Friday, 21 September 2007

Bass bottled beers 1956 - 1967

I've started going through the Whitbread gravity book I photgraphed on Tuesday. For no particular reason, I've started with the entries for Bass bottled beers.

Oddly enough, the 1960's were the one decade of the 20th century for which I had no real hard facts. Brewing logs and the Truman Gravity book have provided information on all the earlier decades. From the 1970's onwards, the CAMRA Good Beer Guide provides gravities. Now, thanks to Whitbread's industrial espionage, I can fill in the missing decade.

What can we learn from these figures? That Bass No 1 barley Wine has always had a massive OG, for one thing. They also blow one of my pet theories out of the water - that Barley Wine had a Bitter-like colour. The gravity book gives its colour as 100 and 110 - about the same as their Brown Ale. It's far darker than the Pale Ales, which are around 20.

Talking of Pale Ales, Blue Triangle was a filtered and pasteurised beer, Red Label was bottle-conditioned. Red Triangle was later just relabelled Worthington White Shield and was eventually dropped. An sad fate for the beer that had been the most famous Pale Ale in the world (as painted by Monet on the Folies Bergeres bar). You'll notice that the FG of some samples of Red Triangle is very low - 1003 to 1004. I think we can assume it was pretty dry.

I was surpised at the strength of the beers; the weakest are just a tad under 5% ABV. Remember that at this time the average OG was about 1037 equivalent to an average ABV of 3.7%.

I've never heard of Gold Triangle or Gold Label (thet appears to be the same beer). If anyone can remember it, please let me know.


Anonymous said...

The real interesting bit of this for me is the serious difference in the attenuation rates of the pale ales (especially the red triangle) and the barleywine and imperial stout. Even the poorest attentuation of the red triangle (Feb 1967) is still 81% apparent attenuation, while the imperial stout and the barleywine are in the 63% range. That along with the color of the barleywine suggests lots of crystal malt to me. I don't suspect that the yeast was that alcohol intolerant. Any thoughts on the grist of these beers? The red (and blue) triangles would have to be nearly all pale ale malt, right? (perhaps with some sugar/adjunct?)

Unless thats the difference right there...

Good stuff Ron!

Ron Pattinson said...

Kevin, I'm afraid I've never seen the Bass brewing logs. Which makes it difficult to say much about the grists. I do know, however, that before WW I Bass No. 1 was 100% pale malt and that the colour came from carmelisation during a long boil.

The attenuation of the stronger beers is very much in line with the Barclay Perkins beers of 1936:

Why the FG's are so high, I'm not sure.

As you can see here, Bass's Pale Ales had a really high degree of attenuation in the 19th century, too:

You'll also see that the Strong Ale (presumably the forerunner of No. 1) has an OG of around 1100 and an FG of 1035. Looks like nothing much changed between 1890 and 1960.

I would expect all the beers would have sugar in the grist. As for crystal malt, I wouldn't like to say. When I looked through the Barclay Perkins logs a couple of weeks ago, I couldn't find crystal malt in anything but dark beers - Mild and Stout.

One reason why the Red Triangle is so highly-attenuated could be accounted for by the fact that, unlike all the other beers, it was bottle-conditioned.

Glad you enjoy this sort of stuff. There's lots more on the way.

Anonymous said...

Was the barleywine not bottle-conditioned? Do you have any idea when the bigger breweries started pasteurizing bottled beer?

I'll continue to pepper you with questions, as this stuff is fascinating to me...



Ron Pattinson said...

Kevin, British breweries started pasteurising in the 1890's. It really took off after WW I. By the 1930's bottle-conditioning was becoming so rare that customers often didn't know how to pour a beer with sediment.

Worthington even experimented with pasteurising draught beer around 1910, but stopped because drinkers didn't like the taste.

I must admit to not being 100% sure if No. 1 was no longer bottle-conditioned by the 1950's. It definitely wasn't in the 1970's (I know, because I drank it then).

Some brewers stuck with bottle-conditioning longer than others. Whitbread, for example, who when they employed Sidbey Nevile as head brewer in 1919 made him promise not to force-carbonate their beers. In the 1930's they advertised their Stout as naturally-conditioned.

Feel free to ask questions. It's a treat to find someone who actually wants to discuss this sort of topic.

Anonymous said...

The Gold Triangle is an intriguing brew. I wonder if it's something Bass produced to cash on the success of Tennant's (now Whitbreda) Gold Label which was launched in the 1950s (I think).

Ron Pattinson said...

John, that was the thought that crossed my mind. It's very expensive for the gravity - 2/- for a nip, which is a halfpenny dearer than No. 1.

I've never heard of Gold Triangle, so it had probably disappeared by the 1970's. I tried a quick search on Google, but got loads of irrelevant hits - "Bass" and "Gold Triangle" have too many other meanings.