Thursday, 11 March 2010

Strong Ale ca 1955 (part two)

Now we're getting onto the good stuff. The beers with some real umph.

"Original gravities run from 1060º to 1100º, with alcohol from six to ten per cent by volume. Wines run from eight per cent alcohol by volume upwards. There are a few celebration or private brews of even greater strength. A King's Ale brewed by Bass on the occasion of a visit by King Edward VII was found in 1932 to have a present gravity of 1043º, which allowing for less than the usual three-quarters attenuation puts the original gravity above 1125º. To-day this would be taxed at over £1 a gallon, or about two shillings and ninepence a pint. Queen's College at Oxford still brew two handsome ales or college use: a College Ale of 1068.2º and a Chancellor Ale of 1135º, which is eleven per cent alcohol by volume.

. . . .

Strong ales are mostly dark; held up to the light they will show a rich ruby hue, some will have a brown rather than red tinge. Some are filtered, some left to mature in the bottle. Some pour without excessive head, others froth and fob vigorously. Some are well carbonated, others slightly or not at all. Some strong ales are available from the barrel, mostly from bottles. There is a close relationship between Barclay's Winter Brew, the draught beer championship winner at the 1954 Brewers' Exhibition, and their Barley Wine in bottle; and between Younger's No.1 Strong Scotch Ale on draught and their King of Ales in bottle.

Because of their strength, most strong ales are sold in 'nips', small bottles that may be of five- or six-ounce capacity, and prices range from one shilling to one shilling and sixpence. Some are sold in the usual small bottle containing about 10 oz, prices ranging from one shilling and sixpence to two shillings and sixpence. Two of the most celebrated strong ales are Bass No.1 Barley Wine and Benskin's Colne Spring Ale, which are both sold in the 10 oz bottle. Where strong ales are available on draught, and this will normally be only in winter, prices range around three shillings a pint.

Choice between strong ales is limited; rarely will a bar have more than one or two types to offer, yet they are as different as clarets or burgundies from different vineyards. Rich in aroma, they have a rather full sweet flavour which limits their popularity with drinkers of strong liquor whose palates are often attuned to dryer flavours. Some are very much dryer than others, and the informed drinker should be able to get the brand he likes, just as he can select his wine, his whisky or his cigarettes.

Now wasn't that revealing? Not all British beer was piss-weak after WW II. Just most of it.

I'm off to to select my whisky and cigarettes.


Unknown said...

Fascinating.. almost done with 1909... I am brewing this Sunday and I think I might try a K or Burton... happen to know any particularly outstanding recipes? (Also, was thinking of using a little brett.. is that off-base?)

Anonymous said...

When they reach more than 80% attenuation, I wonder if there is brettanomyces involved (like with the Colne Spring...)