Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Back in New Jersey

The last 36 hours have been some of the most knackering in a long time. And almost beer-free. Work, dontcha just love it?

But my spirits rose as soon as I entered my room. When I saw The Box on the desk. (This sounds like a reading primer: the box sat on the desk. The box is full of beer. Ron is happy.)

It's full of beer. Not just any beer. Fuller's 1910 X, AK and Porter. A couple of versions of Barclay Perkins X from WWI. Lichtenhainer. Graezer. 1850 Salvator. Barclay Perkins IBSt. And much more. I'm so excited.

There's a glass of Fuller's AK in front of me. I'm raising it in a toast to Kristen. Thanks mate. I don't owe you one. Not even a couple. I owe you several.


jonbrazie said...

I wish I could come home to a case full of beer. Instead I come home to a happily fermenting ale. Almost as good. And the other one in the garage is just chillin, waiting for it's time. Sounds like an interesting selection. I must admit I'm jealous.

Knut Albert said...

Are we taliking about original bottles from way back when or reproductions?

Oblivious said...

I think Kristen england a home brewer may have recreated some of the beer?

Anonymous said...

Ron, I would be interested if you are so minded in a taste note on that early 1900's AK. Is it well within the bounds of something we would recognize as pale ale today? Or is it really different and if so, how? E.g., is it strikingly bitter? Any acid taste such as some AKs had?.

In reading on Google books many of the 1800's books referred to earlier, e.g., Terrington's, Tizzard's, I came across tips for making mild ale old (quickly). One stated, add a sliced Seville orange to a cask. This is in the book where the author has ideas about electricity affecting brewing processes, Terrington's I think. Seville oranges are bitter oranges to be sure (very tart). But a cask (36 gallons) wouldn't be that much affected by the juice of one orange, would it?. At most it would lend a faint acid taste. Now that I think of it, this is how many of the old beers were described, "sub-acid", "on the edge of acid", "sound old" [i.e., not sour old], etc.


Unknown said...
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Kristen England said...


Definitely welcome.

Yup, recreations. Most specifically from the breweries logs to their specifications. The AK is great. Its something that is going to go into my standard rotation. Very simple. Lots of different sugars, corn, etc.

As for the sourness of old beers. Most of that is bullocks. Over and over adn over in old brewing manuals they stress the importance of cleanliness and ensuring that you don't get sick ferments.

If an average strength porter can be stuck in a boat for a year and not come back off then I have no worries about these other beers.

That being said, some of the 'old ales' did have a nice brett character to them. The 'aged' character that Clausen described and identified (Brettanomyces clausenii)...of which I added to the barley perkins X to give it more of an aged character.

La Coq stout has that specific character if you guys can get your hands on some.

Anonymous said...

Wow... It's nice to have good friends! Like others, I'm interested in reading some of your tasting notes.

Thanks for the additional info Kristen.

Anonymous said...

I have had that Le Coq, the ones that came out on first release at any rate. I found the beer cidery and not that pleasant; whether this is a genuine old taste or not I do not know. Brett is fine if not overpowering - as in red wines! - and a good adjunct to a strong porter but that is separate from the acidic element often spoken of in relation to old beer.

From a close reading (non-technical, to be sure) of many 1800's and some earlier writers, I conclude that there two types of old ale in the market: sound old ale and unsound. Unsound was frankly sour, e.g., what Combrune states is a "too powerful acidity" from "long standing". Sound old beer was sub-acid: tart but not sour, on the edge of acid as one of the writers stated. Sound was sought by the brewers that knew their stuff; unsound is what drinkers often got due to the difficulties of keeping beer sound over a long period. To be sure cleanliness was important and I've read the same. But gosh those repeated ferments in casks sometimes unbunged that many speak of in "managing" old ale? That must have resulted in a flavour, often, like... Prize Old Ale (see below).

Rodenbach (the one that is all old ale, not the blended one) is to my taste sour and I cannot drink it. Ditto the noted English beer Prize Old Ale from George Gale. I don't know if it is still made, by Fuller. Once I had a Liefman goudenband that was tart but not sour, but all the others I had were too far gone in my opinion.

Maybe I am not an old ale guy (but I am a vatted/blended guy, I believe in that if you follow Combrune's advice not to add more than 1 part old to 7 of mild).

Or maybe old really was different in the old days. A Seville orange in 36 gallons of mild beer would not produce a sour drink at all. I think the truth was somewhere in the middle, the ideal was a vinous not soured drink and the brewers knew what was good but in practice a lot of nasty old stuff was around due to market exigencies and vagaries.


Anonymous said...

Just want to add one more thing - and thanks too Kirsten for those taste notes, much appreciated - in one of the books (I know I have to start writing down the references) the author stated that drinkers in the West Country favoured the stale ales. (Clearly idiosyncratic drinkers they were in those parts, with their taste for cloudy white, smoky and stale beer!). Now, if one recalls that cider is a specialty of that region, and that scrumpy can be a pretty sourish drink, that suggests to me a lot of the old stale beers were pretty acidic.

But this has nothing to do with my recognition - we are in full agreement here - that brewers themselves did not seek a frankly sour character, I absolutely agree on that. But my sense is that the market often had to contend with a lot of sub-par old beer. The many discussions of returns seems to point to this, too.


Anonymous said...

I meant, Kristen, sorry (don't know how to edit a post gone in).