Thursday, 19 May 2011

The colour of Pale Ale (again)

Craig had his go at fiddling with the picture and came up with this:

The colours of the identifiable objects (tomatoes, cheese) look about right,

That Family Ale is still pretty pale.


Martyn Cornell said...

Whitbread's own descriptions of the colours of its labels were "orange and chocolate", and on my monitor it looks as if the colours could do with being slightly more saturated (and perhaps a little less blue) but that's my monitor.

I wouldn't be surprised to learn that most family ales/ AK bitter ales really were that colour, which looks about the same as a typical modern North West of England ordinary bitter (eg Robinson's) to me. I have a painting from c 1910 showing a glass of Allsopp's Burton Ale in which the beer is clearly much darker, and redder, than the beer in your picture, though not as dark as, eg, Young's Winter Warmer.

Jeff Renner said...

What is the origin of this illustration? Is it a painting or a photograph? It looks like a photo, but since I presume it precedes color film (mid 1930's), it would have been hand tinted.

Ron Pattinson said...

Jeff, it looks like a coloured photograph to me. It dates from 1906.

Craig said...

This is a tough one, and it's NEVER going to be 100% accurate. To make matters worse, all of our monitors are calibrated differently. The paper and ink from the original ad have obviously changed and dulled over time. It's hand colored and not particularly well executed to begin with, and it's a copy of a copy scanned at lower resolution.

The white point is what is important. The other photo had too much magenta in it, and you could see that in the very light areas. The plates, highlights and lacing on the glass are correctly white now, so everything else is falling in line. My skill as a color corrector aside, the tone of the beer was pretty accurate, even in the original. Manipulating the photo warmer or cooler wouldn't have changed that. It may get a little more red or yellow, maybe a tad darker or lighter, but it will always be on a certain baseline. I don't ever think it would ever appear as yellow like a pils, nor dark amber, like a modern bitter. Somewhere in-between seems right, a golden orange. My guess is somewhere between 9-10 SRM

Gary is somewhat correct in stating that the background effects the beer. However, that's only the case at center mass of the glass. The two areas of highlight on either side of the darker area in the center, are good indicators of where we should be taking note. I wouldn't say straw yellow, though.

To Martyn's point, unfortunately, we have to work in visual cues we can qualify. We don't have enough digital information to correctly alter the details of the label. Orange and chocolate are very broad descriptors and I don't have any point of reference to match, so we'd only be speculating. A quick look on line reveals a variety of Whitbread labels, ranging from tan to pumpkin orange. From the overall contrast of the photo, I'd say these lean more tannish. With too much manipulation, the computer will begin to reinterpret the photo by adding and subtracting pixels to compensate for unknown information. On my monitor, the label seems to be an yellow-orange with the text, not necessarily chocolate, but a dark warm hue, that is not black.

What is interesting to me is that the beer doesn't seem to be clear. There are no highlights on the reverse of the glass. Even with the lighting behind the camera, there should be some indication of the opposite wall of the glass.

So all in all, I think the photos are fairly close to what Whitbread's Family Ale looked like.