Sunday, 7 April 2013

Brewers' Exhibition Champion Awards (1927)

Old beer competitions fascinate me. And just partly because they prove that anally straitjacketed contests aren't the only possibility.

I stumbled on this report of the 1927 Brewers' Exhibition contest and decided to dig around the newspaper archive a bit to see if I could find any of the other winners that year. The Western Daily Press only having bothered to report local winners. What I found was much more interesting than that. I'll tell you what it was after the quote:


Champion Awards at Brewers' Exhibition. This time the Brewers' Exhibition in London the West of England scored heavily. Firstly Messrs Mitchell, Toms and Co., of Chard, astonished the Scotchmen by securing third prize for their 12s 6d bottle of Littlemoor whiskey, but somehow the same firm were not quite so successful in the cider section as last year. Then Mr Rowle, of Porlock, won the first prize for the best barley grown England this disastrous year, and quite a nice sample it was. Next, the beer judges got busy and amongst these were Messrs Cecil E. Faulkner, of Chard, D. H. Kirkpatrick, Crumlin, Mon.. and B. P. Watkins, Swansea. There were 28 of them in all. A fairly good start was made for the West in Class I. For the best beer of an original gravity of 1.027 degrees to 1.033 degrees, as in a class of 36, second prize went to Messrs Starkey, Knight and Co., Northgate Brewery, Bridgwater. Then came Bristol's turn, for in Class IV., for the best mild ale of an original gravity of 1.039 degrees to 1.048 degrees, in a class of 43, the Ashton Gate Brewery Company, Bedminster, was placed first. As third came Messrs W. and J. Rogers, Ltd., The Brewery, Bristol. In Class IX., for best pale ale of an original gravity of 1.039 degrees 1.054 degrees, a class of 42 entries, Messrs W. J. Rogers took third. They were again placed third for the best black beer of original gravity of under 1.046 degrees. But their greatest success was in winning the first prize for naturally conditioned beers any gravity and then securing the Brewery Trade Review Challenge Cup. which was open to the exhibits of eight other classes. Brewing is evidently not lost art in Bristol yet."
Western Daily Press - Wednesday 02 November 1927, page 11.

The Ashton Gate Brewery won the strong Mild category. They were very proud of their victory and used it in their advertising:

Western Daily Press - Thursday 17 November 1927, page 3.

Now isn't that fascinating? It was Home Brewed that won. Clearly, at least as far as the Brewers' Exhibition was concerned, Home Brewed counted as Mild Ale. You have to wonder if the Rogers beer that place third was their Home Brewed.

Let's take a look and see if it slotted into the gravity band 1039º to 1048º. And while we're at it, let's throw in some other beers from the West Country medal winners:

Year Brewer Beer Style Price size package FG OG ABV App. Atten-uation
1922 Rogers Home Brewed Ale Strong Ale pint draught 1008.4 1036.7 3.67 77.11%
1927 Rogers Special Stout Stout 7d pint bottled 1005.5 1041.7 4.72 86.81%
1927 Rogers Monarch Stout Stout 7d pint bottled 1008.5 1044.9 4.74 81.07%
1929 Rogers British Barley Beer Strong Ale 10d pint bottled 1009.7 1055.5 5.98 82.52%
1927 Ashton Gate Brewery Milk Stout Stout 9d pint bottled 1015.7 1052.4 4.76 70.04%
Whitbread Gravity book held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number LMA/4453/D/02/001

Not quite. It's a bit too weak. Though the gravity may have gone up a little between 1922 and 1927. Though their winner in the Black Beer under 1046º class could have been one of those Stouts.


Rob said...

The way those classes are defined seem as "anally straightjacketed" as for any competition I have entered.

Ron Pattinson said...


Brewers' exhibition:

mild ale of an original gravity of 1.039 degrees to 1.048 degrees


Aroma: Low to moderate malt aroma, and may have some fruitiness. The malt expression can take on a wide range of character, which can include caramelly, grainy, toasted, nutty, chocolate, or lightly roasted. Little to no hop aroma. Very low to no diacetyl.

Appearance: Copper to dark brown or mahogany color. A few paler examples (medium amber to light brown) exist. Generally clear, although is traditionally unfiltered. Low to moderate off-white to tan head. Retention may be poor due to low carbonation, adjunct use and low gravity.

Flavor: Generally a malty beer, although may have a very wide range of malt- and yeast-based flavors (e.g., malty, sweet, caramel, toffee, toast, nutty, chocolate, coffee, roast, vinous, fruit, licorice, molasses, plum, raisin). Can finish sweet or dry. Versions with darker malts may have a dry, roasted finish. Low to moderate bitterness, enough to provide some balance but not enough to overpower the malt. Fruity esters moderate to none. Diacetyl and hop flavor low to none.

Mouthfeel: Light to medium body. Generally low to medium-low carbonation. Roast-based versions may have a light astringency. Sweeter versions may seem to have a rather full mouthfeel for the gravity.

Overall Impression: A light-flavored, malt-accented beer that is readily suited to drinking in quantity. Refreshing, yet flavorful. Some versions may seem like lower gravity brown porters.

Comments: Most are low-gravity session beers in the range 3.1-3.8%, although some versions may be made in the stronger (4%+) range for export, festivals, seasonal and/or special occasions. Generally served on cask; session-strength bottled versions don’t often travel well. A wide range of interpretations are possible.

History: May have evolved as one of the elements of early porters. In modern terms, the name “mild” refers to the relative lack of hop bitterness (i.e., less hoppy than a pale ale, and not so strong). Originally, the “mildness” may have referred to the fact that this beer was young and did not yet have the moderate sourness that aged batches had. Somewhat rare in England, good versions may still be found in the Midlands around Birmingham.

Ingredients: Pale English base malts (often fairly dextrinous), crystal and darker malts should comprise the grist. May use sugar adjuncts. English hop varieties would be most suitable, though their character is muted. Characterful English ale yeast.
Vital Statistics: OG: 1.030 – 1.038
IBUs: 10 – 25 FG: 1.008 – 1.013
SRM: 12 – 25 ABV: 2.8 – 4.5%

Anonymous said...

BJCP guidelines are a touch inconsistent. With the OG and FG range quoted there's no way the ABV could be 4.5%.

Have these people ever crossed the pond and drunk mild here?Plenty of milds well over 4% are available.

What do you make of this statement "May have evolved as one of the elements of early porters" ?

Ron Pattinson said...

"May have evolved as one of the elements of early porters" was clearly written by someone unaware that 19th century Milds were pale.

Rob said...


1030-1038 is an 8 point range.

Only slighter smaller than 1039-1048.

I dont consider the Aroma, etc descriptions to be part of the straitjacket. The judges in the brewers exhibition had something similar in their mind off the phrase "mild ale" that they were judging against, it just wasnt written down.

Rob said...

Oh, and my bigger point, which I forget since yesterday, is that usually subcategories are usually combined, so a mild, for example, will be competing against everyone in Cat 11 (southern and northern english brown) and in some cases, if small enough, Cat 12 (Porter) too.

Cat 11 gives a 1030 to 1052 range in OG.

Ron Pattinson said...

Rob, good point about combining classes.

About the judges's concept of Mild Ale, which I think you're right in saying would have been in their heads when they tasted these beers. If it's anything like the concept knocking about when I kicked of boozing in the early 1970's, it would have been pretty vague.

Being a bit of a Mild fanatic in my early years, I tried a huge number of the Milds available in the 1970's. Almost all of which have disappeared. They were very varied, in colour, bitterness, malt character, sweetness. I can't imagine that the diversity was less in the 1920's when there were far more berweries and brewing was more regional.

Rob said...

If you look at that description from the BJCP, its very vague.

"wide range of character"
color from medium amber to dark brown.
"wide range of malt- and yeast-based flavors"
"sweet or dry"

Its all over the place. It might not cover the full range of historical milds, but I really think that is far from the best example of bjcp straightjackets.

In fact, its about the worst you could have picked.