Friday, 14 October 2011

Bottling and boiling in Edinburgh

A couple of quotes from  long description of Scottish brewing. I would print the whole thing. Except the author waffles and repeats himself. And there's lots of dodgy science that I don't want to distract you with.

"To form a fair estimate of the advantage of the two methods, as practised in England and Scotland, it is necessary to have regard to the views of the brewer in the disposal and future consumpt of the ale. In Edinburgh, until within a few years back, it was generally made to be sent out to publicans and grocers for the purpose of being bottled. The methods of mashing, boiling the hop-worts, and fermentation, were the best that could possibly be adopted for brewing both their October or winter stock, and their summer or keeping ale. As the price is fixed according to the strength of the wort, and rated at a certain price per hogshead, the strength and flavour of these different priced ales required to be as equal and uniform as the brewer could possibly preserve; and thus the system of brewing became fitted for the production of such a quality of malted liquor. In England, the general consumption of beer and ale is in draught from the cask; and the English system of brewing is as admirably adapted for the purpose as that of Edinburgh is for the consumpt from bottle.

In effecting a change in their systems of brewing, therefore, it is for the brewery proprietor to judge first, whether or not such parts of the process could be adopted with advantage, without the great rink and expense of altering his utensils and general arrangements. I see no difficulty whatever in the matter. An English brewer, without any alteration of the utensils, may adopt, at any time, the Scotch modes of mashing and boiling the worts ; and, according as those are judiciously carried through, it would be certainly attended with very great advantage, keeping the strength of the ales out of view altogether ; because just as good ale can be brewed by one system as by the other. But economy in short boiling, and in obtaining a fine aromatic extract from the hops, are valuable considerations, and are of such easy attainment, that the subject cannot fail to attract inquiry."
"Brewing and distillation. With practical instructions for brewing porter and ales according to the English and Scottish methods by William Stewart" by Thomas Thomson and William Stewart, 1859, pages 199 - 200.

Sending beer out to be bottled, graded by the price per hogshead. Does that remind you of something? Sounds just like William Younger's Shilling Ales that I discussed yesterday.

I'd been wondering about the barrel sizes used: hogsheads, half hogsheads and quarter hogsheads. Hogsheads are easy to understand. Bass and Guinness sent out their beer for bottling in hogsheads. Anything bigger is, I suppose, a bit bulky to ship long distances. But why use halves and quarters? A half hogshead is 27 gallons, a quarter 13.5 gallons. Why use those rather than a 36 gallon barrel or an 18 gallon kilderkin. I think the text explains why: because the price was set per hogshead. If that's your base price, it's much easier to calculate the price of a half hogshead than a barrel or a kilderkin. That's my theory, anyway.

Scots brewers preferred a short boil. Hang on, weren't they supposed to boil for hours on end to concentrate and caramelise the wort and to get colour? Oh, I remember that's made-up bullshit. Let's have a look what William Younger were up to in 1858. The only worts they boiled for more than 2 hours were for Table Beer, Pale Ale and Porter. Can't imaginer they were after caramelisation in any of those. Pale Ale you'd want to keep pale and Porter was already dark. None of the Strong beers was boiled for more than 1.75 hours. And it was the second wort that was boiled for longer, not the first runnings of popular myth.

Stewart really wasn't keen on long boils:

"The process of boiling the worts, like all the other processes in brewing, requires much attention and care to bring it through successfully with the least possible loss, and to preserve the aroma and first bitter of the hops. In the Rules on Brewing, I stated that one-and-a-half hour's boiling is sufficient for any wort whatever. I shall be glad to find that the experience of others, in the English system, confirms this statement. From my own knowledge, I repeat, that it is not only sufficient, but more than enough to extract the virtue of the hops in the greatest perfection; although it is the practice, in many districts of England, to boil for two-and-a-half hours. By boiling so much, the fine essential aroma and first bitter are driven off, and a nauseous bitter left, injurious to ales of every description. There is much room for improvement in boiling and infusing the hops,—the subject is worthy of the best attention of those who are judicious enough to take advantage of the knowledge of the fact. The subject, indeed, is so important, that I shall recur to it again in the description of the system of English ale-brewing."
"Brewing and distillation. With practical instructions for brewing porter and ales according to the English and Scottish methods by William Stewart" by Thomas Thomson and William Stewart, 1859, pages 206 - 207.
A naseous bitter. That's an evocotive description - it's giving me a lump in my throat - but what doeas it really mean?

It sounds as if Stewart is talking about getting hop aroma rather than bitterness. Now there's an interesting point. English beer had lots of bittereness, Scottish beer lots of hop aroma. That's a new one. It could explain why William Younger was so keen on Goldings and Saaz.


CarlT said...

Re. boiling and hop aroma.....

"The Scottish ale-brewer and practical maltster" W.H. ROBERTS
A. and C. Black. Whittaker & Co. 1847 third edition, page 88
"..The time of boiling for ale wort ranges in Scotland from one hour to one hour and a half. For my own part, I am no advocate for long boiling. The boiling of this wort for a longer time than one hour extracts the coarse flavour of the hop, while the fine aroma, being more evanescent flies off with the vapour, which may be sensibly felt at this time on our approach to a brewery. In this stage of the operation, the great object of the operator ought to be to preserve the delicate aroma of the hop, as well as to prevent the other evils consequent on too long boiling. The fine flavour of the ale very much depends upon a careful attention to these particulars..."

Alistair Reece said...

That can't be right, surely hop aroma was discovered just after sex, in 1970s California?

Kristen England said...

Re hop aroma.

I agree. They had a pretty heavy hand in the cask hopping even on the small shilling beers. I definitely wouldn't draw a line in the England Scot bitter vs aroma though. The only thing I've taken away from this on the whole when it comes to hopping is that the Scots loved hops and they loved the Bohemian ones.

Barm said...

I've been reading Greg Noonan's influential book "Scotch Ale" to make sure that I don't misrepresent him. It seems to me that a great deal of the folklore about Scottish beer having no hop aroma was fed to him by Scottish brewers themselves. In this case Noonan isn't necessarily to blame.