Monday 31 August 2009

Berliner Weissbier-Stube in the 1870's

Just a long quote today. A description of a Berlin Weissbier-Stube in the early days of the Empire. The second Empire, that is.

"Characteristic among Berlin drinking establishments are the Wein-stube and the Weissbier saloon, both usually to be met with in the quieter streets and frequented by regular rather than by chance customers. The Berliner of the old type is usually a weissbier drinker who regards the beverage as peculiar to the city, and is fond of expatiating upon its merits to strangers. You no sooner get acquainted with an individual of this class than he will, as a matter of course, ask you your opinion of the weiss. I remember, in the early days of my sojourn in Berlin, being sorely puzzled by an inquiry of the kind, and on my replying hesitatingly : " The weiss, what is the weiss ?" my friend remarked in a reproachful tone, "What, you have been among us a whole week, and have not tasted the weiss yet! come along with me !" and forthwith seizing mc by the arm he hurried me down the Friedrichs-strasse into the Franzosische-strasse, repeating " Mein Gott, mein Gott, you shall taste the weiss! ""but disregarding my repeated solicitations to be informed what the weiss was. At last we stopped in front of a building with "Weissbier Ausschank " painted on the facade in huge black letters. Entering through a door at the end of a long passage, we found ourselves in front of a small counter, behind which three individuals were engaged in uncorking stone bottles, and carefully pouring their contents into huge glasses each holding more than half a gallon, whilst a fourth was removing kippered lampreys from a barrel.

Right and left lay the weissbier-stuben, decorated like all the beer saloons of Berlin with plaster-busts of the Emperor, the Crown Prince, and Furst von Bismarck, in addition to which one caught occasional glimpses, through the dense cloud of tobacco-smoke, of large coloured prints, illustrative of the glories of the "weiss." hung against the walls. All the little tables crowding both apartments were occupied by guests, the majority of whom were long past middle age, if three score and ten be taken as the standard of human existence, and whose rosy gills and capacious waistbands attested a familiarity with, at any rate, some of the good things of this life. In front of every one stood a gigantic tumbler which could have been fitted with ease upon any ordinary head, and which contained a liquid pale and clear as Rhine wine, surmounted by a huge crown of froth not unlike a prize cauliflower. This was the famous " weiss," the mere mention of which suffices to send a Berliner into raptures and into the mysteries of which I was about to be initiated.

The liquor was ordered and duly brought, and I observed that the quart bottle scarcely filled one-third of the glass, the voluminous head of froth not only occupying the remaining space but foaming over the sides. Hence the necessity for such capacious receptacles, which a novice is only able to raise to his lips by the aid of both hands. Not so however the experienced toper, who by long practice has acquired the knack of balancing, as it were, the bottom of the glass on his outspread little finger, while he clutches the side with the remaining fingers and thumb of the same hand, and thus conveys the huge tumbler to his lips. With the habitual weissbier drinker a preliminary nip of kümmel (aniseed) is de rigueur and after he has partaken of this he will lap up his four quarts of kühle blonde—" cool fair maiden," as weissbier is poetically termed by its admirers—as readily as his native sand sucks in a summer shower, exciting his thirst perhaps once in the course of the operation by some salted delicacy, such as a lamprey.

Berlin is the city of all others where the kühle blonde is obtained in the greatest perfection, and where bier-stuben offering no other beverage to their frequenters abound. The beer is drunk by preference when it is of a certain age, and in perfection it should be largely impregnated with carbonic acid gas and have acquired a peculiar sharp, dry, and by no means disagreeable flavour. To the ordinary unstrung Berliner, a moderate quantity of the weiss is as soda and brandy to the Master Englishman. After an evening of excess, next morning his steps invariably tend to the weissbier-stube, there to quench his thirst with a draught of kühle blonde and stimulate his palled appetite with knoblauch wurst, a delicacy of the favourite sausage type, fried with garlic.

The habitual weissbier drinker, the man who despises the more modern Bavarian beverage, is usually a Philistine — a term with the meaning of which Mr. Matthew Arnold has made us all familiar — of the most pronounced type ; a compound of coolness, loquacity, cowardice, and rudeness, and the counterpart of the Berlin citizen before the revolutionary epoch of 1848. It is true that the class is gradually becoming extinct, still, the Philistine is found flourishing with his cronies in the weissbier-stuben where he habitually spends his evenings. One of the most common varieties of the Philistine to be met with at these places is the Spiessbürger, generally a man from forty to sixty years of age, of small stature and beardless face, who daily, year after year, goes at the same hour to the same seat scrupulously reserved for him, to drink the same quantity of weissbier, smoke the same number of pipes or cigars, talk on the same subjects and crack the same unvarying jokes.

" Tis the same life, the whole year round,
The self-same set together found :
Each night their songs, their drink, their game,
Their mirth, their very jests the same.
And as its tail diverts a kitten,
So they with their own jests are smitten."

The Spiessburger is irreproachable both as a husband and a father, accompanies his wife and family on an annual picnic to the Pichelsberg, and is to be found daily at his favourite beer saloon at a fixed hour, drinking only weissbier simply because his father and grandfather drank it, and despising Bavarian beer as a modern innovation. He will have dined well or ill according to his means, still he always manages to store away his due quota of weissbier with the indispensable nip of kummel. The thorough- bred Spiessburger never thinks, at least not about things that others will think out for him, and in all matters relating to politics, art, and literature, the Vossische Zeitung is his idol, and its editor his prophet.

It is curious to watch the succession of customers at one of these weissbier-stuben. On the doors being first thrown open there usually appear several mummy-like figures of the softer sex who, fungus like, prolong their miserable existence in damp cellars, and come to buy the dregs of the beer left on the previous evening to convert them into soup, the only warm food they are acquainted with. The last comer is well nigh inconsolable at finding herself deprived of her midday meal by her sharper predecessors. Towards nine o'clock appear the civic functionaries, who sweep the streets during the day time and do the heavier work of the Berlin fire brigade at night, and who seem to have no other home than the streets. The draught of "cool blonde" they imbibe strengthens them, they say, for their office. Next comes the well-to-do Berlin citizen who bespeaks the morning paper and washes down its news with the weiss. He dines at twelve o'clock precisely and consequently disappears before that hour. Some students or other roysterers, who have slept off their last night's intoxication, drop in towards noon to rid themselves of their headaches and stay till two or three o'clock, when they leave the host to the enjoyment of the only hour of the day he can consider his own. Towards four o'clock the habitués drop in, and conspicuous amongst them is our friend the Spiessburger, who becomes dreadfully upset if he finds his usual place occupied. He remains several hours and then retires to the bosom of his family, by which time the company grows more lively. The crowd is greater, and the question, " What is there for supper ?" is heard at shortening intervals above the buzz of conversation. As eleven o'clock approaches, the saloon becomes gradually emptier, although a fresh class of customers appear in the shape of jovial topers who seek to overcome the effects of previous potations by the carbonic acid of the sparkling weiss. As to the regular habitues with puffy faces and conservative paunches, when they are not playing " Sechs-und-sechszig" they are yawning, and when they are not yawning they are playing " Sechs-und-sechszig." Theclose room is filled with an atmosphere that lulls the mind to somnolence, a loud word is seldom heard and still more rarely a lively conversation. The guests seem to labour under the idea that they might be charged for any noise they made as well as for the liquor they consumed, as used to be the custom of old in Dutch taverns. Should the weiss be in any degree inferior, this furnishes a fruitful subject of conversation, politics and domestic cares are alike forgotten, and nothing is talked about but beer.

Moleschott has asserted that man becomes what he eats and drinks, and that food not only advances or retards the physical but also the mental development of nations. The axiom that "he who drinks beer thinks beer," has met with singular confirmation at Berlin, if we are to believe some native writers. As long as the Berliner drank hardly anything but his weissbier he remained a staunch Philistine. Weissbier alone was responsible for his narrow-mindedness in politics, the froth rather than the substance which appeared in his development, his sour and critical views of life, and his sickly piety. Berlin weissbier was by its nature conservative, and the deeper its votaries plunged in the "cool blonde" the more peaceable they became. When Herr von Manteuffel visited a celebrated Berlin beer-room incognito in the height of his power and drank a glass of weissbier with the citizens, he was doing figurative homage to the Philistinism which desires peace at any price, and submitted patiently to the Treaty of Olmutz. Bavarian beer, on the other hand, is said to be altogether different in its effects. It foams little, but makes its drinker lively and excited, that is to say for a German, instead of first rendering him comfortable and then sleepy as the weissbier does. Bavarian beer, proudly say its admirers, helped to infuse a new spirit into the population of Berlin, and this innovation of modern times and of the Zollverein worked a complete though peaceful revolution in the Prussian capital. Under its influence freer views were developed and the Berliner's narrow point of vision became enlarged. It aroused a wish for political progress and an enthusiasm for the Fatherland. The link between the north and south was found, and every brewer's apprentice, who went from Munich to Berlin to teach the natives to brew the new liquor, was an unconscious agent of German unity. The social alterations claimed to have been effected by Bavarian beer were equally great. Whereas weissbier makes the drinker monosyllabic, reserved, and retiring, the Bavarian brewings open his heart and let loose his tongue. Under their influence strangers become acquaintances, and acquaintances grow more quickly intimate, opinions are exchanged, class distinctions are diminished, and prejudices get removed.
"Berlin under the New empire" by Henry Vizetelly, 1879, pages 310 - 314.

Wasn't that fun? Maybe tomorrow I'll be arsed to write something myself.

Sunday 30 August 2009

Whitbread Ales 1851 - 1910

Part of my random beer tables series. Today, Whitbread from 1850 to WW I. I though you might be a bit fed up with Scotland. Hence the switch to London. Both X Ales and K Ales. You lucky people.

Not much to tell, really. Except that the K Ales changed less than the X Ales. Whereas the gravity and hopping rate X (the only X Ale to survive into the 20th century) dropped considerably.

Saturday 29 August 2009

Confusing Youngers (part two)

I told you it got worse with Younger's logs. See what fun I have for you today.

The Younger's Stouts tend to be a bit weird. Before WW I they had a couple with the imaginative names of S1 and S2. What was so unusual about them? The hopping. They used few fresh hops. Occasionally none at all. The majority were spent hops from other brews that were boiled for three hours plus. I've absolutely no idea how to record that sort of hopping. What would have been the hopping rate with unused hops?

But after WW I it gets even worse. DBS and XXS were party-gyled. Nothing so odd about that. For one thing, these are the only Younger's beers which weren't dry hopped. But that's not what's confusing me. See what they did after fermentation:

The beers were cocktails, with odds and ends of a several other beers mixed in. There are examples where it looks as if ullage is getting thrown in, too.

It reminds me of what John Keeling told me about the Watney's Cream Stout brewed at Wilson's. I use "brewed" here very loosely. Because most of it was returned beer with loads of caramel and sugar added. He reckoned less than 50% of it was ever freshly-brewed beer.

Mild used to have a bad reputation because of the tale that slops were mixed back into it. The dark colour hiding a multitude of sins. In which case, how much easier must it have been to pull similar tricks with Stout? Clearly, not just at the pub, but in the brewery as well.

Friday 28 August 2009

Racking and cleansing gravities

OK. Racking and cleansing gravities. God, we discuss such fascinating stuff.

Here's what Barclay Perkins did:

For Ales, the difference varies from 2 to 5 degrees. For the Stouts, the difference is bigger, 4 to 8 degrees. Though that does include IBSt, which had an OG of more than 1100.

Confusing Youngers

Slow. I am. Bit. We've been there before. Finally spotted what Younger were up to.

Younger's logs span two pages. Two to four lines per brew. To help people like me who take separate photos of each page, the beer name is recorded on both pages. Except often it's crossed out and another name substituted. XX became XXX. 3 became XXPS. Then I noticed what they were up to.

Take a look:

Do you see? It makes my life bloody difficult. But it gets worse. Much worse.

I'll tell you about that tomorrow.

Did I mention I'd finished Volume IX of my Mini Book Series? "Trips! (South)" Pages (exactly how many I can't recall) of South German fun. There's a copy for whoever best explains what Younger were doing. Based on that image. Above. Obviously.

Thursday 27 August 2009

Scotch Ales 1925 - 1966

The Scottish fun just never ends, here at Barclay Perkins. Another table for your delectation. A table of 20th century Scotch Ales.

A couple of words of explanation. Some of these beers were specifically brewed for the Belgian market. With some, it's obvious. It says "purchased in Belgium" in the Gravity Book. Others you can infer were purchased abroad. Those with neither a package size nor a price.

You'll notice that some examples are from that famous Scottish town of Tadcaster. Maybe the Belgians didn't know or didn't care if their Scotch Ale came from England. After all, nowadays Scotch Ale for the Belgian market is usually brewed in . . . . Belgium. Funny how Belgian brewers got all upset when Americans called their beers "Belgian Ales" yet seem happy to brew beers called Scotch Ales themselves.

Most of the Younger's examples from the 1930's, though it doesn't specifuically say so, look like No. 3. And the Younger's history I have states that most of what was sold in London as Scotch Ale was No. 3. Incidentally, No. 3 had been brewed since at least 1858 and was not one of Younger's Shilling Ales.

All the beers for which there is a colour indication were dark. Mostly mid-brown in colour. Scotch Ale is another of those styles that moved from pale to dark at the time when everyone claims beers were becoming paler. For most of the 19th century Scotch Ales were brewed from 100% pale malt.

More on 19th-century Scotch Ales soon. Probably tomorrow. But definitely soon.

Wednesday 26 August 2009

Scottish hopping, 1868

By the time I've finished you'll never want to hear about hopping rates again. I've moved forward a couple of decades, to the late 1860's.

There's one big change from 1851. The X Ales have dropped considerably in gravity. Younger's more so than the London ones. Younger's X and XX were 1071 and 1082 in 1851. It's a trend that continued for much of the late 19th century. I wonder why that was?

The strength differences between Younger's and the London beers makes comparisons a little trickier. But, pitting Younger's XX against the similar strength London X Ales, it's the second hoppiest after Truman's.

Tuesday 25 August 2009

Thomas Usher's beers 1885 - 1889

Just some random details I've harvested from the Scottish Brewing Archive logs. I'm not trying to make any particular point with these. Well, maybe a couple of small ones.

For purposes of comparison, I've included some details of Whitbread beers from around the same period.

Usher's beers don't really show any of the characteristics associated with Scottish beers in the 19th century - low hopping rate, cool fermentation, long boil. None of these differ significantly from Whitbread. Apart from the shilling Ales. They were less heavily hopped than the other Usher's beers and Whitbread's beers.

It's beginning to look as if English and Scottish brewing practices converged in the second half of the 19th century.

The dangers of cider

Did I mention I made a flying visit to Britain at the weekend? 22 hours in Folkestone. What fun.

It was mostly just a shopping trip. Not that we actually had to go into a shop. We ordered everything online and had it delivered to our hotel. Groovetastic. More time for drinking. But . . . .

Things started out well. With an English breakfast for lunch. We were headed to the British Lion, when we noticed that the Pullman had reopened. Seeing how many handpulls were on the bar, it seemed churlish to just walk past.

Inside was heavy with the smell of paint. A sure sign they hadn't been reopened long. "Last week", the barman said. A couple of my favourites were on the bar. Harvey's Sussex Bitter and Taylor's Landlord. Decisions, decisions. I went for the former as, bizarrely, Landlord is more common in the South. Rather nice, it was. Mikey, as usual. Was on the cider. Addlestones's cloudy.

While Mikey went off to buy shoes, I got myself a Landlord. To pass the time, I flicked through "More Tales from the Taproom." A book that was lying around on a table. It documents all the pubs past and present in the Folkestone area. Much to my surprise, I learned that the Pullman had only been a pub since the 1960's. I would never have guessed that.

We had another couple of pints affter Mikey returned with his 16 quid shoes. Then made our way back to our hotel for our shopping delivery. "How strong's that cider? I feel a bit tipsy" "No idea. But I had one in Glasgow that was 7%." "That must be why I'm feeling it."

The delivery window was from 17:00 to 19:00. It turned up at 18:50. By which time we'd had a couple more pints and a couple of shots. The latter some weird concoctions assembled by the barman. The first was a funny brown colour. The second black with some pink stuff floating on the top. Looked a bit girly to me.

Mikey was pretty cheerful by the time the van pulled up with goodies. Positively merry, in fact. I dumped my stuff in the coolbox in my room and ambled back down to the bar. No sign of Mikey. I ordered myself a London Pride and waited a while. Still no sign of Mikey. That's odd, I thought. When my pint was done, I went upstairs and banged on his door. No response. Oh well. Best get back to the bar. I tried his door again one London Pride later. Still nothing.

What could I do? You must know the answer to that one. Hit a few more pubs on my own then buy a pie at the chippie.

There was a knock on my door at 09:15. It was Mikey. "What did we do last night? I can't remember anything. Did I behave myself?" At this point I should have made up a scary tale of lewdness and debauchery, where a night in the cells was avoided by a hair's breadth. But I hadn't been up long. So I told him the truth: "You went to bed at 19:30."

Ah, the dangers of cider.

Monday 24 August 2009

William Younger fermentation temperatures.

Scotch Ales were fermented cold. At least that's what all the brewing manuals say, including "Scottish Ale Brewer" by Roberts. But what do the logs say? Funnily enough, the fermentation is recorded particularly well in Younger's records.

Here's an excerpt from their 1851 records:

The pitching temperature is in the leftmost column. It varies between 55º F and 58º F. The following columns give the temperature throughout the fermentation, where it rose to the high 60's F.

In 1831 pitching temperatures (column 5) were a little lower, but also less consistent:

The coolest is 50º F and the warmest 59º F. The final column is the cleansing temperature (ie end of primary fermentation). This is 70º F in all cases.

In 1885, pitching heats varied from 55.5º F to 61º F, the stronger the beer the lower the temperature.

It looks to me that the temperatures increased as the 19th century progressed and, by the end of it, were about the same as in England. I'll post at greater length on this topic later, when I've extracted more from the logs.

Younger's shilling Ales 1831 - 1899

I'm sure one of you asked for more tables. You're in luck.Today's post is little more than one big table. As you've probably already guessed, it's a table of Younger's shilling Ales. Or Scotch Ales.

Given the low attenuation and modest hopping, these must have been pretty malty beers. Syrupy even.

Should I ask Kristen to bash up a recipe? I know I'd love to try one of these devils. The 1851 140/- looks a good candidate. A light session beer.

Sunday 23 August 2009

Berliner Weisse (part 93)

After my mammoth translation session last year, I thought I knew a thing or two about Berliner Weisse. Not everything by a long chalk, as it turns out.

I don't know how the VLB book "Die Berliner Weiße" slipped beneath my radar. It was published last year. I only spotted it last week, after seeing a review in the PINT magazine. A whole book, just about Berliner Weisse. Right down my Strasse.

I own several VLB publications, mostly yearbooks from 1900 to 1925. Full of fascinating facts, they are. If only they weren't printed in Gothic typeface. You can see an example here.

Where was I? Berliner Weisse, that was it. I thought I knew pretty well how it was made, after all the technical descriptions I've translated. Well, it turns out there was something everyone missed until the second half of the 20th century. And which came as a great surprise to me. Want to know what it was?

It turns out there's more than just the mixed lactic acid bacteria/yeast culture involved in Berliner Weisse's fermentation. Something I thought wasn't found in German beer: Brettanomyces. Turns out that, on closer investigation, much of the distinctive aroma is formed by a long, slow secondary conditioning in the bottle by Brettanomyces. The reason no-one spotted it was because it wasn't deliberately added but just picked up somewhere in the brewery.

Red face time. I've told homebrewers on beer forums a couple of times that Brettanomyces is entirely inappropriate in a Berliner Weisse. Turns out it's actually essential. You live and learn, eh?

"Die Berliner Weiße" published by VLB Berlin, 2008, pages 85 - 88.

Saturday 22 August 2009

Scottish hopping, 1851 (part three)

William Younger produced a baffling array of Ales in 1851. You had X Ales and Stock Ales, which were much like beers brewed in England. There were Porters and Pale Ales, too. Again very much along the lines of their English counterparts. Then you have the shilling Ales.

These Ales appear particularly Scottish. In the Younger's records of the 1830's, they are the only beers to be found. They seem to have only started brewing "English" style beers around the middle of the 19th century. Remember how in an earlier post I made clear the distinction between Scotch Ale and Scottish Ale? Well the shilling Ales are Scotch Ales. And they're hopped rather differently.

Here's a comparison between the hopping rates of Younger's shilling Ales and English X Ales:

Scotch Ales being rather on the strong side, I couldn't find any English equivalent of two. 60/- Ale, roughly equivalent in strength to an X Ale, was hopped at just 5 pounds per quarter as opposed to 8 pounds. 80/- Ale was, at 7 pounds per quarter, a little closer to the 9 to 10 pounds perquarteer of an XX Ale. 100/- was hopped at only half the rate of Truman's XXX Ale.

My conclusion? Shilling (or Scotch) Ales were significantly more lightly hopped than other Ales of similar strength. But those other Ales included many, such as Younger's X Ales, that were also brewed north of the border. Scotch Ales were lightly hopped, but Scottish Ales in general were not. Is that clear enough?

Friday 21 August 2009

Burton numbers

Remember when we discussed beer codes. Those cryptic letters so beloved of Victorian brewers. I'm sure I said something about Burton, where they did things differently. Bass used numbers.

How to get a look at some Burton brewing logs has been occupying my mind for a while. With the former Bass Museum closed, it seems problematic. So imagine my surprise when, at the Scottish Brewing Archive I discovered records from Evershed's brewery. Of Marston, Thompson & Evershed fame. What a piece of luck.

At least that's what I thought until I opened them up. Aaaagh. It was the personal notebook of one of the Younger's, who must have been there getting work experience, or whatever they called it in the 19th century. It was in the horrible Younger's format. Nothing like as useful as I'd hoped.

But it wasn't a total loss. I managed to scrape a few beer details out of it. And they used a numbering system similar to Bass. Take a look:

I've not had time to look at it properly yet. Wonder what it will tell me?

Thursday 20 August 2009

Scottish hopping, 1851 (part two)

No, I hadn't forgotten. I'm not that bad yet, am I? Here's the next enthralling installment of William Younger's hopping in 1851.

Let's kick off with Porter and Stout, because I've a reasonable number of examples to work with. I've not found a single Porter in the Younger's logs. But what they called BS (Brown Stout) was similar in strength to a London Porter.

Younger's BS, much like the three London Porters, was hopped at around 3 pound per barrel. Amongst the Stouts, Younger's has the second heaviest hopping, just behind Barclay Perkins. Can we agree Younger's did not hop their Porters/Stouts more lightly than London brewers?

Now on to Pale Ale. I'm afraid that I don't have many London examples. In 1851 neither Barclay Perkins nor Whitbread brewed a Pale Ale of any description.

Not enough data to be conclusive, but it certainly doesn't look as if Younger were going easy on the hops.

Wednesday 19 August 2009

Let's Brew Wednesday - 1909 Maclays 54/- PI

What a treat we have in store today. The first Scottish recipe, fresh from my archive harvest.

I suppose I'd best explain about all the shilling stuff, hadn't I? Back in the mists of time (the beginning of the 19th century) it wasn't uncommon for breweries in both England and Scotland to denote the strength of a particular beer by its wholesale price. Per hogshead (54 imperial gallons).

By 1850, most English breweries had swapped to the X-system, where the relative strength was indicated by the number of X's. But in Scotland the system persists, to some extent, to the present day. Of themselves, names like 60/- and 70/- tell you nothing about the type of beer, just its relative strength. What I'm saying is: don't assume a 60/- Ale is automatically a Mild and a 70/- Ale a Bitter.

Would you like to see details of Maclay's full range in 1909? Of course you do. It might help explain the shilling business. Note that there is both a Stout and a Mild called 54/-.

The gravities are also intriguing. Many of the beers are very watery for the period. There appears to have been quite a bit of regional variation in strengths. In England and Wales, the average OG in 1910 was 1052.30. In Scotland, it was just 1048.48. Whereas in Ireland it was a whopping 1064.78 (remember, Guinness was over 1070 at the time). I've not come across any London beer that was below 1040. Yet a good proportion of Maclay's output was. The 42/- Mild and 42/- PI look more like post-WW II beers than Edwardian ones.

Hope that's enough background. I contemplated mentioning the history of Maclay. But we don't want this post getting too long, do we? I'll save that for another day.

1909 Maclays 54/- PI

Lets move a little north of our past exploits and head to Scotland. Where beer counts as beer and whiskey counts as beer. Things that are low in gravity, high in taste and can be drank in massive quantities . . . unless the Scotch comes out . . . which is always does. Personally I think the Scottish ales are some of the beers that people talk the most about but know jack crap about. After spending a good amount of time in Scotland their lighter beers are some of my very favorite session beers of all. Most don't tastes like these experts say they are supposed to. So here is your first 'traditional' Scottish ale. Its low in alcohol but quite high in hops.

Grist and such
The first thing you'll notices is how little home grown malt they actually use. They mash tun is filled with grain from around the globe. Oregon, Tunisia and India to name a few. They use the traditional grits . . . yes, I'm saying these are traditional and equating them to flaked maize . . . also traditional. Its not really the fact to me that they use grits its that they treat them very much like the Americans of the same time with the side cereal mash. To boot they are nearly 21% of the grist! The amount of sugar they use is 12% which makes nearly 1/3 of this beers fermentables non-malt based. Amber malt. That's right. 2% amber malt. Seems to be the exact proportions that the experts deem that roasted barley was used. In all seriousness, there are VERY few Scottish ales I've seen brewed with roasted barley over ANY range of years. This amber, even at 2%, would definitely lend a toasty dryness.

So here is the kicker. The color. 12 EBC (5SRM). That is very light for anything especially a 'traditional' Scottish ale. I poured over the logs to see if there was any indication of anything 'dark' added. Crystal, dark sugar, etc. They actually have a place in the logs for 'colouring' with a big strike through it. So it is what it is I guess. This sucker was a lot more pale than I would have imagined . . . but data doesn't lie, right?

Nothing really fancy here. A straightforward high temp mash to get all those big dextrins into your beer . . . gonna need that with the amount of non-malt adjuncts. Also, its pretty wet for a single beer mash at 1.3qt/lb (2.7L/kg).

The log actually has 6 different entries for hops. Some the same but different years. It basically boils down to two different types, UK Kentish and the Oregon Cluster. The 24bu are a decent amount so you definitely will be able to taste the hops in this one.

Liquor treatment
Hmm . . . the more and more I look at this trucker the more and more it seems to be a traditional bitter! Tons of gypsum add along with a fair shake of Calcium chloride and magnesium sulfate.

Tasting notes
No notes yet. However I can tell you that there will be a lot of corny character but not to dry as it only ferments down to 1.013. I'm telling you this seems more like Fullers 1910 AK than what would thought to be a Scottish ale.

Scottish hopping, 1851

I bet you've all be waiting for this. I know I have. Finally getting to the bottom of the story that the Scots brewers used fewer hops than their English counterparts.

It's always sounded a dodgy theory to me. Because its origin appears to be a logical construction (hops didn't grow in Scotland, so must have been expensive, so they must have used fewer) rather than a conclusion reached after examining evidence.

These are only preliminary results. I reserve the right to change my opinion when I've had a more thorough look at the facts. But that will take some time.

I've compared beers brewed in 1850 - 1851 by William Younger in Edinburgh with beers brewed in London by Whitbread and Truman. To ensure I'm comparing like with like, I've stuck to X Ales and Stock Ales. I've also tried to get beers of roughly similar gravities.

Let's kick off with X Ales. These are pretty easy to deal with as they all have identical names in the logs and are of pretty much the same gravity:

Despite being slightly lower in gravity than Truman's and Whitbread's, Younger's X Ale is the most heavily-hopped, both in pounds per barrel and pounds per quarter. Younger's XX has the fewest hops in terms of pound per quarter, but edges out Truman in pounds per barrel. Younger's XXX comes in the middle with regards to pounds per quarter and is only just behind Truman's XXX in pounds per barrel.

My conclusion? That Younger's X Ales were hopped at pretty much the same rate as London-brewed X Ales.

Now let's turn to Stock Ales:

I'm not going to bore you by explaining that lot in words. It's pretty clear that, once again, the Younger's beers have been hopped in a very similar way to their London counterparts.

That was simple, wasn't it? tomorrow we'll take a look at Porter and Pale Ale.

Tuesday 18 August 2009

Younger's 1858 mashing schema

Those snappy titles just keep on rolling out of my fingers. This is in response to a question from MentalDental about William Younger's sparging techniques. "Did they fly-sparge?" Haven't a clue. Take a look yourselves and see if you can tell.

[Just looked again at the image again. I do have a clue. But see if you can work it out anyway.]

The first beer is 120/- the second 80/- (Scotch Ales). Not that it makes much difference. The temperatures are the same for all the beers, give a degree or so. You get about the whole spread in those two examples.

Looks to me like plenty of details are missing. Like sparge volumes. [Stupid spellchecker doesn't like sparge. Or spellchecker even. An ironic joke?]

Comments welcome from those that have more understanding than me. Though sparge volumes should be pretty easy to work out based on the volume of mash liquor and quarters of malt. Shit. Missed off the malt bill. . . . .

Just two types of malt. Scotch and Foreign. Do they still make those?

Wm. Youngers boil times 1831 - 1898

Not the most seductive title ever. Making boiling times fascinate isn't simple. Probably not even possible. But let's give it a go, anyway.

I had planned looking at boil times over the whole time slice I cut out of the logs. But I didn't have time. And I'd rather do it properly than rush. So today's post only covers the 19th century. If you can't remember as far back as Sunday, this is the claim (from BeerAdvocate) I'm checking:

"Scotch Ales traditionally go through a long boil in the kettle for a caramelization of the wort"
The main problem with that statement is this: which period in time is meant by "traditional"? Because, and this came as a surprise to me, Younger's boiling times varied considerably across the 19th century. Time for a table.

I've limited the table to the shilling Ales. For a couple of reasons. Firstly, they are the only beers that were brewed in every one of the years I'm examining. Secondly, the shilling Ales are the Scotch Ales.

You must have noticed something. It's so bleedin' obvious. The boil times steadily increased as the century progressed. To give some sort of benchmark, I'll tell you that London breweries mostly boiled for between 1.5 and 1.75 hours.

The 1831 times are pretty short. Especially considering the gravity of the beers. You might have expected longer boils to concentrate the wort. But that's not the case. In fact it was the weaker beers that were boiled longer. The 1898 times are pretty long, averaging on close to 3 hours. I wonder why they changed?

BeerAdvocate's statement about long boils is true. If "traditionally" only goes back to the 1880's and no further.

Monday 17 August 2009

The T-word

I'll hold my hands up. I've been as guilty of using the T-word as anyone. My guides are littered with pubs described as "traditional". But what does the word really mean?

In preparation for my posts on Scottish beers, I've been looking at how others describe them. The T-word pops up quite a bit. Which is why I've been contemplating its true meaning. Let's take a look at how the word is used.

When "traditional" describes a brewing practice, the implication is that it's the way something has been done since humans were still living in caves rubbing sticks together. Or almost that long. But hat's not how things worked. The past wasn't a static, mummified place. It was dynamic. Change was constant. By denying that, we devalue the efforts of past generations and oversimplify their world.

Here's a good example: IPA and Mild. IPA is often described as being "traditionally" a strong beer. Mild as "traditionally" low-gravity. So exactly when is this "traditional" period? In the 1850's IPA was 1060 - 1070 and Mild 1055 - 1100. So "traditional" can't be then. What about 1900 then? Then the scores were IPA 1060, Mild 1050 -1070. Not 1900 either, then. Let's try 1950. IPA 1035 - 1040, Mild 1030 - 1038.

It's clear that, for Mild, "traditional" is post-WW II. For IPA, it's 1850. That's the problem with the word in a nutshell: it's incredibly vague. British beer has changed so completely, so radically and so often over the last 200 years that such a word is worse than useless. It conceals the truth. It hides complexities and subtleties of the past.

My search is for the truth. Or at least as close as I can get to it. I could pluck out a year or two from the William Younger logs and "prove" all sorts of things about Scottish beer. Demonstrate what shit the claims of others are. But that would be doing the past a disservice.

Boil times. That's what prompted me to write this. And what BeerAdvocate says about them:

"Scotch Ales traditionally go through a long boil in the kettle for a caramelization of the wort"
Is that statement right or wrong? It's both and it's neither. It all depends which period in time "traditionally" covers.

But I'll explain that more fully tomorrow.

Boil times, eh? When I dreamed of being a writer as I kid, I never imagined I'd tackle subjects like this.

Sunday 16 August 2009

Ice versus hop

More from Lager pioneer Charles Graham. This time, his reasoning for why Lager could be made more cheaply than Ale. It's all to do with preservation.

"Hitherto, the great cost of ice has seemed an insuperable difficulty in regard to brewing lager beers in England. As to the quantity of ice required for the cooling of the wort, keeping the primary fermentation at the right temperature, and providing for several month s of subsequent lagering, this necessarily varies with the nature of the cellars; we may, however, take the total amount of ice needed on an average for a hectolitre of beer as 200lb., or 3cwt. for one barrel of 36 gallons. The ice-making machine of Professor Linde, of Wiesbaden, of which there is a drawing on the screen, is an improved form of the ammonia machines. This apparatus has successfully established its value in several of the largest breweries in Germany, Austria, and elsewhere. Thus Dreher, of Vienna, Sedlmayer, of Munich, Jacobsen, of Copenhagen, and many others are now using this machine. In Munich. Stuttgart, Frankfort, Amsterdam, and Paris, works have been established for making crystal ice for sale to brewers and others. The manufactory at Munich turns out 50 tons of ice daily. We see, therefore, that ice thus made can compete with natural ice. and that in Munich and Stuttgart, Frankfort and Mayence, where the cold in winter is far greater than here, and where coal is dearer, yet it pays brewers there to use this method. The cost of ice in London, including wear and tear, interest and renewal charges, would be under 6s. per ton, and therefore the cost in London for the 3cwt. of ice required for 36 gallons of lager beer would be about l0d.; I will however take Is. as the maximum cost. In doing so I am exceeding the estimate made by Professor Linde and Herr Rhens, who are members pi this Society, and who have supplied me with the information in question. The ice cost, then, of a barrel of Bavarian beer would be 1s. Let us see, however, whether there be no compensating advantages. First, then, in regard to the hops. A quarter of malt yields 4 barrels of 1057 gravity, or what would be a more useful conversation beer, 5 barrels of 1045 gravity. If this were a bitter ale the hops used would be some 16lb. in the copper, and 2lb. in the cask in dry hopping, together 18lb. The German system substitutes ice in place of so much hop as a means of preserving the beer, and .only employs for the same weight of malt—

For Schenck (Anglice running) ales, 4lb.
For Bavarian Lager beers, 3.75 lb. to 5 lb.
For Pilsen ales, 6 lb. to 7.5 lb.; in rare cases 9 lb.

Taking 6lb. of hops as the amount in extra hopped Bavarian beer arising from a quarter of malt, we see that there would be a saving of 12lb. of hops. If, on the other hand, we take Pilsen beer, or a Vienna beer, we would still save some 9lb. of hops, in the least. I have taken bitter ale of 1045 gravity as a standard in comparing the relative cost of hops and ice as preserving agents ; because a mild ale of 1045 cannot be a store beer, it will not keep long. Even if we take a mild beer of 1057 gravity we must yet employ in the copper and cask some 8lb. to l0lb. of hops, if we desire to keep the beer for some months. Hops vary in price from one season to another, and hence it is rather difficult to obtain an average price; but I think I am not far wrong if I take Is. per Ib. as the average price of new hops of the best quality, taking one year with another. Thus the cost of the ice method of preserving compared with hops will become : 5 barrels of English bitter ale of 1045 require 18lb. of hops, and a similar quantity and gravity of Bavarian would require 6lb., a saving here of 12s.; from this must be deducted 1s. per barrel for the ice, we have a balance of 7s. left in favour of the ice process over hops as a preserving medium. This is not all Owing to the low initial heat, and repeated boiling of the goods, more albuminous matters are left in the beer, and therefore a greater fulness on the palate is produced. Such a source of fulness is carefully avoided in the English process which uses hard water, high initial heat, heavy hopping, and low attenuation, in order to lessen the albuminoids in the beer. Not only are these precautions taken. We find English brewers competing with each other for the finest barleys, that is, those with the least yield of soluble albuminoids, in the Saale, Saumur, and other districts. They thus raise the price of these high-class barleys to an extent which astonishes the German brewer, who is at the same time buying his barleys at a much lower figure. The introduction of the ice method for the preservation of beer, if it were to become at all general, would be of benefit to our second class barleys grown on heavy land and to our Scotch barleys generally. The ice process, therefore, gives the brewer a considerable advantage in regard to the cost of malt; this, of course, means that by competition the public would reap the benefit.

What are the consumers' interests in this ice versus hop method of preserving beer ? Hops contain narcotic substances ; indeed, formerly, and now sometimes, hops were used in place of opium to produce sleep, and not only do we use far too much in our ales, especially the bitter ales, but we also gather our hops too late. In Bohemia and Bavaria the hops are gathered before the strobiles open and before the seed forms, and this is done in order to avoid too much of the narcotic substances, which increase with the formation and ripening of the seed. Professor Sell, of Berlin, has recently pointed out the great increase in the narcotic substance, which takes place if the seeds are allowed to ripen. In England we wait until the seeds are ripe, and thus secure more of these narcotic substances in our ales. Again, the Bavarian or Austrian brewer never employs hops in the cask ; Germans, indeed, object strongly to dry hopping, as making the beer narcotic. The ice process is therefore, from an hygienic point of view, better than the hop process.

To sum up the chief characteristics of the Bavarian store or lager beer, we find it less attenuated and therefore less alcoholic, richer in dextrine and albuminoids and carbonic acid, and that little or none of the narcotic action of the hop arises from its use. Thus it follows that a German can drink much more of his beer than we can of ours. We cannot use ours for conversational purposes, and in hot weather it is not a safe beverage to quench thirst. In fact. I do not suppose that there are many gentlemen in this room who would venture to drink more than a pint of ale in the middle of the day if he had head work to do in the afternoon. Many persons cannot even take half a pint at luncheon if work is to follow. Now it would require much more Bavarian beer to have the same soporific effect.

. . . . .

In conclusion, I must add that the unpleasant pitch flavour, which some people take for garlic, is not essential to the lager beer process, since we have other means of preserving the wood of the cask without using pitch for the purpose. The Germans have become accustomed to the flavour, but lager beer brewed for Englishmen should omit this flavour. English ales will hold their position for a long time to come, since we have become accustomed to the alcohol and hops, and a change in the public taste must ever be a slow process; and, in addition, there are many who in winter time would much prefer English ale at dinner or luncheon to Bavarian or Bohemian; for conversation purposes, and for a summer beverage, I think the ice-cold, delicate flavoured lager beer is sure to come into favour in England as it has elsewhere; and I shall be glad to find that my explanation of the German process and the character of the beer produced may lead some among us to consider the question of lager beer brewing in some of the large towns in this country. "
"Journal of the Society of Chemical Industry" 1882, pages 23 - 25

I've never seen it argued before that ice could replace hops. It's a fascinating argument. Of course, British beer no longer has anything like the alcohol or hop content of the Ales Graham describes. Nor is ice used to preserve it. Sort of undermines his argument a bit.

It's ironic that, by the time Lager became dominant in Britain that it was actually stronger than most Ales. Lager as a healthy, more responsible option. Not many in the media would claim that now.

Saturday 15 August 2009

William Younger's Scotch Ales and others

I'm still hard at work doing a preliminary sweep through the stuff I collected at the Scottish Brewing Archive. Here's a little snippet to be getting on with. Though I do have a reason for sharing it.

There's a lot on confusion about Scottish beer. In particular, about the difference between Scotch Ale and Scottish Ale. Best get it cleared up before we start going into any more detail. And what better way than by taking a look at William Younger's product range in 1858.

Younger brewed quite a few beers. Eighteen I make it, though I could have missed the odd one. They fall into five groups: Scotch Ales, Pale Ales, Mild Ales, Stock Ales and Stout. All but the first group are analogous to beers brewed in London. (As I'll demonstrate when we get into the details in later posts.)

Twenty years earlier, it was a very different story. For one thing, they were still using bolls to measure the malt (2 bolls = 1 quarter). Rather more significantly, the "English" type beers are totally missing.

Let's take a look at the 1858 beers:

The Scotch Ales are the 60/-, 80/-, 100/-, 120/- and 140/-. (Don't get confused by those names. They have nothing to do with the modern beers called 60/-, 70/-, 80/-. Those are the Scottish equivalents of, respectively, Mild, Bitter and Best Bitter.)

Is that clear?

Why Lager?

Why lager? It's costly and time-consuming, so why bother?

One of the traditional reasons is to obtain a very high CO2 concentration in the beer. I'll let Charles Graham explain.

"There remains, however, a still more important factor in giving fulness to beers of medium original gravity, and that is the carbonic acid. Beer cooled to a few degrees above the melting point of ice must necessarily contain more carbonic acid than at 60° F., which may be taken as the average temperature of English beer as consumed. We all know that draught or bottled ales, if allowed to stand some hours, become insipid and flat, and taste as if several pounds per barrel less in the original gravity. The important influence of carbonic acid in making beers taste fuller and rounder has long been carefully attended to by the German brewer, whose great aim has been to secure as large an amount as possible. Hence an important part of the duty of a German brewer is to have his beers in perfect condition in the cellar, so that with a fortnight's closing of the bung- hole, a sufficient amount of carbonic acid shall be formed and retained. For the same object one often finds in restaurants and beer kellers, air or carbonic acid forcing pumps to increase the amount of gas when the beer becomes too flat. The greater amount of carbonic acid in German beer is partly due to the greater amount of saccharine and albuminoid matters, but chiefly to the low temperature. The influence of temperature in the lager cellar upon the amount of carbonic acid has been the subject of some experiments by Professor Langer and Dr. Schultze. The beer they experimented on was made from a wort showing 10 degrees Balling, and had been attenuated 60 per cent. The carbonic acid found in 100 volumes of beer was at—

0.4º C 0.332 by weight 100 volumes by volume
1.6 º C 0.320 by weight 96.4 volumes by volume
2.8 º C 0.311 by weight 93.7 volumes by volume
4.0 º C 0.297 by weight 89.5 volumes by volume
4.7 º C 0.285 by weight 85.8 volumes by volume

Thus an elevation of 4'3° C. in the cellar temperature reduced the carbonic acid by one-seventh of the original volume, or nearly 15 per cent Hence the reason for keeping the temperature of the lager cellar as low as possible ; so that more carbonic acid may be kept in solution."
“Journal of the Society of Chemical Industry” 1882, page 31.

Did you spot the early reference to top-pressure dispense? I wonder why no-one uses the expression "carbonic acid forcing pumps" today? It sounds so much more quaint than "keg pump". Those silly Germans. Didn't they realise the inherent superiority of cask beer?

Thanks to Gary Gillman for pointing out this article to me. You can never know too much about Lager.

Charles Graham was the man behind Graham's Golden Lager, later known as Skol. We all owe him a deep debt of thanks.

Friday 14 August 2009

Coal Porter

Thanks for MentalDental for pointing this out to me. It's a rather odd explanation of the smoky taste in Porter. Could it possibly be true?

On a personal note, I can remember the days when coal was still burned in large quantities in Britain. Later, when I visited East Germany, I wondered why I kept thinking of my early childhood. Then I twigged: it was the smell of coal smoke.


The French brewers have attempted to imitate the London porter, by hiring brewers from the metropolis to brew there; but however fully these have exerted their talents, they have not been able to brew a porter exactly similar in taste to the London; and the savans of the French capital have been puzzling their brains to determine the cause of this failure.

Mr. Francoeur, professor to the faculty of sciences at Paris, imagines, for what will not man imagine that the peculiar taste of London porter arises from the smoke of our sea coal fires. He says, that the peculiar smell of the smoke of sea coal is so abundantly diffused in the atmosphere of London, and especially in those manufactories which employ great fires, and in their neighbourhood; and is so powerful and adherent, that in London every article is strongly impregnated with the smell of it. English cloth, packed in the metropolis, carries the smell into foreign countries; and the clothes of Londoners retain the smell for a fortnight after they have left their homes. Hence, he says, there is no wonder that the porter should taste of this smoke, especially considering how long the porter is exposed to the smoky atmosphere, with a large surface in coolers of the brewhouses, whose steam engines emit such dense clouds of smoke.
"American Mechanics' Magazine", Saturday August 6th 1825, pp 62-63.

[By "sea coal" they mean what I would call coal. The lumps of black stuff that you set fire to.]

There could be many explanations why they couldn't brew Porter that tasted like the London variety. Raw ingredients, brewery equipment, water chemistry. Without any more detailed description of the difference in flavour, guess is about all we can do.

Thursday 13 August 2009

Scottish Brewing Archive

Very friendly and very helpful. The staff at the Scottish Brewing Archive. Made my visit a pleasure.

A quick update for those desperate to know more about Scottish brewing practices. I took 1,140 photos in the archive. Not bragging, just explaining why I haven't looked at most properly. A couple of things I happened to notice:

1. Some Scottish measures were still in use in the early 1800's.
2. Brews were logged a in completely different way.
3. There were some crazy strong beers.
4. Hopping . . . . . Just started looking at that. No conclusions so far. But . . . . . there were some heavily-hopped beers. 1858 Younger's XXPS had more than four pounds a barrel.
5. Some pre-WW I beers were surprisingly weak.

I''ll keep you updated. Those that are still awake.

Photo contest result!

Time to announce the winner of my photo contest.

Adeptus, despite having spotted a way to cheat, still took three goes to get the correct answer of

1.Roter Ochs
3.Gaststätte Bräustübl

But, as he was still the first with the right answer, I suppose the prize should go to him.

Others with the correct answer were Tandleman First Stater, Sebastian S, Jim Johanssen and Mark Andersen.

Adeptus, get in touch via the email on my website:

British Stout 1950 - 1963

Remember I mentioned the 405 Stouts I had details of? No? It was in the last Let's Brew Wednesday. The one I posted last Tuesday.

I thought there might be the odd loony out there interested in seeing the whole table. So that's what you'll find below. In ascending order of OG.

The diversity is quite striking. OG's from below 1030 to almost 1080. Attenuation from 33% to over 80%. And just about everything inbetween. Many breweries still produced more than one Stout, often of similar gravity but wildly differing attenuation.

Though sweet Stout was clearly gaining the ascendancy, there were still some with similar profile as Guinness. Michell & Butler's Extra Stout is a good example of such a dry Stout. G. Younger's Sweetheast Stout is from the other end of the spectrum. That was hardly fermented at all.

Anyway, here's the table. See if you can spot your favourite extinct brewery. I'll let you in on a secret. Mine's there.