Tuesday, 20 November 2012

X Ales in the 1860's

Looking at X Ales from the 1830's was so much fun, I've decided to revisit the topic. Except this time I'm also including provincial X Ales. I would have done the same for the 1830's except I have bugger all records from outside London for that period. That's OK. I'm making up for it now.

If you can remember as far back as the 1830's, you'll see that the gravities had fallen in the intervening 30 years. That's no surprise. The 1830's were the high point. It's been all downhill for Mild gravities ever since.

What should be immediately apparent is the disappearance of some of the high-gravity X Ales. The XXX Ales have all disappeared and some of the XXX Ales. On the other hand, both Whitbread and Truman had introduced an intermediate beer between X Ale and XX Ale. XL in the case of Whitbread, 40/- Ale in the case of Truman. I assume that the L in XL stands for London. That's usually what it meant. 40/- Ale's name is pretty easy to explain: it's the price per barrel. (Those who think the shilling system of designation was purely Scottish, please take note.)

Surprisingly, the hopping rates had increased averaging around 10 pounds per quarter compared to about 8 in the 1830's. I've absolutely no idea how to explain this. It could be connected with a change in the source of hops. There had been a revolution in hop supplies in the intervening decades. with foreign hops, especially American ones, becoming very common. In the 1830's the hops had been all English. The increased hopping rate could reflect these imported hops being of lower quality.

Attenuation had edged up a tad, and averaged closer to 70% than the former 65%. Though I'm not sure that the change is big enough to be really significant.

London X Ales in the 1860's
Date Year Brewer Beer OG FG ABV App. Attenuation lbs hops/ qtr hops lb/brl boil time (hours) boil time (hours) boil time (hours) Pitch temp max. fermentation temp length of fermentation (days)
14th May 1867 Barclay Perkins X 1061.2 1018.6 5.64 69.68% 9.85 2.77 1.25 1.5 2.5 65º º
2nd Oct 1868 Barclay Perkins XX 1078.9 1024.7 7.18 68.77% 12.89 4.47 1.5 1.75 3 61º 77º 3 + 4
2nd Oct 1868 Barclay Perkins XXX 1092.8 1030.2 8.28 67.46% 14.21 5.90 1.5 1.75 3 58º 77º 3 + 4
8th Jul 1867 Whitbread X 1061.2 1020.2 5.42 66.97% 10.12 2.95 64º º 5
16th May 1867 Whitbread XL 1071.2 1026.0 5.97 63.42% 9.01 3.05 60º 74º 3 + 3
3rd Jun 1867 Whitbread XX 1082.3 1031.3 6.74 61.95% 9.09 3.21 60º 74º 3 + 1
3rd Jul 1865 Truman X Ale 1067.3 1013.9 7.07 79.42% 9 2.78 59º º
4th Jul 1865 Truman 40/- Ale 1072.6 1020.8 6.85 71.37% 9 3.00 59º º
22nd Aug 1865 Truman XX Ale 1081.2 1020.5 8.03 74.74% 11.0 7.17 58º º
22nd Aug 1865 Truman XXX Ale 1088.9 1022.7 8.76 74.45% 11.0 10.15 58º º
23rd July 1867 Courage Ale X 1065.9 10.00 3.10 º
30th July 1867 Courage Ale XX 1078.9 10.00 3.71 º
Whitbread brewing records held at the London Metropolitan Archives document numbers LMA/4453/D/01/032 and LMA/4453/D/01/033.
Barclay Perkins brewing records held at the London Metropolitan Archives document numbers ACC/2305/1/572 and ACC/2305/08/275.
Truman brewing record held at the London Metropolitan Archives document number B/THB/C/147.
Courage brewing record held at the London Metropolitan Archives document number ACC/2305/08/275.

Let's move on to the provincial X Ales. They cover a fairly good part of the country, being from Scotland, Yorkshire and Kent. I realise now that Lovibond, as a London brewer, should have been in the first table. Though in terms of the profile of their beers, they fit in better here. Presumably because they were considerably smaller than the likes or Truman, Whitbread, Courage and Barclay Perkins.

Provincial X Ales in the 1860's
Date Year Brewer Beer OG FG ABV App. Attenuation lbs hops/ qtr hops lb/brl boil time (hours) boil time (hours) boil time (hours) Pitch temp max. fermentation temp length of fermentation (days)
1st Oct 1868 Tetley X 1047.4 1020.8 3.52 56.14% 6.00 1.11 1.5 2 66º 66º 4
2nd Oct 1868 Tetley X1 1055.4 1019.4 4.76 65.00% 6.00 1.30 1.5 2 59º 63º 6
5th Oct 1868 Tetley X2 1062.0 1017.7 5.86 71.43% 8.00 2.00 1.5 2 62º 65º 9
19th Oct 1868 Tetley X3 1066.5 1022.2 5.86 66.67% 9.96 3.93 1.5 2 61º 65º 8
17th Oct 1868 William Younger X 1053 1023 3.97 56.60% 6.30 1.36 2.5 59º 66º 3 + 3
24th Aug 1868 William Younger XX 1057 1024 4.37 57.89% 9.58 2.25 2 2.25 58º 69º 4 + 2
26th Aug 1868 William Younger XXX 1068 1028 5.29 58.82% 8.00 2.55 2 2.5 60º 69º 4 + 2
18th Jun 1869 Medway X 1051.5 8.00 1.75 1.5 1.5 60º
2nd Jun 1869 Medway XX 1066.8 9.00 2.63 1.5 1.5 60º
1864 Lovibond X Ale 1050.4 1015.5 4.62 69.23% 10.50 3.15
1864 Lovibond XX Ale 1065.6 1015.0 6.70 77.20% 2.73 0.81
1864 Lovibond XXX Ale 1074.2 1016.6 7.62 77.61% 6.50 1.04
1864 Lovibond XXXX Ale 1085.3 1019.9 8.65 76.62% 10.50 2.01
Tetley brewing record held at the West Yorkshire Archive Service, Leeds document number WYL756/16/ACC1903
William Younger brewing record held at the Scottish Brewing Archive document number WY/6/1/2/21
Medway brewing record owned by me
Lovibond brewing record owned by me

The table confirms what I told you before: that the beer from the large London brewers was in general stronger than from their smaller or provincial competitors. The X Ales of the big boys all had gravities over 1060º, while those of the provincial brewers were only around 1050º. The same pattern continued as you went up the strength scale, with Tetley's strongest Mild, X3, only being about the same strength as a London X Ale.

The hopping rates of the provincial beers were also lower, averaging a little under 8 lbs per quarter, while the London beers averaged almost 10.5 lbs per quarter.

It's a shame that I don't have more complete figures for fermentation temperatures. It looks as if, although the pitching temperatures were all around 60º F, that the maximum temperature was considerably lower outside London. A difference in the order of 10º F. This had to be deliberate as London brewers had total control of their fermentation temperatures. I assume the other brewers did, too, as by this time attemperators were standard pieces of kit.


Gary Gillman said...

Ron, compare the strengths of the higher-temperature fermented ales to the lower-temperature fermented group. The latter are weaker beers, from 3.5% to just below 6% (and most on the lower end). The higher fermented group are in the 6-8% range.

The fermenting temps for the stronger ales are much higher than the norm today in Anglo-American brewing but interestingly, some Belgian brewers use similarly high fermenting temperatures. I've read this encourages production of certain esters and other co-products of fermentation (e.g. higher alcohols) which give many Belgian ales their hallmark, that banana/bready/clove-like taste even in all-malt or malt-and-candi sugar beers.

This makes me think many of those strong London ales may have had a similar taste and that this was a regional preference.


Ron Pattinson said...

Gary, I don't see that pattern. The stronger beers were actually all pitched colder than the weak ones.

Barclay Perkins let their beers get quite hot. I wouldn't read too much into their fermentation temperatures.

Jumping to say that their beers must have tasted like Belgian ones. It's all about the yeast strains, which are completely differnt. And the way the beers fermented.

No modern brewery ferments that warm? Maclays did in the 1990's: pitch at 65º F, rise to 76º F. Boddington's let their beers go over 70º F in the 1980's.

Gary Gillman said...

I agree yeasts strains can make a difference Ron but anything in the neighborhood of 77 F will tend to produce esters and fusels.

Pitching does not affect this the same way, I was referring to fermenting heats (wort temperature).

72F is within modern practice for warm ferments (it is around 62-72, usually around 67-68) but I acknowledge that Boddington's 76 is rather high. Come to think of it, Boddie's has a slight Belgian quality to it, that banana-like taste - similar to Cooper's Sparkling, say. Really!


Anonymous said...

BTW: XL is 40 in Roman numerals. Don't know if that ties in with the 40/- or what.

Ron Pattinson said...


I hadn't thought of that. But I'm pretty sure the "L" stands for "London" in this case.