Monday 2 March 2020

The Storage of Beer and Ale (part one)

I was dead pleased to bump into this article about beer storage. It's full of fascinating details of the vatting process.

It's slightly surprising that in exactly this period - when ageing was going out of fashion - the praises of properly stored beer should be sung so enthusiastically.

"The Storage of Beer and Ale.
POPULAR opinions respecting beer are very apt to be fallacious, and frequently the most glaring errors and misstatements with regard to the brewers' processes, are made by those who profess to know " all about it," and are willing to enlighten their friends and associates. To such sources may be traced the majority of the sensational reports that we find spread from time to time respecting the brewer's proceedings, his reckless use of deadly poisons and costly drugs in place of malt and hops, and the terrible effects that must naturally follow the use of any substitutes for these materials. But with all these romances, there is one point on which all those who claim to know anything about beer will always agree, viz., that old beer, or beer that has been stored for a certain length of time, is better than beer that has been only lately brewed. They cannot tell you why, and if they pretend to, their opinions are altogether erroneous, often absurd, and we are sorry to say that while many of our readers know well enough that these ideas are wrong, they have in very few instances given themselves the trouble to find out the real causes for the improvement effected in beer by reasonable storage. "
Holmes' Brewing Trade Gazette - Friday 01 September 1882, pages 10 - 11.
In the 1880s I'm not sure that everyone would have said aged beer was better. The biggest-selling beers of the day - Mild, Porter and Light Bitter - were all sold young. Porter had originally been aged, but Keeping Porter fizzled out in the 1870s.

Here's why aged beer was better than fresh.

"The above remarks, in which we apply the word beer in a general sense, are common in their application to all kinds of beer, and before closing our view of the subject on a general standpoint, there are a few more facts we would refer to. Beer, whether ale or lager, as we have just remarked, is always improved by keeping, provided, however, that it is properly kept. There is a certain smoothness, a blending of all the good qualities into one without any being unduly prominent, so that, while the beer is neither bitter, nor sour, nor sweet, nor injuriously intoxicating, nor unpleasantly overloaded with carbonic acid gas, it has an agreeable flavour of the hops, which is balanced by a necessary acidity and softened by the saccharine and dextrinous extract matter, while the stimulating virtues of its alcohol are lightened and made refreshing by the volatile carbonic acid gas."
Holmes' Brewing Trade Gazette - Friday 01 September 1882, pages 10 - 11.

Basically, the eging process smoothed out and melded together a beers flavours.

Next time we'll learn how to store beer succcessfully.

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