Sunday, 12 December 2010

18th-century Pale Ale

Pale Ale.  Why the hell does it have that name? The stuff we think of today as Pale Ale, I mean. Because it's a completely different malt liquor from the 18th century version. Not an Ale at all, but a Beer.

Take a look at this:

"In boiling, both time and the curdling or breaking of the wort should be consulted; for if a person was to boil the wort an hour, and then take it out of the copper before it was rightly broke, it would be wrong management, and the drink would not be sine and wholesome; and if it should boil an hour and a half, or two hours, without regarding when its particles are in a right order, then it may be too thick; so that due care must be had to the two extremes, to obtain it in its due order; therefore, in October and keeping beers, an hour and a quarter's good boiling is commonly sufficient to have a thorough cured drink; for generally in that time it will break and boil enough; because in this there is a double security by length of boiling, and a quantity of hops shifted; but in the new way there is only a single one, and that is by a double or treble allowance of fresh hops boiled only half an hour in the wort; and for this practice a reason is assigned, that the hops, being endowed with discutient apertive qualities, will, by then, and their great quantity, supply the defect of under-boiling the wort; and that a farther conveniency is here enjoyed by having only the fine, wholesome, strong, floury, spirituous parts of the hop in the drink, exclusive of the phlegmetic, earthy parts which would be extracted, if the hops were to be boiled above half an hour; and therefore there are many now that are so attached to this new method, that they will not brew ale or beer any other way, thinking, that if hops are boiled above thirty minutes, the wort will exhibit some of their bad qualities.

The allowance of hops for ale or beer cannot be exactly adjusted without coming to particulars, because the proportion should be according to the nature and quality of the malt, the season of the year it is brewed in, and' the length of time it is to be kept.

For strong brown ale brewed in any of the winter months, and boiled an hour, one pound is but barely sufficient for a hogshead, if it be tapped in three weeks or a month.

If for pale ale brewed at that time, and for that age, one pound and a quarter of hops; but if these ales are brewed in any of the summer months, there should be more hops allowed.

For October or March brown beer, a hogshead made from eleven bushels.of malt boiled an hour and a quarter, to be kept nine months, three pounds and a half ought to be boiled in such drink at the least.

For October or March pale beer, made from fourteen bushels, boiled an hour and a quarter, and kept twelve months, six pounds ought to be allowed to a hogshead of such drink, and more if the hops are shifted in two bags, and less time given the wort to boil."
"Encyclopædia Britannica", 1773, page 671.

There are two different points of interest in there. First, the hop additions. The method of tripling the quantity of hops, but only boiling them for half an hour. Unusual method, a single 30-minute addition.

Then there are the hopping rateds for specific types of malt liquor (we're in the 18th century, remember, where "Beer" and "Ale" have a specific meaning.). Strong Brown Ale had only a pound per hogshead, or 0.67 lb per 32 gallon barrel. That's bugger all for something with an OG of at least 1080º.

Pale Ale got a few more hops, 1.25 lbs per hogshead, or 0.84 lbs per barrel. Let's put that into context. In 1839 Reid IPA had 5.88 lbs and Reid BPA 5.61 lbs per barrel. And in 1921, Whitbread PA received 1.81 lbs per barrel and even their X Ale 1.41 lbs. And these were lower in gravity the the 18th-century Pale Ale.

Notice how much more heavily-hopped the Beers are: Brown Beer 2.33 lbs, Pale Beer 4 lbs per barrel.

What am I trying to say? What we understand by Pale Ale is very different from its 18th-century namesake. So different, that it's difficult to believe the one is the ancestor of the other. And I don't think it is. Modern Pale Ale clearly belongs to the Beer family. Now isn't that confusing? If only they'd plumped for Bitter Beer as name, I wouldn't have so many stupid arguments with home brewers.

1 comment:

Gary Gillman said...

Somewhat oddly though, all modern pale ale (that doesn't use 5-6 lbs hops per barrel) is 1700's pale ale, the pounds of hops per hogshead for pale ale mentioned are similar to what craft brewers and English regional brewers use for bitter/IPA when adjusted for the 36 gallon barrel. And strength can't make any difference since there would have been a variety of strengths, then and of course now.

What's old is new again.

All modern beer save historical recreations, or virtually so, seems to me the ales of yore: true beer does not exist anymore.