Wednesday 30 September 2009

Let's Brew Wednesday - 1962 Harp Lager

I've a peculiar fascination with British Lager. Perhaps because it's been so neglected by beer writers.

Barclay Perkins made their first experiments in Lager brewing during WW I. By the 1930's, they'd a range of three: Export, Draught and Dark. Though they put a great deal of effort into their Lager - building a special brewhouse, employing a Danish lager brewer, advertising - it never sold in huge quantities.

When Courage, which had taken over Barclay Perkins in the 1950's, became involved in the Harp consortium, it was logical to brew it on the company's only specialist Lager plant. Which spelled doom for Barclay's London Lager as a brand.

(The Harp Lager consortium was formed in 1961 by Guinness, Courage, Scottish & Newcastle and Bass jointly. Harp became the main draught Lager for all four companies and was produced in a variety of their breweries. Courage left the consortium in 1979.)

It's a fascinating period in the development of British Lager, when companies were working out which brands to go with. Of course, Courage would later pull out of Harp and mess around with various Lagers of its own. Before dissolving away into nothing, leaving just a couple of wandering Ale brands behind.

Now I'll let Kristen do his technical thing . . . .

1962 Harp Lager

OK guys here is a VERY special Let's Brew recipe. Its the first brewing of Harp's Lager by Barclay Perkins. Thurs Nov 8th 1962. Its such a wonderful log as there are so many little notes all over it. Things like:

'Steam pipe by old M.T. sprang a leak at approx 5.10am. Mash able to continue as normal'

'Very good conversion'

'Very good break'

'Post ferment 211 bbls 32 gals @ 1.0092'

All wonderfully informative which makes a lot of sense since its the first time they brewed it. Ron sent me this one a while ago and I wanted to make sure I had a change to make it before I wrote about it. Its a very simple recipe with a touch of colorant added.

Grist and such
They don't indicate there is any pils malt used as they do in most other logs and use the pale malts they use in other beers of the time. Two simple English pale malts with a very hefty dose of flaked maize chucked in for good measure (~18%). This lends the beer to be very pale...around 5 EBC or so. The brewer wrote in big red pen and underlined '14lb caramel color added to copper'. He then goes on to state 'Colour 13 (EBC), 11 after fermentation.' This is the first time I've seen any
mention of the color after fermentation. All really neat stuff. This is also one of the first time I've seen a brewer blatantly indicated the losses from pre to post-fermentation.

The mash is very interesting here. They split the grain and do two different mashes on it. The first, with no flaked maize, goes through a three step standard process thats very close to Rocheforts schedule. Then it takes a turn and they boil the whole thing for 20min. The second mash is a two step and then a mash out. They also underlet which the first doesn't and sparge the hell out of it.

These hops are very fresh and very much not English. One can see them trying to get a little of the hop character of continental pils-type beers using 50:50 Hallertauer and Saaz hops. At 17bu this isn't any where near the traditional pils, much more like the American lagers.

Tasting notes
Touches of biscuit and bready malt surrounded by a try 'corny' aroma thats quite rich. Floral and spicy Saaz and Hallertauer are just enough to lend some complexity to the nose. The finish is dry but not overly being just dry enough to accentuate the little 17bu of bitterness. All in all, its ok . . . but that's the whole point about this beer right!?


Oblivious said...

The mycozyme treatment is interesting did they really need this with only 18% mash adjutant or was the a relative more maize in the second mash tun that required the mycozyme?

An was mycozyme treatment common in British brewing at this time

Ron Pattinson said...

Oblivious, not seen a mycozyme treatment before. I'd been wondering what the hell it was.

I photographed severalr Harp Lager logs and they had three different treatments: Wort Aid, Brewers' Liquidase and mycozyme. So it looks like they were still experimenting.

Graham Wheeler said...

Mycozyme is alpha-amylase. The high level of a starchy adjunct in a light-coloured beer is likely to haze. Also, boiling 35% of the malt is going to destroy 35% of the enzymes necessary to convert the high load of adjunct in the main mash and it will therefore be short of enzymes. They are ensuring that all the starch is degraded. The other enzymes will be similar preparations.

The stuff in the cereal cooker on the left, after boiling, is pumped over to the main mash to raise its temperature.

I have a catalogue of commercially available brewing enzymes, so yes they were used in brewing, but mainly for lagers and American-style "lite" beers. Remember the "lite" beer phase? It didn't last long.

Matt said...

Was early British lager cask conditioned or did the 1930's draught version go straight to keg?

Jeff Renner said...

The name "mycozyme" suggests that it was fungal, no doubt amalase.

I don't think they'd need it to completely convert the adjunct, but perhaps it was used to get a more fermentable profile. I think that is done with "lite" beers where low residual carbohydrates is desired.

I'm guessing from the name that Wort Aid would be a clarifying agent, possibly a protease if it's added in the mash. Or maybe something like Irish moss if it's added in the boil.

Kristen England said...

The thing I find most interesting is that the cereal cooker didn't have any of the 'cereal' in it. The flaked maize was in the mash tun making it some sort of decoction nearing the Kesselmaisch.

Oblivious said...

So what the when doing by boiling a portion of the malt to facilitate starch degeneration was a cheep version of Decoction mashing?

An making up the amylase with mycozyme ,

Chris would you consider using beano to make the recipe more authentic?

Ron Pattinson said...

Graham, whoops! I deleted your comment by mistake. Sorry. If you could post it again.

Kristen England said...


I'm actually not really sure why they did the decoction to the non-adjunct grains. Its funny b/c their heat ability was very very good with being able to heat the mash very quickly and evenly.

As for the Mycozyme, it most definitely is an amylase. I would be wondering that since this was their first time doing this recipe that they didnt just add it to be sure everything converted. I'd have to see later logs to be sure.

Either way, beano is completely different from this type of amylase. I don't really think you would need to add anything here. Its very low gravity and a very simple mash schedule. If anything I think you could get away doing a mash at 151-2F for a similar result.

Graham Wheeler said...

I can only paraphrase it:

Barley, whether malted or not, is still a cereal. To comply with Excise regulations all vessels within a British brewery must be labelled according to their function. It would have been labelled as a cereal cooker or a cereal copper, or abbreviations thereof. It is quite common for breweries to have cereal cookers, even ale breweries. Flaked maize has had its starch pre-gelatinised, so it does not need cooking. Certain forms of cereal, such as grits, do need cooking to gelatinise the starch. The row adjacent to 6:10am in the cooker, or mini-mash, section has had "Grits" crossed out and replaced with "Mash". Likewise, in the main mash section, at the point where the mini-mash is pumped over to the main mash to raise its temperature at 7:50am, "Grits" has also been crossed out. This give a pretty good clue as to the original function of the cooker, to what normally went in it, and to what was normally pumped across; cooked grits.

My interpretation of the mash is: The small mash is started at 6:00am. The temperature is raised twice with short stands between, and then brought to the boil. Meanwhile the main mash is started with the temperature being 128° after mash-in; a typical starting temperature for temperature-stepped mashes, corresponding to proteolysis. After fifteen minutes the temperature is then raised to 147° by steam. Approximately an hour later the boiled small mash is pumped over to the main mash, completing at 7:50, which raises the temperature of the main mash to 167°. Almost immediately a 2-barrel underlet is performed, with liquor at mash temperature, to give the sloppier mash consistency typical of lager mashes. 30 minutes later sparging begins. That's it - all done and dusted.

It is a pretty straightforward single-decoction mash. The only unusual thing about it was using a mini-mash rather than taking a third of the main mash and boiling that, but I suspect that it was produced in an ale brewery that was not equipped to pump stuff "backwards"; that is, from the mash tun to the cereal cooker - just the other way. That was the whole point of Harp after all; an Anglicised pseudo-lager that could be produced using standard local ingredients in any conventional ale brewery with ordinary equipment. I am surprised to learn that they bothered to step the mash to be honest - I always assumed that they didn't - the 128° stand might even be counter-productive.

Andrew said...

It must be a Harp sort of day... I saw yours and thought I'd better finish off mine

Ron Pattinson said...

Graham, I have the advantage of having looked at some other pages in this particular log book. Ones where grits were used. In which case they were, indeed, processed in the cooker.

Harp has the most complicated mash I've seen at a British brewery.

This beer wasn't brewed in an ale brewery but in Barclay Perkins lager brewhouse, which they had specially built in the 1920's. The log book is clearly from their lager brewery. They didn't use grits or have a cooker in their ale brewhouse.

Graham Wheeler said...

Well, yes, I had to guess at the reasons for not boiling a third of the mash. Many bigger breweries were fond of using grits, certainly at a later date; Tetley's and John Smith's spring to mind. Most keggyflades had grits in them too. I guess that grits were cheaper than flakes, because flakes have to be gritted before flaking; which in this case means being lightly milling to remove the husk and aleurone layer.

It is indeed a strange mash, certainly the boiling bit. They are obviously capable of raising the temperature of their mash at the classic 1°C per minute rate, by steam, so why bother to boil at all, with the additional complication of an extra processing stage and the consequential loss of important enzymes. It was all quite unnecessary and could quite happily have been done in the main mash tun and would have been better for it.

It makes one wonder about the technical knowledge of some of the brewers of the day, and indicates that the German who supposedly developed Harp was unable to break away from German tradition also.

It is also true to say that Harp was designed as a universal lager, that could be brewed by any old brewery without specialist plant. Most breweries would not have had such control over mash tun temperature. A cereal cooker would have been a cheap solution even if they had to install one, so that may have been the reason for it. I bet the decoction bit did not survive in most breweries.

Harp was possibly just a vehicle for Guinness to sell licences for their patented CO2/nitrogen mix, which was the only unique thing about it. Develop a pseudo lager that any old brewery can produce, and you sell more licences. The marketing power of the consortium guaranteed its rapid success.