Friday, 6 March 2009

Truman Ales part one: 1831 - 1841

I told you this week was Truman week. It's exciting, isn't it? I'm going to kick off with an overview of Truman's Ales in the middle of the 19th century.

It's funny how beer styles develop over time. Go back 150 years and the relationships between the styles is often quite different. Especially when you look at Mild (a beer where "Alcohol content is traditionally very low"). Odd word, "traditional". Very vague, don't you think? It refers to a practice that was common at some unspecified period in the past.

If "traditional" covers the years 1940 to 1980, then the assessment of Mild being very low in alcohol isn't far from the mark. Go back any further than 1914 and it's utter and complete bollocks. As you'll see from the tables below. The weakest Mild brewed by Truman in the period I cover had a gravity of 1066. I don't think that counts as exceptionally weak in anyone's books. Certainly not mine.

In the 1830's, Truman brewed a wide range of K and X Ales, which varied in strength from strong to bloody strong. The equivalent K and X Ales, for example XX and XXK had similar gravities (though the K version's was usually a touch higher). Their main difference was the hopping rate, which was 50-100% greater in the K Ale.

One other point of interest. Take a look at when the K Ales were brewed. In the table above they were all brewed in March. One of the traditional times for the brewing of Strong Ales.

By 1840, little had changed, except that a new beer had been introduced , 40/- Ale. Now you shouldn't start getting confused by thinking of Scotland. Prior go adopting the use of the X and K system, English breweries had also used the retail price per hogshead as a way of indicating the relative strengths of their different beers.

Table Beer is intriguing, too. Did they really give it to kids? With gravities of 1049 and 1058 neither was exactly watery. They weren't brewing a great deal of Table Beer, squeezing some out of the later runnings of stronger beers every now and again.

You'll note again that all the K Ales but one were brewed in February, March or April. Very traditional.

Don't worry. I've not finished yet. Still more lovely OG charts to come.


Ed said...

It's odd that lots of people have picked up on the IPAs have to be strong or they're not 'real' IPAs but at the same time you get people saying milds have to be weak. Maybe if Sarah Hughes managed to win the champion winter beer of britain the publicity would put people straight.

Anonymous said...


Thats a good point. It must be the evil influence of the BJCP!

Ron Pattinson said...

Ed, you've spotted the point I was trying to make. The random nature of what is picked for the "traditional version" of a style.

Wait until the next installment of Truman's Ales where Pale Ale makes an appearance. See how it fits in with the Milds.

Anonymous said...

Ron, was the grist on these X beers all pale malt? I'm wondering when Mild started to be identifed as a dark beer instead of a pale one. I know the gravities dropped significantly during WWI and never recovered, but when did Mild start creeping from pale to dark? I would expect after WW II but I really have no idea. Any thoughts?

Ron Pattinson said...

Bill, yes, 100% pale malt.

When Mild got dark is a bit difficult to finger precisely. I think it varied from brewery to brewery. Between 1890 and 1910 for most, I believe.

From the 1920's onwards I know for sure. Most were dark but some were pale and others inbetween.

Kristen England said...

Adding to what Ron has said it seems that a good portion of the darkening agents added to the milds were the dark invert sugars and such. Each brewery is different, and they are all over the map, but it does seem that these substitutes were used. I would first caulk them up to price savers but when looking through old brewing manuals and such and seeing advertisements for these sugars and syrups, the seller really does make them sound like by using their product you can make an ever BETTER product for less price.

Oblivious said...

Hi Ron have you found any reason why they got dark?

Could the association of dark beers with been "bigger" help smooth over the drop in O.G.? Just a random thought

Ron Pattinson said...

Oblivious, no idea. And they went dark before dropping below 1050. It could just have been fashion. Or the introduction of glasses in place of pewter pots. So drinkers could appreciate more subtleties in colour.

Bill said...

Maybe the unfermentable, dark grains added flavor as the OG dropped giving a weaker malt backbone? Speaking of light to dark, do you have a recipe for a pale porter in your records? Could be interesting to see, and brew.

Get better and thanks for your efforts.