Saturday, 15 February 2014

Cannon Brewery Burton Ale quality 1922 - 1924

It's the same drill as last week, just with dogy Burton replacing dodgy Mild.

Would I expect Burton to be in better condition than Mild? It's hard to say. Being stronger and more heavily hopped, you'd think Burton would have had a longer shelf-life. On the other hand, Mild sold a lot more. I suppose we're going to find out over the next week. My money is on Burton.

I'll start with a random newspaper article mentioning the brewery.

The former Nag's Head


Arthur James Barrett, (42), a licensed victualler, of Hackney-road, Bethnal Green, E., was charged remand at Old-street police Court with converting to his own use £581 belonging to the Nag's Head Mutual Loan Club.

The magistrate (Mr. Clarke Hall,) said that he had received two heartrending letters from unfortunate people who had lost their money which they had paid into the club that they might have a happy Christmas.

Mr. W. G. Jenkins, prosecuting, said that the amount involved was £1,095.

Mr. H. V. R. Hayne, who appeared for the Cannon Brewery Company, said that such clubs were run independently of the brewery company, who had no control of any sort over them. They did not know anything about the rules of the club that the banking was to be done with the company.

Mr. Clarke Hall said that for six years the brewery had allowed their name to appear on the rules, and that influenced people in putting their money into the club.

Mr. Hayne said they had not seen the rules.

Mr. Clarke Hall said there was moral responsibility on the brewery company, but he had experience of the great generosity brewers and he thought this was a case in which the company might come forward.

An further remand in custody was ordered."
Gloucester Citizen - Friday 13 December 1929, page 5.
The magistrate is clearly hinting that the brewery should reimburse those who had been defrauded.

The Nag's Head was at 324 Hackney Road and closed in 1991*.

Funnily enough, the Nag's Head was virtually opposite a brewery:

West's brewery Co. Ltd.
313/315 Hackney Road,
Bethnal Green E2.

West's was bought by Hoare in 1929 with 60 pubs**.

Nag's Head and West's Brewery in 1896
Right. On with Cannon's Burton. In terms of specs, it's straight down the middle: OG in the low 1050's, about 5% ABV, 75% attenuation.

Now onto beer quality. Only five of eleven were clear. That's not very good. But better than flavour, where only three have positive scores. And there are four scores of -2 or less. It's all very disappointing. Especially as Cannon got a decent score, 0.54, for its Mild Ale.

What was the cause of their Burton being in such poor condition? It's very hard to say from this distance. But, as their Mild scored reasonably well, it probably wasn't the beer itself where the problem lay. More likely it was how quickly - or how slowly - it sold.

Cannon Brewery Burton Ale quality 1922 - 1924
Year Beer FG OG ABV App. Atten-uation Appearance Flavour score
1922 KK 1011 1052 5.34 78.85% fairly bright fair 1
1922 KK 1015 1054.4 5.06 71.69% not bright no head v poor -2
1922 KK 1015 1053.3 5.00 72.23% v bright v fair 2
1922 KK 1015 1053.3 5.00 72.23% bright mawkish -1
1923 KK 1015 1053.5 5.00 71.96% brilliant good 2
1923 KK 1011 1054.9 5.72 79.96% juicy too new -1
1923 KK 1013 1052.6 5.20 76.05% hazy v poor -2
1923 KK 1013 1051.7 5.00 74.47% bright poor palate -1
1923 KK 1014 1053.4 5.06 73.03% not bright Poor & thin -1
1924 KK 1012 1051.3 5.15 77.19% hazy going off -2
1924 KK 1013 1050.4 4.90 74.80% brilliant gone off -3
Average  1013 1052.8 5.13 74.77% -0.73
Whitbread Gravity book held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number LMA/4453/D/02/001

Next time it's the turn of Charrington, whose Mild was rather disappointing.

** "A Century of British Breweries Plus" by Norman Barber, 2005, page 86.


Oblivious said...

To new and mawkish, those comm I nets must have had the old burton brewers turning in the graves

Would we be right to prseume that these where now running beers and not been aged in the cellar?

Also are they then old beers from these breweries going bad or just the public where no longer drinking them in the same volume as they once did?

Anonymous said...

Ron-were these random visits to a variety of pubs?
Back in the day when it was all Home and Shipstone's we knew where to drink.Home Ales at the Red Lion, Anchor and the Black Horse were legendary and consistently good;the Black Lion in my own village was renowned for poor beer.Shippo's at the Wheatsheaf was a lesson in how good it could be; across the road at the Chesterfield Arms you only got a decent pint by accident.
The choice of pubs to check the beer quality in could well give a misleading impression.

Anonymous said...

You're making me reconsider my plans to visit the UK just for the beer. Just how often were the beers off? Can you give the masses a (US) batting average? And how many barrels were they dumping?

Ron Pattinson said...


it depends which type of beer and which brewery. This is particularly poor.

All I can go by is the information I have from the Whitbread Gravity Book. I've not gone through all the styles yet so I can't reach a final conclusion. My guess is a bout 25% of the beers have faults.

Ron Pattinson said...


the pub which was the source is only given occasionally. In the few cases it is mentioned, all the pubs are in Deptford. In the case of Courage a good Mild and a bad Burton came from the same Deptford pub. Not sure if that tells us anything.

I'm sure it was just the same in the past, that some landlords were more skilled than others. Some pubs would have always had beer in good condition, others rarely and the majority somewhere inbetween.

Ron Pattinson said...


they might have had a wekk or two at the brewery, but yes, they had become running beers. At Least KK had. KKK and KKKK were still aged, I believe.

Gary Gillman said...

Ron, it is a very important question, viewed historically, whether the pub or the brewery was primarily responsible for the many faults noted in various breweries`beers of the 1920`s.

I would not assume that the publicans were always, or even mostly, to blame where you have identified egregious failures.

If all the samples were taken from Deptford pubs, i.e., near Chiswell Street, then we should assume as a rough average that they all exhibited a decent amount of cellarmanship because again of the good performers we have seen. On average all the pubs should be considered capable then of delivering that kind of quality. Your own example of a good mild but poor Burton from the one pub and brewery may support this.

In other words, I would ascribe a certain amount of responsibility to the brewery for the problems with flavour and haze. Some haze won`t come out with any amount of fining. Some beer is sour when it gets to the pub, or oxidized, a problem still with us despite all the advances in yeast cultivation, brewing equipment especially for cooling, etc.

This interesting series suggests a deeper problem with brewing consistently good beer in this period. As I`ve suggested before, I would think it may be due to falling gravities and lower hop rates - that is the one thing you can see after WW I that clearly differentiates pre-WW I beers.

Now, perhaps QC finally got a handle on it, after which time, the beer got to the publicans in good shape and then the focus shifts to cellar practices. Cellarmanship was never a perfect science but into the 70`s pub-keeping was an honourable old trade and publicans prided themselves on knowing how to keep beer well. I think there was probably a golden age between 1930`s-1970`s and of course even more before WW I, when both brewer`s art and publican`s skills combined to make the beer as good as it almost could be - unless there is a similar series from the 1930`s showing similar problems perhaps.


Ron Pattinson said...


one good and one bad beer from the same pub could still be a sign of poor cellarmanship. Or poor stock rotation. I suspect a lit of what we're seeing is die to incompetent landlords.

Sydney Nevile writes of how frustrated the brewers were with what happened to their beer after it left the brewery. As the pubs were controlled by another part of the organisation, the brewing staff had no influence on what happened there. Nevile as much as says that many landlords had no idea how to treat beer.