Thursday, 12 December 2019

Scottish fermentation temperatures

Several authors have rather ludicrously claimed that Scottish beer was fermented at near-Lager temperatures. Even more ridiculously claiming that the climates of Edinburgh and Munich are similar. While in reality, they aren’t even in the same climate group.

If you just look at the pitching temperatures, you could be forgiven for thinking Scottish beer was fermented cooler than English. A look at full fermentation records soon put me straight. Many Scottish beers were pitched a few degrees cooler than the English norm of around 60 F.

There’s a simple explanation: a higher percentage of very strong beers were made in Scotland. The higher the gravity, the lower the pitching temperature to accommodate the extra heat generated during fermentation. The maximum fermentation temperatures in England and Scotland were roughly similar.

The other claim is that primary fermentation was much longer in Scotland than in England, because of the low temperature it was carried out at. To put it bluntly, this is total bollocks. Most Scottish brewing records contain a full fermentation record making it easy to check. Scottish beer took no longer to ferment than English.

The William Younger brewing logs have columns charmingly entitled “Heats and Beats in Guile”. They record the progress of the fermentation and when the wort was roused to encourage fermentation. Here’s an example:

William Younger Shilling Ale fermentations in 1848
Heats and Beats in Guile
Beer OG day 1 day 2 day 3 day 4 day 5 day 6 day 7
Table 1035 59º F 60º F 62º F 64º F
42/- 1043 59º F 61º F 63º F 66º F
60/- 1064 58º F 59º F 62º F 65º F
80/- 1074 58º F 59º F 62º F 64º F 66º F 67º F
100/- 1086 57º F 58º F 60º F 63º F 66º F 68º F 68º F
120/- 1103 54º F 56º F 59º F 62º F 66º F 69º F 70º F
140/- 1115 54º F 58º F 62º F 66º F 70º F 72º F
William Younger brewing record held at the Scottish Brewing Archive, document number WY/6/1/2/3.

Fermented almost as cold as Lager? I think not. Seven days primary fermentation for a beer with an OG of over 1100º is by no means excessive.

I’ll admit that this totally contradicts what W.H. Roberts wrote about Scottish fermentation temperatures:

". . while the English brewers frequently set their worts as high as 75º, or, according to some practical writers, occasionally 80º, the Scottish seldom if ever exceed 58º, and, in some cases, fall so low as 44º.
. . . it is not uncommon for Scottish brewers to have their gyles in the tun for twenty-one days, whilst in England, so long a period as even six days is considered as of rare occurrence."
"Scottish Ale Brewer" by W.H. Roberts, 1847, page 108.

It’s a contemporary account, written by someone with practical experience of brewing. But, In this case, I have to go with the William Younger’s brewing records. They show temperatures well above 58º F and nothing anywhere near as low as 44º F. I’ve never seen a Scottish fermentation that was longer than 7 days. It’s hard to reconcile with Roberts’ description. Perhaps he was talking about older practices that had been superseded.

The above is an excerpt from my excellent book on Scottish brewing:

Wednesday, 11 December 2019

Let's Brew Wednesday - 1940 Truman Stock 1

Standing at the top of the Truman strength tree was Stock 1. The base beer for their Barley Wine.

It wasn’t something that Truman brewed that often. After some time maturing in Burton – I assume at this point in wood – Stock 1 was shipped down to London where it was blended with a Running version. The blend then being bottled as No. 1 Burton Barley Wine.

There seems to be much in common with Bass No. 1. I’m sure this isn’t a coincidence. They were both at the top end of Burton Ales and were both sold as Barley Wine. The gravities are very similar, in any case.

While the grist contains most of the elements found in Truman’s other beers, there are some differences. The most obvious being that Stock 1 was an all-malt beer. At least a non-adjunct beer. The flaked rice in all their other beers is absent here.

The invert sugar in Truman beers is a bit problematic. Because there’s no indication of which type they were using. Or even if they were using more than one type. You’d expect a Pale Ale to contain either No.1 or No. 2. While No. 3 was the preferred option for Mild Ales.

Based on an analysis from 1953 which gives the colour as around 16 SRM, I’ve assumed No.3 invert was used in the original. That’s the only way to get the colour to the correct shade.

The hopping is insanely heavy. It looks like a beer from 50 or 60 years earlier. There were just short of 6 lbs of hops per 36-gallon barrel. I’ve reduced the quantity a little. But, as the hops were all pretty fresh, not by very much.

Of course, the running version, would have been far less heavily hopped. Sadly, I don’t have a log for that. I do have s Runner and a Stock brewing record from the 1960s. There the hopping of the Runner is about 60% of that of the Stock version. Also after 12 months at least maturing, the bitterness levels in the Stock beer would have fallen a fair bit.

1940 Truman Stock 1
pale malt 17.50 lb 72.92%
high dried malt 5.50 lb 22.92%
No. 3 invert sugar 1.00 lb 4.17%
Fuggles 150 mins 4.00 oz
Fuggles 60 mins 4.00 oz
Goldings 30 mins 4.00 oz
Goldings dry hops 1.00 oz
OG 1105.5
FG 1035
ABV 9.33
Apparent attenuation 66.82%
IBU 106
SRM 14
Mash at 155º F
Sparge at 160º F
Boil time 150 minutes
pitching temp 56º F
Yeast Wyeast 1028 London Ale (Worthington White Shield)

Tuesday, 10 December 2019

My books 15% off - but only today

Until the end of today you can get 15% off my print books the extract came from with this code:


First is my most recent masterpiece, Armistice!, which takes a detailed look at the exciting world of WW I brewing. Including some of the most watery beer recipes ever.

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To summarise the next book: seemingly the dullest of matt shades post-war period is way more fun than you might think. Or maybe that's just me bigging it up. Buy the effing thing and make up your own mind.

Now my contract limitations have expired, I can tart to my heart's content what  I like to call my expansion pack to The Home Brewer's Guide to Vintage Beer. Recipes? That's all it is. Loads  and loads of them. With North American and Lager recipes that Idropped from the original book for reasons of space.

My pride and joy. An award-winning book. The truth about Scottish beer and brewing. If I could find some bastard to publish it properly, I'm sure it would shake the world to its very foundations. Or at least joggle the odd noddle. 

You can find more of my lovely books here:

London Mild Ale during WW I

Courage’s X Ale went through quite a few changes during the war.

There was quite a change in the rate of attenuation. My guess is that they were trying to compensate for the fall in gravity. In 1918, with gravities under 1025º, they were really pushing the limits of what you could call beer. Because of the rules about average gravity, every barrel they brewed at 1021º meant they could brew one at 1039º, or a half barrel at 1047º. It was very tempting to slash the gravity of a big seller like Mild to maximise the amount of stronger, more profitable beer you could brew.

It’s interesting to note that the hopping rate per barrel remaining fairly constant at around 1 pound per barrel when the gravity was more than halved. That’s reflected by the increase in the hopping rate per quarter, which rose from 4-5 lbs to over 10 lbs. Again, I assume that to compensate for the fall in gravity and boost flavour.

The grist was tweaked several times during the war years:

The big increase in the proportion of crystal malt from 1917 on is intriguing. As it seems to correlate with the fall in gravity. It looks like another attempt to compensate for the falling strength of X Ale. While the appearance of black malt corresponds to a fall in the percentage of No. 3 invert sugar. So it’s surely a colour correction.

The 1920 recipe is quite different from the 1914 one: far less base malt, slightly more No. 3 invert, almost three times as much crystal malt.

Courage X Ale 1914 - 1920
Date Year OG FG ABV App. Atten-uation lbs hops/ qtr hops lb/brl
17th Oct 1914 1054.6 1019.4 4.65 64.47% 4.96 1.05
8th Mar 1915 1049.9 1018.3 4.18 63.33% 4.00 0.78
23rd Sep 1915 1048.2 1011.1 4.91 77.01% 4.96 0.96
11th Oct 1916 1048.2 1007.2 5.42 85.06% 5.00 0.97
9th May 1916 1044.9 1006.9 5.02 84.57% 6.51 1.18
2nd Jan 1917 1045.7 1010.0 4.73 78.18% 3.88 0.76
8th Jun 1917 1041.6 1007.2 4.54 82.67% 8.72 1.16
19th Oct 1917 1034.6 1006.4 3.74 81.60% 7.57 1.13
18th Jan 1918 1034.6 1006.9 3.66 80.00% 7.38 1.13
20th Apr 1918 1023.8 1004.4 2.57 81.40% 9.41 1.01
19th Nov 1918 1021.1 1003.9 2.27 81.58% 10.89 1.01
30th Jun 1919 1023.5 1003.6 2.64 84.71% 6.78 0.75
7th Jul 1919 1027.4 1004.4 3.04 83.84% 8.17 0.99
29th Dec 1919 1037.7 1007.2 4.03 80.88% 5.98 1.00
22nd Apr 1920 1037.7 1007.5 3.99 80.15% 5.91 0.98
Courage brewing records held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document numbers ACC/2305/08/247, ACC/2305/08/248, ACC/2305/08/249, ACC/2305/08/250 and ACC/2305/08/251.

Courage X Ale grists 1914 - 1920
Date Year OG pale malt black malt crystal malt no. 3 sugar caramel glucose black invert
17th Oct 1914 1054.6 82.1% 0.8% 6.1% 11.0%
8th Mar 1915 1049.9 82.8% 6.1% 11.1%
23rd Sep 1915 1048.2 82.4% 6.3% 11.3%
11th Oct 1915 1048.2 82.8% 6.1% 11.1%
9th May 1916 1044.9 80.5% 6.0% 13.4%
2nd Jan 1917 1045.7 75.0% 9.1% 15.9%
8th Jun 1917 1041.6 73.6% 11.3% 15.1%
19th Oct 1917 1034.6 76.2% 1.7% 13.3% 6.6% 2.2%
18th Jan 1918 1034.6 76.1% 1.7% 13.0% 9.2%
20th Apr 1918 1023.8 70.9% 2.9% 18.4% 7.8%
19th Nov 1918 1021.1 64.5% 5.4% 19.4% 10.8%
30th Jun 1919 1023.5 66.3% 2.0% 15.3% 13.6% 2.7%
7th Jul 1919 1027.4 67.6% 2.0% 15.4% 13.7% 1.4%
29th Dec 1919 1037.7 64.4% 19.8% 15.8%
22nd Apr 1920 1037.7 69.1% 16.7% 13.2% 1.0%
Courage brewing records held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document numbers ACC/2305/08/247, ACC/2305/08/248, ACC/2305/08/249, ACC/2305/08/250 and ACC/2305/08/251.

The above is an excerpt from Armistice!, which takes a detailed look at the exciting world of WW I brewing. Including some of the most watery beer recipes ever.

 Buy this wonderful book.

Monday, 9 December 2019

Old Ale after WW II

After WW II, the term Old Ale rarely referred to a beer that had been aged for any length of time. Mostly, it was just something stronger than usual. And how much stronger that was varied from region to region and brewery to brewery. There was one feature they all had in common: a dark colour.

In the Southeast, Old Ale was effectively a stronger version of Dark Mild. And was often parti-gyled with it.

In the North, it was often something stronger. Old Tom, for example. Or Old Something. Strong, dark beers often had an Old prefix. Often the difference between these stronger types and Barley Wine is blurred.

Bottled Old Ale 1950 - 1965
Year Brewer Beer Price per pint d OG FG ABV App. Atten-uation colour
1950 Barclay Perkins No. 1 Southwarke Ale 32 1052.4 1021.1 4.04 59.73% 80
1953 Bentley's Yorkshire Brewery Old Timothy 45 1075.6 1014.7 7.98 80.56% 100
1953 Bullard Old Ale 48 1080.5 1026.2 7.06 67.45% 68
1952 Courage Double Courage 43.5 1068.4 1010.8 7.55 84.21% 150
1953 Duttons O.B.J. 32 1060.9 1013.7 6.15 77.50% 83
1959 George Gale Prize Old Ale 1089.3 1006.9 10.95 92.27% 60
1953 Greene King Suffolk Ale 36 1062.8 1020.7 5.46 67.04% 56
1953 John Smith Magnet Old Ale 42 1072.5 1022.9 6.44 68.41% 83
1953 JW Green Dragon's Blood 45 1073.6 1028.1 5.88 61.82% 56
1953 McMullen Old Time Ale 45 1062.1 1015.1 6.12 75.68% 105
1958 Mitchell & Butler Amba Pale Old Ale 45 1056.3 1012.4 5.49 77.98% 18
1953 Steward & Patteson Old Ale 48 1080.3 1011 9.13 86.30% 80
1959 Websters Old Tom 26 1045.1 1012.5 4.23 72.28% 150
1965 Wrekin Old Ale 31 1039.8 1012.7 3.39 68.09% 90
1953 Youngs, Crawshay & Youngs Old John 54 1075.2 1025.3 6.47 66.36% 80
Average 40.9 1066.3 1016.9 6.4 73.71% 83.9
Whitbread Gravity book held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number LMA/4453/D/02/002.

The above is an extract from my book on UK brewing after WW II, Austerity!.

Sunday, 8 December 2019

Harvey's beers in 1889

I've already extracted the details from the Harvey's brewing records which fell into my hands.

How this Harvey's brewing book ended up in the Beards archive is also becoming clearer. Mr. Miles Jenner, head brewers at Harvey's, tells me that Henry John Barrett served an apprenticeship at Harvery's and then later went on to be head brewer at Beards. This looks like it was his personal brewing book.

Moving onto the beeers themsleves, it's quite a small range. Two Milds, a Stock Ale a Pale Ale and a Stout. Even for a small-town brewery, that's pretty minimal. By this late, most breweries would have brewed multiple Stouts and probably a Light Pale Ale (1045-1050º).

All the beers are around the same strength as London equivalents, which slightly surprised me. I'm accustomed to provincial beers being weaker. You can see from the two tables below that there's a very close sorrelatioon between the graities of Harvey and Barclay Perkins.

A couple of the Harvey's beers - SB and Stout - have slightly lower hopping rates. But PA and X have roughly similar rates to the Barclay Perkins beers of the same class.

Interestingly, the rate of attenuation is generally a bit higher in the Harvey's beers.

Harvey's beers in 1889
Beer Style OG FG ABV App. Atten-uation lbs hops/ qtr hops lb/brl
X Mild 1057.6 1013.9 5.79 75.96% 5.70 1.47
XXX Mild 1075.3 1020.8 7.22 72.43% 6.66 2.39
SB Stock Ale 1078.9 1018.8 7.95 76.14% 9.02 3.21
PA Pale Ale 1066.5 1020.2 6.12 69.58% 12.90 3.96
Stout Stout 1078.7 1026.3 6.93 66.55% 6.65 2.43
Harvey brewing record held at the East Sussex Record Office, document number BBR 2/1/3.

Barclay Perkins beers 1891 - 1892
Beer Style OG FG ABV App. Atten-uation lbs hops/ qtr hops lb/brl
X Mild 1057.0 1016.6 5.34 70.84% 5.95 1.47
KK Stock Ale 1074.0 1021.1 7.00 71.55% 14.22 4.61
PA Pale Ale 1063.0 1021.1 5.55 66.58% 12.46 3.03
BS Stout 1077.0 1027.0 6.61 64.94% 8.56 2.98
Barclay Perkins brewing records held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document numbers ACC/2305/1/587 and ACC/2305/1/588.

Saturday, 7 December 2019

Let's Brew - 1889 Harvey X

Here’s a recipe I never thought I’d write. A Harvey’s beer from before WW I. As it was thought none of their brewing records from this period had survived. It appears that at least one brewing book has survived, just miscataloged as being from another Lewes brewery, Beard.

It doesn’t contain a huge number of different beers. Two Milds, a Stock Ale, a Pale Ale and a Stout. Quite a small range for a Victorian brewer. Then again, they weren’t that large an operation. The maximum brew length was around 50 barrels. They couldn’t have been brewing more than around 10,000 barrels a year.

If you had asked me to guess the gravity of this beer, I’d have said 1050º at the absolute maximum, and more likely 1045º. Why? Because beers tended to be weaker outside London. In 1889, both Barclay Perkins and Whitbread X Ale were 1058º. Or about the same strength as Harvey X.

There’s nothing very complicated about the recipe. It’s just pale malt and invert sugar. Interestingly, it’s No. 2 rather than the No. 3 invert you might expect. Even so, No. 2 is enough to change the colour of the finished beer to what I would call semi-dark. About 20% of the base malt is described as “Smyrna”, that is from the Middle East.

Unusually for the late Victorian period, when huge quantities were being imported, all the hops are English. A combination of Kent from the 1888 harvest and East Kent from 1887 and 1888.

At the bottom of the fermentation chart it says “Run into Puns”. Puns, I assume, standing for puncheons. At 84 gallons, those are pretty large casks. Not usually the sort of size you’d be delivering to pubs.

1889 Harvey X
pale malt 10.00 lb 83.33%
No. 2 invert sugar 2.00 lb 16.67%
Fuggles 85 mins 1.00 oz
Goldings 60 mins 0.75 oz
Goldings 30 mins 0.75 oz
OG 1057.5
FG 1014
ABV 5.75
Apparent attenuation 75.65%
IBU 29
SRM 10
Mash at 150º F
Sparge at 165º F
Boil time 85 minutes
pitching temp 57.5º F
Yeast Wyeast 1332 Northwest ale

Friday, 6 December 2019

Miscatalogued records

Archives aren't perfect. Especially when it comes to cataloguing specialised material, such as brewing records.

Which makes searching for brewing records a sometimes frustrating task. What has this particular archive called them? Brewing books? Brewing journals? Something else entirely? It necessitates a good bit of rumbling around in the catalogue, making sure you've covered all the possibilities.

Then there's the example of the Whitbread brewing records. Where the catalogue has the wrong years for several of the brewing books. I think I'm the only person who has a correct catalogue of them. I suppose I should really have told the archivists.

A third problem is when records are attributed to the wrong company. For years I believed that the earliest IPA brewing log I had was 1837 from Reid. Until I saw some records from the 1820s which were in a completely different format. Which was identical to the format of Reid's 1840s logs. Clearly the 1837 records were from a different brewery. Which, I don't really know. I'm guessing Combe, as the material originated from Watney, Combe, Reid.

Today I came across another example of incorrect attribution. Though I'm scratching my head as to how it could have occurred. It's a brewing book which supposedly comes from Beard's of Lewes.  Yet it has this in the inside cover:

Not only does it say "Harvey & Son" at the top of the page, it also says "Bridge Wharf Brewery", which is the name of the Harvey's brewery.

Has anyone ever looked at this record properly before? You have to wonder.

Thursday, 5 December 2019

Southern Brown Ale after WW II

Despite covering a large area of Southeast England, there’s a reasonable amount of consistency in this set of Brown Ales.

The gravities are mostly on the low side, with only two examples over 1035º, and averaging a tad below 1032º. Surprisingly, there are a couple below the magic 1027º. It made little sense to brew a beer weaker than that, because you had to pay tax as if were 1027º. That was the minimum rate of tax.

With middling attenuation – there are a couple of beers with over 80%, but also four below 70%. Which means that the average ABV only just pokes its head above 3%.

There are some pretty watery beers, especially from Simonds. Most examples are well below 3% ABV. It’s odd because Simonds Berry Brown Ale was a reasonably big brand.

As in London, the colours are mostly pretty dark. Though the Portsmouth United and Wethered beers fall into the semi-dark region. In general, these Southern Brown Ales look quite similar to those from London. Which isn’t so surprising as there breweries were mostly not that far from the capital.

Southern Brown Ale after WW II
Year Brewer Beer Price per pint (d) OG FG ABV App. Atten-uation colour
1951 Benskin Nut Brown Ale 16 1032.9 1008.1 3.22 75.38% 83
1952 Brickwoods Brown Brew 18 1032.2 1008.9 3.02 72.36% 80
1952 Cobb & Co Brown Ale 18 1034.3 1007.5 3.48 78.13% 80
1950 Ind Coope Nut Brown Ale 18 1032.3 1008.6 3.07 73.37% 75
1951 Ind Coope Nut Brown Ale 19 1031.9 1008.3 3.06 73.98% 110
1952 Ind Coope Nut Brown Ale 19 1030.9 1011.7 2.48 62.14% 83
1952 McMullen Nut Brown Ale 18 1035.5 1012.6 2.96 64.51% 110
1948 Portsmouth United Brown Ale 17 1038.2 1005.4 4.27 85.86% 55
1948 Simonds Brown Ale 18 1025.7 1006.4 2.50 75.10% 105
1949 Simonds Brown Ale 15 1026.1 1008 2.34 69.35% 140
1952 Simonds Brown Ale 18 1029.9 1009.7 2.61 67.56% 110
1952 Simonds Berry Brown Ale 19 1032 1005.5 3.44 82.81% 60
1948 Tamplin No. 1 Brown Ale 19 1033.6 1008.5 3.25 74.70% 87
1952 Tamplin No.1 Ale 20 1034.1 1009.7 3.16 71.55% 80
1947 Wethered Golden Brown Ale 12 1025.6 1004 2.81 84.37% 48
Average 17.6 1031.7 1008.2 3.04 74.08% 87.1
Whitbread Gravity book held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number LMA/4453/D/02/002.