 1008
ABV 4.83
Apparent attenuation 82.02%
IBU 31
SRM 9.5
Mash at 148º F
Sparge at 168º F
Boil time 105 minutes
pitching temp 61º F
Yeast Wyeast 1099 Whitbread Ale

This is one of the dozens of recipes in my book Mild! plus. Which is available in both paperback:

and hardback formats:

Tuesday, 21 May 2019

Graham’s Golden Lager

Graham’s Golden Lager, which appeared in 1927 , was one of the first big British Lager brands. The tale of how it came to be brewed in Scotland is an odd one, with John Calder, one of the greats of Scottish brewing, playing a central role.

The story begins at the end of the 19th century in Burton, of all places, with Allsopp’s Lager brewery. It opened in 1899, just as Allsopp was starting to get into serious financial difficulties. They did have a degree of success with their Lager, especially in export markets, but their Pale Ale trade collapsed. Between 1900 and 1910 Allsopp's sales fell by 40% . By 1911 a receiver had been appointed to run the business .

In 1912, John Calder of Calder's Brewery in Alloa was brought in to run Allsopp. This forged a link between Allsopp and Alloa that was to play a key role in the later formation of Allied Breweries. It also brought Lager brewing to Alloa, for in 1921 Allsopp's Lager plant, which had lain idle in Burton, was moved to Arrol's Brewery, where John Calder was also a director . In 1927 a new beer was brewed in Arrol's Lager brewery - Graham's Golden Lager .

It was a big success. As Arrol's were brewing all their Lagers, it's no surprise that Allsopp's took a controlling interest in the company in 1930, even before their 1934 merger with Ind Coope . Arrol's was completely bought out in 1951  and the brewery converted to a Lager-only plant.

In common with other Lagers in the interwar period, Graham’s was above average strength. Npt by a huge amount, but a little.

In 1959, Graham's Golden Lager was rebranded as Skol, though for a while it had the ungainly name of Graham's Skol Lager . It became the main Lager of Ind Coope and later the whole Allied Breweries group.

Graham's Golden Lager 1933 - 1952
Year OG FG ABV App. Atten-uation colour
1933 1044.5 1010.5 4.42 76.40%
1939 1045.2 1008.6 4.77 80.97% 8.5
1950 1040.6 1010.6 3.89 73.89% 9
1952 1039.2 1014.3 3.22 63.52% 15
.Whitbread Gravity book held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number LMA/4453/D/02/001

Like this? Then you'll love the book it comes from, Lager! (UK):

Monday, 20 May 2019

Mike mine a Mild

I've always been a bit of a contrarian. Swimming against the tide even when that meant certain drowning. That's how my relationship with Mild began.

I think it was a letter in What's Brewing, back in the dark days of the mid-1970s that prompted it. Someone taking a writer to task for assuming the only cask beer was Bitter. What about Mild?

I can remember asking my brother, "What is this thing called Mild Ale?" I was young, naive and pretty cluseles. My brother was scarcely better informed. He could come up with an answer: "Mild is dark." That did me for a while.

I have a natural inclination to underdogs. Mild as a style under stress immediately appealed. That's how my love began.

As I've matured and changed, so have my ideas about Mild. I know how many different forms it's taken. Twisting and turning to fit in my the demands of the day.

I've drunk so many different beers and different styles since the 1970s. But I still love Mild. Admittedly more the 19th-century style ones nowadays.

Maybe Mild is going to do a Milk Stout. Become so out of fashion it can swing back into style again.

I'm old enough to have seen so much weirdness that I don't rule anything out.

Sunday, 19 May 2019

Victory Project (second attempt)

Right. Gave this a whirl once, didn't work. But I can be as stubborn as Theresa May. Hopefully, not as ineffectual.
After I finally got the Historic Lager Festival to fly, I've only become more insanely determined. Who would have thought anyone would go for that?

I don't want to go into too long an introduction to the concept. But maybe I will. I rarely have any idea of where posts like this will end up.

WW II themed historical recipes, is the basic concept. Released next year to coincide with the end of WW II. A much happier event to commemorate than its start. (The starting date being also far harder to pin down. Once I'd have said: 1939, or course. But for Americans and Russians, it's 1941. For the Japanese and the Chinese they invaded, the date might be as early as 1931).

This is meant to apply to professional brewers. Other arrangements will be available for home brewers.

Here's the simple version. I provide an old recipe from, I was going to say: one of the war years. What I meant was: 1939 to 1945. (Six years and six is my favourite number. Or maybe 15. I'm getting to old to even remember all the weird shit in my head.) You brew it and sell it to your customers.

Maybe I'm oversimplifying.

I provide a recipe, you get to use my name and benefit from me plugging the project like crazy.

In return, you pay me a sum. Whatever you think is appropriate. Just use the GUILT BUTTON to the left. Fill in the amount of your choice.*

Pick any style you like. As long as its one of the four UK styles. Or Lager. Or some Scottish stuff.

* Note that, the more generous the contribution, the more likely I am to turn up for your beer's launch. And the more interesting recipe you're likely to get.

Barclay’s London Lager

Barclay Perkins began experimenting with Lager during WW I. Once the war was over, they lost no time in entering Lager production seriously.

Barclay’s opened their shiny Lager brew house in 1921 and employed a Danish brewer, Arthur Henius, to run it.

Unlike today, it Lager was a posh drink in the 1920’s. The Brewer’s Journal reported:

“Doubtless they do not imagine that any large trade in this type of beer can at present be looked for from the working classes. The potentiality of trade lies with the middle and upper classes, and with that floating population from the ends of the earth which the Metropolis always embraces."
Brewers' Journal 1921, Page 275.

Barclay’s brewed their first production Lager on 13th May 1921. The first brew, Export Lager, was just 64 barrels. To put this into context, batches of X Ale in the same year varied between 600 and 1,200 barrels. Even Russian Stout was usually brewed in batches of 150 barrels. In its first 12 months of operation, Barclays Lager brewery produced 3,000 barrels. Or about as much as three batches of X Ale. 

They brewed three different types of Lager: Export at 1050º, Dark at 1049º and Special Dark (also called Munich) at 1057º . Two out of the three were dark, only Export being pale. Initially, only bottled beer was produced.

Barclay Perkins Lagers in 1925
Beer Style OG FG ABV App. Atten-uation lbs hops/ qtr hops lb/brl barrels Pitch temp
Export Export 1050.5 1014.1 4.82 72.08% 6.54 1.31 129.75 48º
Dark Dunkles 1057.6 1020.1 4.96 65.10% 4.64 1.29 62.25 48.5º
Barclay Perkins brewing record held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number ACC/2305/1/638.

The name that Barclay’s chose for their Lager is also revealing: London Lager. Presumably they avoided a Teutonic-sounding name because of the anti-German feeling engendered by the war.

Barclay’s were ambitious. They saw opportunities for their Lager not only in Britain, but also abroad. WW I and prohibition had taken the three largest Lager exporters, Germany, Austria and the USA, out of the game .

Building a Lager plant was a brave decision by Barclay’s. As the Brewers’ Journal remarked at the time:

“They [brewers] are not unmindful, also, of the fact that large sums of money have unprofitably been sunk in like enterprises.”
Brewers' Journal 1921, Page 275.

There had been several spectacular failures of modern Lager breweries at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century. At the very moment Barclay’s were building theirs, Allsopp’s Lager brewery, bought at great expense in the 1890’s, lay idle in Burton.

Like this? Then you'll love the book it comes from, Lager! (UK):

Saturday, 18 May 2019

Let's Brew - 1933 Whitbread DB

When Whitbread introduced a Brown Ale in 1932, it wasn’t much like the modern idea of an English Brown Ale. Especially not one brewed in the South.

Unlike after WW II, interwar Brown Ale wasn’t necessarily just a bottled version of Dark Mild. The larger London brewers, in particular, produced beers in quite a different style. Stronger and brewed from their own specific recipe.

Whitbread Double Brown is a great example of this style. There was also Doctor Brown from Barclay Perkins, which was along similar lines. The grist is different to that of Whitbread’s X Ale, which contained pale malt, crystal malt and No. 3 invert. DB has no crystal malt, but does include chocolate malt. While more than half of the base malt is PA malt, the most expensive type of pale malt.

The sugar is mostly something simply described as “Albion”. I’m assuming that it’s No.3 invert sugar, which some other DB brewing records to specifically mention. There’s a small quantity of something called “S.I.” which I’m guessing is some type of caramel. There certainly needs to be something adding more colour. The brewing record lists the equivalent of 27 SRM.

The hops were a combination of Whitbread Mid-Kent from the 1930 harvest, Mid-Kent from 1931, East Kent from 1931 and East Kent from 1932. All had been kept in a cold store. As many of the hops were quire old, I’ve reduced the hopping rate by around 20%.

It’s a real shame no-one makes beers of this type any more. I’d certainly drink it.

1933 Whitbread DB
pale malt 8.50 lb 76.78%
chocolate malt 0.25 lb 2.26%
No. 3 invert sugar 2.25 lb 20.33%
caramel 1000 SRM 0.07 lb 0.63%
Fuggles 75 mins 2.00 oz
Goldings 30 mins 2.00 oz
OG 1055
FG 1014.5
ABV 5.36
Apparent attenuation 73.64%
IBU 44
SRM 23
Mash at 150º F
Sparge at 170º F
Boil time 75 minutes
pitching temp 62º F
Yeast Wyeast 1099 Whitbread Ale

This is one of the dozens of recipes in my book Mild! plus. Which is avaiable in both paperback:

and hardback formats:

Friday, 17 May 2019

Wild about Mild

Mild was one of the first topics I researched in the archives. Right after Porter. I didn't find what I expected.

Because I had no idea how much Mild had changed. I realised Mild had once been stronger. But not quite how strong. Finding versions over 10% ABV was a bit of a shock. The colour was the biggest surprise. Discovering all Mild had once been pale. The more I dug, the more I understood about the styles's remarkable transformations.

That's the great fun, for me. Coming across something different to what I'd expected. I still get a thrill when I uncover something new.

A while back I had a project with Pretty Things, where they brewed two versions of Barclay Perkins Mild. One from 1837, the other 1945. They had absolutely nothing in common. Demonstrating what time can do to a beer. Especially when that time contains major wars.

Exactly when, and why, Mild started getting darker remains a mystery. Frustratingly, brewing recirds only start giving a colour number after WW I. About twenty years after I think the process began. Any reason I offer can only be speculation. The cynical one being publicans needed a cheap, dark beer to dump slops into after Porter disappeared.

Mild Ale has been so many different things: pale, strong and hoppy; dark, weak and mild. It would make a great beer festival.  If anyone should be in search of a theme.

Barclay Perkins X Ale 1837 - 1945
Year OG FG ABV App. Atten-uation lbs hops/ qtr hops lb/brl
1837 1071.5 1013.2 7.71 81.53% 7.05 2.44
1849 1071.5 1014.1 7.59 80.27% 7.79 2.68
1863 1060.9 1012.4 6.42 79.65% 13.06 3.62
1880 1060.4 1018.0 5.61 70.18% 10.97 3.09
1890 1058.0 1016.9 5.44 70.87% 9.06 2.19
1900 1052.6 1008.9 5.79 83.15% 8.15 1.73
1914 1051.3 1013.6 4.99 73.54% 5.49 1.15
1918 1046.5 1012.7 4.47 72.60% 5.01 0.97
1919 1039.4 1009.4 3.97 76.10% 6.96 1.11
1929 1042.6 1012.5 3.98 70.65% 6.50 1.10
1939 1034.8 1010.0 3.28 71.26% 7.00 0.95
1945 1029.7 1008.5 2.80 71.38% 5.49 0.65
Barclay Perkins brewing records held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document numbers ACC/2305/1/550, ACC/2305/1/551, ACC/2305/1/553, ACC/2305/1/579, ACC/2305/1/586, ACC/2305/1/593, ACC/2305/1/603, ACC/2305/01/606, ACC/2305/01/607, ACC/2305/01/614, ACC/2305/01/623 and ACC/2305/01/626.

Read loads more about Mild in Mild! Plus. Which is available in both paperback:

and hardback formats:

Thursday, 16 May 2019

UK-brewed Lager before WW II

Barclay Perkins made a few trial attempts at Lager brewing during WW I. It obviously opened their eyes its possibilities, as they started building a Lager brewery right after war’s end. It started brewing in 1921.

But Lager remained a tiny market, dominated by a handful of specialist producers. In 1936 a parliamentary debate revealed that a mere six breweries produced Lager in Britain. The total output of all six was just 114,000 barrels in 1935 . That’s out of a total of 20,864,814 barrels, making Lager just 0.55% of UK beer production.

The six breweries were: Arrol, Tennent, Barclay Perkins, the Red Tower Lager Brewery in Manchester, the Wrexham Lager Brewery and Jeffrey of Edinburgh. Three of six were located in Scotland.

Brewer Location Date started
Arrol Alloa 1921
Tennent Glasgow 1885
Barclay Perkins London 1921
Red Tower Lager Brewery Manchester 1920’s
Wrexham Lager Brewery Wrexham 1883
Jeffrey Edinburgh 1902

Newspaper advertisements of the period reveal that several Lagers - Graham’s, Barclay’s, Tennent’s and Wrexham - were available nationally, at a time when few beers were sold outside their own region.

Unlike the Lager that started its march to domination in the 1960s, those of the 1930s were mostly above-average strength. Though there were exceptions, such as Barclay’s Draught Lager.

Allsopp’s Lager was produced at Arrol in Alloa. They had installed a fancy American-built Lager plant in their Burton brewery in 1899. Their Lager wasn’t a great success and, after Allsopp went into receivership in 1913, the plant was moved to Alloa.

UK-brewed Lager before WW II
Year Brewer Beer Style OG FG ABV App. Atten-uation colour
1932 Allsopp Lager Lager 1041 1009.4 4.10 77.07%
1932 Allsopp Lager Lager 1045 1010 4.55 77.78%
1937 Allsopp Lager Lager 1045.2 1011.8 4.33 73.89%
1933 Arrol Graham's Golden Lager Lager 1044.5 1010.5 4.42 76.40%
1932 Barclay Perkins Lager Lager 1051 1011 5.21 78.43% 12.5
1934 Barclay Perkins Draught Lager 1032.2 1013.0 2.54 59.63%
1935 Barclay Perkins Draught Lager 1043.5 1011.0 4.30 74.71%
1936 Barclay Perkins Lager (Dark) Lager 1058 1017.6 5.24 69.66%
1936 Barclay Perkins Lager (Light) Lager 1045.7 1010.1 4.63 77.90%
1932 Jeffrey Pilsener Pils 1052 1007.8 5.77 85.00% 9
1936 Jeffrey Lager Lager 1046.4 1013.1 4.32 71.77%
1933 McEwan Pilsener Pils 1044 1010 4.42 77.27% 8
1934 McEwan Pilsener Pils 1049.6 1009.6 5.21 80.65%
1933 Red Tower Lager Beer Lager 1049.7 1011.4 4.98 77.06% 12.5
1934 Red Tower Lager Lager 1051 1011 5.21 78.43%
1932 Tennent Light Beer Lager 1049 1007.4 5.43 84.90% 6.5
1931 Tennent Lager Beer Lager 1043.1 1009.3 4.39 78.42% 8
1937 Tennent Pilsener Pils 1051.2 1010.8 5.26 78.91%
1934 Wrexham Pilsener Pils 1052 1010.7 5.38 79.42%
Thomas Usher Gravity Book document TU/6/11 held at the Scottish Brewing Archive.
Younger, Wm. & Co Gravity Book document WY/6/1/1/19 held at the Scottish Brewing Archive.
Barclay Perkins brewing records.
Whitbread Gravity book held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number LMA/4453/D/02/001.

Wednesday, 15 May 2019

Let's Brew Wednesday - 1916 Whitbread X

The first couple of years of WW I weren’t that cruel to beer. Gravities of the more popular beers had a few points shaved off their gravity, but for the most part beers were unscathed. That would all change when 1917 rolled around.

The grist hasn’t really changed a great deal since 1914. It’s still a simple combination of pale malt and invert sugar. I’m assuming again the latter was No. 3 invert, though the type isn’t specified in the brewing record.

The malt is rather more complicated than it at first appears. There were no fewer than six types of pale malt: three from UK-grown barley, plus one each from Smyrna, Indian and Californian.

One change is in the hopping. The rate has fallen from 6 lbs per quarter (336 lbs) of malt to 5 lbs. In addition, the hops used are all older. They’re all Mid-Kent from the year 1914. The combined effect is to reduce the (calculated) IBUs from 32 to 18. Drinkers must have noticed such a big change, especially as in took place over a short period.

A higher rate of attenuation means that the ABV has increased from 5.03% in 1914 to 5.4%. Which is pretty beefy for a Mild.

1916 Whitbread X
pale malt 10.25 lb 93.18%
No. 3 invert sugar 0.75 lb 6.82%
Fuggles 105 mins 0.50 oz
Fuggles 60 mins 0.50 oz
Fuggles 30 mins 0.50 oz
OG 1051
FG 1010
ABV 5.42
Apparent attenuation 80.39%
IBU 18
Mash at 150º F
Sparge at 168º F
Boil time 105 minutes
pitching temp 60º F
Yeast Wyeast 1099 Whitbread Ale

This is one of the dozens of recipes in my book Mild! plus. Which is avaiable in both paperback:

and hardback formats:

Tuesday, 14 May 2019

Porter in the free mash tun age

Not every brewer was keen to embrace the exhilarating freedom of a free mash tun. Whitbread continued on much as before. Though they did eventually submit to the temptation of sugar.

At least in their Porter.  Because from the 1860s, sugar was popping up almost universally in Whitbread’s Stouts. It may seem odd that the cheapest beer was sugar-free. But that’s to misunderstand 19th-century brewing. Sugar was employed for specific purposes. Not as a way of lowering costs.

When sugar does appear in Whitbread’s Porter just after 1900, it doesn’t appear to be a deliberate choice. But simply a result of falling Porter sales. Which meant it was mostly brewed as part of a parti-gyle with Stout. The recipe of which already contained sugar. There was always only going to be one loser in a clash of recipes.

It was a sign of the fading fortunes of Porter before the war that it was rarely brewed single-gyle. In 1900, it was still very much the boss of the parti-gyle. And that it was becoming the junior partner in parti-gyles. The brews from 1902-1903 are about five barrels of Porter to one of Stout.  But in 1907, there’s a parti-gyle with almost twice as much Stout as Porter.

The hopping rate, as measured per quarter, continued to drop. From around 8 lbs before 1900, to around 5lbs after 1910. Unless they were using hops with more alpha acid – which is unlikely as Whitbread mostly sourced their hops from Kent and had done for a long while – this change must have impacted the character of the beer.

Whitbread Running Porter grists 1880 - 1914
Year OG FG ABV App. Atten-uation lbs hops/ qtr hops lb/brl pale malt brown malt black malt  sugar
1880 1056.5 1011.9 5.90 78.92% 7.44 2.19 80.83% 11.67% 7.50%
1885 1055.7 1010.8 5.94 80.60% 8.90 2.05 75.95% 15.19% 8.86%
1890 1057.1 1012.0 5.96 78.97% 9.74 2.07 83.53% 8.24% 8.24%
1895 1058.4 1016.0 5.62 72.62% 7.20 1.76 81.72% 8.60% 9.68%
1900 1055.7 1013.0 5.65 76.65% 6.48 1.49 82.54% 8.73% 8.73%
1905 1054.5 1014.0 5.36 74.33% 7.69 1.91 77.42% 12.90% 9.68% 5.16%
1910 1052.9 1014.5 5.08 72.59% 4.96 1.15 74.86% 13.71% 11.43% 9.14%
1914 1053.0 1016.0 4.89 69.79% 5.55 1.21 77.22% 14.23% 8.54% 8.54%
Whitbread brewing records held at the London Metropolitan archives, document numbers LMA/4453/D/09/075, LMA/4453/D/09/080, LMA/4453/D/09/084, LMA/4453/D/09/090, LMA/4453/D/09/094, LMA/4453/D/09/099, LMA/4453/D/09/104 and LMA/4453/D/09/108.

You'll find more information that you'll ever need to know about Porter in my excellent book on the subject: