Tuesday, 20 September 2011

I told you had something even worse

I did, didn't I? The excerpts below contain the most egregious error that's flapped in front of my eyes. See if you can guess what it is.

I'm sure you can guess the source. Good old Horst Dornbusch, man of a million unfounded claims.

"Pale ale originated in England about two hundred years ago when some brewers started to use cleaner, but more expensive, coke  — instead of coal or wood — to dry their malted barley. The higher-priced grain led to higher-priced brews. This helped to foster the British notion that pale beers are for the upper classes, while darker beers are for the toiling masses. Most of this new ale came from just one city — Burton-on-Trent.

British breweries have only been maintaining reliable brewing records since the beginning of the twentieth century, so we do not have the recipe of the original brew. From the perspective of authenticity, we have only a few vague hints as to what the original pale ale might have looked or tasted like. It ought not to come as a surprise, therefore, that pale ale has one of the broadest style definitions you can find in the world of brewing.

Early English beers brewed with these paler grains were mostly amber to copper in color. Today we might not even consider them pale, because we compare them to modern beers such as the golden-blond Pilsners, the brilliant Munich helles, and even American light lagers. By the standards of the staple brown ales and porters of two hundred years ago, however, these new beers were pale indeed."
Not too awful yet. Except for paragraph two, obviously. Unless all my archive visits have been some fantastic and fantastically-detailed dream. Naah. I went down the pub after every visit. They were always open and I can remember tasting the beer. Couldn't have been a dream. The street was even the same after I came out of the pub. Conclusive evidence against the dream theory.

What else has he got wrong? That there weren't any Brown Ales in the early 19th century. And that Mild - a working man's drink if ever there was one -was pale at the time. By 1800 pale malt was cheaper to brew with than other base malts. That's why Porter grists were changed to be mostly pale malt.

"Originally, in cask-conditioned “real” pale ales, the turbidity from the yeast was taken out of the drink with various finings. But in regular “running” beer — as draft beer was often called then — this was not the case. It was not until the invention of beer filtration in 1878 that pale ales could sparkle, too."
I'm not even sure what that means. What the hell were 'cask-conditioned “real” pale ales'? If he's saying what I think he is, he's got it arse about tit. I wouldn't trust that date for the introduction of filtration, either. The idea of Stock Pale Ales was that the long maturation allowed them to drop bright without fining. Read any description of Bass or Allsopp Pale Ale and they go on about how wonderfully pale and bright it is.

"The name “pale ale” is not without ambiguity, or even confusion. Initially, the beer was known as India Pale Ale (IPA) because it was being made mostly for shipment to the administrators, merchants and soldiers of the British Empire in India. This beer faced a six-week long, often rough, ocean voyage through the tropics and around the tip of Africa. To ensure that the beer would survive the trip without spoiling, Burton brewers made it almost twice as strong and twice as bitter as the standard ales of the day."

He's not the only one to claim that. Doesn't make it right, though.

"This India Pale Ale acquired a domestic British market only by accident when, after a shipwreck off Liverpool in 1827, casks of IPA were salvaged and sold for local consumption. Once the Liverpudlians had tasted the hoppy export ale, they clamored for more and the Burton brewers obliged. Because of the beer’s bittering levels, it became known domestically as “bitter.” However, because plenty of alcohol as a preservative was no longer necessary on the short transport routes for domestic sales, Burton brewers made their bitter in three strengths. They brewed an ordinary bitter (with an average OG in the mid-1.030s), a best bitter (with an average OG in the mid-1.040s), and a strong bitter (with an average OG in the mid-1.050s). The strong bitter also became known as special or extra-special bitter (ESB). As beer bottles entered the British market from the 1860s onward, the bottled bitters came to once again be called pale ales to distinguish them from the bitters in casks. At this time, however, the “India” prefix was dropped."
Domestic IPA was in reality higher gravity than the ones sent to India. I'll make no other comment. Except to point out the irony in this being the next sentence in the original:

"As brewers, we may be comfortable with the thought that styles are something fixed and lasting. But in reality, styles are born as an expression of their times and tend to change with them, sometimes even radically."

How true.

To top it all off, there's this brilliant recipe:

"British Nineteenth-Century Best Bitter
(5-gallon, all grain)
OG = 1.044
FG = 1.010
SRM = 11–13
IBU = 30  


    7.0 lbs. two-row pale ale malt (3° L)
    1.0 lb. crystal malt (40° L)
    6.75 AAU East Kent Goldings hops (bittering)
        (1.35 oz. of 5% alpha acid)
    0.5 oz. Fuggles hops (flavor)
    0.5 oz. East Kent Goldings (aroma)
    Wyeast 1028 (London Ale) or White Labs WLP026 (Premium Bitter Ale) yeast
    0.75 cup corn sugar (for bottling)"
You can read the whole article here:


I rest my case.


Anonymous said...

Hadn't I heard that before the use of coke there had been pale malts for quite a span of time which were dried with straw and that the glory of coke was that it made mass produced and cheaper pale ales possible and accessible to folk other than the rich?

[Keeping in mind, of course, that if we ever meet and discuss beer I expect a well earned slap for the grab bag of misconceptions I rely upon.]

A Good Beer Blog

Craig said...

I knew this would get you going!

Rob said...

In all fairness to BYO, that article is from 2002. That being said, you're right it's ridiculous. They should revise it or take it down.

Craig said...

@ R.I.P - The info was just as wrong in 2002 as it is today.

By the way the word veification for this reply was "mistskes"... coincidence?

Anonymous said...

There it sort of is - straw. Encyclopedia Brittanica 1771 at page 667 (the number of the neighbour of the beast.)

How about fern-dried malt? There's an authentic brewing style just screaming to be reintroduced. Call it "Ill Relish" or an IRA.


Barm said...

Christ. Can't Dornbusch be struck off, or something? Just stop him writing about beer!

Rod said...

The amount of crystal specified in Horstyboy's recipe strikes me as a bit on the high side for a pale ale, but then a lot of his recipes are heavy handed with the dark malts.

Ron Pattinson said...

Rod, especailly as 19th century Pale Ales didn't contain ANY crystal malt. It wasn't really common in Pale Ales until after WW II.

Oblivious said...

"The amount of crystal specified in Horstyboy's recipe strikes me as a bit on the high side for a pale ale,"

It can be a bit of an issue with the American home-brew scene.

I am surprised he did not raise the usual bugbear of sugar been evil and "not to style"

An the usual story that is only used as it was much cheaper than malt.

Andrew Elliott said...

Just curious as to when Crystal Malt was even used for Pale Ale's... I thought for sure BP didn't start until the early 20th century.

Sure, Pale malt was more expensive to make, but it was more efficient and yielded more fermentables than the Brown or Amber malts to more than offset their cost -- I think that's one point Horst missed.

I threw up a little in my mouth when I read the part about brewers not keeping reliable records until the 20th century ... it's only 9am and I need a beer.

Rob said...

@craig you missed my point. The fact that it was written in 2002 is relevant because I like to think that the work of people like Ron Pattinson and others, have heightened the knowledge of us all. It takes time though.