Saturday, 7 September 2013

Bottling in 1901 - hops

As promised, we've now moved on to the effect of hops on bottled beer. Fascinating stuff, I'm sure you'll agree.

First it's the copper hops.
"C. The flavour of the copper hops.

The blending of hops for use in the copper has always been an important question to the brewer since the use of hops became general, and in some cases a particular brand of ale has obtained notoriety very largely on account of the particular blend of hops used. The softer the water used the more important this question becomes. Although perhaps the most important function of the hop is its preservative action, the bitter flavour which it gives ale is almost as important, and this is dependent more on quantity than quality, as shown in the extract obtained from the copper hops."
Journal of the Federated Institutes of Brewing, Volume 7, Issue 2, March-April 1901, page 199.

The author seems to be using notoriety in a slightly different sense from its modern meaning. I read it as a synonym for "famous" without the perjorative element of modern usage. That aside, the copper hops are shown to be purely for bittering and not aroma purposes.

"D. The flavour of the hopping-down hops.

This is perhaps the most distinct and characteristic flavour of all. The aroma of the hop, which differs so much with different growths and different samples of hops, is very delicate and only to a very slight extent withstands the boiling process, consequently it is to the dry hops, added to the newly racked ale, we look for the most pronounced hop flavour as apart from hop bitter.

No doubt fine Kent hops give the most delicate hop flavour, but Worcesters and Farnhams are not far behind, and, being larger, more robust hops, are much in favour for hopping down.

As English hops generally lose much of their fine aroma when stored in the usual way, it is not at all unusual to use a mixture of English and foreign, more especially as the summer advances, and one-half Kents with one-half Burgundies or Bavarians produces very nice-flavoured ales.

Cold storage enables the brewer to have new hops all the year round, as, stored at a low temperature, hops practically remain unaltered, and, if desirable, a brewer can hop down all the year round with Kents or Worcesters and maintain a constant fine flavour. Certainly cold storage should improve the flavour of summer- and autumn-brewed ales in this country."
Journal of the Federated Institutes of Brewing, Volume 7, Issue 2, March-April 1901, pages 199 - 200.

Interesting that they were totally dependent of dry hops for hop flavour and aroma.Which makes it sound like there were no late additions at all. 19th-century hop additions are a tricky subject to get a handle on. They generally aren't recorded in brewing records, leaving us dependent on technical brewing literature. Which is problematic as, in my experience what's described in the literature doesn't always match brewing practice 100%.

The author seems to be saying that English hops deteriorated more quickly than Continental ones, hence the recommendation to use some Burgundy or Bavarian hops late in the season, when hops were closing in an being a year old.

Unless, of course, you invested in a cold store. Stored cold English hops wouldn't lose their aroma and could easily be used up to 12 months old. Which this handy little table confirms:

Analyses of Fuggle's hops during storage
cold store warehouse
storage period alpha resin beta resin preservative value alpha resin beta resin preservative value
6.28 8.6 91.5 6.67 9.26 97.6
5 months 6.22 8.2 89.5 5.83 9.17 88.8
9 months 5.72 8.25 84.7 4.72 9.34 78.5
14 months 5.84 8.54 86.9 3.48 8.64 63.6
19 months 5.15 8.92 81.2 3.21 9.9 55.1
"Brewing Science & Practice" H. Lloyd Hind, 1943, page 349

You can see how little the alpha and beta acid values declined in 14 months in a cold store. While in a warehouse almost 50% of the alpha acis was lost over the same period.

There's still lots more to come from this wonderful article. Bet you're pleased to hear that.


Bailey said...

You might remember that we corresponded briefly on a related topic: to what extent anyone before about 1980 was really analysing hop aroma flavour beyond saying it was 'fine', 'pleasant' or 'nice'. Does this suggest they were definitely *thinking* about it, just not putting it into (pretentious?) words.

Ron Pattinson said...


yes, they were definitely thinking about hop flavour. Though I can't recall any very precise description of flavour. There are some descriptions of beer flavour in the Whitbread Gravity Book, but pretty simple. Usually just a couple of words.

Bailey said...

Interesting. Could you share those examples, either here or by email?

We've found a couple of references to 'American' and 'blackcurrant', but that's about it.

Ron Pattinson said...


I'll see if I can dig them out.

Gary Gillman said...

This is consistent with something I read in one of the manuals, which said the hops go all in at the beginning before the long boil: this was for Burton practice at any rate. It makes sense because the main usage was bittering. To get maximum effect from the hops and the investment in them, you boil them long, thus start early, thus, the de-emphasis on aroma except for where as the author says, dry-hopping was resorted to. But it wasn't used for some styles, generally mild ales eschewed it (See Moritz on this), as did stouts, although some export stout was dry-hopped, perhaps more to stimulate a secondary than to lend aroma.

Some English bitters to this day stress the bitter side more than aroma as such, I believe Holt's bitter is like that although it's been a while since I had it. Young's bitter too (not sure of current incarnation). This is something the American craft pale ales largely miss, the hops can have big aroma and are often used in a way to maximize it. Sierra Nevada Pale Ale is the classic example where New World Cascade hops is used largely for aroma, and other hops for bittering.

That is fine but the classic elegant English bitter ale where an incisive but neutral bitter balances a pleasant malty note seems largely absent from the repertoire of the Yankee brewers. This perhaps was a reaction to mass-market brewing whose beers since the 70's have almost totally given up on aroma hopping, though. (Amstel Light seems an exception, try it, really!).