Tuesday 8 April 2014

Messrs. H & G Simonds

When I finally got my search terms sorted out, I did find stuff about Simonds of Reading. Not quite sure why I was looking. Maybe because of all of the Courage posts I've been writing.

It's an innocuous enough price list. But look more closely.

Aldershot Military Gazette - Saturday 14 May 1870, page 1.

Did you see what's hiding in amongst the Porter and Stouts? Brown Ale. Unequivocally called that. There's a section of my book I'll have to rewrite.

But I'd not been searching for 1870 randomly. I've a few Simonds records from 1869-1870. Guess what's really frustrating? No sign of Brown Ale amongst them:

Simonds beers in 1869-1870
Date Year Beer Style OG FG ABV App. Atten-uation lbs hops/ qtr hops lb/brl boil time (hours) boil time (hours) dry hops (oz / barrel)
23rd Dec 1869 SB Pale Ale 1057.6 1018.3 5.20 68.27% 0.00 2 2.5
29th Dec 1869 XXX Pale Strong Ale 1065.4 1021.1 5.86 67.80% 18.00 4.94 1.5 2.5 24
31st Dec 1869 SB Pale Ale 1057.3 1016.1 5.46 71.98% 12.00 2.85 1.5 3 16
3rd Jan 1870 XX G Ale 1062.9 1018.3 5.90 70.93% 14.00 3.70 1.5 2.5 20
24th Jan 1870 XX G Ale 1061.8 1021.1 5.39 65.92% 14.00 3.35 1.5 2.5 20
2nd Feb 1870 SB Pale Ale 1057.1 1015.5 5.50 72.82% 12.00 2.85 1.5 3 16
9th Feb 1870 XXXX Strong Strong Ale 1094.7 1036.0 7.77 61.99% 9.09 3.85 2
18th Feb 1870 XXXX  Strong Ale 1094.2 1036.0 7.70 61.76% 9.09 4.00 2.5
1st Nov 1870 Stout for Bottling Stout 1082.5 1028.3 7.18 65.77% 10.00 3.85 2 16
30th Dec 1870 SB Pale Ale 1057.1 1016.6 5.35 70.87% 12.00 2.76 1.75 3 16
Somonds brewing record held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number ACC/2305/60/079.

Looks like I need to revisit this particular brewing log.

And Simonds weren't the only ones with a Brown Ale:

Reading Mercury - Saturday 03 November 1883, page 7.

"Mild Brown Ale" - I wonder what that really means? Does it just mean Dark Mild? I'm starting to get really confused.


Phil said...

There's an Old ale a couple of lines down, so maybe they were (still) using Mild to mean young.

I suspect that at this stage 'brown ale' just meant 'ale that's brown', and it's acquired its association with a particular style through the success of a particular style of brown ale - just as (perhaps) 'pale ale' stopped meaning simply 'ale that's pale' by association with the success of India pale ale.

Gary Gillman said...

Good catch to be sure.

Brown ale existed in the 1700's though, and probably was simply a less hopped, mild porter (porter itself was a coloured beer at bottom). It may have survived here and there in this form of X brown ale.

Or, it may have been a reinvented style using crystal (stewed) malt which didn't exist until the later 1800's.

Or it may have been a beer using dark sugars.

The recipes should shed further late if available.

One thing is clear to me, you can't dismiss the old saw that mild replaced porter so easily. In effect, dark mild was a milder porter (as dark or close enough, less bitter and possibly less "empyreumatic"). As tastes changed, I envisage that the public shifted the declining affection for mild porter to dark mild. Also, even though people speak of porter having become mostly mild by the late 1800's, it still, like Guinness, probably was a fairly complex drink with sweet-sour notes possibly coming from an aged element. Yes, the big vats had almost disappeared, but some breweries maintained some vatting (remember that 1920's brewery that made an error in a porter recipe and sent the result "to the vats") or possibly were aging in metal tanks and still doing some blending.

The taste may have turned away from such winy porters (not stale as such but dashed with lactic or tart notes) in favour of this dark sweet mild - one can see that the two drinks could likely not compete side by side as major product categories. The question is where the dark mild came in and this use of brown ale in late 1800's ads may suggest it simply had continued here and there from an earlier time and then been picked by by an increasing number of breweries. Fuller had a dark mild by the late 1800's. It's evidently the same thing as dark mild and the real question is, was it reinvented? Use of dark sugars or heavy crystal malt, if that was the keynote of these two brown ales, would suggest yes.


Ron Pattinson said...


in London at least, drinkers moved from Porter to Stout after WW I.

There was no aged London Porter after the 1870's. It disappears completely from the brewing records.

Gary Gillman said...

As between porter and stout, in London, yes. But as between porter/stout and mild ale, what was the sales split in the 1920's in London? Didn't mild ale gain considerably viz. the black beers since the 1880's?


Ron Pattinson said...


these are from Whitbread:

X Ale 137,558 barrels
Porter 75,898

X Ale 264,449
Porter 108,166
London Stout 199,761

X Ale 99,485
Porter 16,562

Porter and Mild coexisted as very popular drinks from the 1830's to WW I.

I'll reiterate this, Dark Mild was not a milder form of Porter. They are completely different beers, brewed from very different grists. And in London Milds didn't go properly dark until after WW I.

Gary Gillman said...

Ron, we can't tell much from just Whitbread numbers, e.g., why is stout included for one year and not the others? Plus, it's only one brewery. And you would need to adjust for population increase.

I'd like to see a statistic, total mild consumption and porter/stout in London, or at least in England, in 1920's vs. same in 1880's, adjusted for population change.

I know they are different beers but that is not (necessarily) relevant to the question of substitution. Lager substituted for ale from the 1970's onward and it didn't even look like (most) bitter, unlike this other case.


Phil said...

I'd love to know what the EIA (assuming East India Ale), was...

Martyn Cornell said...

It's certainly EXTREMELY rare to see mentions of brown ale in Victorian ads - I don't know of a single one from Hertfordshire.

Ron Pattinson said...


I can't remember coming across any 19th-century proce lists that included Brown Ale before.

Phil said...

Manchester brewers have been producing both light and dark milds for yonks (and under those names until relatively recently). I don't think there's any connection with the decline of porter.

"Mild brown ale" = "mild ale (brown)" = (roughly) "dark mild" makes sense to me.

Martyn Cornell said...

Shoreditch Observer, 10th March 1888, Wright Brothers, 27 Shoreditch, “Mild Nut Brown Ale”, but that’s it.