Friday, 19 October 2007

Scottish Ale

I've learned to be very suspicious of claims based on speculation or abstract reasoning rather than fact. In so many cases, they've been proved to be bollocks when I got hold of hard data.

Scottish Ale. What's it like?? Let's ask the BJCP shall we? They are the experts on beer styles, after all.

"Traditional Scottish session beers reflecting the indigenous ingredients (water, malt), with less hops than their English counterparts (due to the need to import them)."

"Hops, which are not native to Scotland and formerly expensive to import, were kept to a minimum."

I think I've got that. Because there were no local hops, Scottish Ales had to be lightly hopped. Didn't they?

Now I'm going to be boring. I'm not going to come up with lots of clever reasoning based on Scotland's geography. Let's - tell me if you think I'm crazy - try comparing Scottish and English beers of the same period and see if the Scottish ones really are more lightly hopped. It's a funny method, I know, but bear with me.

The first two beers are examples of his own brews given by W.H. Roberts in his 1847 work
"Scottish Ale-Brewer". The XXX is taken from Griffin Brewery of London's brewing logs. Now, which of the beers is more heavily-hopped?

Here are a couple of quotes from Roberts :

"The majority of the brewers give preference to the Kent hops, which, generally speaking, bring a higher price in the market than those grown in any other county." (page 44)

". . . in Edinburgh, which has long been famed for ale, nine-tenths of the hops which are used in brewing are grown in the county of Kent. " (page 46)

So despite them being the most expensive, Edinburgh brewers still used mostly hops from the most distant English hop-growing region. It doesn't sound to me like they were trying to save money on their hops.

My provisional conclusion: from the evidence I can find, Scottish Ales were hopped at about the same rate as their London counterparts. In the 1830's, at least.

A larger number of examples would be more conclusive. If you have any that contradict mine, feel free to send them to me. As I said yesterday, I dont mind having my opinions changed by facts.


Stonch said...

The assumption that Scottish brewers didn't use hops because they had to be imported is a bit like saying they didn't light fires in London because the coal came from Newcastle.

Another nonsense theory bites the dust.

So then Ronbo, how are you going to put this stuff into book form, then?

Anonymous said...

Lightly hopped Scottish ale is something I always bought into and have even held out as fact myself.

I am going to have to shut up about beer!

Thanks for the info.

Bier-Mania!™ Cultural Beer Tours said...

Good stuff Ron!
Keep it coming.

Ron Pattinson said...

Stonch, I haven't done 10% of the research on the book I want to write. I wouldn't like to suah.