Sunday, 15 March 2020

The Storage of Beer and Ale (part five)

We've finally arrived at the end of this little series. It's been very educational, at least for me.

And this final part describes practices which I can't recall coming across before. But it begins with some fairly obvious points.

"Ale admits of longer storage than lager beer and under circumstances that would be fatal to the latter beverage. Here, although the pressure of carbonic gas has not to be combated, impermeable storage vessels are a great improvement, and for this reason the slate and stone racks and vats of the English brewers meet with such favour."
Holmes' Brewing Trade Gazette - Friday 01 September 1882, page 12.

The biggest differnce between Alse and Lager was that, while Lager needed to be kept refrigerated if you wanted to keep it sound for any length of time. While a well=brewed Ale could be kept for years at cellar temperature.

This is new to me:

"It is much easier to keep surface fermented beer in stock than lager, and the great brewers in England adopt the following plan and keep up a uniform supply of well-stored beers. A brewing is divided among a certain number of vats, so that a given number of brewings will fill them all, say, for instance, among ten tuns, ten brewings are equally divided, of tenth of a brewing in each tun. In this manner he tuns are filled. Having allowed this beer to reach the desired maturity, one tenth of a brewing is racked for sale from each, and a fresh brewing divided among them and well mixed with them. After about one-tenth of the time that it took to mature each full vat at first, they will again be ready to lose one-tenth of their contents, which is replaced in the same manner. By making the vats of the necessary capacity and having a sufficient number of "sets" to meet the requirements of the trade, a constant supply of old beer is always available and its uniformity of quality can be controlled."
Holmes' Brewing Trade Gazette - Friday 01 September 1882, page 12.

Fascinating that they kisked off by blending several different brews into each vat. I'm guessing that the point is to even out any differences between individual batches. After this, they went over to a solera-like syatem, running off only a portion from the vat and refilling it with fresh beer.

This effort didn't come cheap:

"The capital that is required to work a brewery from which none but well-stored beer is sent out, is naturally larger than where it is sold as soon as the process of fermentation can reasonably be called complete, but the results will be immeasurably superior, and consumers will soon distinguish and appreciate the difference in mellowness and smoothness of flavour, that always marks the difference between young and well stored beers."
Holmes' Brewing Trade Gazette - Friday 01 September 1882, page 12.

Except this was exactly the period when the aged flavour was going out of fashion. Few genuine Stock ALes were being brewed when WW I began. And almost none after it had ended.


Chris Pickles said...

A bit of a philosophical question. Do you think the trend in fashion from old to young beer was driven by the public or the brewers? Not having to store large quantities of beer for long periods of time must have done wonders for brewery profits.

Ron Pattinson said...

Chris Pickles,

likely a bit of both, as with the growth of Lager in the 1970s and 1960s. The change in the tax sytem in 1830 probably didn't help. The tax on beer (which was paid on the beer's sale) was dropped and just malt and hops taxed. So whereas before 1830, a large percentage of the tax was paid on the finiahed beer, thus much later in the procxess, after any ageing.