Thursday, 25 July 2013

Whitbread Mild Ales in the 1830's

When I was in London a few weeks ago I did my best to complete the set of Whitbread Ale logs. For whatever reason, some of the volumes never appeared, even though I'm pretty sure I ordered them. Luckily, as most cover July 1st to June 30th the following year, I'm pretty sure that I have every year covered.

Wondering why I go no earlier than 1836? It's because that's the year Whitbread started brewing Ale. Before that, they'd been a 100% Porter brewery. All the big London Porter brewers seem to have taken up Ale brewing in the 1830's. It's thought that it was in response to the new category of pub, called beer houses, which weren't allowed to sell spirits. The demand for Ale grew as a result of their creation and the Porter brewers didn't want to miss out.

To modern eyes, these look a pretty off set of Milds. In fact the only one that even vaguely resembles a modern Mild is the Table Beer. That's what they gave to children. Whitbread's weakest proper Mild, X Ale, was around 6% ABV and had a gravity well over 1070º. The top of the range XXXX Ale was a real monster, weighing in at over 1100º and around 10% ABV. All would count as strong today. Even for Americans.

There's a curious phenomenon here. One I've spotted before amongst Scottish beers. There's very little difference in the FG of X Ale and XXXX Ale. Which means, perversely, that the degree of attenuation increases as the gravity of the beer increases. You'd expect it to be the other way around. There's no way that can be accidental. It looks to me as if they were aiming for a finished beer with a good deal of body. An FG in the 1030's gave them that, so that's what they aimed for.

The hopping is, as you'd expect for the early 19th century, pretty robust, ranging from 2 lbs per barrel for X Ale, to 4 to 5 lbs for XXXX Ale. With the high terminal gravities, you'd need a good dose of hops to balance out all the malty sweetness.

I would have listed the grists, but as easy for me to tell you: all 100% pale malt. Nice and simple, like all beers of the period.

Next we'll be looking at Whitbread's Stock Ales.

Whitbread Mild Ales in the 1830's
Year Beer Style OG FG ABV App. Atten-uation lbs hops/ qtr hops lb/brl boil time (hours) boil time (hours) boil time (hours) Pitch temp max. fermentation temp length of fermentation (days)
1837 TB Table 1034.6 8.02 1.09 1.5 2 3 º º
1836 X Mild 1077.0 1029.4 6.30 61.87% 6.55 2.33 2 2 3 63.5º 74.5º 4 + 2
1837 X Mild 1075.9 1031.6 5.86 58.39% 7.07 2.35 2 2 ? 63º 73º 5 + 1
1838 X Mild 1077.8 1033.2 5.90 57.30% 7.27 2.51 2 2 3.17 64º 74.5º 5 + 2
1839 X Mild 1078.7 1032.7 6.08 58.45% 6.02 2.03 2.17 2 3 64º 72º 4 + 3
1838 XL Mild 1081.7 6.30 2.25 1.67 2 3 64º 74.5º 4 + 3
1839 XL Mild 1082.3 1031.6 6.71 61.62% 6.02 2.13 2.17 2 3 63º 74º 4 + 3
1837 XX Mild 1091.4 1035.5 7.40 61.21% 6.05 2.35 2 2 3 59º 74º 6 + 2
1838 XX Mild 1091.7 1034.6 7.55 62.24% 7.33 2.83 2 2 3 61º 72.5º 5 + 1
1839 XX Mild 1091.1 1034.3 7.51 62.31% 6.09 2.40 2 2 3 60º 75.5º 4 + 3
1836 XXX Mild 1102.8 1036.0 8.83 64.96% 6.09 2.80 2 2 3.5 62.5º 74.5º 5 + 4
1837 XXX Mild 1102.2 1035.5 8.83 65.31% 7.07 3.16 2 2 ? 61º 73.5º 5 + 1
1838 XXX Mild 1101.9 1041.0 8.06 59.78% 6.76 3.08 2 2 3 60º 81º 4 + 2
1839 XXX Mild 1102.2 1036.0 8.76 64.77% 6.02 2.62 1.67 2 3 60º 76º 5 + 2
1836 XXXX Mild 1114.7 1039.3 9.97 65.70% 7.00 3.64 2.17 2 2.5 60º 73º 7 + 1
1837 XXXX Mild 1114.1 1037.4 10.15 67.23% 7.31 3.67 2 2 2.5 60º 72º 4 + 2
1839 XXXX Mild 1111.4 1042.9 9.05 61.44% 6.02 2.88 2.17 2 3 60º 71º 8 + 2
Whitbread brewing records held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document numbers LMA/4453/D/01/001, LMA/4453/D/01/002 and LMA/4453/D/01/003 .


Craig said...

Although, they are quite similar to Matthew Vassar's Ales in nearly the same time. Vassar's Amber Double Ale of April, 17 1834 is nearly identical to Whitbread's 1839 XX. The Whitbread seems to be slightly less hopped and Vassar's fermented slightly longer, but the OGs, FGs, ABV, pitching and max temps, and attenuation are amazingly close.

Ron Pattinson said...


I'd noticed similarities between Vassr's Ales and English Ales. I suppose it shouldn't be such a surprise.

I wish I had access to more American records so I could make better comparisons. The links between British and american brewing are very complicated.

Mike said...

Those FG are really high must have been incredibly sweet to the modern tooth. Our highest ABV is 6.1 but the PG/FG is 15.But of course that is an IPA style.

Bob Kiley said...

Any mention of mashing temps? I assume it was a single underlet about 30min into a ~2hr mash right? This was still before sparging I believe so was it multiple mashes or just a runoff into multiple kettles?
Sorry for all the dumb brewing questions, I've read your blog for a while now and absolutely love the history, I'm just trying to get my brewing knowledge to my history knowledge level.
Can't wait for the K ales even though I'll have the same questions, sorry.

Ron Pattinson said...


I'm not sure if the sweetness would have been overpowering due to the quite high level of hopping, especially for the stronger ones.

I can't help but ask - do you have any old brewing records hanging around at Okells?

Ron Pattinson said...

Bob Kiley,

I'll be honest, I struggle to understand the mashing details on these records.

My current best guess is a mash and underlet giving a tap heat of 161º F, a second mash with a tap heat of 155º F and a third mash or sparge with a tap heat of 150º F.

This is my guess at the schedule:

4:50 96 barrels at 165º F
5:50 mash for 1/3 hour?
6:30 mash for 1/2 hour?
7:50 30 barrels at 184º F
8:00 mash
9:30 set taps

10:45 39 barrels at 184º F
mash for 20 minutes, 30 minutes and 1 hour?

sparge at 184º F

It was a long brew day as the last boil finished at 20:20.

Bob Kiley said...

Rereading w. Stewart's brewing and distilling, it seems like the norm was an initial strike at 170-175F, mashing for 45-60min (actually mashing with machines or oars) then standing for a few hours, the a batch sparge (2nd mash) with strike temp of 180F (184 in this case), then mashing for 30-60min, then another stand for an hour or two, then a final batch sparge same temp less time, but you seem to indicate a fly sparge (the scottish style sparging). This was published in 1849(?) but the research was probably done in 1830-1840, so it might be accurate.

Ron Pattinson said...


it's not clear if it's a fly sparge or, indeed, a sparge at all.

I'm pretty sure Whitbread would have been mashing with internal rakes at this point.