Sunday 31 August 2008

Family trip to Bodegraven

Not much need of an introduction. The title says it all. The kids had already visted De Molen a couple of times, but it was Dolores's first time.

We started not at the brewery itself, but the fermentation and packing department. It's in a former cheese warehouse. Bodegraven is still big on cheese. In the streets around the one used by De Molen, there are half a dozen other cheese warehouses, mixed in amongst quaint, little houses.

Menno's full of ideas. As usual, he had half a dozen new beers for me to try. We started with something light: Amerikaans. This is a version of the cask-conditioned Engels he exports to Britain. Except it uses American hops. And is a bottled beer. It's remarkably tasty for just 4.5% ABV. Dolores was convinced that it was much stronger.

Bloed, Zweet & Tranen (Blood, Sweat and Tears) was next. Brewed from a combination malts that includes brown and peated, it's rich, deep and satisfying. I'd only just about had time to finish my glass when the next beer arrived.

Hel & Verdoemenis is another powerful and complex dark beer. Maybe this was the one with the peated malt. I wasn't taking notes. This one was 12% ABV (I know that for sure) and it wasn't the strongest I was offered.

Cuvee, matured in a wine barrel for six months, which came next is almost 13% ABV. The third fermentation in the barrel has added a zesty lemon aroma that is odd, but certainly not unpleasant, in such a strong dark beer. The beer itself is a blend of Rasputin and Tsarina Esra.

A dessert beer, called B & G, was next in my glass. To hit its 15% ABV, champagne yeast is used for the final part of the fermentation. Malty, sweet and with a touch of raisn that's reminiscent of a sherry. This was much more to Dolores's taste than most of the other beers. Very tasty and really suitable as a substitute for dessert wine. It reminded me a little of Whitbread Gold Label, but richer.

To finish was something really special. Beer Liqueur. The only one in the world made exclusively from beer and nothing else. It's really a fortified beer. First Menno brews an unhopped strong beer. This is fortified by the addition distilled beer. I think the result is delcicious. No idea if you could still count it as beer, but who cares?

After the liqueur, we had a quick tour of the warehouse, paying particular attention to his wooden barrels. If you're going to the Copenhagen festival, you're in for a treat. There's a barrel of Cuvee heading there. Yum.

We eventually made it to the pub and brewery. There I had a draught Borefts Stout. SOme of the last, as it won't be brewed again. Pretty nice, Then a draught Tsarina Esra. Really was yummy, despite being a tad too cold. I finished with a bottled Tsarina Esra that was very close to perfection.

Of course, Menno and I chatted about what he'll be brewing for me next. But not before November. It's just too expensive to buy the hops until the new crop arrives. Barclay Perkins Russian Stout and Whitbread KKK. That's what the plan is.

What a dull post. Apologies. I was having so much fun I didn't pay proper attention. Or take notes. I've let you down. Just drank some wonderful beers and had the brewer explain how he created them. How does that Edith Piaff song go? I think I had my priorities right.

Go to de Molen yourself. Menno has some magnificent beers. Say I sent you, and you might even get to try a few.

Saturday 30 August 2008

Brown Malt

Yes, it's still before 1800 here. And yes, I am still hard at work on chapter one of my book. I've got as far as brewing materials.

Here's what I've got so far on that staple of 18th century London brewers, brown malt.

Brown Malt
Brown malt was the cheapest. Unlike modern versions, that produced in the 18th century had sufficient enough diastase to be employed as a base malt. Early Porter and Stout were brewed from 100% brown malt.

As brown malt was dried more quickly and with a higher temperature, there wasn't so much need for accurate temperature control as with pale or amber malt. The finished malt was quite hard and sometimes even partially burnt.

"The brown Malt is the soonest and highest dryed of any, even till it is so hard, that it's difficult to bite some of its Corns asunder, and is often so crusted or burnt, that the farinous part loses a great deal of its essential Salts and vital Property" "London and Country Brewer", 1736.

The brown malt used by London brewers was kilned using straw as a fuel. Straw had two advantages over wood. It was less expensive and didn't impart a smoked flavour. London brewers weren't keen on smokiness in their malt liquors and, when forced to use wood-dried malt, usually matured the finished product until all traces of smoke had disappeared.

Various writers have claimed that early Porter was smoky from the use of wood-dried brown malt. There's no evidence from the period to support this theory, but plenty to contradict it.

It is without doubt true that there was brown malt dried with wood and it did have a smoky taste. Yet the way it was perceived is not quite as some may have you believe. Smokiness in beer and ale wasn't appreciated in the same way as the peat character of malt whisky is today. The reaction of your average modern German drinker after tasting Bamberg smoked beer is closer to the mark - a mixture of disgust (that beer can taste so horrible) and amazement (that anyone can drink such muck for pleasure).

It's no different with West Country smoked malts. Writers of the period describe the distinctive taste derived from wood-smoked malts, and the almost universal revulsion it engendered. The smoked beers and ales of the West Country were famous for being undrinkable - locals and the
desperate excepted. This is from "Directions for Brewing Malt Liquors" (1700):

"In most parts of the West, their malt is so stenched with the Smoak of the Wood, with which 'tis dryed, that no Stranger can endure it, though the inhabitants, who are familiarized to it, can swallow it as the Hollanders do their thick Black Beer Brewed with Buck Wheat."
So, a bit of an acquired taste, then. Here's an even earlier reference to such malt by William Harrison, in his "Description of England", 1577:
"In some places it [malt] is dried at leisure with wood alone, or straw alone, in other with wood and straw together, but, of all, the straw-dried is the most excellent. For the wood-dried malt, when it is brewed, beside that the drink is higher of colour, it doth hurt and annoy the head of him that is not used thereto, because of the smoke. Such also as use both indifferently do bark, cleave, and dry their wood in an oven, thereby to remove all moisture that should procure the fume..."
Not exactly an unequivocal endorsement. Here's what "London and Country Brewer" (1736) has to say:
"Brown Malts are dryed with Straw, Wood and Fern, etc. The straw-dryed is the best, but the wood sort has a most unnatural Taste, that few can bear with, but the necessitous, and those that are accustomed to its strong smoaky tang; yet it is much used in some of the Western Parts of England, and many thousand Quarters of this malt has been formerly used in London for brewing the Butt-keeping-beers with, and that because it sold for two shillings per Quarter cheaper than Straw-dryed Malt, nor was this Quality of the Wood-dryed Malt much regarded by some of its Brewers, for that its ill Taste is lost in nine or twelve Months, by the Age of the Beer, and the strength of the great Quantity of Hops that were used in its preservation."
Wood-dried malt had a horrible taste, but some London brewers did once use it because it was cheap and after long aging in a heavily-hopped beer you didn't notice the vile smokiness any more.

I will admit that all the fuels used in the drying of malt, apart from coke, exposed the grain to some degree of smoke. However, the straw-dried brown malt preferred in London was the least affected. That was the very reason it was valued above the wood-dried variety. In "Town and Country Brewery Book" (approx. 1830, p.47), there is a chapter about what can go wrong during malting. Smoking malt was seen as a serious mistake:
"The third error consists in the drying of malt. They are apt to be tainted by the smoke, through the carelessness, covetousness, or unskilfulness of the maker. Every care ought to be taken to guard against this accident as one of the most prejudicial that can befall malt drinks."
As brewers and malsters were doing their best to avoid it, I find it unlikely that much smokiness was perceptible in finished porter. Remember that it was being aged (in the case of the earliest porters, four to five months). If nine to twelve months was enough to rid beer of the stench of West Country malt, then a couple of months would have been plenty for the far milder straw-dried malt.

Friday 29 August 2008

1780-1815 From brown to pale malt

I know. I'm a butterfly. Today we've jumped back in time to the early 19th century. A period from which brewing records still exist.

This period saw a key change in British brewing practices. Though brewers had already been aware of the better yield of pale malt compared to brown, it was only with the introduction of the hydrometer that this could be quantified. It became apparent that, despite the lower price of brown malt, it was still cheaper to brew from pale malt. Brown malt produced only about two thirds as much fermentable material as pale.

Up until this time a variety of base malts had been used. Usually only one malt was used and it was a major determinant of style. Porter began as a Brown Beer, brewed from 100% brown malt.

When the malt tax was increased to help pay for the Napoleonic War, brewers had an incentive to use less malt. Their solution was to use a proportion of pale malt in everything, including dark beers. By 1800, Porter grists contained more pale than brown malt. Eventually, pale malt was the only base malt used.

Porter grists
This is the first period for which brewing logs still survive. Which means that a lot more detailed information is available about exactly how Porter was brewed and which malts were used.

Here are some examples from a couple of the big London breweries.

You have to wonder how dark the Whitbread Porter was, with such a large percentage of pale malt. Barclay Perkins were still in a period of transition, as can be seen by the fall in brown malt content between 1805 and 1812.

Whereas the original Porters all had the same malt bill (100% brown malt), the move to pale malt led to much more diverse grists. Various combinations of pal, amber and brown malt were used by different breweries. In the examples above, this divergence is already noticeable. Barclay Perkins Porter, with more than double the proportion of brown malt, muct have tasted quite different to Whitbread's. As the 19th century progressed, Porter recipes from different breweries grew even further apart.

Barclay Perkins were still making a Pale Stout in 1805 but by 1812 it had been phased out. It was a throwback to the early 18th century where "Stout" could be used to describe any strong Beer or Ale. Pale Stout was just a strong Beer brewed from pale malt.

To compensate for the reduced brown malt content, various methods were tried to colour Porter. One of the simplest was an addition of caramel. This was not always legal as the use of sugar was only sporadically permitted, usually when there was a malt shortage. Some breweries boiled down wort to produce a concentrate. Being derived from malt, this was always legal but wasn't wonderfully convenient. This problem was finally solved just after the period addressed by this chapter: with Wheeler's invention of patent malt in 1817.

Thursday 28 August 2008

Oh what a lovely war!

I warned you I was starting on the WW I chapter of my book. I'd been looking forward to it so much. Then I noticed the holes in my notes. I'd forgotten to photograph the Whitbread Ale logs for 1914-18. Bum. I need another archive visit soon. Very soon.

Strange as it may seem, and in direct contrast to malt, there was a glut of hops in 1917 and 1918. It was so serious that the government had to step in and buy the surplus crop to prevent hop farmers from going bankrupt.

Why was this? In 1917 the government limited beer production to half the number of standard barrels brewed in 1914. Gravity cuts meant that the reduction in bulk barrels wasn't so large, but breweries had effectively halved the amount of malt they used. It's no wonder that they required far fewer hops. As there is no other use for hops, suddenly there were far more available than there was need for.

This explains why, although gravities fell during WW I, hopping rates didn't. Postwar the hopping rate of Whitbread beers, in terms of pounds of hops per quarter of malt used - a good method of eliminating differences in the gravity - was higher than it had been in 1914.

You can see the changes in gravity and hopping rates of Whitbread beers pre- and post-WW I:

You'll see that the quantity of hops in Whitbread X Ale remained constant, even though the gravity had dropped a significant amount.

Beers on sale in a London pub in 1917
A price fixing agreement by publicans gives an insight into the types of beer on sale in a London pub in 1917.

The new scale of prices as fixed by the Licensed Victuallers' Central Protection Society of London is:

Beer________half pint__Glass
Mild ale______3.5d______-
Burton _______6d_______5d.
Mild and Bitter__4.5d_____3.5d.
Stout and Mild__5d_______4d.
Mild and Burton_5d_______4d.

Other prices: Small Bass 7d.; Guinness 8d.; London stout (screws) 5d.; pale ale (screws) 5d.; barley wine nips 6d.; lager, light or dark, 8d.

"The Price of Beer Yesterday" Weekly Dispatch, April 8th 1917

The decline in Porter is apparent by its exclusion from the agreement. It could no longer have been a standard draught beer. Mild, Bitter and Burton would maintain there place on the bar for another forty years. Draught Stout disappeared soon after WW II, but remained important in bottled form.

Wednesday 27 August 2008

Blitzkrieg Bop

I told you Andrew had learned a bit about video editing. This is his version of Blitzkrieg Bop.

Little did I dream back in 1976 when I listened to the first Ramones album whilst drinking iced Mild, that one day my kids would be grooving on down to the same music.

To celebrate starting a dual-language secondary school, Andrew has switched his blog to English.

Brown Beer, Brown ale, Amber Ale and Pale Ale

Apologies for continuing to torture you with draughts of my book. But here's more that I haven't finished writing properly yet. 18th century styles again. I hope this makes things a little clearer.

You'll be pleased to hear that I've started work on some of the other chapters. So you shouldn't have to put up with much more from the 1700's. Oh no. One of my favourites will be occupying my attention for the next week or two: beer in WW I.

Brown Beer
It was Brown Beers which cauased the revolution in London brewing at the beginning of the 18th century. Both Porter and Stout were types of Brown Beer, though originally bore different names.

Stout was first used to refer strong Beers and Ales of any type. Stout Brown Butt-Beer is the precursor of what today is recognised as Stout. But there was also Pale Stout, a strong Beer made from 100% pale malt. Barclay Perkins brewed a Pale Stout until just after 1800 (Barclay Perkins brewing logs). As the 1700's progressed, Stout Brown Butt-Beer was shortened to Brown Stout, a name London brewers continued to use right into the 20th century. It was the strongest Beer brewed from brown malt in London.

Starting Butt-Beer (or Common Butt-Beer) is what would later come to be known as Porter. This was the standard-strength Beer made from brown malt. Porter was no sudden new invention, but a tweaked form of Brown Butt-Beers that had already been brewed for a considerable length of time. The dramatic change wasn't in how these Beers were brewed, but matured and delivered. These were the first Beers to be aged at the brewery and delivered to pubs ready to drink. For publicans, not having to lay down their own stocks to mature, it was much more convenient. It was hit with drinkers, too: "common Butt-beer is at this time in greater Reputation than ever in London, and the Home-brew'd Drinks out of Credit" ("London and Country Brewer", 1736.)

Initially all Porter was aged for a relatively modest period. According to Obadiah Poundage "four or five months was deemed to be sufficient age for it to be drunk at." No blending of "stale" and "mild" Porter took place. This is quite different from 19th century pratice, where only a portion of Porter was aged, but for longer periods. A quantity of this aged Porter was mixed with "mild" Porter before it was dispatched to pubs.

Brown Ale
The two main subtypes of Ale brewed from brown malt were Common Brown Ale and the stronger Stitch. The main differences with Brown Beers were the hopping rate and the fermentation temperature. Ales had only about 25% of the hops of the equivalent strength Beer. Ales also had a warmer, faster primary fermentation.

"Thus also the common brown Starting Butt-Beer is Brewed, only boiled with more Hops an Hour and a half, and work'd cooler and longer than the brown Ale "London and Country Brewer", 1736.

Common Brown Ale was usually drunk young. Stitch was sometimes aged. Ales intended for ageing were more heavily-hopped than those intended for immediate consumption.

As Porter became all the rage, Brown Ales lost popularity and by the early 19th century had disappeared. The name was not revived until a century later, when it was used to describe a very different drink.

Pale Ale and Amber Ale
These were the strongest Ales, with starting gravities just a little lower than October Beer. The hopping rates were higher than for Ales brewed from brown malt, but still much lower than for Pale or Amber Beer. They were usually drunk aged.

Despite the name, this Pale Ale was not the direct antecedent of the 19th century Pale Ale. The hopping rate of just one pound per barrel is proof enough of that. Rather, they evolved into 19th century X Ales, the precursor of modern Mild. Though overshadowed by Porter for much of the 18th and early 19th centuries, Ales continued to be brewed. When fashions changed in the 1850's, Ales became once again the staple drink of Londoners.

Tuesday 26 August 2008

18th century mashing techniques

I'm such a populist. Who isn't interested in brewing methods from 300 years ago? You'd better be if you intend reading this blog in the coming weeks. There's going to be more. So much more. Yes, I'm still on chapter one of my book, 1700 to 1750. Getting to a period with thermometers will be such a relief.

In the 18th century, to claw as much extract as possible from the grain, several mashes were performed. These were at variety of heats, usually alternating between hot and cold. It was believed that hot water opened up the grains and made it easier for the cold water which followed to extract and goodness. That was the theory, at least.

For stronger malt liquors, generally only the first two worts were used. The third, fourth and even fifth worts were used to make Small Beer. A small amount of fresh malt was usually added after the second mash, that is before the start of the Small Beer mashes.

When making a very strong malt liquor, for example an October Beer, only the first wort would be used. From the second a standard-strength Ale or Beer would be made and from later worts Small Beer. Making just one beer from a single set of grain was almost unknown. Intire Guile - combining all the worts to make a single brew - was only employed when making a better-quality Small Beer. Party-gyling, making several beers from a single brew, is still commonplace in traditional British breweries.

Private brewers could afford to be a little more extravagant and used just the first three runnings. The first wort for strong Beer or Ale, the second for common beer or Ale and the third for Small Beer. The spent grains were then either used as fodder or given to the poor to make very Small Beer from. The argument was that the later runnings contained just a small amount of poor-quality extract that would add little strength to a strong Beer or Ale but damage its keeping qualities.

Without the help of a thermometer, achieving the right mashing temperature must have been a bit hit and miss. This is one quaint method of telling when the water in the mash tun was hot enough:

"you must let your Liquor remain in your Mesch-Fat till the Vapour from it be so far spent, that you can see your Face in the Liquor:" "Directions for Brewing Malt Liquors" (1700)

Opinions as to whether it was better to add the water to the grains or vice versa, varied. When the grain was put into the mash tun first, more advanced breweries added the water from below. The aim, however the water and grain were mixed, was prevent the malt clumping together. Once they had been combined, they were stirred with large wooden oars or paddles for the duration of the mash.

The London Method of brewing
This is how "London & Country Brewer" describes the process of brewing in the capital.

Water for the mash was heated in a directly fired copper. A couple of bushels of the coarser parts of ground malt were thrown onto the top to cover the water and help it boil more quickly. The water was heated, but not allowed to boil. When the impurities began to rise to the top, the temperature of the water was tested with a finger or the back of the hand. It was warm enough when it was almost to hot to bear on the skin.

The fire under the copper was then dampened and enough cold water added to make the water in the copper "blood-warm". This water was pumped into the mash tun and mixed with the malt. Workers stirred the mash for half an hour while more water was heated in the copper. The second batch of water was at near boiling point when added to the mash. This was stirred for another half hour, then covered with a couple of baskets of fresh malt and allowed to stand. After an hour, the wort was run off into the underback. These first two mashes were for strong Beer or Ale.

There were then three further mashes for a Small Beer. First with cooler water, then warmer, then with either blood-warm or cold.

If it all sounds a bit vague, that's because the original instructions are. Those above are for brewing with brown malt. The method was slightly different when using pale or amber malt. For these, it was recommended to start with a higher temperature for the first mash. After the second "scalding mash" the water for each subsequent mash was cooler, until by the last mash it was "quite cold".

Monday 25 August 2008

Northern beer is best

It's official - northern beer is much better than London beer. At least that was the case in 1700. Things can't have changed that much in just 300 years, can they?
"In most (if not all ) of the Northern Counties there are few or no Common Brewers. The Inn-keepers and Publick Ale Houses Brewing what they Retail in their own Houses. And Private Families for themselves. And in all these Counties 'tis as rare to find any ill Malt Liquors, as it is to find good in London, or the adjacent Counties."
"Directions for Brewing Malt Liquors" (1700)
I would certainly agree with the last sentence, though perhaps Stonch might have a different opinion.

There were other reasons why London brewers made crap beer. Northern malt was better quality:
"As for your Malt. The North Country Malts from Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Cheshire, Lancashire, &c. are the best, especially for Ale, but are generally too slack dryed for March or October Beer , which is to be kept at least half a Year before it be Drank. The Goodness of these Northern Malts proceeds partly from the Corn which grows on Grounds more rested than in the Southern Countrys, where the Rents are more racked, and the Grounds more worn by continual Sowing; and partly from the making, in which they take more time then in other parts, and dry it leisurely with Pit Coal Charkt, called in some Places Coak, an in others Culm, which is sweet and gives a gentle and certain heat. Whereas in the South East parts, they dry their Malt with Straw, which is hard to keep to a moderate and equal heat."
"Directions for Brewing Malt Liquors" (1700)
And Common Brewers (commercial breweries) weren't as fussy about cleanliness:
"In short, the Reason why Publick and Common Brewers seldom or never Brew good Drink is, That they Wet more Malt at once, than 'tis possible they can have Vessels and Servants enough to Work, and set it cool emough to Ferment kindly: and withall, Brew so often, that they cannot sufficiently, betwen one Brewing and another, cleanse and scald their Brewing Vessels and Barrels, giving them due time to dry, but that they will retain such a Rest as will always Char and Sour their Liquors. And the Mischiefs accrewing by such Neglects are incredible to Persons unexperienced."
"Directions for Brewing Malt Liquors" (1700)
I would have said good beer was easier to find up North than down South. But I haven't lived in Britain for twenty years. My information isn't quite up to date. What do you reckon?

Suggestions, please

Andrew is twelve years old. His scope for earning money is limited. One way is through creating pdf versions of my pub guides. I like to think of it as a crash course for him in e-commerce.

But I don't want him wasting his time. Hence this post. Which of the pub guides on my website would you most like to see published in pdf format?

And before you make one of your childish little posts again, anonymous (I should mention cowardly, too, as you daren't even reveal who you are), I don't count a link to an unreliable website as a valid suggestion.

Sunday 24 August 2008

October Beer

Yes, it's 18th century week here at Shut Up About Barclay Perkins. 18th century Britain, to be precise. Today it's the turn of October Beer.

October Beer has a long history, already having been around long before 1700. It's believed to be the direct ancestor of Stock Ales and Barley Wine. Why was it called October Beer? Because it was brewed in October, silly. The best months for brewing were March or October because the ambient temperature was optimal. Though some thought March best, most brewers preferred October because it was followed by 6 months of relatively cool weather, perfect for maturing beer.
"A particular way of Brewing strong October Beer
There was a Man in this Country that brewed for a Gentleman constantly after a Very precise Method, and that was, as soon as he had put over all his first Copper of water and mash'd it some time, he would directly let the Cock run a small stream and presently put some fresh Malt on the former, and mash on the while the Cock was spending, which he would put again over the Malt, as often as his Pail or Hand-bowl was full, and this for an Hour or two together; then he would let it run off intirely, and put it over at once, to run off again as small as a Straw. This was for his October Beer: Then he would put scalding water over the Goods at once, but not mash, and Cap them with more fresh Malt that stood an Hour undisturbed before he would draw it off for Ale; the rest was hot water put over the Goods and mash'd at twice for small Beer: And it was observed that his October Beer was the most famous in the Country, but his Grains good for little, for that he had by this method wash'd out all or most of their goodness; this Man was a long while in Brewing, and once his Beer did not work in the Barrel for a Month in a very hard Frost, yet when the weather broke it recovered and fermented well, and afterwards proved very good Drink, but he seldom work'd, his Beer less than a Week in the Vat, and was never tapp'd under three Years."
"London and Country Brewer" (1736).

Here's a rather more detailed description.

"A Philosophical Account for Brewing strong October Beer. By an Ingenious Hand.
In Brewing, your Malt ought to be sound and good, and after its making to lye two or more Months in the Heap, to come to such a temper, that the Kernel may readily melt in the washing.

The well dressing your Malt, ought to be one chief Care; for unless it be freed from the Tails and Dust, your Drink will not be fine and mellow as when it is clean dressed.

The grinding also must be considered according to the high or low drying of the Malt; for if high dryed, then a gross grinding is best, otherwise a smaller may be done; for the Care in grinding consists herein, lest too much of the Husk being ground small should mix with the Liquor, which
makes a gross Feces, and consequently your Drink will have too fierce a Fermentation, and by that means make it Acid, or that we call Stale.

When your Malt is ground, let it stand in Sacks twenty-four Hours at least, to the end that the Heat in grinding may be allayed, and 'tis conceived by its so standing that the Kernel will dissolve the better.

The measure and quantity we allow of Hops and Malt, is five Quarter of Malt to three Hogsheads of Beer, and eighteen Pounds of Hops at least to that Quantity of Malt, and if Malt be pale dryed, then add three or four Pounds of Hops more.

The Choice of Liquor for Brewing is of considerable advantage in making good Drink, the softest and cleanest water is to be prererr'd, your harsh water is not to be made use of.

You are to boil your first Liquor, adding a Handful or two of Hops to it, then before you strike it over to your Goods or Malt, cool in as much Liquor, as will bring it to a temper not to scald the Malt, for it is a fault not to take the Liquor as high as possible but not to scald. The
next Liquors do the same.

And indeed all your Liquors ought to be taken as high as may be, that is not to scald.

When you let your Wort from your Malt into the Underback, put to it a Handful or two of Hops, 'twill preserve it from that accident which Brewers call Blinking or Foxing.

In boiling your Worts, the first Wort boil high or quick; for the quicker the first Wort is boiled, the better it is.

The second boil more than the first, and the third or last more than the second.

In cooling lay your Worts thin, and let each be well cooled, and Care must be taken in letting them down into the Tun, that you do it leisurely, to the end that as little of the Feces or Sediment which causes the Fermentation to be fierce or mild, for Note, there is in all fermented
Liquors, Salt and Sulphur, and to keep these two Bodies in a due Proportion, that the Salt does not exalt itself above the Sulphur, consists a great part of the Art in Brewing.

When your Wort is first let into your Tun, put but a little Yeast to it, and let it work by degrees quietly, and if you find it works but moderate, whip in the Yeast two or three times or more, till you find your Drink well fermented, for without a full opening of the Body by fermentation, it will not be perfect fine, nor will it drink clean and light.

When you cleanse, do it by a Cock from your Tun, placed six Inches from the Bottom, to the end that most of the Sediment may be left behind, which may be thrown on your Malt to mend your Small Beer.

When your Drink is Tunn'd, fill your Vessel full, let it work at the Bung-hole, and have a reserve in a small Cask to fill it up, and don't put any of the Drink which will be under the Yeast after it is work'd over into your Vessels, but put it by itself in another Cask, for it will not be so good as your other in the Cask.

This done, you must wait for the finishing of the fermentation, then stop it close, and let it stand till the Spring, for Brewing ought to be done in the Month of October, that it may have time to settle and digest all the Winter Season.

In the Spring you must unstop your Vent-hole and thereby see whether your Drink doth ferment or not, for as soon as the warm Weather comes, your Drink will have another fermentation, which when it is over, let it be again well stopped and stand till September or longer, and then Peg it; and if you find it pretty fine, the Hop well rotted and of a good pleasant taste for drinking.

Then and not before draw out a Gallon of it, put to it two Ounces of Ising-glass cut small and well beaten to melt, stirring it often and whip it with a Wisk till the Ising-glass be melted, then strain it and put it into your Vessel, stirring it well together, stop the Bung slightly, for this will cause a new and small fermentation, when that is over stop it close, leaving only a Vent-hole a little stopp'd, let it stand, and in ten Days or a little more, it will be transparently fine, and you may drink of it out of the Vessel till two parts in three be drawn, then Bottle the rest, which will in a little time come to drink very well. If your Drink in September be well condition'd for taste, but not fine, and you desire to drink it presently, rack it before you put your Ising-glass to it, and then it will fine the better and drink the cleaner.

To make Drink fine quickly, I have been told that by separating the Liquor from the Feces, when the Wort is let out of the Tun into the Underback, which may be done in this manner, when you let your Wort into your Underback out of your Tun, catch the Wort in some Tub so long, and so
often as you find it run foul, put that so catched on the Malt again, and do so till the Wort run clear into the Underback. This is to me a very good way (where it may be done) for 'tis the Feces which causes the fierce and violent fermentation, and to hinder that in some measure is the way to have fine Drink: Note that the finer you make your Wort, the sooner your Drink will be fine, for I have heard that some Curious in Brewing have caused Flannels to be so placed, that all the Wort may run thro' one or more of them into the Tun before working, by which means the Drink was made very fine and well tasted."
"London and Country Brewer" (1736).

Such beers were incredibly strong, with starting gravities over 1100 and an ABV of somewhere around 10%. They were more often brewed in private households than in commercial breweries. Which, given the length of time they took to make, I suppose isn't surprising.

Saturday 23 August 2008

Arends Nest 23.08.2008


Whorst (and others too cowardly to sign their name): I don't tolerate abuse on this blog. If you want to be nasty and insulting, go to BeerAdvocate, where such behaviour seems de rigeur. Any abusive posts here will be deleted as soon as I see them.

I hope this makes things clear. I want this to be a civilised and civil place. I've no problem with views that differ from my own. As long as they are expressed politely. This blog's been going for over a year and until this last week I've never had need to delete any comments. Apart from the occasional spam.

Stout Butt Beer

If you were wondering, after yesterday's post, how to brew a Butt Beer, you're in luck. Courtesy of "London and Country Brewer" (1736), here is probably the first description of how to make Brown Stout.
"This is the strongest Butt-Beer that is Brewed from brown Malt, and often sold for forty Shillings the Barrel, or six Pound the Butt out of the wholesale Cellars: The Liquor (for it is Sixpence forfeit in the London Brewhouse if the word Water is named) in the Copper designed for the first Mash, has a two Bushel Basket, or more, of the most hully Malt throw'd over it, to cover its Top and forward its Boiling; this must be made very hot, almost ready to boil, yet not so as to blister, for then it will be in too high a Heat; but as an indication of this, the foul part of the Liquor will ascend, and the Malt swell up, and then it must be parted, look'd into and felt with the Finger or back of the Hand, and if the Liquor is clear and can but be just endured, it is then enough, and the Stoker must damp his fire as soon as possible by throwing in a good Parcel of fresh Coals, and shutting his Iron vent Doors, if there are any; immediately on this they let as much cold Liquor or Water run into the Copper as will make it all of a Heat, somewhat more than Blood-warm, this they Pump over, or let it pass by a Cock into an upright wooden square Spout or Trunk, and it directly rises thro' the Holes of a false Bottom into the Malt, which is work'd by several Men with Oars for about half an Hour, and is called the first and stiff Mash: While this is doing, there is more Liquor heating in the Copper that must not be let into the mash Tun till it is very sharp, almost ready to boil, with this they Mash again, then cover it with several Baskets of Malt, and let it stand an Hour before it runs into the Under-back, which when boiled an Hour and a half with a good quantity of Hops makes this Stout. The next is Mash'd with a cooler Liquor, then a sharper, and the next Blood-warm or quite Cold; by which alternate degrees of Heat, a Quantity of small Beer is made after the Stout."
You'll notice the very scientific sticking-your-finger-in method of determining if the water was hot enough for mashing. Each of the five mashes seems to be at a different temperature: a bit more than blood-warm, almost boiling, cooler, hotter, blood-warm. Sounds simple. Why did they ever bother introducing thermometers?

Here's a question for you homebrewers out there. Have any of you ever tried brewing without a thermometer? Yes, I realise it's a crazy thing to do in this modern age. But I'm intrigued as to how tricky (or not) it might be. Brewers did manage without thermometers for several thousand years, so it can't be that difficult. Can it?

Oh, and no butt jokes, please.

Friday 22 August 2008

Early 18th century British beer styles

I told you I was starting work on the book. The beginning seemed like a logical place to start. Here, in what will probably be the first in a long series of posts, is an extract from a very rough draught of Chapter One: 1700-1750 Stitch, Brown Beer and Pale Ale.

Early 18th century British styles

At the start of the 18th century, increased taxes on malt and hops to finance war with France, induced brewers to move to brewing more beer. Their reasoning was simple: the tax on malt was more than that on hops. Ale used more of the former, beer more of the latter.
"However, at last, it was realised that the duty on malt surpassed by much the duty on hops, from whence the Brewers endeavoured at a liquor wherein more of these last should be used. Thus the drinking of beer came to be encouraged in preference to ale. This beer, when new, was sold for £1/2/- per barrel, but the people not easily weaned from their wonted sweet heavy drink, in general used ale mixed with beer, which they purchased from the Ale draper at twopence halfpenny, and twopence three farthings per quart."
Obadiah Poundage, 1760.
Though, as the Poundage states, drinkers weren't so easily persuaded to change their habits.

Beer and Ale were both brewed at a wide range of strengths. Though the weakest were usually beers, as in Small Beer. Because of the low hopping rate, low-gravity Ales didn't keep well. The very strongest malt liquors, meant to be aged for a year or more, were also Beers. With these two exceptions, there were Ale and Beer equivalents at all strengths and using all three base malts.

There were four factors that determined style: base malt, strength, hopping rate and age when sold. For example, a Mild Stout Brown Beer, was a heavily hopped, strong Beer, brewed from brown malt, that was sold unaged.

Usually just a single type of malt was used. But there were evidently a few exceptions to this:
"At Bridport in Dorsetshire, I knew an Inn-keeper use half Pale and half Brown Malt for Brewing his Butt-beers, that, proved to my Palate the best I ever drank on the Road, which I think may be accounted for, in that the Pale being the slackest, and the Brown the hardest dryed, must produce a mellow good Drink by the help of a requisite Age, that will reduce those extreams to a proper Quality."
"London and Country Brewer", 1736.

You will note that the differentiation between beer and ale had remained unchanged since the introduction of hops in the 16th century. Whilst ales had also adopted the use of hops, the quantity used was so much smaller as to make them readily distiguishable from heavily-hopped
beers. In general, beers were hopped at about 4 times the rate of the corresponding Ale.
"The Proportion of Hops may be half a Pound to an Hogshead of Strong Ale; one Pound to an Hogshead of ordinary Strong Beer to be soon Drank out: And two Pounds to an Hogshead of March or October Beer:"
"Directions for Brewing Malt Liquors" (1700)
Here's an overview of the hopping rates for different styles of beer in the early 18th century:

It's clear that the Pale Ale described here has little in Common with that of the 19th century. The description of brewing "Stock Beer" in "The Brewer" (p.37) is very similar to that of October or March Pale Beer in "London & Country Brewer".

heavily-hopped. The two main subtypes were:

  • Keeping Beer - strong and inteded to be kept for long periods (9-12 months). Different types of keeping beer were:

    • March Beer - a beer brewed at the end of the best brewing season
    • October Beer - a beer brewed at the beginning of the best brewing season
    • Amber Keeping Beer - brewed from amber malt
    • Butt Beer - beer aged in large barrels or butts. Porter and stout were brown butt beers.

  • Small Beer - a low-alcohol drink for immediate consumption

lightly-hopped. It varied in strength, but was always weaker than the strongest Keeping Beers. Ales were usually drunk as soon as they had cleared, after about 3 or 4 weeks in the cask. The main subdivision was on the colour of the malt used:

  • Brown Ale - brown malt
    • Common Brown Ale
    • Strong Brown Ale (Stitch)
  • Amber Ale - amber malt
  • Pale Ale - pale malt

Style overview

  • Yield per bushel my estimate.
  • Assumes making Small Beer with the final runnings of strong malt liquors.
  • Final gravities are based on Richardson's readings from the 1770's.
The strongest and most expensive malt liquors were March or October Beer. They were brewed from a variety of malts, either pale, amber or brown. There was some disagreement as to which was the better month for brewing:
"It is pretended that March is the best Month for Brewing, and the Water then better than in October: But I allways found that the October Beer, having so many cold Months to digest in, proves the better Drink by much; and requires not such watching and tending as the March Beer does, in opening and stopping the Vent hole on every change of Weather."
"Directions for Brewing Malt Liquors" (1700)
There were many different styles brewed from brown malt. Starting Butt-Beer is what would later come to be known as Porter. Stout Butt-Beer became Brown Stout. As Porter became all the rage, Brown Ales lost popularity and by the end of the 18th century had disappeared. The name was not revived until a century later, when it was used to describe a very drink. Even in 1736, proto-Porter was a big success:
"common Butt-beer is at this time in greater Reputation than ever in London, and the Home-brew'd Drinks out of Credit"
"London and Country Brewer", 1736.
Intire Small Beer was not party-gyled with a stronger malt liquor, but brewed from its own mash. It was a new method of producing a higher-quality type of Small Beer. There were versions made from all three base malts.

Thursday 21 August 2008

Stirred, not shaken

I've just watched a Mythbusters programme where they were testing various James Bond stuff. One they tried out was about martini. Is there a difference between a shaken and a stirred martini?

I would have guessed that there wasn't. Then they explained how a shaken martini gets more ice into it. Not just the spirits expert they'd brought in, but the Mythbusters staff could all tell the difference in a blind taste. The shaken martini was more dilute.

I'm very disappointed in James Bond going for the watered-down shaken martini. What a flipping wimp. You can probably guess which I would prefer.

Wednesday 20 August 2008

Making money

I would love to make money from beer. But I love beer too much. What's the financial balance of my internet activities?

Google Ads. I have those on my site. Good for maybe $60 a month. That just about covers my hosting costs. Now that the dollar is worth so little. Compared to the euro, I mean. Don't anyone take offence. None was intended. I'd love the dollar to be worth more. It could boost my earnings by 10 or 15 euros a month.

I sell a pdf version of my Amsterdam Pub Guide for 5 euros. It's almost 200 pages. Has details of 90-odd pubs. All of which I've visited. Then there are the ones that weren't up to scratch. Just a few hundred hours of research and composition. Plus the beers I had to buy. Purely for research purposes, you know. A few jenevers, too. Let's say a minimum of 5 euros per pub. I make that 450 euros.

Yes, I'm coining it in.

There are adverts on my blog, too. They're lumped in with those from my website. So no extra money there. Not that writing the blog costs me much. Just the books, really. They average around 20 euros a pop. How many do I buy in a year? Not many. Fifty or sixty a year. (Yes, really, Dolores.) Seventy, tops.

I suppose translating all that stuff from German brewing manuals does take a bit of time. Transcribing brewing logs, too. Flying to London just to visit the archives isn't free, either. Not to forget, I only get paid for the hours I work. But four hours in the archives is well worth losing 8 hours pay for.

I'll be retiring to Cannes any day soon.

British pubs according to George Orwell

This is taken from a newspaper column written by George Orwell in 1944:
"I note that once again there is serious talk of trying to attract tourists to this country after the war. This, it is said, will bring in a welcome trickle of foreign currency. But it is quite safe to prophesy that the attempt will be a failure. Apart from the many other difficulties, our licensing laws and the artificial price of drink are quite enough to keep foreigners away. Why should people who are used to paying sixpence for a bottle of wine visit a country were a pint of beer costs a shilling? But even these prices are less dismaying to foreigners than the lunatic laws which permit you to buy a glass of beer at half past ten while forbidding you to buy it at twenty-five past, and which have done their best to turn the pubs into mere boozing shops by excluding children from them.

How downtrodden we are in comparison with most other peoples is shown by the fact that even people who are far from being "temperance" don't seriously imagine that our licensing laws could be altered. Whenever I suggest that pubs might be allowed to open in the afternoon, or to stay open till midnight, I always get the same answer: "The first people to object would be the publicans. They don't want to have to stay open twelve hours a day." People assume, you see, that opening hours, whether long or short, must be regulated by the law, even for one-man businesses. In France, and in various other countries, a café proprietor opens or shuts just as it suits him. He can keep open the whole twenty-four hours if he wants to; and, on the other hand, if he feels like shutting his cafe and going away for a week, he can do that too. In England we have had no such liberty for about a hundred years, and people are hardly able to imagine it.

England is a country that ought to be able to attract tourists. It has much beautiful scenery, an equable climate, innumerable attractive villages and medieval churches, good beer, and foodstuffs of excellent natural taste. If you could walk where you chose instead of being fenced in by barbed wire and "Trespassers will be Prosecuted" boards, if speculative builders had not been allowed to ruin every pleasant view within ten miles of a big town, if you could get a drink when you wanted it at a normal price, if an eatable meal in a country inn were a normal experience, and if Sunday were not artificially made into a day of misery, then foreign visitors might be expected to come here. But if those things were true England would no longer be England, and I fancy that we shall have to find some way of acquiring foreign currency that is more in accord with our national character.

Though some of the more crazy aspects of British licensing laws have changed, many of his complaints are still true today.

I particularly like the bit about childrenless pubs being boozing shops. As a parent and continental resident, trying to find a pub the whole family is allowed in can be a frustrating experience. Britain is the only European country where this is the case. Even scandinavia, with quite draconian alciohol laws, lets kids into pubs. Rant over.

Tuesday 19 August 2008

Autumn resolution

This morning the weather was glorious, sunny but fresh. More like late September than August. As if the bright, crisp hand of autumn were already reaching out to touch us.

I've always thought of the autumn as Drinking Season. Not quite sure why. It isn't as if I abstain the other three seasons. Perhaps it's a subconscious connection with my first term at university. That started in October and that's when I began drinking beer seriously.

There's a twinge of regret at the end of summer. Regret at the loss of opportunites that, like this year's sun, will never return. Time isn't unlimited. There's my own mortality, for one thing. Am I making good use of my time? How much longer can I put off writing that book? Shouldn't I start now?

I keep telling myself it's because I haven't completed the research. But that's just an excuse. I'll never finish the research, I know that. There will always be more to learn, mysteries to unlock, puzzles to decipher.

Beer, Ale and Malt Liquor
British Beer Styles 1700 to 1973

There. That's a start. The title's a good place to begin. Now the chapter headings.


1700-1750 Stitch, Brown Beer and Pale Ale

1750-1780 Porter, Stout and Entire

1780-1815 From brown to pale malt

1815-1850 Porter supreme

1850-1880 Ale comes of age

1880-1914 Adjuncts arrive

1914-1920 A teetotal PM - disaster!

1920-1939 A sort of stability

1939-1949 War and austerity

1950-1973 Stagnation and decline

- Tables of og and fg's for British beers 1700-1973
- Brief history of BP, Whitbread and Truman
- Tax rates

I'll discuss the brewing methods, materials and the characteristics of the beers brewed in the period in question. Each chapter will conclude with a series of typical recipes for the main styles.

Now I just have to come up with the words themselves.

What's my autumn resolution? Stop engaging in arguments with idiots on the interweb and write my book instead. Chapter one is already starting to take shape.

Monday 18 August 2008

Making friends and influencing people

This is a friendly beermail I just received on BeerAdvocate:

drewmprs -[ BA Since: Dec 12, 2005
In A Van Down By The River, California
Sent: Mon Aug 18, 2008 18:02 UTC (3 hours ago)

You will soon be banned from beer advocate, good day to you sir.

I confess, I've cried quite a bit since I read that. I'm going to be banned from BeerAdvocate. I cried so much, my St. Bernardus Abt turned into St. Bernardus Pater.

What am I going to do? When I want to be entertained by discussions such as

Will the next "great American beer" be an ale?
Biere de Champagne Worth the Price?
Question about firkin vs cask
Coming up on review #400: any suggestions?
What Beer & Music have you been frequenting of late?
Thoughts/opinions on Double White Ales?
Finally got my beer porn ready!!!
Pregaming? anyone do it?
What's your favorite Pumpkin Ale?
Do lagers have an inherent skunk?
"Imperial Pale Ale" as a style?

My life won't be worth living. Please, plead with them not to ban me. I really can't be responsible for my actions if I get banned. It could be really bad. I may even start watching Hollyoaks. You wouldn't want that, would you?

Pancake boat

Andrew's birthday treat was a ride on the Pancake Boat. It's an odd, but simple idea. A boat that cruises Amsterdam's waterfront upon which you can eat all the pancakes you want.

The only slight drawback is that the journey starts at end at the NDSM werf. A little ferry landing on an industrial estate in Amsterdam North. The only way to get to that is a ferry that runs from behind Central Station. At least the ferry is free.

On a fine, sunny day, the ferry ride is very pleasant. Watching how it weaves between the heavy traffic on the Ij. Trying to spot where I could so easily have fallen to my death at the back of the Silo. I rarely see Amsterdam from this perspective. It adds a layer of mystery to known neighbourhoods. And it's nice and cool.

We have to hang around for a while before the Pancake Boat is ready for boarding. As soon as it is, a gossip of grannies crowd towards the front, brushing aside children with their zimmer frames. You'd expect oldies to have rather better queueing etiquette. I don't know, old people today aren't like they used to be. I blame their parents.

We're assigned a table on the upper deck. You get a better view and there's more of a breeze sweeping through. Getting your scran couldn't be simpler. At a hatch, there are three piles of pancakes, plain, apple and bacon. You collect one then proceed to the topping completion section. There you can sprinkle your bacon pancake with chocolate flakes and brown sugar. Or cheese up your apple pancake. Anything is possible, no matter how disgusting.

This is supposed to be a beer blog, isn't it? Better tell you about the beer, then. A waiter comes to the table to take our drinks order. The best beer available is Leffe Bruin. So I order a jonge jenever, too. Just to take the nasty taste of the Leffe away, honestly. We're only on the boat an hour. And after my third bacon pancake stuffed with cheese and ham, I was starting to feel a little full. Or maybe it was just the general nastiness of the Leffe. Whatever the cause, I only managed a single beer. Shame on me.

We just managed to catch the ferry back to civilisation. Missed, we'd have had a half hour to wait for the next. "Shall we have a drink somewhere in town?" I rarely get invited to the pub by Dolores. I'm not going to miss this chance. "How about Wildeman?" I suggest. The kids are surprisingly enthusiastic, so Wildeman it is.

I'm going through a masochist phase. How else to explain buying a Flying Dog Gonzo Imperial Porter? A pint of it. I'm trying very hard to give American Stouts a fair chance, that must be it.

The Yeti, though by no means my perfect beer, I happily drank two glasses of. The Gonzo defeated me. As you can see by my unfinished glass. The hops just totally overwhelm everything else, except for a little black treacle from the malt. Exactly what makes this a Porter? The impact of an uber-hopped IPA is somehow diminished when every other style is hopped the same way. [Huge generalisation warning!!!! The following statement does not apply to every American beer] It's the one thing that pisses me off about American beer, that every style tends to get hopped in a similar way. Whether it fits that particular style or not. [Huge generalisation all-clear.] If I want a bagload of cascades, I'll buy an IPA, not a Porter.

The long and the short of it is, I left about a third of my Gonzo. Then we got the tram home. Where a nice warm St. Bernardus Abt was waiting for me. In a Chimay glass. You can't beat home.

Sunday 17 August 2008

What we want is Watney's

The story of Watney's is a strange tale. I have to admit that my opinion of them is somewhat clouded by CAMRA propaganda from the 1970's.

Watney's were the epitome of a Big Six keg brewer. The vast majority of their pubs sold no cask, just some of the most dismal processed beer imaginable. "Avoid like the plague" the first Good Beer Guide controversially stated in its Watney entry.

But they had a life before that. In the first half of the 20th century, Watney was very successful. They did one thing, however, that pissed off serious beer lovers. Introduced keg beer to Britain. East Sheen Lawn Tennis Club was, in the 1930's, the first client for Watney's new keg beer. It was a small beginning. After WW II, when quality problems with cask-conditioned beer caused many drinkers to switch to bottled beer, keg was seen as the way forward.

There was nothing wrong with the concept. Send out idiot-proof beer, that no landlord, no matter how incompetent, could mess up. Brewers had long been unhappy about the treatment their beer received once it had left the brewery. They were frustrated that it often reached the customer in less than perfect condition. Keg was the solution. No fining, no shives, no complications.

For a while it worked. Watney's Red became one of the biggest-selling beers in Britain. Then along came CAMRA. Though they criticised all the Big Six brewers, Watney's were the subject of the most vitiolic attacks. But it was ridicule that worked best. Watney's beers became a joke, the very definition of crap. You could tell this approach was working when Watney's took their name off their pubs. Their brand had been totally destroyed. Worse, it became an anti-brand.

What happened to Watney? They just melted away. The Stag Brewery, between Victoria Station and Buckingham Palace, was demolished in 1959. Though their Mortlake plant survives, the last large brewery in London. And it's managed to move downmarket even from Watney's Red. It now produces Budweiser. The shitty, American-style Budweiser.

As a special treat, here are the details of some Watney beers. Let's start with the pre-keg period.

They're pretty typical London beers. You'll not just how strong draught beers were in the 1920's. The Mild, still at a respectable 1043.5, is the only one below 1050.

It's interesting to see what crap value for money Keg Bitter and Red Barrel were. Only slightly stronger than their standard PA, but considerably more expensive. It also looks as if Fined Stag Bitter, the first cask-conditioned beer under the Watney's name for many years, was a version of Special Bitter. Both have about the same OG.

Saturday 16 August 2008

"Why is Newark no ordinary place?"

These words were uttered in an episode of medieval crime drama Cadfael. "Tell me, why is Newark no ordinary place?"

There's a simple answer to that question. Because it's where I grew up. While it was still a brewing town. Not that I particularly realised it at the time. I had wondered what that funny smell was that wafted over the school playing fields most days. But I was never intrigued quite enough to ask. Only after I started working at the Castle Brewery did I realise the source.

I would say that it's the people that make Newark out of the ordinary. That peculiar race of inbred, violent halfwits who lurk in its less salubrious pubs. Chavs. Newark is the home of chavs. Quite literally. The word comes from Newark slang. As in the phrase, "Ey up, chav!", a typical Newark greeting. It was quite disconcerting the first time I heard "chav" used on the television. "What has the world come to, when they speak in Newark slang on the telly?" I thought.

Civil War earthworks. Newark has the best preserved examples. Sconce Hills, for example. The town was besieged for most of the Civil War, hence all the earthworks. Newark picked the wrong side, hence the ruined castle.

Malting, that was another of the town's big industries, along with brewing. There are still a few crumbling maltings, all long disused. Watney's brewed using Newark malt back in the 1880's. At least according to Barnard. And he should know. I wonder if I should be proud or ashamed of that?

Combe beers

I have very very little information about Combe & Co's beers. There's a very good reason why. The brewery closed in the 1890's.

In 1898, the first big merger of London breweries took place. Three of the capital's largest breweries - Combe & Co., Watney and Reid - joined together as Watney, Combe, Reid. The breweries of Combe in Longacre and Reid in Clerkenwell closed almost immediately. Brewing was concentrated in Watney's Stag Brewery, close to Victoria station. (The Stag Brewery was itself demolished in the late 1950's.) The new venture had an annual output of 1.8 million hl, about double that of the next two largest London brewers, Whitbread and Barclay Perkins.

The Combe and Reid names did live on, being used by the new merged company. Reid was used as the brand for Stout and Combe for Brown Ale.

Combe Brown Ale 1926 - 1936
Year Price size package acidity FG OG ABV App. Atten-uation
1926 7d pint bottled 1043.6
1926 7d pint bottled 1045.2
1926 13d quart bottled 1013 1044.8 4.12 70.98%
1927 7d pint bottled 1044.7
1927 7d pint bottled 1042.10
1928 7d pint bottled 1009 1046.6 4.90 80.69%
1928 7d pint bottled 1012.4 1043.4 4.02 71.43%
1929 7d pint bottled 1042.1
1929 3.5d half pint bottled 0.06 1011 1043.5 4.22 74.71%
1930 7d pint bottled 1042.90
1930 7d pint bottled 1012.5 1041 3.69 69.51%
1931 7d pint bottled 1042.23
1931 8d pint bottled 1039.80
1932 pint bottled 1009.5 1037.5 0.00 74.67%
1933 7d pint bottled 0.05 1008.5 1040 4.09 78.75%
1934 7d pint bottled 1041.10
1934 7d pint bottled 0.07 1011 1039 3.63 71.79%
1935 7d pint bottled 1039.90
1935 8d pint bottled 1040.05
1935 8d pint bottled 1040.50
1935 7d pint bottled 0.05 1016.4 1040 3.04 59.00%
1936 7d pint bottled 1040.80
1936 7d pint bottled 0.06 1012 1040 3.63 70.00%
Whitbread Gravity book held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number LMA/4453/D/02/001.
Truman Gravity Book document B/THB/C/252 held at the London Metropolitan Archives
Thomas Usher Gravity Book document TU/6/11 held at the Scottish Brewing Archive

It's strange reading Barnard's description of the Combe brewery. It was large and modern. Supposedly the second largest brewery in London, with annual production of around 500,000 barrels (818,000 hl). Yet less than 10 years after his visit, it had closed. I won't bore you with a full inventory of their kit. Though it is impressive - several steam engines, attemperators, refrigerators, ice machines, cask washers. They even re-used waste steam and hot water for heating. How very green of them. There are, however, a couple of tidbits I want to share with you regarding Pale Ale.
"Since the year of the Great Exhibition [1851] light pale beers, which then created quite a revolution in the taste of the British public, have superseded the heavier and darker productions, and Messrs. Combe & Co. were amongst the first London brewers who wisely adopted the plan of brewing ales similar in character, colour and taste to those of Burton." Barnard "Noted Breweries of Great Britain and Ireland", volume I, p.289
"On one side of this building, pale ale casks are separately treated, this being a more delicate process, as they require greater care to free them from acidity. After every atom of hop has been removed from them the casks are filled with liquor, and then boiled by inserting a steam telescope-pipe into the bung hole - a few minutes suffice for this operation;- they are then finally steamed and dried." Barnard "Noted Breweries of Great Britain and Ireland", volume I, page 293
Never heard that one before. It seems clear that Pale Ale was more easily infected than other beers.