Saturday, 1 November 2008

Brewing materials used in the UK 1914 - 1953

Did I ever tell you about one of my all-time favourite book. It's not "Our Mutual Friend" or even "The Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy". I'll give you a clue, it's non-fiction. Still can't guess?

OK, it's a book even more fact-filled than this blog: "The Brewers' Almanack". Published annually by the Brewers' Society, it has page after page of statistics. I could read it for hours. I own several editions. And of its successor, the rather less snappily-titled "Statistical Handbook of the British Beer and Pub Association".

While looking for information on hops for my book, I stumbled upon a wonderful set of figures in the 1955 edition. The brewing materials used by British breweries between 1914 and 1953. Hence the title of this post. It follows on nicely from yesterday's post about raw grain brewing.

Here it is:

I've also translated the raw numbers into percentages:

This really is revealing. I was surprised to see, on average, British breweries used about 80% malt in their grists. It makes me realise just what a bunch of cheapskates Barclay Perkins were. They used barely 70% malt.

While I was about it, I thought that I might as well work out the average hopping rates as well. As the average gravity of beers varied quite bit over the period covered, the rates per quarter of malt as the best ones to use for comparative purposes.

Between the wars, the hopping rate hovered around 8 pounds per quarter. That's about the level X Ale had been hopped at during the 1800's. During WW II, it dropped to under 6 pounds per barrel, a reduction of about 25%. This was no doubt as a result of shortages. Just like beer gravity, it bounced back a little post war, but not quite back to the level of the 1930's, levelling off at around 7 pounds per quarter. Given that hoppier styles like Bitter were gaining popularity at the expense of the more lightly-hopped Mild, the reduction was probably more than it appears from the numbers.


Lars Marius Garshol said...

In some ways, this raises about as many questions as it answers. At least for me.

What beer types did they use adjuncts in, and why? Adjuncts are generally associated with cheapo industrial pale lager, but these people obviously were not brewing that.

How did it affect the taste? Are adjuncts really as negative as people tend to thing? Maureen Ogle's history of American beer claims that when brewers started using adjuncts in the US the adjuncts were more expensive than barley malts, and that the brewers were using them to avoid problems with American malts, not to save money. (Is it true? I don't know.)

And, not least, did they start doing this in 1914? Were the historical originals of today's revered British beer styles actually brewed with adjuncts?

Would be quite interesting to know the answers to all this. :-)

Ron Pattinson said...

It varied from brewery to brewery, Barclay Perkins started using rice in the late 19th century in their two Bitters. They then swapped to maize. In the 1920's, there was maize in everything but Russian Stout.

Whitbread used no adjuncts, but did use sugar.

Some brewers made a point of saying that their beers were brewed from just malt and hops.

Between 1816 and 1880 the use of adjuncts was illegal. Though sugar was allowed for the last couple of decades.