Friday, 24 December 2010

IPA in the 1860's

Still kicking the Pale Ale dog. And doubtless will be for some time to come.

The text below has something dead handy. An explanation of the strength of IPA and why, in an ideal world, it would have been cheaper. It concurs with a text about Indian brewing I quoted a couple of weeks ago. That said Light Bitter Beers were the most popular products of the breweries based in India.

Ale, Pale or Bitter ; brewed chiefly fur the Indian market and for other tropical countries.—It is a light beverage, with much aroma, and, in consequence of the regulations regarding the malt duty, is commonly brewed from a wort of specific gravity 1055 or upwards; for no drawback is allowed by the Excise on the exportation of beer brewed from worts of a lower gravity than 1054. This impolitic interference with the operations of trade compels the manufacturer of bitter beer to employ wort of a much greater density than he otherwise would do; for beer made from wort of the specific gravity 1042 is not only better calculated to resist secondary fermentation and the other effects of a hot climate, but is also more pleasant and salubrious to the consumer. Under present circumstances the law expects the brewer of bitter beer to obtain four barrels of marketable beer from every quarter of malt he uses, which is just barely possible when the best malt of a good barley year is employed. With every quarter of such malt 16 lbs. of the best hops are used so that, if we assume the cost of malt at 60s. per quarter, and the best hops at 2s. per lb., we shall have, for the prime cost of each barrel of bitter beer—in malt, 15s. ; in hops, 8s.; together, 23s ; from which, on exportation, we must deduct the drawback of 5s. per barrel allowed by the Excise, which brings the prime cost down to 18s. per barrel, exclusive of the expense of manufacture, wear and tear of apparatus, capital invested in barrels, cooperage, &c, which constitute altogether a very formidable outlay. As, however, this ale is sold as high as from 50s. to 65s. per barrel, there can be no doubt that the hitter ale trade has long been, and still continues, an exceedingly profitable speculation, though somewhat hazardous, from the liability of the article to undergo decomposition ere it finds a market.

The East Indian pale ale, or bitter beer, is now brewed in large quantities for the home market at Burton-on-Trent, London, Glasgow, and Leeds, but differs slightly from that exported, as being less bitter and more spirituous. It is brewed solely from the best and palest malts and the finest and most delicate hop, and much of its success depends on the care taken in selecting the best materials for its composition. It also requires the utmost care and attention at every stage of its progress to preserve the colour, taste, and other properties of this ale in their fulness and purity.

. . . .

The English ale-bibbers were a few years since startled by a public report, apparently well authenticated, that the French chemists were largely engaged in preparing immense quantities of that most deadly poison strychnine for the purpose of drugging the pale bitter ale, in such great vogue at present in Great Britain and its colonies. The following are a few amongst many reasons which might be quoted, to show the absurdity of this report:—1, Strychnine is an exceedingly costly article; 2, It has a most unpleasant metallic bitter taste; 3, It is a notorious poison, and by its use in any brewery would ruin the reputation of the brewer; 4, It cannot be introduced into ordinary beer brewed with hops, because it is entirely precipitated by infusions of that wholesome fragrant herb. In fact, the quercitannic acid of hops is incompatible with strychnia and all its kindred alkaloids. Hence hopped beer becomes in this respect a sanitary beverage, refusing to take up a particle of strychnia and other noxious drugs of like character. Were the nitr vomica powder, from which strychnia is extracted, even stealthily thrown into the mash tun, its dangerous principle would be all infallibly thrown down with the grounds in the subsequent boiling with the hops.
"Ures' dictionary of arts, manufactures and mines, Volume 1" by Andrew Ure, 1867, page 306.

Let's summarise that. IPA brewed for the Indian market was brewed at around 1055. But that was purely for tax reasons. In an ideal world, it would have been considerably weaker, just 1042. But, as brewers wouldn't have received any tax refund on beer of that strength, they made it stronger. I'll say it once again: IPA was not a strong beer.

Pale Ale brewed for the British market was lightly different, being less bitter but more "spirituous", by which I assume he means containing more alcohol.

Pale Ale demanded the use of the very best quality ingredients to achieve the desired paleness of colour and delicate flavour. Which explains why it was stronger for its strength than every other beer.

I've just thrown in the last paragraph for fun. It's the story of how the pesky French tried to ruin the reputation of Pale Ale by claiming it was bittered with strychnine. A story so ludicrous, it's incredible that anyone ever took it seriously.


John Clarke said...

"A story so ludicrous, it's incredible that anyone ever took it seriously" Give it time, Ron, give it time.

Rod said...

Wait for the day some home-brew judge says some twat's Imperial Cluster Belgian IPA isn't true to style because it hasn't got enough strychnine in it.........

Craig said...

"Ale-bibbers" that has a nice ring to it.

"Excuse me sir," the man in the black hat asked "are you, by chance, an ale-bibber?"
"Why yes, yes, I am." I answer enigmatically.

Flagon of Ale said...

I wonder if the excise law is what someone misinterpreted as IPA being a "strong beer". Because he says here that IPA was brewed to a higher strength, just not one that was very impressive as compared to other beers of the time being that the higher strength was 1055.

Barm said...

Export IPA was stronger than it would otherwise have been due to the tax regime, but why was Home IPA stronger than Export?