Thursday 31 July 2014


What the fuck am I doing? The most Great War obsessed beer writer and I'm doing nothing to, er, mark, the start of the slaughter.

I know - her are some soldiers drinking Mild:

Birmingham Beer Bash

If you hadn't noticed that I was in Birmingham last weekend you're really not paying proper attention. I was in Birmingham last weekend. That's nice and clear, isn't it?

I was there for the Birmingham Beer Bash, one of the new style beer festivals, where cask rub shoulders with keg, bellies with tattoos and beards with, er, beards. I had a couple of very good reasons for attending. First, I was giving a talk. Pretty essential you turn up for something like that. Second, half a dozen recipes from my book, The Home Brewers Guide to Vintage Beer had been made for the festival. Or rather, a mini-festival within a festival. No way I was going to miss the chance to drink those.

The original plan was for Lexxie to tag along with me and Dolores, snapping pictures and filming film to document the event. He didn't really fancy it, so we left him with a set of keys to the flat and 30 quid to spend. He's used to pottering around the centre of Amsterdam either by himself or with his mates. No reason he couldn't do the same in Brum.

Talking of the flat we rented, it was handily central, right next to the Bull Ring markets. Rather too close to the markets, as it overlooked the wholesale part. The din form lorries unloading started about 3 am and finished, er, about 7 pm. Just as well I'm a heavy sleeper. Sadly, Dolores isn't. She didn't have the greatest night's sleep. Lexxie, being young, slept soundly through all the racket.

The Bond, venue for the festival, was a leasurely 15-minute stroll away. The walk sort of summed up Birmingham. The first part was along a bit of innner-city dual carriageway, the second down a street of dead factories. Dolores has come to judge the prosperity of British towns by the number of buildings with trees growing out of them. By this simple method of scoring Birmingham comes between Liverpool and Glasgow.

We arrived just after kick off, at 11:15. I'm a bit paranoid and wanted to have plenty of time to make sure all the equipment for my talk was working correctly. Plus have time for a few pints before showtime. My experiences at the American Home Brewers Conference have taught me that I perform better after a few pints. Or is it the audience who needs the beer?

After being shown around by organiser David Shipman, I made straight for the vintage beers. They were all neatly lined up together at one end of the cask bar. Where to start? Sarah Hughes 1929 Russell XXX seemed a good place. I was a bit surprised when it poured a pale gold. It's a Burton Ale and should really be dark. Though admittedly it would be easy to miss that from the recipe, as all the colour comes from sugar. Very tasty, despite the dodgy colour. It reminded me of a 1970's Light Mild. Not sure why, but that's what popped into my head.

I was just getting stuck into Thornbridge 1933 Whitbread DB when I noticed John Clarke standing next to me. What was he doing here? He told me at the Brettanomyces Festival a couple of weeks ago that he had a ticket for Friday. Turns out he had the dates confused.

I'm starting to grow fond of Whitbread Double Brown. It's a beer that intrigued from the first time I spotted it in Whitbread's brewing records. Why? Because it didn't fit with any modern beer sold as Brown Ale: too strong for one type, too dark for the other. And with a grist all of its own - quite a rarity at Whitbread where pretty well everything was parti-gyled with something else. I got well stuck into Pretty Things take on the 1955 version when I was in Boston in March. Thornbridge's version of an earlier iteration was similar, but subtly different. No real surprise there.

Titanic 1839 Reid IPA was pleasant, but not as scorchingly and persistently bitter as other versions I've had. Atom 1918 Courage Double Stout was stronger than I expected, but I'm not going to complain about that. Rich and roasty would be my aliterative description. Ashover 1910 Fullers Porter was much as I expected: black and burnt. It's a beer that's proved popular with home brewers and I've had a couple of their versions before. Ashover proved what a cracking little recipe it is.

What about Two Towers 1853 Younger XP, I hear you ask? It wasn't on. At least not then. I got to try it later, during my talk. A little cloudy, but pleasantly dry and bitter.

I was due on at 13:30, but went to check on the room and its kit at noon. No point in taking any risks. Just as well, as it turned out. I've only used a projector and screen until now. This time the display was a large flat-screen TV. I got my little flip-flop connected up to it OK. And an image was appearing on the screen. Actually two images: the current slide and the next slide. Really not what I wanted.

Luckily, I had my IT support engineer with me. Dolores is good at this sort of stuff. Especially as my flipflop runs Linux. Knowing how much she likes to be watched while she fiddles, I sloped off to fetch some more beer.

When I got back the building's caretaker was there helping her. Still two slides on the screen at once. When I returned from a second beer run, it was finally sorted and a single slide illuminated the screen. Phew. It had taken the best part of 45 minutes.

I'm getting to know my Brettanomyces talk backwards. Which makes it a lot more relaxing to present. Maybe I should try telling it backwards, just to add an element of challenge. I got a few decent laughs, which tells me something went right. Boak and Bailey were in the audience and we had time for a bit of a chat after I'd finished. Which was later than I expected as I went off on several tangents, totally unconnected with the topic in hand. That's what happens when I've to time limit.

I also briefly bumped into Gazza Prescott, someone I've corresponded with for years, but never met.

Time to sell a few books and then I was off. There was family stuff to do. I'm not a total monster, you know.

This is the full line up of historic beers:

1839 Reid IPA (Titanic)
1853 Younger XP (Two Towers)
1910 Fullers Porter (Ashover)
1918 Courage Double Stout (Atom)
1929 Russell XXX (Sarah Hughes)
1933 Whitbread DB (Thornbridge)

I'm sure you've not forgotten, but this is my book:

The Home Brewer's Guide to Vintage Beer.


Wednesday 30 July 2014

Hoare Porter quality 1922 - 1923

You may have noticed that I'm rattling through the Porter much more quickly than the Pale Ales. Not sure why. It certainly isn't because of the high quality of the beers.

Because, to be honest, most of the Porter samples were crap. Of the whole set, only one got the maximum score of three.

If you can remember back as far as the earlier posts in this series, Hoare gambled on expansion in the 1920's. A gamble which failed when they were saddled with too much debt. It ultimately led to their takeover by Charrington in 1933, bringing to an end several hundred years of brewing on the site.

This is the bit where I look at how their other beers performed. Starting with Mild Ale, which cam eighth of seventeen, averaging 0.30. Middling, is all I can say. Their Burton Ale only came 10th of fourteen, but because the standard of Burton Ales was high, it still averaged 0.67. Their Pale Ale came joint eleventh of fifteen with an average score of zero. Overall, not that great.

Let's see how their Porter did:

Hoare Porter quality 1922 - 1923
Year Beer FG OG ABV App. Atten-uation Flavour score Price
1922 Porter 1010.8 1033.8 2.98 68.05% poor -1 6d
1922 Porter 1011 1037.3 3.41 70.51% poor going off -2 6d
1922 Porter 1010.5 1035 3.17 70.00% quite sour -2 6d
1922 Porter 1009.7 1033.7 3.11 71.22% v sour -3 6d
1923 Porter 1011.6 1032.6 2.71 64.42% fair 1 6d
1923 Porter 1008.4 1031.9 3.05 73.67% going off -2 6d
1923 Porter 1011.7 1033.2 2.78 64.76% moderate 1 6d
1923 Porter 1009.8 1034.5 3.20 71.59% sour -3 6d
1923 Porter 1010.2 1034.2 3.11 70.18% thin - unpleasant -3 6d
Average  1010.4 1034.0 3.06 69.38%
Whitbread Gravity book held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number LMA/4453/D/02/001

That's very disappointing for a brewery that had been one of the big boys in the early days of London Porter. Once again, there are lots of really poor examples. By the number of "sour" or "going off" comments it sounds like the beer had been sitting around too long in the pub cellar. Less than a quarter of the samples - just two - got positive scores. The overall average is a very poor -1.56.

Stay away from the Porter in a Hoare's pub, is my advice for the time traveller.

Tuesday 29 July 2014

A weekend away

"I've a real treat for you Dolores."

"What is it?"

"We're going to Venice."

"Really? Where's the money coming from?"

"It's not so much the Venice as a Venice."

"You're taking me to Birmingham, aren't you?"

"You're annoyingly well informed about Britain, you know. I blame those years in Swindon."

"Yes, you've taken me to all the most romatic spots, Ronald."

"I spoil you. Most people would kill for two years in Swindon"

"I would, too. To not have to live there."


Birmingham, with architecture almost as special as Frankfurt's and a train station even better hidden in a shopping centre than Utrecht Centraal*. A ringing endorsement, I know.

But for all I take the piss out of Birmingham, I have a weird affection for the city. Maybe not so weird, as that's where my Mum's side of the family came from. In the 1960's and 1970's I visited the city dozens of times seeing uncles and aunts. The Brummie accent evokes all sorts of emotions. Mostly family memories. Especially of my Mum, who sounded relentlessly Brummie more than 50 years after leaving the city.

Approach in the right way, and Birmingham has much to offer. Restaurants that represent the diverse nature of the population. Great markets. Decent shopping. And the odd pub still with M & B signage.

More about Brum to come.

* That's Lexxie's official opinion. "Which do you think is the crappier station, Birmingham New Street or Utrecht Centraal."

"You've already asked me that."

"Dad has his memory lapses, you know. He's getting old."

"New Street, Dad."

"Tell me what you think of New Street in one sentence."

"Shit. . . . Oh you asked for a sentence . . . it's a good station, if it was hiding from Nazis."

"I guess you mean that they wouldn't be able to find it."

"Whatever, Dad."

Monday 28 July 2014

Courage Porter quality 1922 - 1923

I'm continuing my kerb crawl through some of the dingier streets of 1920's London draught beer.

So far, the beers have been almost universally crap. Just a single half-decent example. Will Courage do any better?

Courage was one of the breweries on the up between the wars. A series of acquisitions helped boost their tied estate: Camden Brewery in 1923, Farnham United Breweries in 1927, Noakes in 1930, Kidd in 1937 and Hodgson's Kingston Brewery in 1943. Hang on. Why are there no Farnham brewing records at the London Metropolitan Archives? There are ones from all the other breweries in that list.

Let's look back at Courage's performance so far. Their Mild was middle of the table, eighth of seventeen with an average score of 0.38. They did very well with their Burton Ale, which finished joint second of fourteen, averaging 1.2. The Pale Ale did almost as well, coming fourth from fourteen and averaging 1.25. That's pretty good overall, with every single beer getting a positive score.

There's not much I can say about the beer itself. No, that's not right. Having Courage's brewing records of the period, there's plenty I can tell you. For one, that a significant amount of the gravity came from the primings added at racking time. As brewed, it had a gravity of 1032.7. It was a ton of sugar they added. In one particular example from 1922, about 19.5 quarters of malt and sugar were used in the brewing, but 4 quarters of various sugars were added at racking time. Or about 20% of all the fermentable material.

Time to look at the scores.

Courage Porter quality 1922 - 1923
Year Beer FG OG ABV App. Atten-uation Flavour score Price
1922 Porter 1008 1037 3.77 78.38% fair 1 6d
1922 Porter 1010.2 1037.7 3.56 72.94% poor -1 6d
1922 Porter 1008.4 1035.9 3.57 76.60% v fair 2 6d
1922 Porter 1010.6 1036.6 3.37 71.04% v fair almost good 2 6d
1923 Porter 1013.2 1043.2 3.89 69.44% fair 1 6d
1923 Porter 1012 1039.5 3.56 69.62% fair 1 6d
1923 Porter 1012.2 1036.7 3.17 66.76% nasty flavour -3 5d
1923 Porter 1011.2 1036.2 3.24 69.06% only moderate 0 6d
1923 Porter 1012.6 1035.1 2.91 64.10% poor -1 6d
Average  1010.9 1037.5 3.45 70.88%
Whitbread Gravity book held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number LMA/4453/D/02/001

Now that's a bit of an improvement. There's a positive average score for a start. Not hugely positive, but still far better than we've seen so far. Only three negative scores and four positive ones.

Courage's pubs are looking a good bet when you're on a long weekend in 1920's London.

Sunday 27 July 2014

An Oatmeal Stout poisoning

Old murder cases are weirdly fascinating for me. Especially when there's some sort of beer connection.

As there is in this case. More than just a vague, oblique connection, as the poison was administered via a bottle of Oatmeal Stout.
A mysterious tragedy occurred 32, Churchill Road, South Croydon, in the early hours of Sunday morning. The house is occupied by Mr. and Mrs. Beck, each aged about and their two daughters, Daisy, aged 21, and Hilda, aged 19.

32, Churchill Road, South Croydon

At supper on Saturday night they had some stout which had been fetched for them by a lodger in the house. Shortly afterwards the father and mother complained of severe pains, and the girl Daisy also felt unwell. Mr. Beck, shortly after one o'clock, made an attempt to get out of the house, apparently with the object of obtaining medical assistance, but found himself unable to so. The younger daughter, Hilda, teetotaler, who had not touched any of the stout, ran out and called in some neighbours.

Two doctors, Dr. Dempster and Dr. Baker, were summoned, but, despite all their efforts, Mr. and Mrs. Beck expired soon afterwards. The girl Daisy, however, they succeeded in bringing round, and she was conveyed Croydon Hospital, where she is stated to be progressing satisfactorily. The whole affair is shrouded in mystery, but there is no doubt that the parents' deaths and the daughter's illness were caused by poison which had by some means got into the stout.

A remarkable turn in connection with the mysterious poisoning tragedy at South Croydon took place Monday with the arrest of a labouring man named Richard Brinkley, of Maxwell Road, Fulham. He is charged with the murder of Richard and Annie Elizabeth Beck, and with attempting to kill their daughter, Daisy Kathleen, and a lodger named Reginald Clifford Parker.

Brinkley, who is a man about fifty-three years of age, was brought before the magistrates later in the day. A lodger in the house, named Parker, has given the following account of the occurrence: "I feel sure Brinkley had no intention or desire to kill either Mr. or Mrs. Beck. I knew he was coming down to see on Saturday about a dog. I was in my room at Churchill Road — where the tragedy happened — when Mr. Beck came in with some ale, and we both had a little. Presently there was knock at the door, and Brindley came in. He took a bottle of stout from his pocket, opened it, and drank some. I thought this strange, I have known him for some years, and always believed him to be a teetotaler. He then poured some into our glasses and asked for some water, which I got for him, leaving the room for a minute. Then we went out, leaving Mr. Beck behind. The reason he went out was because he had bought a dog, and he gave me instructions about taking it over his house on the Sunday. I went back to Churchill Road afterwards to get my coat, and found Mr. Beck sitting his room. We had some ale, and then Mrs. Beck came in. I asked her what she would have to drink, and she replied, 'There isn't anything.' She asked what time I should be in to dinner the next and said I did not quite know. I left before midnight. The next I heard of the affair was when a police officer woke me up. This was about three o'clock on Sunday morning. I dressed and went to the police station, where I gave my version of the matter. I have been separated from my wife for the last several months. She lives with her mother in Water Lane, Brixton, and Brinkley knows her. mid I had some words over it. believe he came into some money a little while ago."

Dr. W. Dempster said was called to Churchill Road on Saturday, and found Mr. and Mrs. Beck lying on the floor unconscious and dying. This was one o'clock on Sunday morning, and they died a few minutes after his arrival. As far as he could judge at the time they were suffering from the effects of poison.

The girl Daisy was on the couch as if in a faint. He believed the poison was cyanide of potassium. He had examined the stout bottle, and found traces of the same poison.

John Holder, a lad of thirteen, said that on Saturdays he worked for a Mrs. Hardstone, who had an off-license house at Brighton Road. Last Saturday evening about half-past seven a man came in and asked for a bottle of oatmeal stout. Mrs. Hardstone stamped it, and the man said "it was going round the corner." She said he must leave 2d on the bottle, and he left the shop without taking it.

He came in again half-an-hour later, and asked for a bottle of stout. This time he took it and paid the 2d. That morning witness had picked Brinkley out from about ten more as the man in question.

Detective-Inspector Fowler said that, in company with Sergeant Easter, he investigated the case, and eventually went to Maxwell Road, Fulham,  on Sunday midnight, where he met Brinkley. In reply to a question, he admitted that he was Richard Brinkley. Witness told him he would be  arrested on a charge administering a poison to Parker with intent to murder him. He replied. "Well, I'm sugared." Witness then cautioned him, and he said, "I was not Croydon last night." Witness said, "You will also probably be clanged with the murder of Mr. and Mrs. Beck, who have died as a result of the drug or poison administered to them." then he said again, "Well, I'm sugared." and added, " This is very awkward, isn't it?" On the way to the station he said, "I have not seen Parker for three weeks. I have just left his wife and her mother, and come from Water Lane. We have been enjoying ourselves."

Brinkley asked if was going detained all night, and being answered in the affirmative he said, "This is Parker playing a trick on me. He is a dirty tyke."

On the way to Croydon in the morning Brinkley asked if Parker said he had done it, and then repeated "Parker is spiteful to everyone if they speak to his wife." He continued, "his wife and her mother are beautiful people; they Won't have him there. I've a good character, and am a teetotaler. If anyone says I bought beer, they have got to prove it." Brinkley made no reply when the charge was read over to him. On this evidence Brinkley was remanded to await instructions from the Treasury."
Lichfield Mercury - Friday 26 April 1907, page 2.

All very odd, don't you think? What was Brinkley's relationship with Mrs. Parker? Had he really been trying to kill Parker. If he had something going on with Parker's wife, that would seem a pretty good motive.

It's a bit rich not wanting tp pay the deposit on a bottle of beer you knew you wouldn't be returning: his plan was clearly to leave the bottle behind in the expectation Parker would drink it. While we're talking of the beer, this tale also tells me something about the Oatmeal Stout story. The very first mention of Oatmeal Stout, then the exclusive domain of a couple of small breweries, wasn't much more than a decade before this. Yet it had clearly already become a common commodity.

Never heard of the phrase "I'm sugared." before. I can't help thinkib Brinkley might have in fact said something that sounds very similar.

The moral of this tale? Never trust a teetotaler.

Saturday 26 July 2014

Birmingham today

In a few minutes I'll be heading off to the Birmingham Beer Bash. At 13:30 I'll give a talk on Brettanomyces in British brewing. And the drinking some of the historic beers brewed to recipes from my book, The Home Brewer's Guide to Vintage Beer. Which you'll also have the chance to buy or get signed.

City of London Porter quality 1922 - 1923

We're back in the cesspit of 1920's Porter. And ignoring the stench, it's proving very informative.

One significant point I had mentioned yet. Whitbread continued making analyses of draught beers with comments on their flavour until 1925, but the last for Porter was in 1923. It seems to me that, realising Porter was a niche product in decline, they didn't think it was worth keeping an eye on. Either that or the pubs where they obtained their samples didn't sell it. Given the way Whitbread's Porter output had fallen, the latter is a distinct possibility.

City of London Brewery from the air in 1928

City of London Brewery, in the guise of Calvert Co., had been one of the large Porter brewers in the 18th century. Though the business was much, much older, having its origins in the 15th century. At the time of its closure in 1922, it was one of the oldest enterprises in London.

Let's take a look back at how City of London is doing so far. Their Mild Ale was a distinctly unimpressive last of seventeen with a rubbish average score of -1.25. They were last by quite a way, the next worst score being 0.70. They fared slightly better with Burton Ale, placing twelfth of fourteen with at least a positive score - even if it was just 0.09. Surprisingly, their Pale Ale did quite well, coming 5th of fifteen with an average of 1.

That's quite strange. Why was their Pale Ale so much better than their other beers? It makes you wonder whether they brewed it themselves.

You'll notice that, in terms of basic specs, all these Porters are very similar. An OG in the mid-1030's, 3.5% ABV, 75% apparent attenuation. Now I think of it, they look much like modern Milds.

Let's take a look at the scores:

City of London Porter quality 1922 - 1923
Year Beer FG OG ABV App. Atten-uation Flavour score Price
1922 Porter 1008.8 1037.3 3.70 76.41% poor -1 6d
1922 Porter 1009.6 1035.1 3.30 72.65% quite sour -2 6d
1922 Porter 1007 1035.3 3.68 80.17% sour -3 6d
1922 Porter 1007 1034.5 3.57 79.71% sour -3 6d
1923 Porter 1012.4 1038.4 3.36 67.71% moderate 1 6d
1923 Porter 1009.6 1037.6 3.63 74.47% poor -1 6d
1923 Porter 1009.6 1037.6 3.63 74.47% poor -1 6d
1923 Porter 1009.4 1035.4 3.37 73.45% sour -3 5d
1923 Porter 1006.8 1034.8 3.64 80.46% sour -3 6d
1923 Porter 1007.8 1035.8 3.64 78.21% sour -3 6d
1923 Porter 1009.4 1035.4 3.37 73.45% sour -3 5d
Average  1008.9 1036.1 3.54 75.56% -2
Whitbread Gravity book held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number LMA/4453/D/02/001

Not quite as dreadful as Cannon's Porter is about the nicest thing I can say. Seven of eleven sour is still pretty awful. It definitely sounds as if  their Porter was sitting around in the cellar too long with no-one drinking it. At least this time not all the scores are negative. There is a single positive one. But also six with the maximum negative score. The resulting average of -2 is very disappointing, as a teacher might say on a report card.

Stay away from Porter is likely to be very prominent in my pub guide to 1920's London.

Friday 25 July 2014

On the trail of Rose's Oatmeal Stout

Rose's Oatmeal Stout, based on current evidence, was the first of its type. But tracking down more information on its brewer, Rose & Wilson, is proving trickier than anticipated.

But "A Century of British Brewers" lists no brewery of that name. Neither does "Hull and East Yorkshire Breweries", nor "The Brewing Industry: a Guide to Historical Records".

The trademark case mentioned that they had breweries in Hull and Grimsby. I'm pretty sure this is the Grimsby branch:
"The ordinary operations on Monday were supplemented by Messrs. Thomas, Peyer, and Miles' offer of a couple of breweries, together with a large parcel of Shares in such industries. The total realisations of the day, nearly £70,000, were mainly the result of this firm's success herein. The properties were the Wellow Brewery, Great Grimsby, with modern 15-quarter plant, and 19 freehold and leasehold hotels, public and beer houses, which changed hands at £23,000 ; the goodwill of the trade is represented by the beer duty payments last year, which amounted to nearly £3000, and the sole right to manufacture Rose and Co.'s oatmeal stout;"
London Standard - Monday 14 May 1900, page 2.
Which gets a small entry:

"Lewis & Barker, Wellow Brewery, 24 Wellowgate, founded 1802. Acquired by the Nottingham Brewery Ltd. 1900 with 19 tied houses. Closed 1944."
"A Century of British Brewers Plus" by Norman Barber, 2005, page 75.
It wasn't a very big brewery. 15-quarters equates to about 60 barrels of standard-strength beer. So an annual capacity of maybe 18,000 barrels.

This shows how exclusive that right to Oatmeal Stout was:

"Messrs J. and T. Usher, Ltd., the New City Brewery, River Street, Bristol, have an inviting stall, and thereat samples are given of their speciality—oatmeal stout. This is brewed by J. and T. Usher, Ltd.. from oatmeal, specially suitable for those requiring light nourishing stout. It possesses all the nutritive, strengthening, and stimulating properties of oatmeal. Sufferers from indigestion, neuralgia, anaemia, sleeplessness, brain fag, and general debility experience great benefit by regular use it. liquid food, and forms an agreeable and refreshing beverage"

 See how they pushed the health aspect of Oatmeal Stout? I'm sure it's totally true. A newspaper wouldn't lie, would it?

Thursday 24 July 2014

Saturday in Birmingham

I'll be in Birmingham this weekend. The main reason is that I'm giving a talk as part of the Birmingham Beer Bash.

It's about Brettanomyces in British brewing and is at 13:30 on Saturday. You'll also have the chance to buy a copy of my book, The Homebrewer's Guide to Vintage Beer, and get it signed.

You can sign up for the talk here:

You can always buy my book here if you aren't coming to Birmingham:

The Home Brewer's Guide to Vintage Beer.

Cannon Brewery Porter quality 1922 - 1923

As we penetrate further into the jungle of 1920's draught beer, we're being swallowed by the darkness.

Which is another way of saying their beers are getting even worse. Cannon, if you remember, was a fairly small company (they had 110 tied houses in 1895, according to Norman Barber*) with a  brewery crammed into the middle of Clerkenwell. They were bought by Taylor Walker in 1930 but surprisingly kept brewing until 1955.

Cannon's scores have been, to be polite, patchy so far. Their Mild Ale came a respectable fifth of seventeen with an average score of 0.54. It wasn't such a happy story for their Burton Ale which came last of fourteen with a poor average score of -0.73. Barclay Perkins Burton was the only other one with a negative average score. It was a similar story for their Pale Ale, which was joint last of fifteen with an average score of -0.9. Again, only two beers had negative average scores, the other being Charrington.

Their Porter is a little weaker than the average, but other wise unspectacular. Let's see how it scored:

Cannon Brewery Porter quality 1922 - 1923
Year Beer FG OG ABV App. Atten-uation Flavour score Price
1922 Porter 1010 1035 3.24 71.43% nasty -3 6d
1922 Porter 1010 1034 3.11 70.59% poor -1 6d
1922 Porter 1010.2 1036.2 3.37 71.82% sour -3 6d
1922 Porter 1010.2 1035.2 3.24 71.02% v poor -3 6d
1923 Porter 1009.8 1032.8 2.98 70.12% nasty -3 6d
1923 Porter 1008 1033.5 3.31 76.12% sour -3 6d
1923 Porter 1009.4 1034.9 3.30 73.07% sour -3 5d
1923 Porter 1009.4 1033.9 3.17 72.27% thin poor -2 6d
1923 Porter 1009 1036 3.50 75.00% v poor going off -2 6d
Average  1009.6 1034.6 3.25 72.38% -2.56
Whitbread Gravity book held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number LMA/4453/D/02/001

That's impressive: not one good score. In fact, "poor" is the best score any sample could muster. An impressive two-thirds of the examples get the worst score of -3.

My guess is that Porter sales were slow and that, combined with the low gravity, left it going off, unloved in the cellar while the punters tucked into Mild or Stout. Something that didn't taste like vinegar. By this time draught Porter was available in few parts of the country. Probably hardly anywhere other than the London area and Ireland.

I wonder what London brewers thought? They must have realised Porter was dying. But I suppose while there was still a market, however small and diminishing, it was worth their while to brew it. That's the joy of parti-gyling: it allows you to brew very small batches economically, as long as there's a more popular beer in the same general style. The continued thirst for Stout in London meant that was the case for Porter. It took the upheaval of WW II for London brewers to finally pull the plug on Porter.

My advice should you find yourself in a Cannon pub? Drink Mild!

Loads more of this to come, as I'm sure you realise.

* "A Century of British Brewers plus" by Norman Barber, 2005, page 83.

Wednesday 23 July 2014

Going pro

I'm giving patreon a try to see if that gets me any closer to financial independence.

Sponsorship anyone?

You know what would be great? If I could finally get on with researching full-time.

There's only one teeny-weeny problem. A little thing called cash. The money I currently earn isn't enough to feed and clothe me, let alone the rest of my family.

What I need is a sponsor. Or several sponsors. To pay me the equivalent of a salary so I can on with doing what I do best: researching and writing. I think my work is a service to the whole beer world. But if I'm to continue at my current level, I need support.

So if you feel like contributing, get in touch. Obviously I'd be be prepared to give something back in return.

Expensive Oatmeal Stout

I'm not done with Oatmeal Stout yet. I happened to comae across this advert which, though not obvious at first glance, tells us quite a bit about Oatmeal Stout.

Take a look and see if you can spot anything:

Evening Telegraph - Friday 02 December 1898, page 1.

The most obvious point is that in a catalogue of fashionable, expensive beers, Oatmeal Stout gets top billing. Literally.

Look at the price, too. It's almost as expensive as Imperial Stout and costs as much as Bass or Allsopp Pale Ale, two expensive beers. Maclay's Oat Malt Stout of 1909 had the not particularly high gravity of 1062. If this Oatmeal Stout were of a similar strength it would be dreadful value for money.

I find it very odd that with the amounnt of bigging up the advert gives to Oatmeal Stout, it doesn't mention the brewer. It seems as if the fact that it's an Oatmeal Stout is more impor5tant tahn the identity of the brewer. You would never see a Burton Pale Ale advertised without the brewer's name.

Overall this advery demonstrates a trend with beer styles. When they're new and all the rage, they're poor value for money: Pale Ale and Lager a re good examples of this phenomenon. Over time, as a style stops being the latest must-have item, the price premium is eroded.

Jsut thought I'd throw in a little of my evolutionary theory of beer styles. I must write it all down properly sometime. I've reams of hand-scribbled notes on the topic somewhere. Amongst all my piles of stuff. You'll be the first to know, should I miraculously unearth it.

Tuesday 22 July 2014

Barclay Perkins Porter quality 1922 - 1923

"Thank you, Ronald," I can hear you saying. "Thank you for continuing your series on draught beer quality in 1920's London.

We've now got as far as Porter. If I'm honest, the Porter analyses are the most revealing about what was happening in the London pub trade. It gives some clues as to both the state Porter and why it was in decline. You could call it the Mild Effect.

What's that? Let me explain. In the 1970's, Mild sales were falling. Dramatically falling in some regions. This decline kicked off a vicious circle. A low volume of sales, meant that it was often too old and in bad condition. Which deterred drinkers from buying, leading to even lower sales and even poorer beer quality. Eventually it wasn't worth the landlord's while to sell it any more.

The comments on flavour in the Whitbread Gravity Book tend to confirm this. To put it bluntly: there was a lot of crap Porter about in the 1920's. Why do I think poor sales were to blame? Because I can see the decline that Porter went into after WW I quite clearly in Whitbread's production figures by type.

Here's what happened with their Porter 1910 - 1929:

Output of Whitbread Porter 1910 - 1929
year barrels brewed Total Port Total Ale & Porter % of Porter/Stout % of total
1910 108,166 361,847 850,828 29.89% 12.71%
1911 101,934 368,953 907,173 27.63% 11.24%
1912 111,239 386,734 988,981 28.76% 11.25%
1913 127,838 378,629 901,807 33.76% 14.18%
1914 123,085 382,984 900,636 32.14% 13.67%
1915 65,216 314,169 762,438 20.76% 8.55%
1916 80,298 369,130 777,127 21.75% 10.33%
1917 8,493 286,163 578,502 2.97% 1.47%
1918 7,136 110,695 413,112 6.45% 1.73%
1919 21,602 117,284 565,624 18.42% 3.82%
1920 24,910 234,413 10.63%
1921 15,688 238,623 675,647 6.57% 2.32%
1922 16,562 192,717 576,118 8.59% 2.87%
1923 14,165 169,977 505,097 8.33% 2.80%
1924 15,948 178,192 551,616 8.95% 2.89%
1925 14,943 163,932 527,977 9.12% 2.83%
1926 13,511 168,513 512,528 8.02% 2.64%
1927 10,708 149,725 462,250 7.15% 2.32%
1928 10,105 142,153 488,357 7.11% 2.07%
1929 5,558 85,779 443,888 6.48% 1.25%
Whitbread brewing records held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document numbers LMA/4453/D/01/075, LMA/4453/D/01/076, LMA/4453/D/01/077, LMA/4453/D/01/078, LMA/4453/D/01/079, LMA/4453/D/01/080, LMA/4453/D/01/081 LMA/4453/D/01/082, LMA/4453/D/01/083, LMA/4453/D/01/084, LMA/4453/D/01/085, LMA/4453/D/01/086, LMA/4453/D/01/087, LMA/4453/D/01/088, LMA/4453/D/01/089, LMA/4453/D/01/090, LMA/4453/D/01/091, LMA/4453/D/01/092, LMA/4453/D/01/093, LMA/4453/D/01/094, LMA/4453/D/01/095,
LMA/4453/D/09/104, LMA/4453/D/09/105, LMA/4453/D/09/106, LMA/4453/D/09/107, LMA/4453/D/09/108, LMA/4453/D/09/109, LMA/4453/D/09/110, LMA/4453/D/09/111, LMA/4453/D/09/112, LMA/4453/D/09/113, LMA/4453/D/09/114, LMA/4453/D/09/115, LMA/4453/D/09/116, LMA/4453/D/09/117, LMA/4453/D/09/118, LMA/4453/D/09/119, LMA/4453/D/09/120, LMA/4453/D/09/121, LMA/4453/D/09/122 and LMA/4453/D/09/123.

Whitbread's Porter was in surprisingly good health leading up to WW I, with sales increasing. The war put a stop to that and output of it almost dried up after 1916. It bounced back a little in 1920, then went into a steady decline.

It also seems that many Porter drinkers switched to Stout. During the war, often the Porter and Stout on offer in a pub were the same beer, the only difference being the price. After the war, standard draught Stout was similar in gravity to pre-war Porter, in the range 1052 - 1056. Switching to Stout is exactly what I would have done, if I had been able to afford it.

On with Barclay Perkins' Porter. Remember that they had been one of the great Porter breweries, and had brewed Porter for over 150 years. It's fairly typical in terms of gravity and ABV. Let's take a look at the details:

Barclay Perkins Porter quality 1922 - 1923
Year Beer FG OG ABV App. Atten-uation Flavour score Price
1922 Porter 1013.2 1040.2 3.49 67.16% Poor & thin -2 6d
1922 Porter 1011.5 1035.5 3.10 67.61% v fair 2 6d
1922 Porter 1010.5 1034.5 3.11 69.57% v poor -3 6d
1923 Porter 1012 1037.5 3.30 68.00% fair 1 6d
1923 Porter 1010.8 1035.8 3.24 69.83% fair 1 5d
1923 Porter 1012.5 1038 3.30 67.11% going off -2 6d
1923 Porter 1012.8 1039.8 3.49 67.84% moderate 1 6d
1923 Porter 1009.8 1038.8 3.76 74.74% v poor -3 6d
Average  1011.6 1037.5 3.35 68.98% -0.63
Whitbread Gravity book held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number LMA/4453/D/02/001

One thing I forgot to mention. For Porter and Stout there's no mention of clarity, presumably because of their dark colour. As you can see, the quality wasn't great. Only half get a positive score and only one of those scores higher than 1.

I can see why drinkers shunned Porter in the 1920's. It was often pretty crap. The lowered gravity wouldn't have helped. If only I had some similar information from before the war to confirm that its quality had declined. Oh well, you can't have everything.