Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Hop substitutes ca 1885

Today's Southby text is on the topic of hop substitutes.

I was trying to recall when hop substitutes were legalised. I know it was before 1880. Just after the excise tax on hops was dropped, I think it was. 1860's or 1870's. If I remember, I'll look it up.

I have occasionally seen hop substitutes in logs. Whitbread used them in the 1940's, presumably because they couldn't get sufficient hops. It didn't last for long.

"Bitters other than hops, commonly known as " hop substitutes," are a class of brewing material which, while deprecating the unnecessary use of, I am not prepared to absolutely condemn, provided always that only such substances are used as are at least as wholesome as hops themselves. Of course the use of any injurious bitter is as wicked as it is utterly illegal, and any one guilty of such an abominable practice deserves to be visited with the severest penalties, but as long as only wholesome bitters are used the public are in no ways defrauded. It is a mere matter of taste, and if they do not like the flavour of the beer, they will quickly compel the brewer, in these days of universal competition, to revert to the use of hops only, or if he persists in brewing beer that the public taste objects to, the ruin of his trade will be the sufficient and appropriate penalty.

Hops, from a dietetic point of view, are a wholesome tonic bitter, but with decidedly narcotic properties; quassia is likewise a wholesome tonic bitter, with slight narcotic properties. Beer, therefore, in which the bitter is partially derived from quassia is quite as wholesome as if hops alone had been used in brewing it. Whether the quassia imparts as pleasant a flavour, is a matter for the consumer to decide. If he likes the flavour of quassia as well as that of hops he is not defrauded in any way when he buys beer bittered with quassia, it is just as wholesome, nutritious, and tonic, as the beer bittered with hops. The same quantity of the quassia beer will not make him quite so sleepy as the hop beer, but that can scarcely be considered a disadvantage. If, on the other hand, the consumer does not like the flavour imparted by quassia, so well as that imparted by hops, he can purchase his beer from a brewer who uses hops only, and he has thus the power in his own hands of compelling the brewer to use hops and not quassia, if he prefers the former.

This question of the substitution of other bitters for hops is often argued as if it was analogous to the admixture of chicory with coffee, but the resemblance is only superficial, for hops and other wholesome tonic bitters are of about the same average dietetic value, whereas chicory has none of the special and valuable properties of coffee, and its unacknowledged admixture with coffee is a distinct and palpable fraud.

The following is a list of the principal wholesome bitters which may be honestly substituted for a portion of the hops used in the copper. There is no known substance which can be substituted for hops in " dry hopping."

Quassia 1 lb. equal in bittering power to 16 lbs hops
Calyso 1 lb. equal in bittering power to 12 lbs hops
Chiretta 1 lb. equal in bittering power to 10 lbs hops
Gentian 1 lb. equal in bittering power to 7 lbs hops
Camomile flowers 1 lb. equal in bittering power to 5 lbs hops

Quassia, as I have already stated, is tonic and slightly narcotic
Calyso is a very wholesome bitter, non-narcotic and with a slight stimulating action on the liver. Beer brewed with a proportion of Calyso is more wholesome to most people than that in which hops only have been used.

Chiretta, a very wholesome liver tonic, perfectly nonnarcotic

Gentian, a wholesome tonic bitter.

Camomile flowers are a wholesome tonic, with slightly aperient properties.

As none of the above bitter substances contain any appreciable amount of tannin, this substance must also be added at the rate of one pound of good soluble tannic acid, for every 100 pounds of hops substituted by the other bitters.

Notwithstanding the wholesome character of the above substances, I cannot advise brewers to use them when hops are at a moderate price. The public undoubtedly prefer a beer bittered with good hops only, and therefore brewers who confine themselves to the use of hops, are pretty sure to compete successfully with those who use a proportion of other bitters. When, however, hops rise to an extravagant price, a few good hops used with a proportion of the other bitters, will enable a brewer to produce a beer which the public will prefer both to that brewed with very inferior hops, and also to beers brewed with good hops only, but reduced in gravity to such a point as will allow of a fair profit.

As a general rule, not more than one-third of the hops should be substituted by other bitters, and certainly one-half the usual quantity of hops, and other bitters substituted for the other half, is the extreme proportion in which it is safe to use the latter.

There is one aspect of this question which brewers should always bear in mind, and that is, that none of the other wholesome bitters have anything like the same antiseptic power as hops, and consequently that a beer brewed with the latter will, if other things are equal, keep better than a beer in which other bitters have been substituted for a portion of the hops. Of the substances I have enumerated, calyso comes nearest to hops in its antiseptic properties.

The so-called hop substitutes and hop supplements, are all preparations or mixtures of one or more of the above bitter substances." (Source: "A systematic handbook of practical brewing", by E.R. Southby, 1885, pages 259-262.)

That's it for Southby for the moment. Unless I get desperate again.


Andrew Elliott said...

I wonder how many brewers tried these substitutes or at least looked into them with the recent Hop Drought. It seems interesting from a homebrew perspective, but as mentioned in the article I'd much prefer using fresh hops to any of those ingredients.

Oblivious said...

Any record of British brewers try cow bile?

Gary Gillman said...

One thing I always wondered about was the relationship between yeast bite and hops. A yeasty beer often is, by that fact alone, a bitter one. Thus, when hops were dear, why would brewers not be tempted to sell the beers less filtered and use the yeast bite to make up for the hop deficit? Is it because they reckoned the drinkers would not accept the additional cloudiness? (Yet some brewers contrive to offer yeasty beers that are clear, Affligem is an example, or Leffe).

Just tonight I had on draft Urthel Hop-It, a beer from (I think) Holland, with a marked yeasty note. It was excellent, much like Chimay White Label. I could taste the hops too but it seemed to me the yeast bite added to the bitter quality.

Incidentally, supping the Hop-It, it made me think that probably the circa 7% ABV Victorian mild ales probably tasted like this. First, the beer was very pale, second, it was about 7% ABV, third, it had a complex additional flavour from the yeast which is no doubt a multi-strain of the type that surely once was commonly used by British brewers. Really good, classy ale.


Hop said...

Great article. Thank you much sir.

Laser Strength Lifting said...

Haven't heard of a couple of these but hops are not narcotics nor do they have any narcotic properties.