Monday 30 June 2008


Every so often, Kruidvat sell 10 euro train tickets. You can use them to travel anywhere in holland at the weekend. The catch is that they are only valid for a limited period. Our last ones expired yesterday. Which is why the whole family went to Middelburg on Saturday.

Why Middelburg? Well, it had to be somewhere a good way from Amsterdam to drag the most out of the cheap tickets. No point going somewhere we can get to for 11 euros any time. And the kids are collecting provinces. With their first trip to Zeeland, they've now crossed off ten of the twelve.

Middelburg has the typical zig-zag outline left by 17th-century defensive earthworks. Inside, winding streets are filled with narrow, red tile roofed houses. "Everything is so low" Dolores commented. She's right. The older houses in Amsterdam are on average two stories higher. We're such city slickers.

Lexie had come prepared. The night before he'd made his own Google map with the most important locations marked: train station, museum, beer pub, toy shop. We didn't make it to the museum. After half an hour standing below the air-conditioning vent in Intertoys, I was ready for a beer. Dolores, too. Fortunately a decent-looking pub was at hand.

Right next to the main church, Eetcafé Desafinado thoughtfully had boards outside with the complete menu for both food and drinks. Half a dozen draught and about a dozen bottled beers. Including Westmalle tripel. That'll do me. Dolores went for a Koninck.

Now I look at the photo, I realise that I failed to notice the house beer, Lange Jan. How embarrassing. I hope it's just a label beer.

Andrew had already noticed many cars with German plates. A good portion of our fellow customers enjoying the sun on the terrace were Germans, too. What am I saying? Technically, our party was 75% German. The large German contingent probably explains the presence of Paulaner Hefeweizen on draught. Either that or Heineken's pushing of the brand. Whichever, that was Dolores's second beer choice. That's right, Dolores was keen on a second beer. My lucky day. I stuck with Westmalle.

I've wanted to visit Café Mug for a while. I was in Middelburg with Mike last year, but it was a Sunday. Mug only opens Wednesday to Saturday. And from 16:00. This time, I was concerned that might be too late for us and I'd have just 20 minutes drinking. Fortunately, the kids weren't playing up. We were leaning on the door at 15:58. That gave me a full 90 minutes.

Mug is a comfortable pub with a surprisingly large number of rooms. By my count, four. They have even more beers. Somewhere around 70 in total. I feel my descriptive powers waning. If you want to know how it looks inside, I refer you to the photograph. Nice, isn't it?

About 45 minutes before our train was due to depart, Andrew started fretting. He's inherited worrying from his mum. (Lexie got his craziness from me, I'm afraid.) Middelburg isn't that big. And the station is pretty central. "I've easily time for two more beers. Three, if I hurry." "Daaad, just finish that one. There isn't time for another." I hate to lose an argument with one of the kids. As soon as he said that, I just had to order one more beer.

It took us a good 5 minutes to walk back to the station. Where waited on the platform for a further 15. Just as well I'd stocked up on La Trappe Quadrupel in Albert Heijn. When we'd been buying in our train picnic. The two and a half hour journey sped by. Funny how much shorter the return trip always appears. The wonder of beer.

Eetcafé Desafinado
Koorkerkstraat 1,
4331 AW Middelburg.
Tel: 0118 - 640767

Braai Tapperij De Mug
Vlasmarkt 54-56,
4331 PG Middelburg.
Tel: 0118 - 614851

1930's decoction mashing

I warned you that I had loads more of this stuff. This is from "Brauerhandbuch" by Karl Hennies, 1937, pages 124-127. I was most surprised to see a mention of Satz. I hadn't expected any 20th century references to it. I've another book by Hennies, written after the war, that also talks of Satz.

The big difference in the methods described here are the protein and saccharification rests taken in the kettle.
Triple decoction mash
This is typified by a part of the mash being pumped into the mash kettle on three separate occasions. There it is kept at a specific temperature before being boiled. In is then returned to the mash tun. The total duration of the process is 4.5 to 5 hours.

Einmaisch teperature is 35 - 38º C. Then the first mash (about a third of the total) is pumped into the mash kettle. This mash should be as thick as possible.

(First Dickmaische.) The temperature in the kettle should rise slowly; at 50º C a 10 minute protein rest can be taken, between 65 and 70º C there is a 15-25 minute saccharification rest; the mash is then brought to the boil and boiled for 45 minutes. The mash is then pumped back into the tun and reunited with the remaining two thirds of the mash. The contents of the tun are constantly stirred, starting before the boiled mash is returned (vormaischen), while the wort is being pumped back and after all the mash is back in the tun (nachmaischen). As a result of the addition of the first boiled wort the temperature of the whole mash is raised to 50-53º C.

After this the second Dickmaische is pumped into the kettle and boiled for 20-30 minutes. (While this is happening there is a protein rest in the mash tun at 50-53º C.) Through the return of the second mash the temperature in the mash tun is raised to 62-65º C.

Then a third mash is pumped into the kettle. This time not a Dickmaische, but a Lautermaische, which is as thin as possible. The Lautermaische is quickly brought to the boil and boiled for 25 minutes. (During this time: the temperature in the mash tun is 62-65º C = saccharification rest.) When the 3rd mash is pumped back into the tun, the temperature rises to 76-78º C (= mashout temperature). Now mashout occurs, that is the complete mash is pumped into the lauter tun.

Sometimes a "Maischrest" is employed. When the mash is pumped back into the tun a remainder is left in the kettle. When the next mash is pumped into the kettle into the boiling-hot Maischrest, as a result of the higher temperature, more unfermentable dextrines are formed than fermentable sugars.

Double decoction mash
Einmaisch is with warm water at 50º C or the Einmaish is cold and then wqarmed to 50º C. The first Dickmaische (about half the total mash) is boiled for up to 30 minutes. After being pumped back the temperature of the whiole mash in the tun rises to about 65º C. Then a second Dickmaische (about one third of the total mash) is drawn off and boiled. When pumped back into the tun the mashout temperature of 75-78º C is reached. When the malt demands it, during both Dickmaische a longer or shorter protein rest and saccharification rest are taken. Double decoction is often used with pale, well-modified malt.

Single decoction mash
There are different ways of performing this method. This is the so-called "Kesselmaisch" [Kettle mash] method.

Mashing occurs in the kettle and the complete mash, after a protein rest, is warmed to the saccharification temperature. Stirring is stopped and the thin (enzyme rich) part of the mash, the so-called "Satz" pumped into the mash tun. The thick remainder is boiled in the kettle and then pumped into the tun with the thin part and kept at saccharification temperature for 30 minutes. The whole mash is then pumped into the kettle and brought to mashout temperature.

The Hochkurz [High fast] mashing method
This is used with very well-modified malt. Einmaisch is at the higher temperature of 62º C (avoiding a protein rest). The first mash is only boiled for a short time - 5 minutes.After pumping back the boiled mash the temperature rises to 72º C. This temperature is maintained for an hour. Then another mash is drawn off and again boiled for just 5 minutes and mashout is at 78º C.

Springmaisch method
The einmaisch temperature is 37º C. The mash is then added to boiling hot water. The temperature of the mash is so raised to 70º C. The temperatures between are skipped. This method is used with over-modified malt which saccharifies too quickly.

Schmitz method
You can mash any way you like. Abläutern, separating the wort from the spent grains, occurs not at normal mashout temperature (76-78º C) but at boiling point. Wort obtained this way needs to be cooled a little and undergo more saccharifcation. To this aim, "cold Satz", a watery malt extract (diastase extract) obtained after einmaschen, is run off earlier in the process. By mixing the Satz and the wort at saccharifcation temperature saccharification takes place.

I'll probably be going back in time for the next installment. To the pre-thermometer time.

Sunday 29 June 2008

Obsession (again)

My confessions, multiple as they are, can no longer be any surprise. Not even to me.

Decoction mashing. My new obsession. Ask Andrew. I keep telling him about it. He's so enthralled, he seems in a trance. "Wake up, Andrew. How does Dickmeisch differ from Dünnmeisch?" "Daaad, it's midnight. I have to go to school tomorrow." No commitment, these youngsters.

I won't pretend to have read every word of every book I own. How much time do you think I have? The Kunze that's topping my new book tower has 847 pages. In an ideal world, I'd have time to read it twice forwards and once backwards. I have a job and a family. Excuse me if I'm selective.

The raw material is piled up around me. Way too much ("Dad, you've already said that") to attack it randomly. Investigating a specific theme is the only way to stop your head exploding. Mine's almost popped a few times.

"How do you perform a decoction mash?" That's my current question. Finding references to it is piece of piss. Index . . . .M . . . Miaischen . . . page 171 . . . . "In Deustschland sind Dekoktionsvervahren allgemein üblich. Man wendet . . . "

It's that simple. But still definitely worth doing. If only for my own education. This technical stuff is quite fun. I love numbers. And decoction mashing has loads of numbers. It's a great theme.

Sorry if I go on about this. I did clearly state in my mission statement that this blog was supposed to serve as an outlet for the conversations I couldn't have with my family or friends. You're the only ones I can talk to about decoction mashing or the discrepancy between brewery and pub samples of Barclay Perkins draught beers in the 1930's. You were warned.

Having more books than I can read is worthwhile. I'm impulsive. Ideas grab me. When they do, I'm prepared. Dolores believes that, I hope. Though, like an addict, I keep some of my book-buying secret. Don't give me away.

Fermentation. I've skipped through lots about that. All those funny-shaped fermenters. Cleansing. They were crazy about that. Who cleanses now? Lagering. How many ways to lager?

There's so much. So much. Is there anyone rich enough to pay me to do this fulltime?

I can dream.

Three hundred and twenty-six

How many different breweries are represented in my Mega Gravity Table? Three hundred and twenty-six. Just Thought I'd let you know. I was going to post the complete list but, covering many pages, it isn't practical. Here are those breweries beginning with the letter 'F':

Feigenspan (Newark, NJ)
Felinfoel Brewery, Llanelly
Flower & Sons
Forest Hill Brewery
Frederick Smith, Aston
Friary Holroyd
Frydenlunds Brewery, Oslo
Fuller, Smith & Turner

I may finally publish the Mega Gravity Table soon. It now contains more than 4,000 entries. But I want to finish off the Truman Gravity Book first. And the Whitbread one, too, possibly.

Three hundred and twenty-six. The number of entries for Barclay Perkins. For Charrington, it's 277. Courage 190, Mann 268, Meux 141, Taylor Walker 145, Truman 271, Watney 257. But there are the most for Whitbread - 423.

Just what you wanted. More numbers. Seven, forty-nine, nintey-two. There's a couple more. I promised you numbers when I started this blog. I don't want to be accused of deception.

Saturday 28 June 2008

1950's decoction mashing in the DDR

Who says this blog is willfully obscure? Taking a break from 19th century decoction techniques, let's return to another of my obsessions, the DDR. The source is one of my favourite books, Dickscheit's "Leitfaden für den Brauer und Mälzer", 1953, pages 64 - 66.

The DDR was a bit of a time warp. The techniques described here, though the book was published in the 1950's, are probably unchanged from at least the 1930's.

Today I've not one, not two, not three, not even four decoction methods, but five for your delectation. I never realised there were so many different ways of performing a decoction mash.

Decoction mashing is standard practice in Germany. It is not employed because it gives a better yield - an infusion mash with well-modified malt can be just as efficient - but because of the flavour of it lends to the finished beer. Beers brewed by the decoction method taste more powerful and heartier. Because boiling darkens the colour of the wort, for very pale beers the quantity of wort boiled should be kept to a minimum.

The classic decoction method is triple decoction. It is used for Munich beers, but rarely for very pale beers because it darkens the wort. However it is used at Pilsner Urquell. Beers brewed by triple decoction usually have a lower degree of attenuation than those using a double decoction because of the early destruction of the diastase.

The triple decoction mashing scheme for a pale beer can look like this:

Length of mash 3.5 to 5 hours
The main mashing temeratures are 37, 54, 65 and 76º C
Einmaischen at 37º C
Draw off first mash and without a rest bring to the boil
Boil first mash
The Restmaische remains at 37º C
Aufmaischen at 54º C
The combined wort stands at 54º C (protein rest)
Draw off second mash and bring to the boil
Boil second mash
The Restmaische remains at 54º C
Aufmaischen at 65º C
Draw off third mash and bring to the boil
Boil third mash
The Restmaische remains at 65º C
Aufmaischen at 76º C and mashout

It should be remarked that triple decoction can be performed in many different ways. The rests can be longer or shorter, the Kochmaische can be pumped quickly or slowly, Dickmaische or Lautermaische can be drawn off. However there are always three boils of the mash and the temperatures are always the same. Though, in the case of a cold Einmaischen, they can vary by 2 or 3º C.

Double decoction is the most widely used method in Germany. It is suitable for the production of pale beers and is more rational as it uses less coal and time. Beers brewed by double decoction are paler than those made using triple decoction. The mashing temperatures are 50, 70 and 76º C. When using poorly modified malt a rest at the start temperature, 50º C, is recommended. As an example, this is a method of double decoction employed by Schönfeld in the Hochschulbrauerei in Berlin. This method is typified by the care which is taken.

Duration of the process 3 hours and 5 minutes.

Einmaischen at 35º C 5 minutes
Warm whole mash to 52º C 20 minutes
Rest whole mash at 52º C (protein rest) 15 minutes
Draw off first mash and without a rest bring to the boil 30 minutes
Boil first mash 10 minutes
The Restmaische remains at 52º C 40 minutes
Aufmaischen at 70º C 25 minutes
Rest whole mash at 70º C (saccharification rest) 30 minutes
Draw off second mash and without a rest bring to the boil 15 minutes
Boil second mash 10 minutes
Aufmaischen at 76º C and mashout 20 minutes

In addition to double and triple decoction there is a series of other methods

The Hoch-Kurzmaische method is characterised by a high Einmaisch temperature. The decoction effect is small and beers produced this way resemble those from an infusion mash. Attenuation of 80 - 84% is achieved with this method. Well-modified malt is essential

The process takes about 2 hours.
Einmaischen at 62º C
Draw off first mash and quickly bring to the boil
Boil first mash for 5 minutes
Aufmaischen at 70º C
Rest whole mash at 70º C (saccharification rest)
Draw off second mash and quickly bring to the boil
Boil second mash for 5 minutes
Aufmaischen at 76º C and mashout

The standard single decoction method is scarcely used in practice. The decoction effect is very small. Beers made this way taste similar to those made using an infusion mash.

A standard single decoction mash goes something like this:

Einmaischen at 50º C
Warm whole mash to 70º C
Draw off mash and bring to the boil
Aufmaischen at 76º C and mashout

The Kesselmaische method, where the whole Dickmaische is boiled, is a single decoction method with a strong decoction effect. In a four-hour mash, it generally gives a better yield than a triple or double decoction mash of the same length. In the hands of a skilled professional, it's a very elegant method which can achieve everything desired. Both well- and poorly-modified malt can be used. The enzymes in the Dunnmaische drawn off earlier are enough to guarantee a complete saccharification. Also the Abmaisch temperature isn't high enough to quickly kill the enzymes. Even during Ablauteren there are still enzymes in the wort.

This method need to be adapted according to the quality of the malt.

A Kesselmaische method goes something like this:

Einmaischen at 50º C
Rest at 50º C approx. 30 minutes
Warm whole mash to 64º C
Rest at 64º C approx. 30 minutes
Draw off mash and bring to the boil
Warm whole mash to 70º C
First saccharification rest at 70º C until iodine normality reached
Draw off the Dünnmaische
Boil the Dickmaische
Aufmaischen at 76 - 78º C
Second saccharification rest

What am I saying, 1930's? The Schönfeld method is probably pre-WW I. If you'll remember, he was the author of "Die Herstellung obergähriger Biere", published in 1908.

Friday 27 June 2008


There are fascinating insights to be gained by comparing the gravity books and brewing logs. Specifically, what was happening to beer between leaving the brewery and being pulled into a customer's glass.

The brewing logs tell what the brewer intended his beer to be. The gravity books what was actually served in pubs. The two rarely match.

19th Century
Frederick Accum did something similar at the beginning of the 19th century. He sampled beers in the great Porter breweries and then in pubs. One average, by the time they were served, beers were 10 -15% weaker. A century or so later, not much seemed to have changed.

Samples of brown stout with which I have been obligingly favoured, whilst writing this Treatise, by Messrs. Barclay, Perkins, & Co.—Messrs. Truman, Hanbury, and Co.—Messrs. Henry Meux and Co.—and other eminent brewers of this capital—afforded, upon an average, 7,25 per cent. of alcohol, of 0,833 specific gravity; and porter, from the same houses, yielded upon an average 5,25 per cent. of alcohol, of the same specific gravity*; this beer received from the brewers was taken from the same store from which the publicans are supplied.

* The average specific gravity of different samples of brown stout, obtained direct from the breweries of Messrs. Barclay, Perkins, and Co. Messrs. Truman, Hanbury, and Co. Messrs. Henry Meux and Co. and from several other eminent London brewers, amounted to 1,022; and the average specific gravity of porter, from the same breweries, 1,108 [I think this should be 1,018].

It is nevertheless singular to observe, that from fifteen samples of beer of the same denominations, procured from different retailers, the proportions of spirit fell considerably short of the above quantities. Samples of brown stout, procured from the retailers, afforded, upon an average, 6,50 per cent. of alcohol; and the average strength of the porter was 4,50 per cent. Whence can this difference between the beer furnished by the brewer, and that retailed by the publican, arise? We shall not be at a loss to answer this question, when we find that so many retailers of porter have been prosecuted and convicted for mixing table beer with their strong beer; this is prohibited by law, as becomes obvious by the following words of the Act.

"If any common or other brewer, innkeeper, victualler, or retailer of beer or ale, shall mix or suffer to be mixed any strong beer, ale, or worts, with table beer, worts, or water, in any tub or measure, he shall forfeit £50." The difference between strong and table beer, is thus settled by Parliament.

"A Treatise on the Adulterations of Food" by Frederick Accum, 1820, pages 172 - 175.

20th century
The first thing that tipped me off to this possibility was the variation in gravity for different samples the same beer in the Whitbread and Truman Gravity Books. With the exception of traumatic periods like wartime, brewers didn't fiddle with the gravity of a beer from month to month. It stayed constant for years on end. I know that from the brewing logs. And they were professional enough to be able to hit the target gravity pretty much 100% or the time.

Sorry, I should have said variation in the gravity of draught beer. Bottled beers are much more constant. Which is a real giveaway as to the underlying cause: adulteration. The landlord can't really fiddle with bottled beer. Not so with draught beer.

Let's look at an example from Barclay Perkins. Here are five examples of their KK, or Burton, all from 1936. Four are from the Truman Gravity Book, one from the Barclay Perkins brewing logs.

The beer as brewed was a nice round 1056 gravity. The pub samples vary from 1048.8 to 1055.9. Only one matches the brewery gravity. As these have been calculated, we need to allow from some margin of error. So I'm willing to give the 1053.9 sample the benefit of the doubt. The other two are far too low. 10% and 13% too low to be precise. Something has clearly happened to the beer. But what?

My guess would be slops of weaker beer being put into the KK cask.

But take a look at the figures for Barclay Perkins ordinary Mild, X Ale:

Here all the pub samples have a higher gravity than the brewing log. How can this be? When I was younger, a reason people often gave for not drinking Mild was that the slops from all the other beers were put into it. Being dark, it was hard to spot. I was sceptical about this theory at the time. But that's exactly what these numbers suggest. As X would usually be the weakest draught beer, slops from anything else would raise its gravity.

This begs the question. Adulteration seems to have been common between 1800 and 1940. Does it still occur now?

Brussels - the city

The day after the EBCU reception, I had 6 hours in the Brussels. Before catching my train back to Amsterdam. A chance to correct my neglect of the city.

Been away so long I hardly knew the place. And, due to me being an idiot, the maps I'd printed out of the centre didn't have Centraal Station marked on them. I spent some time wandering about searching for a street that was on my map. I was trying to find Mort Subite. Eventually, I found a street map at a junction. After looking at it for 10 minutes I realised that Mort Subite was just behind me, 20 metres away at most. I thought to myself "I knew it was around here somewhere." It's covered in scaffolding. That's my excsuse.

Inside, Mort Subite was just as I remembered it. Except the prices are now in euros. I had a gueuze. It really wasn't that bad. Nicely sour. Breakfast. It being just past 11 AM, it wasn't mobbed. Just me and another bloke in the opposite corner. Despite being outnumbered by the staff, it still took me the best part of 5 minutes to order. Not that it particulalry mattered. I was in no rush.

The Delirium Café is just around the corner. On a little dead-end alleyway off Rue des Bouchers. Rue des Restaurants would be more appropriate. It's wall-to-wall restaurants. Handy when you know you'll have to have lunch in an hour or so.

The main bar of Delirium is in the cellar. You probably already know that. I must be the last person in the universe to have not visited the place. Large and rather gloomy. I headed for the bar where there was a little more illumination. Already sitting there were the delegation from Danske Ølentusiaster. They'd shown less restraint than me the day before. I'd gone almost straight home (I did stop off for one beer) after the reception ended at 21:00. The Danes had continued on in the city centre for several more hours.

The beer list is very impressive. And pretty international. Where to start? I opted for Pannepot. "Sorry, we're out of standard Pannepot. Do you want the Grand Reserva instead?" Yeah. Go on. Not had that one. What can I say? I didn't think it tasted quite as good as the normal version. And I'm not a great fan of that.

The Danes were off before I was even halfway through my Pannepot. Some building site or other they had to go and look at. Either they have strange hobbies or I've some personal hygiene issues. You would tell me, wouldn't you? If I stank, I mean.

Restraint is my new middle name. After just two beers (the second was French), I went in search of dinner. Or lunch as poshoes insist on calling it. In my calendar of meals, there is no lunch. Rues des Restaurants is full of places offereing three-course meals for as much 13.50 euros or as little a 10 euros. Feeling flush, I opted for the latter. What to drink with it?

Here's another of my many admissions. Sometimes I prefer to drink wine with food. Depends what kind of food it is. German or Asian, and beer is perfect. With Frenchy type stuff, wine is often the better choice. It's probably a good thing I don't order wine more often. I have expensive taste. I won't tell you how much the bottle of Burgundy that accompanied my meal cost. Several times more than the meal. I'll just say that. I don't want Dolores to find out. "We could have had a weeks' holiday with that money, Ronald. Why are you so irresponsible?"

When I'd finished off my grub, I returned to Delirium for another beer. It really was just the one. I told you restraint was my new middle name. I'll admit that I did buy a couple of bottles of Guinness Special Export for the train. It's a three-hour journey. You wouldn't want me to die of thirst, would you?

The Kulmbach method of decoction

Yet another Bavarian method of decoction from Otto (("Handbuch der Chemischen Technologie: Die Bierbrauerei" by Dr. Fr. Jul. Otto, published in 1865, page 128).

As soon as the water in the kettle reaches 50º C, as much as is needed is put into the mash tun to Einteigen.

After an hour, when the rest of the water has come to the boil in the kettle, this is added to the mash. The temperature of the mash should be 53.75 - 56.25º C. A small amount of water should remain in the kettle so that the temperature of the mash is correct. Or a small amount of cold water is added to the mash. When, after resting, the wort in the mash tun has cleared, this is run off and boiled in the kettle. After just a few minutes boiling, this Lautermeisch is added back to the tun and mashed for 45 minutes. The temperature of the mash should be 71.25 - 72.5º C.

Usually a small quantity of wort is left in the kettle and boiled with all the hops for 10 to 12 minutes (hopfenrösten).

The mash in the tun is left to rest for 90 minutes, then it is drawn off and added to the kettle where it interrupts the rösten.

The wort from the first lot of cold water poured over the grains is usually used for topping up the kettle.

Just to be clear, Kulmbach is also in Franken. Another single decoction. And no Dickmeisch. Life's full of surprises.

Thursday 26 June 2008

The Franconian method of decoction

Otto ("Handbuch der Chemischen Technologie: Die Bierbrauerei" by Dr. Fr. Jul. Otto, published in 1865, pages 127 and 128) has yet another Bavarian system of decoction. The Franconian method. It's another one where they do something funny with the hops. I know people love that. Fiddling about with the hops in a weird way.

For 100 pounds of grain, depending on the strength of the beer, between 600 and 700 pounds of water are used.

The crushed grain is put into the mash tun dry. As soon as the water in the kettle has boiled, cold water is added to cool it down to 82.5 - 87.5º C. The water is then mixed with the grains. This shouldn't occur too quickly, so that the temperature of the grain rises slowly. This is important as all 600-700 pounds of water are used at this first mash. The temperature after all the water has been added should be 62.5º C.

After a short rest, the first wort is transferred to the kettle and boiled for 45 minutes. This Lautermeisch is put mack into the tun and the temperature of the whole mash should then be 75º C. After mashing well, the mixture is left to rest for an hour. After this the finished wort is drawn off.

In Franconia, very frequently the hops are boiled for half an hour with a small quantity of the first wort to be drawn off. This gives the beer their distinctive taste. It's called "Rösten" the hops.

Cold water is poured over the spent grains to remove the remaining extract. In the Bamberg area this wort is called Hansla and is used to make a weak beer. In volume, this is almost half the amount of the full-strength beer.

I hadn't expected them to have used a single decoction like this in Franconia. My guess would have been triple decoction.

Still not quite done with Bavaria. There's also the Kulmbach method.


Don't ask me why I hadn't been to Brussels for so long. I have no explanation. The EBCU constitution signing/reception was a good excuse to put that right.

Brewers of Europe house, where the event was held, is in the European quarter of Brussels . An area filled with various Commission offices and embassies to the EU. To be honest, it's pretty dismal architecturally. Lots of concrete and glass. One of the few exceptions is the Brewers of Europe gaff, a rather classy old house.

They'd already started on the beer when I arrived. There was certainly plenty of it. Between 70 and 100 different types, is my guess. From several different countries: Austria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Norway, Poland, Sweden, the UK, Holland. Not a bad little beer festival. And it was all free. Exactly the type of beer I like best.

The only formal part of the gathering was the signing of the EBCU constitution. The chair of each of the constituent member organisations put their scribble on the bottom. Fourteen scribbles, to be exact. Each of the 13 member groups got a document, plus one for the EBCU itself. It took a while. But not only were you allowed to take your beer along, you were reminded to do so.

Once that was over, I had a chance to look around the building. It's decorated with some interesting memorabilia. A painting of the City of London Brewery. (It's one of the breweries that shows up in the Truman and Whitbread Gravity Books.) But obviously this poster attracted my attention most. Good to know The Brewers of Europe understand the importance of Barclay Perkins, too.

Being an obsessive, I even took notes on most of the beers I tried. And photographed the bottles. I really am rather sad. Even my fellow geeks were giving me pitying looks. But I need to fill this blog every day. The material doesn't create itself.

As hard as I tried, I couldn't get through all the beers. There were just too many. The most unusual was Diamond Beer, from Trumer of Austria. A vintage wheat beer. An intriguing concept. The concept was good. The beer couldn't quite match it. One for Mike. I've really gone off aged beers since I drank my way through the out-of-date bottles in my beer cellar. Now aged beers always remind me of three year old Alfa Super Dortmunder.

I mostly stuck to Stouts because, well, I could. Wasn't that impressed with the British one (Stoodly Stout from Little Valley), which tasted like slightly dodgy homebrew. Sourish in a not good way. Though that could have been because of the package, which was one of these big tin things. The Danish ones were better. I had a few of those. Kinterkongens Stout from Stevns Bryghus was entertainingly roasty. Hornbeer Russian Imperial Porter was a roasted bridge too far, for me. But I did drink more than one bottle. Knark Imperial Stout from Duellund Bryglade was so nice I brought one home with me.

And a Carlsberg. A Bock from their Semper Ardens series. Brøckhouse Esrum Kloster was another good Dane. Spiced in a very subtle way. I could only pick out aniseed. Laurent Mousson reckoned he could identify a couple of others.

I really liked the treacly-sweet Grand Porter from Polish brewer Amber. Very nice. I limited myself to just one. The Czech beers were all gone by the time I got around to them. Pity.

A special mention for the Saint Croix ESB from Switzerland. Also served from one of those big cans. Citrusy from the simcoes in it, but not overpoweringly bitter. Enjoyable. Even with those evil hops in it.

After 18:00 was the reception. Evidently there were several MEPs there. Can't say that I noticed. But I'm not the most observant. Especially when there's free beer about. That tends to monopolise my attention.

What I still haven't worked out is why I was invited. The others all seemed to be delegates from one of the member organisations or EBCU officials.I was neither, last time I looked. Don't get me wrong. I'm not complaining. Just curious.

Wednesday 25 June 2008

Balls Brothers

Last weekend I returned to the Truman Gravity Book. I hadn't transcribed anything from it for months. I'll be honest, the format is a pain in the arse. The Whitbread Gravity Book is far easier to work with. And it contains more details. That's why I'd been concentrating on that.

Saturday morning, I decided to give the Brown Ale entries a go. Most are for the the late Twenties and early Thirties, about when most breweries starting producing one. So pretty interesting. Some of the beers still exist, even. Mann's, Newcastle Brown. But that wasn't what made me stop in my tracks. No. It was one at the very bottom of the first page. For Balls Brothers.

Who are Balls Brothers? A wine merchant based in the East End. If you look carefully you can spot their warehouse on the train from Stanstead to Liverpool Street. Fascinating, eh? But why did I feel a frisson when I saw their name in the Truman Gravity Book?

Because of my mate Pete. It's the firm owned and run by his family. He isn't involved himself. I always found the distance he put between himself and a warehouse full of booze a little strange. He must have his reasons. I'd be stocktaking the whole time. That's stocktaking in the sense of taking stock away, of course.

Tuesday 24 June 2008

Augsburg method of decoction

I told you that I hadn't forgotten about lager. Distracted. That's what I was. Time for the Summer of Lager again.

This is another decoction method, loosely translated from pages 125 to 127 of "Handbuch der Chemischen Technologie: Die Bierbrauerei" by Dr. Fr. Jul. Otto, published in 1865.
For 100 pounds of malt 600-700 pounds of water are used.

Einteigen occurs with cold water. Very often, though, another method is used. Some hops are sprinkled on the bottom of the mash tun and the grains put over them. The cold water is then poured onto the grains without being worked in. The hops are to stop the smaller parts of the crushed grain falling through the holes in the bottom of the tun and to prevent souring.

After Einteigen, the mash is left to stand for 4 or 5 hours. The liquid which has gathered below the false bottom of the mash tun is drawn off. This liquid, called Satz [sediment or deposit], contains loose parts from the malt, including protein. When the water in the kettle boils a few Maaß of Satz are added to the kettle and the water is boiled for another half hour or so, depending on how hard or soft it is. The protein from the Satz helps remove impurities. The scum is removed.

The purified water is added to the mash and mashed. The temperature should now be 60-62.5º C. The mash is left to stand for 15 minutes.

The water is added slowly to the grains so that the temperature doesn't rise too quickly. Many brewers take a break at thus point to allow the grains to soften completely.

When enough water has been drawn off from the kettle for the first mash, the remainder of the cold Satz is put into the kettle.

The first wort is drawn off into the Grand [no idea what this is] and from there put in the kettle.

Of the clear wort, about 15 to 20 Maas isn't boiled, but quickly cooled. The wort, called the warm Satz, is later, before the boil with hops, reunited with the rest of the wort. The use of warm Satz makes the finished beer milder and clearer by encouraging a more powerful fermentation. The quality of the warm Satz determines the quality of the beer. It should be crystal clear and have a pure, sweet taste. The quality of the malt can be judged very precisely from the Satz.

Usually only about two thirds of the wort is drawn off and slowly brought to the boil. Any scum is skimmed off. (Lautermeisch.)

The boiled wort is put back into the mash tun and mixed with the grains, raising the temperature to 62.5 - 65º C. The mash is stirred vigourously to ensure a gradual rise in temperature.

After mashing, the thick part of the mash is transferred to the kettle. The Dickmeisch is brought quickly to the boil, whilst being stirred continuously so that it doesn't burn. It is simmered for one hour. Signs that it has simmered for long enough are: when no more scum is formed, when a test sample of the liquid quickly clears.

After sufficient simmering, the Dickmeisch is added back to the remaining thin wort in the mash tun and mixed well. Constant agitation helps separate the large and small particles and so helps obtain a clear wort.

If there is a second Lautermeisch, which is unnecessary and not usually done, the wort is drawn off immediately after the Dickmeisch is added back to it. This clear mash is brought to the boil and then immediately added back to the mash tun, where it is left to rest for 60 - 90 minutes.

The Satz is put into the kettle and the hops added to it. The wort is slowly drawn off (so that it is perfectly clear) and added to the hops and and Satz in the kettle. This is slowly brought to the boil.

To extract the remaining sugars from the grains, cold or hot water is poured over them. The wort so extracted is not usually used in Sommerbier, but used instead to make a weak beer. Some of this weak wort is used in Winterbier.

This method is most used in Schwaben, though quite often without warm Satz. Brewers fear problems with unboiled wort in warm weather.
Next is the Franconian method. After that, who knows. I may go modern, if the latest version of Kunze I just ordered has arrived.

Monday 23 June 2008

What a relief

Watch the football over the weekend? My family were greatly relieved by Holland's defeat. They'd read my plan for a Dutch semi and final.

"Dad, is it safe to drink that much jenever?"

"Perfectly. I'll be able to use that glass you bought me." Andrew brought me a shot glass back from his school camp last week. What does he expect me to use a glass that only holds 5 cl for? "You can't use it to drink milk, can you?" Taking this as a challenge, Andrew started knocking back shots of semi-skimmed. I'm not quite sure what this reveals about my parenting skills.

No need to buy a bottle of jenever. A shame, as Gall & Gall have an offer this week. Two litres for just 18 euros. That's just 9 euros per game. I guess it must have been for the football.

Holland played poorly enough on Saturday for St. Bernardus to suffice. Not even exclusively the Abt. I was able to slip in a few Priors, Russia were so much on top. In a Chimay glass, of course. Someone asked why I don't buy a St. Bernardus glass. That's simple. Because I drink everything out of either a Chimay glass or a straight pint glass. There's a St. Bernardus glass gathering dust in a cupboard. Life's confusing enough without using different glasses.

Sunday 22 June 2008

My beers (part 3)

From reports trickling in, it appears that my beers are finally hitting the shelves in the US. Great news.

If you've been one of the lucky ones to get hold of some, let me know what you think.

Of course, for the intended educational experience, you need to try both beers. Preferably Porter followed by SSS. Did I mention this before?

My choice of beers wasn't random. They are meant to answer the question: "What was the difference between London Porter and London Stout?" I should know the answer. I've drunk a couple of dozen bottles of each. But it's better if you discover it for yourself.

Saturday 21 June 2008

What did you do this weekend, dad?

"What did you do this weekend, dad? "

"I copied stuff from an old book."

"I love you, dad."

"Andrew. Do you want to to join in the stuff-copying fun?"

"No, dad. I don't love you that much."

Aren't children great?

Barclay Perkins draught beers 1939-1957 I did today. You can see one of the pages to the right.

I spent my Saturday morning doing this. Am I strange?

Truman's draught beers 1926 - 1956

Many pubs in London still carry Truman's livery. Truman's London Stout is still advertiserd on many, though it hasn't been brewed for decades. Ever wondered what Truman's beers were like? Now's your chance to find out.

I was shocked (in a pleasant way) to discover that some of you actually quite like this sort of stuff. Here are Truman's draught beers plus bottled Stout:

Here's an explanation of what some of the beers are:
  • X is the standard Mild
  • Ale is a cheap, low-gravity Mild that had its origins in the $d Government Ale of WW I
  • PA is the standard Bitter
  • Strong Ale is Burton, a dark beer
The others are, I think, self-explanatory. Notice that Truman were still brewing two draught Stouts in the late 1930's.

The prices are per pint in the public bar. There's a very logical and structured pricing system that you see repeated across the London brewers. Cheap ale at 4d, Porter at 5d, standard Mild at 6d, Bitter at 7d, Burton and Stout at 8d. It's a much more varied range of draught beers, in terms of both style and strength, than British brewers manage today.

The tax increase of April 1931 and its reversion in April 1933 had an uneven effect. The Mild gravity was dropped to leave the retail price unchanged at 6d a pint. Bitter and Burton remained the same strength, but increased by 1d a pint. Draught Stout increased in price, but bottled Stout dropped in strength. As a result, the difference in strength between Mild and Bitter became larger than ever before. When the tax was dropped back to its old rate, rather than go back to the old strength, Mild was reduced to 5d a pint.

Friday 20 June 2008

Time Travel Tours

Beer guides for time travellers. That's what I'm creating.

As soon as the first practical time machine is available, I'll book a weekend break in London 1926. I'm not sure about the summer hols. Perhaps one week in Bavaria 1880 and another Bohemia 1900. For Easter, Dublin 1870 is a near certainty. New Year has to be New York 1910.

What would be your time-travel tours?

Whitbread Porter and Stout 1805 - 1937

As promised, far more details than you could possibly want, courtesy of the Whitbread and Truman Gravity Books and the Whitbread brewing logs. I'm sure you wanted to know how strong SS was in 1844.

Below are the gravities of the Whitbread Porter and the main Whitbread Stouts. Like all the big London Porter breweries, they produced several Stouts. Pre-WW I, it was fairly simple - S (Single Stout), SS (Double Stout) and SSS (Triple Stout). During the war, only Porter and a new strong Stout, Imp (Imperial, I guess) were brewed. Postwar, there were Porter, draught LS (London Stout), bottled LS and bottled ES (Extra Stout).

In case you're wondering, none of these were Sweet Stouts. All had 65-70% apparent attenuation. Not as attenuated as Guinness (that was 70-75% at this time), but by no means sickly sweet. No Sweet Stout was produced at Whitbread's Chiswell Street brewery in London until after Mackeson was taken over. Mackeson Milk Stout seems to have been brewed at most Whitbread breweries during the 1950's.

See how handy my Mega-Gravity Book is? How much more useful it would be with a few more recent decades included.

I keep including vaguely-hidden plugs for my two beers, SSS and Porter. Here's another. (I'm not quite sure why I bother, given the tiny amounts of each. I could drink the lot, if need be. That would be pretty cool, drinking most of it myself. Mmmm. 100 more boxes of SSS. Nearly 6 months supply.) You can see them in the table. Now you can see how they fit into Whitbread's range in terms of strength and time. It was the end of the road for SSS after nearly 100 years.

British beer has been particularly affected by history. The Napoleonic Wars spurred technoligical advances. The two World Wars decimated gravities. Little proper beer was brewed in Germany in the 1940's. But in the 1950's, as soon as they were able, they went back to pretty much the pre-war gravities. Why is that?

Thursday 19 June 2008

Gravity Project

Wondering why I haven't been my usual prolific self the last few days? I've been too busy with my Gravity Project. No, it's got nothing to do with the force that stops us floating off into space. It's my push to merge all the beer gravities I have into a single spreadsheet.

It's progressing nicely. There are already more than 3,000 rows in the table. Another couple of days and I should be able to start playing with it. My first job is to produce a graph demonstrating the slow but inexorable decline in Mild gravities over the period 1850 - 1950. It should prove fascinating for me and the other three people interested in this sort of stuff.

Not just British beers, but ones from all over thje world will be included. Though obviously I have the greatest quantity of data on Britain. I've already assembled all my information on lagers into one table. And much more will follow. As and when I find it.

Now here's where you come in. I'm making the spreadsheet publicly available. It took several weeks of work to put together. I'm a bit of a nutter when it comes to collecting information but there are limits to what even I can do. As it is now, with about 3,500 entries, it's pretty useful. With your cooperation it could become an essential reference. If a couple of dozen of you chipped in and contributed, say, 100 entries each, it would be a great help.

I suggested transcribing complete editions of the Good Beer Guide. That could be quite a lot of work, so how about just doing breweries starting with the letters C, D and E? If we start at the 2007 Good Beer Guide and work backwards, it should be easy enough for me to coordinate. Go on, pick a couple of letters. If everyone posts their choice as a comment here, it will be easy simple to see which are still free.

Here's an example of both my table and what you could fill in from the Good Beer Guide.

Here's an example of what you can discover. I've put together a table showing the change in Barclay Perkins X Mild over the course of almost a century.

(Note: the OG's for 04/1918 and 04/191g are for 4d Ale. In this period no X Ale was brewed. Up until it was discontinued, it had been their biggest seller. It was replaced by 4d Ale, so-called Government Ale, a price-controlled product.)

Fascinating stuff, I think you'll agree. The impact of the two world wars on Mild gravity is clear. You'll note how gravities fell sharply during both and then recovered after the war ended, but not quite back to the pre-war level. There was a similar dramatic fall in 1931, when there was a substantial increase in the tax on beer and brewers cut gravities to leave the retail price unchanged.

I haven't forgotten about lager. Summer's only just begun. I just can't be arsed to do any translations at the moment.

Wednesday 18 June 2008

New Amsterdam beer pub

I like to think that I've got my finger on the pulse of Amsterdam. But I think lots of things. So it was a bit of a shock to discover a beer pub that I knew nothing about. How embarrassing.

John Clarke tipped me off (thank you, John). The report was confirmed by a colleague of Will's. Am I the last to find out? Actually, I blame Mike. He was supposed to have investigated the islands. So it's him who missed it, really. Not that I'm pointing the finger at him, but it was totally his fault.

Now I've finished distributing praise and retribution, maybe we can discuss the pub itself, Westerdok. I'd walked past it before, many years ago. It had never been open. Then again, it had been 6 o' clock in the morning. Not many pubs open at that time.

You'll have to excuse me if I'm parsimonious with facts and details. Me and Mike hit Westerdok a good way into the afternoon. We started off with a couple in Wildeman (the delicious Hummel Räucherator), then continued on to Wijnand Fockinck to sit in the wonderful garden. And drink jenever, obviously.

By the time we reached Westerdok we were already quite cheerful. When we left, we were positively euphoric. Let's see what I can remember about it. It's located on the Westerdok (what a surprise) just over the road from the Silo. (I may, one day, tell you some of my Silo stories. You can just about see the Silo in the background of the picture to the left.)

The pub is on the corner a row of 19th century houses. The interior is charmingly downbeat. Just my sort of place. I can't remember how many draught beers they had. Between 6 and 8. I do recall that there were around 50 bottled beers. In Amsterdam that qualifies it as a fully-fledged beer pub.

I seem to remember eating bitterballen. That must have been Mike's idea. He's always eating, not that you'd think it to look at him. Must have a tapeworm.

Next thing in my memory is waking up with the football on. I guess there were a couple of events inbetween, like walking back to the Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal, getting on a tram, eating my tea. They don't seem to have left any impression on my mind. I'm even a bit hazy about the score in the football.

And my coat seems to have gone missing. I suspect Dolores may have just taken the opportunity to throw it away. She's been on at me to replace it for a couple of years. It had just about fallen apart. But buying clothes is such a chore. I try to limit the experience to once every two or three years.

Reading it back, this isn't my most informative post ever. But, hey, there are facts to spare in the posts that straddle it. Just borrow a few from one of those, if you feel shortchanged.

Café Westerdok
Westerdoksdijk 715/A,
1013 BX Amsterdam.
Tel: 020 - 428 9670

Opening times:
Mon closed
Tue - Thur 16:00 - 00:00
Fri - Sat 16:00 - 01:00
Sun 16:00 - 00:00

Tuesday 17 June 2008


Not all sources are created equal. I was trying to explain this to my son Andrew at the weekend. My explanation involved a fair deal of waving around of two books. Important tools for concretising my argument.

In one hand I held "Die Herstellung Obergähriger Bier", in the other the "Vienna/Märzen" in the Brewers' Publications series. Both are books, both are about beer. Are they equally trustworthy? (If you answered that question with a "yes", eff off and leave by blog at once, Homebrew Twat.) I would say obviously not.

(Just the title "Vienna/Märzen" is enough to raise serious doubts. The two aren't synonymous. Not all Vienna lagers are Märzens and neither are all Märzens Vienna lagers.)

I always ask myself these questions:

  1. Who wrote the text?
  2. Where did they get their information from?
  3. Was the author an expert?
  4. What was the intended audience for the text?
  5. Where was the text published?
  6. When was the text published?
In arguments (I have plenty of those) it's often clear that my opponent lacks the ability to gauge the relative value of different sources. The dodgy material they use to back up their points are mostly modern and English-language, homebrewing books and the like. Most amusing was the use of the Wyeast catalogue as a reference on German beer. I prefer technical manuals. Though you have to be careful with those, too.

The lack of academic rigour in the beer world can be disheartening. What am I saying, "can be". It is disheartening.

Private sources. I have a couple of those. Archive stuff. There's a project with them I've partly finished. Combining the information from the Truman and Whitbread Gravity Books. They give the OG of British beers for the period 1926-1966. There are literally thousands of entries, from dozens of breweries. It will be an invaluable resource for researching the development of British beer in the 20th century. I'll also include details from the brewing logs of Whitbread, Barclay Perkins and Truman. Then it will span 1815 - 1966. Pretty handy, eh?

Crazy, generous fool that I am, I'm considering making the finished spreadsheet available on the web. Good idea? Or just shouting in a deaf school?

There's something that could make my super OG table even more supertastic. The OG's of beers for that last 25 years, taken from the Good Beer Guide. Does anyone have this in electronic form. Copying it all would take a long time. As a card-carrying member of the Sloth Club, I'd rather not do it if I don't have to.

Perhaps there are some public-spirited souls out there? Who am I kidding? But should there be, what about this: transcribe the OG's from one year of the Good Beer Guide. Just pick one year (my advice would be to go for the early 1980's when there were fewer breweries) and copy the details into a spreadsheet.

Here's an example of both my table and what you could fill in from the Good Beer Guide. Call be an optimist.

Monday 16 June 2008

Courage Mild, PA and Burton 1939 - 1966

Time to continue with another of the large, not-originally-Porter breweries of London. Courage, in this case. Though it hasn't brewed for a couple of decades the Courage brewery, well most of it, is still standing. It's on the south bank of the Thames right next to Tower Bridge.

You probably asking yourself "Why does he keep publishing this stuff? Who's interested?" If just one person finds this useful or intriguing, then it's worth it. That's what I reckon. If I don't publish it, who will?

Courage is a good example because, in addition to Bitter and Mild, I have a few analyses of Burton.

Courage PA was a pretty decent strength - over 1050 - at the start of WW II. Though the gravity was whittled away a bit during hostilities, it was still a very respectable 1044 in 1945. One phenomenon is particularly apparent with Courage - the big gap in gravity between Bitter and Mild in the 1940's. At the beginning of the decade Courage Bitter was 1051.4 and Mild just 1033.5. That's a gap of around 18 points. Put another way, the gravity of Bitter was 54% higher than Mild. By 1945 the gap had closed a little, but not much. Bitter's gravity then was still 47% higher.

But in the 1950's that differential was much smaller. In 1950 Mild was 1032.4 and Bitter 1035.1. That's much more like the relationship I remember from the 1970's and 1980's. What has happened? Whereas in WW I Mild bore the brunt of gravity reductions, in WW II and the postwar austerity years it was the turn of Bitter. Though, to be honest, with a gravity already in the low 1030's, there was little room for a further large reduction in Mild gravities.

In 1939 Mild had a gravity of around 1036. Postwar it was around 1033. Not much change there. In fact, not much change right up until the present. It's a different story with Bitter. Before the war that had a gravity of 1048-1050. By the 1950's it was 1036-1038, a reduction of around 25%.

For the sake of completeness, here's an accompanying table of the price per pint in a public bar over the same period:

The difference in price remained pretty steady at 3d to 4d per pint. The cost of Mild nearly tripled (6d to 15d) while Bitter merely doubled in price (9d to 18d).

It's interesting to note that Burton seemed to dodge the trend and retained a relatively high gravity into the 1950's. This was reflected in the price which was 2d to 4d more per pint than Bitter.

So which beer was best value for money? Well, it varied. The following table shows how many gravity points you got for an old penny:

For most of the war, Bitter was better value. Postwar, Mild was better. Fascinating, isn't it?

The source of all information is, again, the Whitbread Gravity Book.