Tuesday, 15 December 2020

Scottish Sweet Stout before WW II

I've finally plucked up the courage to tackle a section of my new book that I'd been dreading: Stout.

Why? Because I have so much data. And there were so many different types of Stout of widely varying strength and character. Put simply, it's a shitload of work. But something I need to engage with, if I ever want this damn book to be finished.

Scottish Stout began to diverge from the English originals already in the 19th century. The style had never been as popular North of the border as in England and, after WW II, many breweries weren’t really making it.

Well, they were and they weren’t. Almost all Scottish brewers had a Stout in their portfolio, but often not in their brewing records. A good example is Drybrough. I’ve seen a big swathe of their brewing logs and there. Not a sniff of a Stout after 1920, yet I have an analysis of it from 1933.

How did that work? My guess is that they took a Pale Ale and primed it up at racking time to transform it into Stout. I suspect something similar was happening at other Scottish brewers, who just parti-gyled different strength Pale Ales from a single recipe.

The move towards Sweet Stout began in Scotland, even before Mackeson had the brainwave of adding lactose. In the 1880s, William Younger brewed Stouts with a poor degree of attenuation and a very low level of hopping, sometimes with partially, or even all, spent hops. After the introduction of lactose, Scottish brewers went mad for it, enabling them to brew ever more poorly-attenuation Stouts.

By the 1930s, Scottish Sweet Stouts were usually below 3% ABV and sometimes less than 2%. This was achieved by a combination of a low OG and a very poor degree of attenuation. Some examples in the table are barely fermented at all. And you definitely weren’t going to get pissed on such beers.

Scottish Sweet Stout before WW II
Date Year Beer Price per pint (d) OG FG ABV App. Atten-uation
1933 Dryborough Nourishing Stout   1031 1019 1.54 38.71%
1933 Murray Milk Stout   1036 1018 2.31 50.00%
1933 Tennent Nourishing Stout   1024 1015 1.16 37.50%
1933 Tennent Nourishing Stout   1029 1014 1.93 51.72%
1933 Tennent Nourishing Stout   1031 1013 2.32 58.06%
1933 Tennent Light Stout   1032 1014 2.32 56.25%
1937 Younger, Geo Cream Double Stout   1045.5 1025.5 2.56 43.96%
1937 Murray Milk Stout 6 1044.8 1019.2 3.30 57.14%
William Younger Gravity Book held at the Scottish Brewing Archive, document number WY/6/1/1/19, 
Thomas Usher Gravity Book held at the Scottish Brewing Archive, document number TU/6/11.
Whitbread Gravity book held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number LMA/4453/D/02/001.


Martyn Cornell said...

I suspect the move to sweeter stouts was going on across Britain in the 1880s, not just in Scotland: in 1883 the Brewer’s Journal made several references to sweet-tasting stouts brewed with “one-fifth or even larger proportions of Egyptian sugar… This stout …tastes extremely sweet.”

Anonymous said...

1.16%? How is that even possible? Did they kill the yeast and sell it unprimed?