Tuesday 23 April 2024

Allied Breweries

Unlike the other large brewing groups, which had mostly coalesced around one large brewery, Allied was more like a merger of equals. Those parties being Tetley Walker, Ind Coope and Ansells, which joined together in 1961.  And, to some extent, they kept their regional identity. Other than Double Diamond and Skol, they didn’t really have national draught brands.

The grouping made a lot of sense. Tetley Walker was active mostly in the North, Ansells in the Midlands and Ind Coope in the South. Combined, they covered most of the country.

Allied didn’t go for a standard livery across the group, as most of the Big Six did. Well, not quite. The whole group had yellow signboards with brown lettering in a standard font. However, this was accompanied by the trademark of one of the constituent breweries

In the 1980s, this uniform look was dropped and the constituent breweries reverted to something like the livery they had before they grouped together.

In 1973, the group owned eight breweries, split amongst the three original companies. The relatively low number of breweries meant that Allied closed fewer breweries during the 1970s than most of the Big Six.

They also owned two breweries in Holland: Oranjeboom in Rotterdam and Drie Hoefijzers in Breda.

Let’s look at the three members of the group in detail.

Founded in 1857, Ansells grew to be one of the largest breweries in Birmingham.  In 1973, it operated two breweries in Birmingham: the original Ansells plant in Aston and the former Holts brewery. The latter had been acquired in 1934 and remained active until 1974.

In 1973, the brewery served 1,890 pubs. Which was less than a third of the 8,000 or so pubs controlled by Allied.

The Ansells brewery in Birmingham was the scene of much industrial unrest. Which led to its closure in 1981, with the Ansells beers being moved to other breweries in the group. Mainly the Ind Coope brewery in Burton.  Though the pubs retained their Ansells branding.

Ind Coope

Based in Romford, just outside London, Ind Coope moved into the big boy leagues in 1934 by merging with Allsopp. Whose brewery in Burton they continued to operate in the 1970s.

Two cask beers were brewed in the Romford plant, a Light Mild called KK (1031º) and Bitter (1037º). I can’t remember ever drinking either. Though I might have tried the Mild at a beer festival.

In the mid-1970s, Burton Ale, a cask version of Double Diamond, was introduced. Taken by CAMRA as a reassuring sign of a Big Six brewer taking cask seriously. Despite its confusing name. It being a Burton Pale Ale and not a Burton Ale. Which is a completely different style. At a gravity of 1047.5º, it was amongst the stronger Bitters brewed in the UK. And an excellent beer, when in good condition.

The only other cask beer from Burton was a fairly bland Bitter of 1037º.

Double Diamond, which had been a premium bottled Pale Ale, was first sold in keg form in 1962. It was a big success, becoming the best-selling keg beer in the UK. It was exclusively brewed in the Burton plant.

Tetley Walker
This arm of Allied operated two breweries, the former Walker plant in Warrington and Tetley in Leeds. Each serving one side of the Pennines.

In Yorkshire, Tetley was much better than most of the Big Six. They didn’t mess their pubs around and were happy for most of them to sell cask beer. It’s a brewery I had a lot of affection for. Obviously, it’s now closed.


The Tetley brewery West of the Pennines was a little schizophrenic. It brewed versions of the Leeds Mild and Bitter, but also Walkers Bitter, named after the original firm. They later also introduced a Walkers Mild.

Of the many breweries that once graced Alloa, in the 1970s just two remained: this and Maclay.

Formerly known as Arrols, this was one of handful of brewers making Lager between the wars. When Allsopp went bust just before WW I and John Calder was called in to sort the mess out, the extremely expensive Lager kit was moved from Burton to Alloa.

That kit was the reason this was the group’s principal source of Skol, their main Lager. A beer which had started life between the wars as an Arrol’s beer called Graham’s Golden Lager, with the name being changed to the more Germanic Skol in the 1950s.  

Wrexham Lager Brewery
It’s really strange that two of the six breweries producing Lager between the war, two ended up in the hands of Allied.

Wrexham was one of the specialist Lager breweries in the late 19th century. But, unlike most such breweries, it didn’t go bust after a few years.

Monday 22 April 2024

Thomas Usher boiling and fermentation in 1894

Time now for processes.

For most beers, there were two boils. The first of 90 minutes and the second of 120 minutes. The big exceptions were the Stouts, where there was a single, much longer boil. I wonder if the boil was that long to add colour. Which was the case often in London.

The pitching temperatures are all pretty consistent at between 58º F to 60º F. Which is all pretty standard. With 60º F being the most common pitching temperature generally for standard-strength beers.

The maximum temperatures, on the other hand, are a little on the low side, being mostly between 67º F and 69º F. While at most breweries the temperature was allowed to rise over 70º F. 

Thomas Usher boiling and fermentation in 1894
Beer Style boil time (hours) boil time (hours) Pitch temp max. fermen-tation temp
XX 60/- Mild 1.75 2.25 58º F 71º F
50/- Br Ale 1.5 2 60º F 67º F
60/- Ale 2   60º F 68º F
60/- Br Ale 1.5 2 59º F 67º F
80/- Ale 1.5 2 60º F 68º F
100/- Ale 1.5 2 58º F 68º F
3 XX Stock Ale 1.5 2.25 58º F 70º F
IP IPA 1.5 2 58º F 68º F
PA Pale Ale 1.5 2 58º F 68º F
PA 60/- Pale Ale 1.5 2 58º F 68º F
Stout Stout 3   59º F 69º F
Stout Export Stout 3.5   58º F 72º F
Thomas Usher brewing record held at the Scottish Brewing Archives, document number TU/6/1/2.

Sunday 21 April 2024

Thomas Usher hops in 1894

Moving on to the hops, the great majority are English. Other than one lot of British Columbian and one of Californian.

As for the English, almost all are either from Kent or Sussex. The former is no surprise, being, the UK’s biggest hop-growing region. Sussex, on the other hand, was a relatively minor player in the hop game. Worcester, which appears once, was another major hop county. Thus, not unusual.

It may seem odd that an expensive beer like the Export Stout contains only American hops. But it does make sense. An export beer would need lots of protection from hops. And US hops had a higher preservative value. Also, in a beer that was aged and had loads of roast, hop aroma wouldn’t have been a prominent flavour. 

Thomas Usher hops in 1894
Beer Style hop 1 hop 2
XX 60/- Mild Kent British Columbia
50/- Br Ale Kent Sussex
60/- Ale Kent Sussex
60/- Br Ale Kent Sussex
80/- Ale Kent Sussex
100/- Ale Kent Sussex
3 XX Stock Ale Kent  
IP IPA Worcester Kent
PA Pale Ale Kent Sussex
PA 60/- Pale Ale Kent Sussex
Stout Stout Kent Sussex
Stout Export Stout Californian  
Thomas Usher brewing record held at the Scottish Brewing Archives, document number TU/6/1/2.

Saturday 20 April 2024

Let's Brew - 1885 Thomas Usher 40/- B

Let’s kick off Usher’s beers with the surprisingly watery Forty Bob. Looking like a 1918 beer at a gravity of just 1030º. And not even 3% ABV. Though the real FG might have been lower.

This could easily have been called as Table Beer. And might well have been a couple of decades before. But, along with the tax category, the term itself had become obsolete. How was this drunk? Probably with food. At home.

It’s a very simple recipe of just pale malt and sugar. An undefined type of sugar. No. 2 invert is just my conservative guess.

Most off the hops are Californian. With 20% from Alsace. From the 1883 and 1884 harvests, respectively. The dry hops are my guess.

1885 Thomas Usher 40/- B
pale malt 5.75 lb 88.46%
No. 2 invert sugar 0.75 lb 11.54%
Cluster 120 min 0.75 oz
Cluster 30 min 0.25 oz
Strisselspalt 30 min 0.25 oz
Goldings dry hops 0.25 oz
OG 1030
FG 1011
ABV 2.51
Apparent attenuation 63.33%
IBU 25
Mash at 148º F
Sparge at 175º F
Boil time 120 minutes
pitching temp 57.5º F
Yeast WLP028 Edinburgh Ale


Friday 19 April 2024

Thomas Usher sugars in 1894

Every beer, except for Export Stout, contains some sugar. Not really much of a surprise that. Though there’s a big variation in the quantity, from 5% all the way to 25%.

Joint most common type, Garton, is almost certainly some sort of invert. Garton just being the manufacturer. It could well be one of the numbered inverts. Sharing joint first is something described as “cane”. By which they probably mean raw cane sugar.

One Stout contains CDM (Caramelised Dextro-Maltose), a less easily fermentable sugar which would have added body and colour.

I’ve no idea what the other sugar was. The description is illegible. At least to me. 

Thomas Usher sugars in 1894
Beer Style Garton cane CDM other sugar total sugar
XX 60/- Mild       5.97% 5.97%
50/- Br Ale 8.93%     5.36% 14.29%
60/- Ale   25.00%     25.00%
60/- Br Ale 8.93%     5.36% 14.29%
80/- Ale   25.00%     25.00%
100/- Ale   25.00%     25.00%
3 XX Stock Ale 4.76%       4.76%
IP IPA 8.93%     5.36% 14.29%
PA Pale Ale   25.00%     25.00%
PA 60/- Pale Ale 8.93%     5.36% 14.29%
Stout Stout   19.80% 5.94%   25.74%
Stout Export Stout         0.00%
Thomas Usher brewing record held at the Scottish Brewing Archives, document number TU/6/1/2.

Thursday 18 April 2024

Amsterdam bound

I meet Mike for breakfast at nine.

I’m feeling a bit crap. Not sure why. A cold coming on, perhaps. Maybe lack of sleep. Or it could have been those cocktails. And the soju. Yeah, maybe it makes sense. I’m tired and have a cold.

The best in such circumstances is to fill your stomach. Preferably with salt and grease. Also known as a full English. I get scrambled egg, mushrooms, lots of bacon and, in a daring move, a sausage. Only because it’s labelled “Cumberland sausage”.

It’s not too bad. Could maybe have done with a bit more texture. I have some more orange juice. And more coffee. I’m still really thirsty. That’s it. I’m, ill, tired and dehydrated. It’s so simple.

We’re due over in Wandswortth at 11:00. I wouldn’t know the best way to get there. We take a District line train to East Putney. Then walk. It’s not stupidly far. But I have my luggage with me.

We’re meeting various people at Sambrooks. Which is located on the part of the former Youngs brewery site. Never been there before, so should be fun. Despite the walk.

After a while of fiddling around outside, we find Derek and his son Michael are already inside. Along with Duncan Sambrook of, er, Sambrooks.

We start off with a drink. For me, a water. I’m weirdly thirsty.

We have a quick spin around the brewery. Where John, a former Youngs brewer who kept brewing going on the site after the closure. He’s busy brewing on his small kit. An IPA. We don’t have long to chat as he’s, well, brewing. 

After Sambrooks, it’s the turn of the Youngs Heritage Centre. Where, in one of the few bits of the original structure, they have some old bits and bobs. And a couple of brewing logs. Including the final one, covering 2006-2007. I quickly snap a few random pages.

There’s just time for a beer before we need to leave for our next appointment. I get a half of Porter. Don’t want to drink too much beer. I have a long tube ride to consider. Don’t want to soil my kecks on the way to the airport.

We take a bus to the Bricklayer’s Arms in Putney. A famous beer pub, which I’ve never visited before. It’s sort of Timothy Taylor’s London HQ. Selling no fewer than four of their beers: Dark Mild, Landlord, Landlord Dark and Boltmaker. Pretty impressive. I get a half of Landlord Dark. As the Mild has just gone off.

I can’t stay for long. I need to get over to Heathrow for a 5 PM flight. I start getting ready to leave around 2 PM. But everything takes longer than you expect in London.

By the time my Uber drops me at Hammersmith tube station, it’s 14:40. Mmm. I’d like to get to the airport around three-ish. When’s the next train to terminal 4? Bum. Not for another 15 minutes.

Luckily, it’s only 30 minutes to the airport. I’m there at 15:30. Where I discover that my flight is delayed by 60 minutes. More time in the lounge, I suppose.

It’s pretty full. I manage to find a seat, though. After setting up my flip-flop, I visit the bar to fetch a whisky. The think about food. As I’ve not eaten since breakfast. The hot food isn’t that bad. So I get stuck in.

I fiddle around on the internet for a while. While sipping whisky and stuffing my face.

Eventually it says my flight is 45-minutes late. Though, by the time it leaves, it’s delayed by more than an hour.

Not much to report about the flight. We take off, fly for a bit, land and then spend forever taxiing to the terminal.

When I open my front door, there’s a cup of tea ready. Andrew tracked my flight this time.

Sambrook's Brewery
1 Bellwether Ln,
London SW18 1UD.

The Bricklayer’s Arms
32 Waterman St,
London SW15 1DD.

Disclosure: my travel and all expenses were paid by Goose Island.

Wednesday 17 April 2024

Let's Brew Wednesday - 2006 Courage Best Bitter

This is a rather strange one. A version of Courage Best Bitter brewed at Youngs. And, even weirder, it’s way stronger than Courage Best usually was. The standard OG being 1039º. I’ve no idea why this version is so much stronger.

The recipe looks remarkably like those of Youngs own Pale Ales. With a grist mostly of pale malt along with a little crystal malt. With the addition of a very proprietary ingredient: Youngs Special Mix. A blend of sugars put together especially for Youngs. It was a mix of glucose, molasses and caramel with a colour of 220 EBC. I’ve added the individual elements to the recipe.

There was just a single type of hops described as Donnington Court. Which doesn’t tell me a great deal. Given the small quantity, I decided to go with something higher alpha than Goldings or Fuggles. But that is purely a guess. They could have been pretty much any English variety. 

2006 Courage Best Bitter
pale malt 9.50 lb 79.50%
crystal malt 20 L 1.33 lb 11.13%
glucose 0.85 lb 7.11%
molasses 0.25 lb 2.09%
caramel 2000 SRM 0.02 lb 0.17%
Brewer’s Gold 60 min 0.50 oz
Brewer’s Gold 15 min 0.50 oz
OG 1055
FG 1013
ABV 5.56
Apparent attenuation 76.36%
IBU 15
SRM 10
Mash at 152º F
Sparge at 165º F
Boil time 60 minutes
pitching temp 63º F
Yeast Wyeast 1028 London Ale

Tuesday 16 April 2024

Back home

The twelfth day of the trip. Longer than I’m usually away. I’m feeling it when I drag my miserable carcass from under the sheet at 6:15.

Ablutions abluted, it’s time to fill my fat gut with coffee, scrambled egg, cheese and fruit. Exactly the same as every other day I’ve stayed in this hotel. I’m such a wacky bloke.

My driver rolls up a minute or two before the appointed time. We quickly rumble out of town, which hasn’t totally woken up yet. At least, the swarms of cars haven’t.

It’s still pretty damp. Out in the countryside, the pastures are sodden emerald. With only the occasional sad, seated cow and erratic palms to punctuate its emptiness. The hills, pumped full of trees, are mostly invisible, steaming with mist.

Weirdly unconvincing billboards pimping luxury developments often block the view. As do the roadside restaurants. Many, inevitably offering buffet. In a not particularly subtle way.

A little of the Dupipe was left over yesterday. Shame to waste it. And that diet cola. Time to make a travel drink. I wouldn’t want to dehydrate during the journey.

When it starts getting more urban, I realise we’re getting close to the airport. Small, low houses and workshops. And my special drink bottle runs dry. That’s good timing.

I’m soon checked in. I know there’s nothing really to do airside. I just find a seat by the gate and read Private Eye.

I get on as one of the first – thank you, Brazilian law – and the flight is on time. With the usual slightly scary landing, where the brakes are slammed on as soon as rubber hits the tarmac. That’s Congonhas for you. 

There’s only an hour between my flights. Congonhas, being no Guarulhos, is pretty compact. In no time, I’m at the gate.

I built a lot of wiggle room into today. I land in Rio at 13:05. My flight to Amsterdam is at 20:50. Bit of an overkill, I know. Price might have played a role, too. Though I do need to transfer from Rio’s domestic to its international airport. Already having booked a car, the transfer is a doddle.

It’s not even 14:00 when I get there. Far too early to check in. Waiting it is. Several hours of it. Getting to catch up on some of Private Eye backlog is my positive way of looking at it.

Once, eventually, checked in and airside, I remember what I hate about this airport: the endless walking. Even worse than Schiphol. And almost no travellators.

After some initial trouble linking to the wifi (I blame VPN), I settle in to watch some crap with nibbles and a few caipirinhas. A bit disappointed, I switch to whisky. They were the weakest caipirinhas I’ve tasted. Nothing like enough cachaça.

A bit before it’s time to leave the warm embrace of the lounge, a storm starts with flurry of flashes. Hope that’s over before takeoff.

They seem a little behind schedule in getting boarding going. Leaving my poor old legs standing around for 15 minutes.

I plan on a good kip. And sort of get it. I fall asleep during Next Goal Wins. I don’t get further when I restart, nodding off only a few minutes on.

It might not be my first impression, but I seem to have had a reasonable amount of sleep. Maybe five hours. Just very disturbed. I woke up lots of times. Just not for long.

We’re served a yellow rectangle of something they don’t bother to explain on a base of some red stuff. If anything, the visuals oversell the flavour. And they’ve promised fuck all. I don’t care. I just have to one mouthful. Which I regret. Coffee and orange juice will do me.

It seems a very long walk, considering we arrived on E pier. And the carousel for our luggage is the very far one.

The wait for the first bag isn’t too bad. It just takes a while for mine to come out.

A taxi soon leaves me opening my front door. Where Dolores has tea ready for me. She’s followed my flight on her computer. The wonders of modern technology.