Wednesday 9 April 2014

Courage Mild Ales 1920 - 1928 (part one)

I know. You don't have to tell me. I've been writing way too much about London breweries in the 1920's. But, you know, once I get started on a topic I find it hard to stop. Until I spot something shinier.

I hate to say this, but Courage's brewing records from the 1920's are pretty dull. They brewed quite a narrow range of beers: Mild Ale, Strong Ale and Porter/Stout. Because the first two types were parti-gyled together, they only had two recipes. And because they parti-gyled, they could hit their target starting gravities every time. It makes for pretty repetitive reading. Especially after they dropped the fermentation record and the FG wasn't recorded.

In 1920, Courage brewed a single Mild, imaginatively called X. As you can see below, it was pretty low gravity and only just above the level of a LA or 4d Ale. But I was forgetting that primings added around another 1.5º to that, leaving the effective OG more like 1035º. Which is closer to the average value for a 5d, which is what this beer was.

It's worth noting that the OG's for Courage X jump around a fair bit between 1033 and 1037. Given that the gravity was dead on every time in the fermenter, this can only have been caused by different levels of priming. Or adulteration. But as the gravity had increased, that seems less likely.

The Whitbread Gravity book also tells me that the apparent attenuation remained high, averaging around 80%. A hopping rate of around 1lb per barrel is pretty decent for a beer of that gravity. Barclay Perkins X and Whitbread X, both 6d Ales with gravities over 1040º, were hopped at about the same rate.

The boil times are pretty standard for 1920's London Milds, where boils were mostly between 1.5 and 2 hours.

Courage Mild Ales 1920 - 1928
Year Beer OG FG ABV App. Atten-uation lbs hops/ qtr hops lb/brl boil time (hours) boil time (hours) boil time (hours) Pitch temp
1920 X 1037.7 1006.6 4.10 82.35% 5.91 0.98 1.5 1.5 1 62º
1921 X 1032.7 1005.5 3.59 83.05% 5.77 0.82 1.5 1.5 1 60º
1922 X 1032.7 1006.4 3.48 80.51% 6.67 1.01 1.5 1.5 1 63º
1923 X 1032.7 1006.1 3.52 81.36% 6.94 0.92 1.5 1.5 1 61º
1926 X 1032.7 7.37 0.99 1.5 1.5 1 61.5º
1927 X 1032.7 7.12 0.93 2 1.5 1 63.5º
1928 X 1032.7 7.48 1.01 2 1.5 1 62.5º
1926 MC 1042.7 7.35 1.26 1.5 1.5 1 61.5º
1927 MC 1041.6 8.00 1.35 1.5 1.5 1 62º
1927 MC 1041.6 8.04 1.36 1.5 1.5 1 61.5º
1928 MC 1041.6 6.79 1.17 1.5 1.5 1 63º
Courage brewing records held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document numbers ACC/2305/08/251, ACC/2305/08/253, ACC/2305/08/255 and ACC/2305/08/256.

MC is a typical 6d Ale, with a gravity in the low 1040's and an ABV somewhere a bit over 4%. At least that's what I'd guess, based on similar London beers. And the fact that MC was no more than a scaled-up version of X. Its hopping rate is 25-30% higher than the equivalent Barclay Perkins and Whitbread Milds.

I bet you're going to ask me what MC stands for. I won't lie, I can only guess. But "C" usually stood for "country" in London breweries. "M" almost certainly means "Mild".

Next time we'll be looking at the grists of these beers.


Barm said...

They didn’t brew a Pale Ale at all?

That makes those old-timey Chas & Dave adverts for Courage Best even more disingenuous.

Not only would most of the customers in those pubs really have been drinking mild, Courage didn't even have a best bitter at the time!

Ron Pattinson said...


it's more complicated than that. They didn't brew Bitter at Horselydown, but did at their brewery in Alton. It's a bit like Truman with their brewery in Burton.