Monday 4 July 2022

Beer and water

I have to thank Gary Gillman for passing this newspaper article on to me. It's about an adulteration case brought in 1882. One whcih could have had huge implications for brewers and publicans, had it gone the wrong way.

Supt. Willam Sargant had gone to the Clayton Arms and ordered a pint of beer. He really was that vague in his order, not specifically asking for Bitter, Mild or another type of beer. As he paid 2d for his pint, the chances are it was Ordinary Mild. After being served his pint, Sargant asked for a jug because he wanted to send it to the County Analyst.

The landlord not only gave him a jug, but also three bottles to put the beer into. Very cooperative, in fact. Which does imply that the landlord didn't think tyhat he anything to fear. One of the bottles was sent to the County Analyst, Mr. Wanklyn.

Wanklyn analysed the beer and calculated that the OG was 1044.8º. And concluded that the sample was three parts beer and one part water. He doesn't seem to have been very well acquainted with brewing, because he assumed that to be considered beer, something had to have an OG of at least 1060º. So he assumed that a beer of 1044.8º must have been watered down from 1060º.

How on earth could Wanklyn make such a crap assumption? Because he was basically using the same method as he did for detecting watered milk. As milk has a generally consistent makeup, checking the water content is a perfectly valid method. But with beer, which can be brewed at a variety of gravities, it's less than useless to assume that it must have started out at a minimum of 1060º.

Wanklyn was very confident in his assumption. He refused to call the sample beer and kept referring to it as "beer and water". He rather rashly claimed that beer was never brewed as weak as 1044.8º.

"Isn’t there more water in some kinds of beer than others? — Oh, a great deal. There are very strong beers and weaker beers ; but this is weaker than the weakest beer I ever met with."
Bucks Herald - Saturday 09 December 1882, page 7.

Now even I know, almost 150 years later, that he was talking bollocks. There were plenty of beers being brewed at gravities below 1050º. As this table shows.

Beers with an OG below 1050º 1878 - 1885
Year Brewer Beer Style OG FG ABV App. Atten-uation lbs hops/ qtr hops lb/brl
1878 Adnams AK Pale Ale 1044.3       11.67 2.82
1878 Adnams IA Mild Ale 1044.3       11.67 2.67
1878 Adnams XX Mild Ale 1048.5       8.57 2.79
1882 Whitbread FA Pale Ale 1048.8 1015.0 4.47 69.32% 13.00 3.06
1880 Chapman AK Pale Ale 1045.4 1005.5 5.28 87.80% 10.00 2.17
1878 Tetley K ? 1042.9 1012.7 3.99 70.32% 2.00 0.35
1878 Tetley X Mild  1044.3 1013.3 4.10 70.00% 4.76 0.77
1878 Tetley X1 Mild  1048.5 1011.1 4.95 77.14% 6.23 1.16
1885 Kirkstall AK Pale Ale 1049.9       12.42 2.01
1885 Kirkstall L Mild 1049.3       5.67 1.20
1879 Younger, Wm.  T Table Beer 1030 1005 3.31 83.33% 6.67 0.89
1879 Younger, Wm.  50/- Ale 1036 1007 3.84 80.56% 6.92 0.95
1879 Younger, Wm.  S 50/- Ale 1042 1012 3.97 71.43% 2.94 0.55
1879 Younger, Wm.  H 60/- Ale 1039 1010 3.84 74.36% 2.94 0.51
1879 Younger, Wm.  H 60/- Ale 1040 1004 4.76 90.00% 6.25 1.06
1879 Younger, Wm.  2XP IPA 1046 1009 4.89 80.43% 9.00 1.94
1879 Younger, Wm.  X Mild 1044 1010 4.50 77.27% 7.22 1.41
1879 Younger, Wm.  S3 Stout 1032 1011 2.78 65.63% all spent hops  
1879 Younger, Wm.  S3 Stout 1043 1010 4.37 76.74% 4.71 0.86
1885 Thomas Usher IP IPA 1047 1013 4.50 72.34% 8.00 1.61
1885 Thomas Usher 60/- B Ale 1041.5 1015 3.51 63.86% 5.00 0.92
1885 Thomas Usher 40/- B Ale 1030 1011 2.51 63.33% 5.00 0.66
1884 Mew Langton FA Pale Ale 1049.9 1005.5 5.86 88.89% 10.00 2.09
Adnams brewing record held at the brewery.
Whitbread brewing record held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number LMA/4453/D/01/048.
Chapman brewing record held at the Oxfordshire Records Office, document number 833/A10/2.
Tetley brewing record held at the West Yorkshire Archives, document number WYL756/25/ACC1903.
William Younger brewing record held at the Scottish Brewing Archive, document number WY/6/1/2/28.
Thomas Usher brewing record held at the Scottish Brewing Archive, document number TU/6/1/1.
Brewing record held at the Isle of Wight Record Office, document number ML/44/1.

I went for below 1050º as there are just way too many beers with gravities below 1060º.

The defence had a very simple way of proving the beer hadn't been watered: they got the George Brakspear, who brewed the beer and the excise man who had checked the gravity to testify. They confirmed that the beer had been brewed at 1046º. Near enough the gravity calculated by Wanklyn.

To finally put the boot in they got a more prestigious analyst, Edmund Southby, to testify. He declared that Wanklyn's "standard" was totally arbitrary and not used by anyone other than Wanklyn himself. At which point the case was dismissed.


Anonymous said...

Good to see, especially with the benefit of your tabular data from the period. I liked in particular in the transcript where the accused's counsel argued it is hard to tell where water ends and beer begins, since both are necessary parts of the drink, whatever the gravity, that is.

Gary Gillman

Matt said...

Sounds like the kind of "expert" witness whose credibility Rumpole of the Bailey used to enjoy shredding in his cross examinations.

Michael Drew said...

'How on earth could Wanklyn make such a crap assumption?'

Due to nominative determinism, perhaps?

Michael N said...

Was Edmund Southby the E R Southby author of "A Systematic Handbook of Practical Brewing". If so it looks like the defence got out the heavy guns!

Anonymous said...

I'm puzzled by this. I assume your list isn't even close to complete. This seems like going to a typical fast food place and arresting the owner on the grounds that hamburgers are always at least half a pound.

Anonymous said...

The Analyst argued he hadn't tested beer before under 1060 OG.

Also, the law set no precise adulteration standard, early days it was.

He was clearly wrong in his finding, and in persisting to hold his view, but there's some context.

Gary Gillman

Anonymous said...

To clarify, my comment above is meant for Michael Drew and Anonymous, who were wondering how the Analyst could be so at sea.

Gary Gillman

Ron Pattinson said...

Michael N,

yes, that's him.