Thursday 12 January 2023

Ageing early IPA

My dipity is really serending this week. More untold joy from the book-writing process.

I was nosing around in an odd set of records. Picking up exciting stuff like mashing temperatures and length of primary fermentation for my Stout book (as I write this, 43,575 words, 163 pages; when you read this, quite a few more, unless I've dropped dead). I say odd set because I don't know for certain which brewery it's from. I won't go into it more here. I explained it all in yesterday's post.

Flicking through the records to see which different vat numbers were used, I noticed this:


It's a batch of IPA brewed 30th May 1838. It's the earliest brewing record for an IPA that I have. And there it is, going into vat no. 20. "Started" is an old brewing term for laying down to age. So after almost five days in rounds (fermenters) it was transferred to a vat for ageing.

This is fascinating. Because that's not how they made IPA in Burton. At least not according to descriptions from the 1870s. Bass aged their IPA in hogsheads outside in the yard. The same casks in which it would be shipped either to India or to bottlers. They didn't age it in vats.

All this got me thinking. How do I know that Bass had always aged IPA in trade casks? Maybe they vatted it in the 1830s. Did all Burton brewers age the same way as Bass? What did Allsopp do, for example? More proof that I really know fuck all.

William Younger I'm pretty sure aged their IPA in hogsheads in a cellar. Barnard has a nice illustration of the scene. Had they always done that? What was true in the 1890s, wasn't necessarily so 30 or 40 years earlier.

As the saying goes, there are more answers than questions. Because not every question has a simple answer.


InSearchOfKnowledge said...

When you chop off one head of the Hydra, a couple more come out...

Christoph Riedel said...

Is ageing in hogshead a thing because they used dry-hops? I could imagine that dry-hops mix less well in vats than in hogshead. Other than that I cannot imagine any reason why they would not vat as it had been done for Porters for a hundred years already.

On the ship journey, hogshead would make sense, obviously. Or for breweries that never had built vats.