Sunday, 27 January 2013

AK in WW I

A perfect chance to combine a couple of my favourite obsessions: AK and WW I. It's a happy day. I've been prompted by an advertisement for Rogers's Ales from 1916 - a very odd (and late) date for a price list of this type.

It was a while before I realised that these price lists, printed in newspapers, weren't trying to attract the attention of the trade but of private families. In the 19th century it was common for larger households to buy in beer casks for use at home. Cask beer was cheaper than bottled and safer than buying draught beer in jugs in a pub. You never knew what the landlord might have been doing to his beer.

Such adverts become rarer after 1900, implying that the practice of buying casks for the home was going out of fashion. Most likely as a result of improvements to bottled beer. The new "sparkling" bottled beers (chilled and carbonated rather than bottle conditioned) were an attractive alternative to draught beer that might well turn "hard" (sour) before the cask was emptied.

I'm racking my brains to see if I've any evidence of casks at home after WW I. Not that I can recall, except for special occasions like Christmas. It wouldn't surprise me if the war just about killed off the practice. Where did private customers come in the pecking order of deliveries? My guess is well below the brewery's own pubs. So when beer was in short supply, private customers would be likely to go thirsty.

One of the reasons I was so pleased to discover this advert is the way it places AK and AKK in the hierarchy of strengths. Rogers brewed four Pale Ales: LBA, AK, AKK and PA. In price (so presumably in strength, too) they match up with four Mild Ales: X, XX, XXX and HB. I'm a bit surprised that they offered a Pale Ale weaker than AK. Usually AK matches up with X Ale in price.

There's not the slightest doubt as to which style Rogers considered AK and AKK were. Both are clearly designated as Bitter. It's a bit inconsistent the way PA is called Pale Ale but, as I've pointed out before, Bitter and Pale Ale were used interchangeably in the past.

I must see if I can find a list of Rogers products from after the war ended. I doubt very much that they continued to brew all those Bitters and Milds. The war helped brewers tidy up their product range a treat.

Remember me saying of another Rogers's price list that it was surprising it didn't include a Porter? As this one does, I think it's safe to assume Rogers were brewing a Porter right through the 19th century. It just didn't show up in all their advertisements.

You can see the AK trademark of Rogers at the bottom of the advert. Does anyone have any idea of its origins?


Stott Noble said...

Any idea what the HB Home Brewed was like?

Martyn Cornell said...

If the Home Brewed was like the later beer brewed under the same designation by George's of Bristol, it was in the brown ale/dark mild region: fascinating to see it mentioned here, the earliest listing for a beer under this name by a 'big' brewer I've seen. It was meant, apparently, to replicate the sort of beer made by home-brew pubs, of which the West Country was still a bastion before the First World War.

Ron Pattinson said...

Martyn, it definitely seems to be a sort of Strong Mild or Old Ale.

Talking of first with beer names, I recently found the most Norther;y Ak I've come across - from the Kirkstall Brewery.

Gary Gillman said...

I'd say the taste was what Thomson & Stewart (mid-1800's) were referring to by this account:

It is no coincidence IMO that a noted 1800's brewing text devoted a rubric to a home-brewed taste and then the term pops up in this inventory of a country brewer. Home-brewed was par excellence the taste of the regions and indeed T&S claim the taste was uniform across the country. No doubt London and Edinburgh would have found it quaint.

The home-brew pubs in turn might have sought to attain, or ended by attaining, this type of quality. A strong mild or old, yes, but with a particular savour of the country house brew, what Pamela Sambrook devoted a whole book to explicating.

Now what was that? Probably something very rich but lightly acid I think, more acid probably than the commercial breweries would offer. That and/or a smack of brett to go with it.

(I wonder if the young Sambrook running a noted brewpub in modern-day London is connected to Pamela Sambrook. Her son perhaps).


Gary Gillman said...

Just to add that T&S describe three qualities of home-brewed ale and that while they say method of brewing is uniform, the results will vary depending on the materials used and water. Hard to say what the HB was like, perhaps like the best quality T&S described and perhaps brewed at the home of the brewery owner or one of his friends.

That is what I think although too the term might have been an early demonstration of hard-boiled marketing and not denoted anything specific, this is possible.