Thursday 31 December 2015

Bottled beer in the 1950’s – Bright Bottled Beers (part one)

We’re starting with the most common type of bottled beer in the 1950s: filtered and artificially carbonated.

It was still the standard type of bottled beer when I started drinking in the early 1970s. Which is probably why I rarely drank bottled beers. With modest gravities and hopping, little flavour was left after the heavy processing required to produce it. There was one big exception: Guinness Extra Stout. There was a bottled beer I drank regularly. Usually because there was either no cask beer or it was crap.

The occurrence of the word "bright" in the name of many of this type of bottled beer indicates how important clarity was for drinkers. Haze would make such beers unsaleable. As we look at this type of beer more closely you'll see how vital producing haze-free bottled beer was for the brewer.  As we look at this type of beer more closely you'll see how vital producing haze-free bottled beer was for the brewer.

Jeffery starts with a slightly odd assertion.

Bright Bottled Beers
The necessary conditions for brewing a beer suitable for bottling have already been dealt with in Chapter 5 and little more need be added here. As to the advisability of making separate brews for draught and bottled beers, this will depend upon the brewing conditions. Many brewers consider that on no account should a beer for bottling be brewed in the same gyle as draught beer, but, on the other hand, many breweries successfully combine the two and, providing the quality of the malt, the mashing conditions and so on are suitable, this can be done quite successfully. The mistake should not be made of thinking that fine filtration will remove all danger of haze and compensate for poor materials or carelessness in brewing. On the contrary, such defects in the beer will increase the chances of haze formation in bottle.”
"Brewing Theory and Practice" by E. J. Jeffery, 1956, page 332.

Let’s just say that I’ve seen plenty of brews from which both bottled and draught beer were produced. Whitbread, for example, parti-gyled all their Porters and Stouts, whether they were to be sold on draught or in bottles. As did Barclay Perkins. IBST, the original Russian Stout, was usually parti-gyled with their draught Porter.

Reading between the lines, it looks as if some brewers used lower-quality materials for their draught beers. Which definitely wasn’t the case at Whitbread.  They seem to have been careful to use good-quality ingredients for all their beers.

Something about conditioning vessels next:

“Bright bottled beers are almost always now conditioned in bulk, chilled and carbonated. Bulk conditioning has many advantages in ease of handling and control as well as lower losses.”
"Brewing Theory and Practice" by E. J. Jeffery, 1956, page 332.

What does that mean? It’s referring to the older practice of conditioning beer in either hogsheads or vats. Bass Pale Ale, for example, was filled into hogsheads which were delivered to bottlers or other brewers. I’m pretty sure this continued up until at least WW II. Probably finally dying out when Bass took all bottling in house. The advantage of a large tank over wooden hogsheads is pretty obvious.

Next we’ll be looking at the different types of conditioning tank.

Wednesday 30 December 2015

Let's Brew Wednesday – 1950 Lees Bitter

Time to head off up North for some honest. A lovely, straightforward Bitter.

Lees brewed two Milds in the 1950’s, but only one Bitter. Called, er, Bitter. With an OG of 1041, it was a pretty decent strength for an Ordinary Bitter. I’m not sure of the ABV, because Lees couldn’t be arsed to fill in racking gravities in this period. I’ve guessed that attenuation was around 75%, which seems reasonable enough.

Older Bitter recipes are mostly very simple. As is this one – just pale malt, the tiniest touch of black malt and sugar. Oh, and a dash of enzymatic malt. Not sure if you can still get that. It was a big deal in the 1950’s, when brewers saw it as a wonder ingredient. Feel free to just use more pale malt.

The sugar is the problem. In the original, it’s a combination of an unspecified invert, CWA and something called proteinex. I’ve simplified it to all No. 2, though you could use a combination of No. 1 and No. 2.

Nothing is revealed about the hops in the brewing record, other than that they’re English. Fuggles and Goldings seem a reasonable assumption. As this is a Bitter, you could also go with all Goldings. I’d be amazed if the dry hops were anything other than Goldings.

As for the mash, I’ve simplified that a little. There was an initial mash at 148º F for 20 minutes, then an underlet to raise the temperature to 150º F, at which it was held for 100 minutes. Given how common this form of mashing was in the 20th century, I’m surprised how little I’ve seen it mentioned. It was bog standard in London, but was used elsewhere, too.

As it’s so simple, there’s not a great deal to say. Except give the recipe a try and imagine the glamour of Manchester in 1950 as you drink it.

1950 Lees Bitter
pale malt 7.75 lb 87.25%
black malt 0.008 lb 0.09%
enzymic malt 0.125 lb 1.41%
No. 2 invert 1.00 lb 11.26%
Fuggles 90 min 1.00 oz
Goldings 30 min 1.00 oz
Goldings dry hops 0.25 oz
OG 1041
FG 1010
ABV 4.10
Apparent attenuation 75.61%
IBU 27
Mash at 150º F
Sparge at 170º F
Boil time 90 minutes
pitching temp 60º F
Yeast Wyeast 1318 London ale III (Boddingtons)

Tuesday 29 December 2015

Branded Lager in 1953

There are indeed a couple of more types I’ve not done yet. Isn’t this fun? Just you and me a pile of dead beer brands. Well, mostly dead.

Because this set contains rather more survivors than the others. Why? Because they were already big international brands. You’ll be wondering which they are. I count seven: Amstel, Carling Black Label, Heineken, Graham’s Golden Lager (now called Skol), Pilsner Urquell, Carlsberg and Tuborg. Though, as you may have noticed many of these are just the name of the brewery rather than a real brand name.

Most of the British-brewed examples come from Lager pioneers, brewers that had a dedicated Lager brew house or only brewed Lager: Ind Coope, Red Tower and Wrexham Lager Brewery. This is an interesting point in the history of British Lager. When it was about to move from being a niche product to a mainstream one. A few years later at the end of the 1950’s many regional brewers started to market their own Lagers, though how many of them were actually bottom-fermented and lagered is anyone’s guess.

Oddly enough, Lager has come full circle. The Lagers from regional brewers have mostly disappeared, replaced either by national brands such as Carling or international brands like Carlsberg and Heineken. So very much like the early 1950’s. Isn’t that a strange turn of events?

Branded Lager in 1953
Brewery Brand Type
Amstel Amstel Lager
Anglo-Dutch Brewers (Distributors) Golden Tree Lager
Brading Breweries Ltd., Canada Cincinnati Cream Lager
Canadian Breweries (International) Carling's Black Label Lager
Castletown Brewery Ltd. Anchor Lager
Dyer Meakin Breweries Golden Eagle Lager
Heineken Heineken's Lager
Ind Coope & Allsopp Graham's Golden Lager Lager
Ind Coope & Allsopp Jacob's Lager Lager
Pilsner Breweries  Pilsner Urquell Lager
Red Tower Lager Brewery Red Tower Lager
South Australian Brewery Regal Lager
Wurzburger Hofbrau, Bavaria Wurzburger Hofbrau Lager
Charles C. R. Walker (Export) Wyvern Brand Lager Beer
Carlsberg Byggerierne Carlsberg Lager Beers
Backus & Johnston's Brewery Maltina Lager Stout
Tuborg Breweries Tuborg Pilsener
Wrexham Lager Beer Ace of Clubs Pilsener
Bryggeriet Stjerhen Danish Star Danish Pilsner
Brewery Manual 1953-1954, pages 382 - 394.

Only odds and sods left. Those next, then.

Monday 28 December 2015

Random Dutch beers (part thirteen)

Christmas over, I can return to cheaty posts with nothing more than my random burblings about random Dutch beers.

Starting with one from the first of the new crop of Amsterdam breweries, De 7 Deugden. One that, unusually, had its own kit right from the go.

De 7 Deugden Scheepsrecht 7% ABV, €1.90 for 33 cl.
 "Tripel with a touch of cloves" it says on the label. I hope it is just a touch. It's a slightly mucky golden colour. That's my fault. I wasn't watching closely enough when the yeast appeared. I usually make a better job of it. Mmm. Don't know about a touch: I can smell the cloves without even putting my nose into the glass. And I've got a bit of a cold. Speculaas. That's what it smells like. I get orange in the aroma, too. I suspected this is what it was going to taste like: cloves with a bit of beer flavouring. Tastes like there's nowt wrong with the beer underneath. And they brewed it themselves. Which is more than can be said of a lot of the new Dutch beers I've tried. I'll be finishing this one.

It's one of the beers I picked up in Deen, one of the supermarkets nearby. They had an impressive range of beers from new Dutch breweries for Christmas.

Looking more closely at the very informative label, it says: "made from honest dune water". Or Amsterdam tap water, as it's more prosaicly called. Not that there's anything wrong with brewing from it. Quite the opposite. It's top-quality stuff without added chemicals. And a very low mineral content. Perfect for brewing. I wouldn't ever bother buying bottled water here. Whereas in Britain, I struggle to force it down. Like drinking from a swimming pool.

Next is another from Deen. But from a brewery-less brewer again. The label says it was brewed at 't Hofbrouwerijke in Belgium. That's good. Very transparent.

Tongval Zware Tongval 8% ABV, €2 for 33 cl.
I tried really carefully to pour this clear, but it still ended up full of floaters. Not my fault, this time. Grass and spice is all I get from the nose. Quite fizzy. Rather too fizzy, for my taste. My defizzing efforts leave it with a plump head, as tempting as a well-rounded bottom. Not too nasty, but not quite right. Beer shouldn't taste like turnip, should it?

This is a general point, drawn from my experiences of the last couple of weeks, not these two beers. Can't help thinking some of the new Dutch breweeries aren't going to be around long, if they don't get quality sorted.

Sunday 27 December 2015

Bottled beer in the 1950’s – the main types

It time to take a look at the three main different types of bottled beer, each of which had its own specific characteristics and process of manufacture.

We start with the most common type: filtered, artificially carbonated bottled beer.

“1. Carbonated and filtered bright beers; light ale and brown ale, together with stronger special ales. These are usually conditioned in bulk and carbonated. Fine filtration is usually relied upon to give a product which although not always completely sterile has a reasonable shelf life. In some cases the beer is pasteurized as an additional safeguard against biological haze, but this may have the effect of accelerating the onset of non-biological haze.”
"Brewing Theory and Practice" by E. J. Jeffery, 1956, page 331.

You’ll note that they specifically mention two of the most popular bottled beers down the pub – Light Ale and Brown Ale. There may have been stronger Brown Ales that were bottle-conditioned at some point, but I’m pretty sure Light Ale was always filtered and carbonated. I’m surprised that these beers weren’t always pasteurised by the 1950’s. Though bottled beers sold through pubs weren’t in a very long supply chain and wouldn’t have needed a shelf life measured in months.

Next is a fairly similar type:

“2. Stouts produced in a similar way to the above, that is conditioned in bulk and carbonated. These will either not be filtered at all or will be only roughly filtered, so that they will contain yeast and possibly other organisms. If they are of the non-sweet variety they may have a reasonable shelf life without pasteurizing, but there is always the liability for yeast growth to cause excessive condition, or growth of bacteria to affect the soundness. Sweet stouts, however, almost invariably need pasteurizing, as otherwise fermentation will occur in bottle, giving excess condition.”
"Brewing Theory and Practice" by E. J. Jeffery, 1956, pages 330 - 331.

Much the same as type one, except not filtered so much. It’s pretty obvious why this would be dangerous in a Sweet Stout – it was likely to start fermenting again in the bottle. A good way to produce bottle bombs. Interesting that this is mentioned as being a method specifically for Stout. In an opaque beer like Stout, there wasn’t the same need for cosmetic filtering as in a pale beer.

And finally the proper way of making bottled beer:

“3. Naturally conditioned ales and stouts. These are first matured in cask or in bulk, or first in cask followed by further maturation in bulk, then bottled off with sufficient yeast and enough slowly fermentable matter to give some further fermentation in bottle, thus producing the necessary condition. These require further cellar storage of from three to four weeks after bottling and they require careful handling to ensure that they reach the consumer in satisfactory condition. As already mentioned, relatively few breweries produce their own beers of this category, preferring to bottle well-known brands. We shall deal with the three categories in order.”
"Brewing Theory and Practice" by E. J. Jeffery, 1956, page 332.

This method was already becoming limited to a few specific brands. By the time I started drinking in the early 1970’s just six naturally-conditioned bottled beers remained: Guinness Extra Stout, Worthington White Shield, Eldridge Pope Hardy Ale, Gale’s Prize Old Ale, Bass Red Triangle (actually the same beer as White Shield) and Own Ale, a beer from the first new brewery for decades, brewed on pretty much a homebrew scale. Amazing to see how much of a comeback this type has made. I’m sure it would have surprised Jeffery.

The process he describes - maturation in casks, then bottling with live yeast and allowing the beer to carbonate naturally – is much the same method as employed by Bass from the mid-19th century onwards.

Next we’ll be looking at artificially-carbonated beer in more detail.

Saturday 26 December 2015

Playing live

Live music. The real thing.

That's what I always thought. The purest, most real form of music.

Then I got my electronic music toys to play with. And my opinions mellowed.

Writing - the crap I spew our with way too much regularity here - is studio work. I splatter words on the page then squish them into a recognisable image. A lonely struggle between me and my ungrateful child words.

Lecturing. That's the writer's live show. When you're not holed up behind your PC, but (metaphorically) with your kecks off in front of a crowd. I love it.

The unscripted, powerpointless shows I love the best. The sheer terror of standing up, looking an audience in the eye without a single sentence prepared in your head. The sheer joy when the words tumble from your mouth without prompting. An avalanche or words that never stops. At least so far.

If you'd asked 12-year-old skinny me, what fat, old Ronald would be doing in the 21st century, standing in front of a crowd talking wouldn't have been his first guess. Or twentieth.

I never imagined being where I am now. 

Ronald Pattinson, renowned beer historian, is available to talk on a variety of topics. Pretty much anything. As long as there's some money in it.

Doctor Feelgood. 

Random Dutch beers (part twelve)

After some of the stinkers I've had recently, I'm playing it safe today.

Which is why I'm kicking off with a beer from Jopen. Should be no danger here.

Jopen Gerstebier 4.5% ABV, €1.75 for 33 cl.
Very pale yellow colour, with a washing-up style head. Bit cloudy, but that's my fault for not pouring it carefully enough. Minty and peppery hop aroma.  Malt, wort and more peppery jop in the gob. Interesting. It's based on an old Dutch top-fermenting style. Strangely lemony, with more peppery hop at the end. Not sure I'd drink it regularly, but tasty enough and slightly different.

A riskier one next. The last beer I had from De Vrienschap wan't great. Though, to be fair, I'd drunk their beer several times and that was the first duff one.

De Vriendschap Puike Pale Ale 6%
Mucky copper colour. I did try quite hard to pour it clear, but didn't quite manage it. An American hop thing going on in the aroms, plus a bit of something I think might be malt. Tastes old - has the raisiny mustiness of oxidation. Though according to the sell by date - June 2016 - it can't have been brewed that long ago. Ends with some marmaladey jaminess and a fair amount of bitterness. Slightly odd, but drinkable.

Phew! I escaped alive.

Loads more to come. Especially during Krimble. A sign of the times is the number of special beer for Christmas in our local Deen supermarket. They've around 20 beers from small breweries from Noord Holland. I'll be ploughing my way through them during the holidays.

Friday 25 December 2015

Drinkalongathon 2015 - Aunt Florrie

I'm drinking a toast to Aunt Florrie. She had some great childhood Christmas stories.

"I always got a clout every Christmas." Is how they every tale ended.

Miss you.

Drinkalongathon 2015 - homemade blackberry thing and Carry on Loving

Moving down market, I'm now on a homemade liqueur that was the product of a blackberry glut and a harvest of cheap schnapps Dolores brought back from Germany.

The photo demonstrates why I always take an Imperial pint glass to the Borefts Beer Festival. Supposedly a beer glass, it's perfect for spirits.

The blackberry thing is really good. It's mellow sweetness and touch of sharp sourness helps me appreciate the coarse humour of the film.

A kid just appeared (Andrew). Didn't expect to see either before nightfall.

Drinkalongathon 2015 - smoked salmon and sherry

First proper food course of the day. With the first wine.

I'm a big sherry fan. Especially because it's so effing cheap. It's ridiculous really how little a decent sherry costs. Even our cheap supermarket job is pretty damn tasty. The smoked slamon we picked up at the Neighbourfood Market last weekend.

It's a cracking pairing, sherry and smoked salmon. If only because everything starts with as "S". That is the way these thyings work, isn't it?

I had some supposedly professionally assembled pairings at the beer hacks dinner earlier this month. Chocolate Porter with the venison was a particularly shite combination. Really shite. Everyone on our table kept it to drink with the dessert. My random lumpings together have never been as crap.

Drinkalongathon 2015 - Abt and Jamie

Time to flip the top off the first Abt of the day. Dolores is still busy fiddling with the first food in the kitchen. Only vicarious food, courtesy of Jamie Oliver.

What can I say? Abt goes with everything from cheese to divorce. Its essential Abtiness is the perfect counterpoint to anythingness. So why shouldn't it go with Jamie?

We're having gammon for Christmas din. What goes with that? Bitterness and recriminations? Or maybe a nice dry sherry. Or Abt. That goes with anything.

Drinkalongathon 2015 - coffee and carols

When to open the Isay? Now. Dolores has insisted on putting some religious stuff on the telly. Something spritual. What better to accompany it than s spitit. Lagavullin 16-year-old, to be precise.

The coffee snuggles up nicely with the raw smokiness of the whisky. And the fuzziness in my head is perfect for annoying the god-bothering in the background.

"It's a bit early for whisky, isn' it, Ronald?"

Well, it's your fault, really. I don't say. Some things are best kept to yourself.

Wondering if we'll see the kids today. Andrew went to bed just before 8 AM. Alexei just as me and olores were getting up.

Drinkalongathon 2015 - bacon sarnie and Ij IPA

Dull, I know. I've gone for the same breakfast combo as last year.

Pacing, that's what Christmas day drinking is all about. Don't shoot yout bolt to early, is what I say. Or is it Dolores?

The bittery hoppiness of the IPA compares and contrasts with the salty baconiness of the, er, bacon. And co,plements perfectly the camp junkiness of Celebrity Come Dine With Me. It's the perfect start to a very special day.

Must nip off now to start sharpening my string. Remember it needs to be sharp at both ends. Schoolboy error to just sharpen one end.

Big question of the day: when do I open the Islay. Lagavullin this year, by the way. Bought it myself. Just as well, because none of the other bastards in my family bothered.

Drinkalongathon 2015 - prepare your egg and string

It's time to start preparing for today's big event. Time to sharpen your string and boil your egg.

 Note that you'll be needing a longer piece of string this year. All will become clear later.

Been a strange year, 2015. Who would have thought that my name would appear in the official BJCP style guidelines?

Must have some breakfast. What goes with bacon? I'll have a think. The classic 'Spoons option would be a pint of cask London Pride. Sadly not possible in Amsterdam.

Thursday 24 December 2015

Drinkalongathon 2015

It's almost that time of year again. When I share my Christmas Day drinking with you.

If you'd like to join, you'll need all the usual things: a crate of St. Bernardus Abt, a bottle of good Islay whisky, sherry, port, wine and, obviously, a boiled egg and a piece of string.

It should be lots of fun. I'm not totally sure because I normally can't remember anything after 11 AM.

Random Dutch beers (part eleven)

Back again with this bullshit. Not been feeling that great.

Another brewery without a brewery. Evidently, the beer is brewed at De Fontein in Stein.

The Sisters Brewery Drone Porter 5.8%
Fairly dark brown. Smells like beer and nothing obviously nasty. Not too bad up front - bit of sweetness, touch of cream - but after that there's a wave of vegetable nastiness, with a touch of roast lurking in shame at the back. Literally leaves a nasty taste in my mouth. Mr. sink here it comes. And only 3.10 for 33 cl. Nice label.

Next is one from another non-brewery, but whose beers have mostly been OK.

Pampus Seeheld Pale Ale 5.5%
I always open beer next to the sink. This beer reminded me why. It exploded out of the bottle, all over my hand, on the work surface, down the sink. I doubt I got 10 cl. in the glass. The few drops there are, have a mucky orange colour. From the aroma, I'd guess Warrior and Citra hops. But there's something else? What is that? Something older. Bramling Cross? Only joking. They've helpfully listed the hop varieties on the label. Quite nice and bitter. Is citra the one that has the disinfectant edge to it? Quite fruity underneath the bitterness. Just a shame it pre-emptively threw itself down the sink. I'd quite liked to have drunk it all. Unlike the first beer.

The address on the label isn't far from where I live. And I worked somewhere even closer, on the same street, Johan Huizingalaan.

Wednesday 23 December 2015

Let's Brew Wednesday - 1850 Truman Double Stout

You may have spotted a slight 1850’s theme going on. There’s a good reason for that.

The plan is for a book of the recipes I mostly publish every Wednesday. I’ve sort of assembled most of it. And I noticed that there were recipes from every decade 1800 to 1970. Except for the 1850’s. Basically it’s a hole we’re attempting to fill.

That was dull, wasn’t it? Best crack on with the recipe. Or at least my bit of bullshit that precedes the recipe.

Nothing about this beer is particularly odd. It has the standard mid-19th century Stout grist of pale, brown and black malt. Some brewers through in some amber malt, especially for the posher Stouts, but by no means all. The percentage of black malt generally increased as the century progressed.  By the 1890’s, it was up to around 10% of the grist, while brown malt was down to around 14%.

I’m a bit reluctant to draw too many conclusions from that. Black malt wasn’t just one thing. They varied, depending on the maltster and the requirements of the customer. The one Truman used in the 1890’s might have been less roasted and paler than the one they used in the 1850’s, hence the need to use more to achieve the same effect. On the other hand, the black malt might have remained similar and the beer become darker and roastier.

Interestingly, Truman didn’t include the black malt in the total for malt. Meaning they assumed minimal extract from it.

This is quite a strong beer for a Double Stout, and probably closer to a Triple or Imperial Stout. They brewed a weaker beer just called Stout that was around 1080º, while their standard Porter was 1065º. See how that compares to the Brown Beers of other London brewers:

London Porter and Stout 1849 - 1850
Year Brewery Beer OG
1850 Whitbread P 1063
1850 Whitbread S 1075
1850 Whitbread SSS 1092
1849 Barclay Perkins TT (Porter) 1061
1849 Barclay Perkins BSt 1092
1850 Barclay Perkins IBSt 1109
Whitbread brewing record held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number LMA/4453/D/09/044.
Barclay Perkins brewing record held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number ACC/2305/1/540.

IBSt, or Imperial Brown Stout, is the original Russian Stout. You can see that the terminology of the three doesn’t match. Truman Double Stout is about the same strength as Whitbread Triple Stout and Barclay Perkins BSt, which was their base level Stout. Complicated, isn’t it?

On that happy note, I’ll throw you over to Kristen . . . . .

Kristen’s Version:
Notes: It’s winter. Cold. Grey. Raining. At least if you are in the upperly hemispherical lattitudes… In the winter, I want dark beer. Specifically stout. Loads of it. Then again, in the summer, I want stout too. Merry Christmas/Summer, depending on where you lay your head.

Malt: Per most old schooly stouty stout recipes, this one is dominated by brown malt with some kick of black malt. Pick some good ones. I really like the Fawcett stuff. Don’t use ‘carabrown’ or whatever other poor ideas out there for making brown malt. If you can’t get it or use it, make something else as this beer will be very different. Two pale malts. Pick two…or one. Make it nice, it’s Christmas after all.

Hops: This beer is massively chuck full of hops. Loads of them. Loads and loads of them. I usually say make sure and use the low AA% stuff but, to me, this one can really do for a bit less greenery…like your mum’s garden. Anyway…high AA% will let this be drunk sooner for sure. Something citrusy, spicy or earthy plays well with the brown malt. Grapefruit not as well and dank and garlicky not at all.

Yeast: Same as the last one… You should have no problem with the beer finishing too dry with this one. The high mash temp, along with no sugar, should be easy to have a nice, rich finish. Just make sure it doesn’t finish too sweet!! A nice London ale yeast that lends some nice fruit but also will ferment this thing where it needs to finish.
Cask: Standard procedure:
1) let the beer ferment until finished and then give it another day or so. For me right around 5-7 days.
2) Rack the beer to your vessel of choice (firkin, polypin, cornie, whatever).
3) Add primings at ~3.5g/L
4) Add prepared isinglass at 1ml/L
5) ONLY add dry hops at 0.25g/l – 1g/L.
6) Bung it up and roll it around to mix. Condition at 55F or so for 4-5 days and its ready to go. Spile/vent. Tap. Settle. Serve at 55F.

Tuesday 22 December 2015

Bottled beer in the 1950’s – what type to make?

There was no doubt that a brewery of any size needed to produce bottled beer. But How? There were several options open to the 1950’s brewer.

Really, it was the brewer’s customers who would decide what was made.

“To-day practically every pleasure party goes out with a supply of bottled beer. All these considerations contribute to a greatly increased demand for bottled beers. Having definitely established the fact that a trade in bottled beer is to be commended, it becomes necessary to decide the system and conditions under which bottling is to be carried out. If character and fullness of palate are to be the governing factors then no further discussion is necessary. In spite of every endeavour, it cannot be denied that chilling, filtering and carbonating do reduce those characteristics. It is not to be wondered that, for a long time, well-known firms stipulated that their beers were bottled under normal conditions only, that is to say, without being chilled, filtered or carbonated.”
"Brewing Theory and Practice" by E. J. Jeffery, 1956, page 331.

Interesting that “normal conditions” once meant bottle conditioned. By the 1950’s artificially carbonated were the norm, but by no means universal. In particular, some of the most famous brands of bottled beer – Bass, Guinness and Worthington – continued to be bottle conditioned, not just in the 1950’s but to the 1970’s and beyond.

Brewers were in no doubt that bottle conditioning, if performed correctly, resulted in a superior-tasting product. But that wasn’t necessarily the drinker’s main concern. They were more interested in a nice clear beer and no wasteful sediment.

“If, on the other hand, it is found that the customers care little for these attributes, and prefer bottled beers which have been subjected to artificial processes, then it is useless to endeavour to force upon them anything else. In fact there is no doubt that the overwhelming demand is for bright bottled beer. It has been said that nowadays 'the public drink with their eyes', and demand brilliance. This may be illogical, for a hazy beer can be as wholesome as a bright one and a naturally conditioned beer will certainly have a fullness of palate to which a carbonated, filtered beer cannot attain. Again, of course, naturally conditioned beer requires careful storage, handling and pouring if the sediment is not to be disturbed and it is to be drunk at its best. These points have reacted in favour of bright filtered beers. As a result the number of brewers who brew their own naturally conditioned beer has decreased and most breweries produce filtered beers of their own brewing, and are content to bottle a few well known brands of naturally conditioned beers.”
"Brewing Theory and Practice" by E. J. Jeffery, 1956, page 331.

Some of that sounds like modern hipster barman talk: “a hazy beer can be as wholesome as a bright one“. Though I’m sure Jeffery would be appalled by the orange juice masquerading as beer nowadays.

To sum up: the public didn’t really appreciate naturally conditioned bottled beer, it was more trouble to make, harder to store and needed to be poured carefully. That’s why everyone brewed carbonated beer.

The last phrase refers to the beers mentioned above, Bass, Guinness and Worthington. As I’ve repeated many times, the way they got other brewers to sell their beer in their tied houses was to let them bottle themselves, so getting the profit from bottling.

These figures from before the war show that this beer from other brewers could add up to a considerable amount:

Whitbread sales of Porter & Stout 1929 – 1938 (barrels)
total Whitbread production Guinness & Bass total % Guinness & Bass
1929 481,663 45,595 527,258 8.65%
1930 492,605 50,064 542,669 9.23%
1931 466,218 45,245 511,463 8.85%
1932 416,623 37,977 454,600 8.35%
1933 437,102 39,192 476,294 8.23%
1934 476,205 41,528 517,733 8.02%
1935 494,715 41,773 536,488 7.79%
1936 510,260 41,344 551,604 7.50%
1937 528,725 41,353 570,078 7.25%
1938 538,914 39,077 577,991 6.76%
Whitbread archive document number LMA/4453/D/02/16
Whitbread brewing records

More details about the different types of bottled beer next. 

Monday 21 December 2015

Low-key day out

We were supposed to be at the Kerstbierfestival in Essen. Until we found out a couple of weeks ago that it was all-ticket this year and Saturday was already sold out. Bum.

“There’s a food festival at the Westergasfabriek, Ronald. Do you fancy going?”

“Why not?”

Unlike the Film Food Festival or Rollende Keukens, this only used one small part of the complex. Westergasfabriek is huge with a dozen or so former industrial buildings that have been converted into venues, bars and halls.

It’s dead handy living in Amsterdam. You just need to jump on a tram and you can be pretty much anywhere in half an hour. Two trams and 30 minutes later we were in the Westergasfabriek. Looking for the entrance to the hall.

“We should have walked the other side.” I say unhelpfully. We end up virtually circling the long building before finding the way in.

“I wonder where the vintage drinks are?”

“It’s vintage clothes, Ronald.”

“I’m sure you said vintage drinks.”

“No, I didn’t.”

“Well that’s what I heard.”

Bit of a disappointment, the lack of vintage drinks.

It’s low-key to the point of stasis inside. Which is just what I was after. We scout around the ethnic food stalls and note down a couple of possibilities before heading off to brewpub Troost next door. We’ll be eating later.

This is the second Troost location, the other being in De Pijp. One odd thing about both is that you can’t pay with cash, only a card. Not a problem for me, but could be for some visitors from abroad.

I notice a theme from their other gaff: uncomfortable seating. Made some sort of sense in the other place. Former school building, school-style chairs. Get that. My arse might have complained, but I got the theme. Here they've recreated something similar - steel tubing and plywood - for a reason I'm struggling to grasp. They hate my arse? No, can't be that. Trying to fit in with a similar theme?

Something more appropriate to the building - gas fittings-themed maybe - and some fucking cushioned seating would be nice. Or maybe they don't want boney-arsed wrinklies like me clogging up their pub.

As with the first brewpub, the brewing kit seems way out of scale. Is that a 20 or 30 hl brew house?* With how many conicals of double that size - 9 or 12?. It seems ridiculously over the top. Then I notice something. A sign saying that in addition to their own beers, they also offer some of the beers contracted brewed there. Ah, it’s starting to make sense. With so many breweries starting up with no kit, there must be quite a demand for contract brewing in Amsterdam.

“I’ll have a Weizen, Ronald.” Dolores likes her wheat beer.

I have a Troost Extra Stout. Very nice it is, too. Dark, full-bodied and roasty as a Stout should be. I notice a sign for Van Vollenhoven’s Stout, one of the contract-brewed beers on offer.

“Is the Van Vollenhoven’s the same beer as the Troost Extra Stout?” I ask the waitress. “Yes.”

I suppose two Stouts on draught was too much to hope for.

For my next beer I take an IPA. And Troost gin. Which unfortunately comes loaded with ice. Once me and Dolores have fished that out, it tastes OK. If a little vegetal. The IPA is fair enough, too. Not as florally fruity as ‘t Ij’s, but more bitter at the back end. Quite dark, too, but thankfully not murky.

Dolores has a Lager for her second beer. "The Weizen was nice, but 4.75 is too much." The Lager is under 3 euros.

Drinks drunk we head back to the food thing to pick up some food. Three Argentinian empanadas. One for us to share now, one each for the kids for tea. Very nice. Especially with the chili sauce. And only three euros a pop.

On the way home we nipped into Marks for some crumpets and a Sunday joint. Almost too much excitement for one day.

* Almost as stupid as ingredient-guessing, guessing the size of a brewhouse.

NeighbourFood Market
Held every third weekend of the month.

Brouwerij Troost Westergas
Pazzanistraat 27,
1014 DB Amsterdam.
Tel: +31 20 737 1028
Opening times:
Mon - Thur 16:00 – 01:00
Fri 16:00 – 03:00
Sat 12:00 – 03:00
Sun 12:00 – 24:00

Sunday 20 December 2015

Bottled beer in the 1950’s

Remember that ridiculously detailed look at cask beer in the 1950’s I posted earlier this year? I’ve finally got around to bottled beer. From the same book, of course, Jeffrey’s 1956 "Brewing: Theory and Practice".

Bottled beer was, as I’m sure you’re fed up of hearing, all the rage in the 1950’s. It was the only type of beer whose sales were increasing. Making it vital for brewers to have good bottling facilities and the right range of bottled products.

“The demand on the part of the beer drinking public for bottled beers has increased enormously during the past half  century. In the year 1900 bottled beer represented less than 5% of the total output in this country. The proportion had risen to 25% in 1939 and is now 35% (1954). It was estimated that during the latter year some 2,500,000,000 bottles of beer were produced in Great Britain: that is an average of 50 bottles per head of the population representing just over 6 gallons out of a total of 18 gallons per person per annum.”
"Brewing Theory and Practice" by E. J. Jeffery, 1956, page 330.

Undoubtedly the percentage of bottled beer would have been higher, had it not been for WW II. There was a shortage of glass for bottles and even wood for crates, which limited the amount a brewer could produce. (During the war Barclay Perkins regularly sent letters to their tenants warning them they would only get bottled beer delivered if they returned the empty bottles and crates.) Plus bottling used more energy than producing draught beer, which was another important consideration.

So around a third of beer was in bottled form. That’s even more significant when you realise 70-80% of beer was consumed in pubs at the time. There must have been a lot of customers drinking either bottled beer or draught and bottled beer mixed. The situation now is much more complicated. A much higher proportion of drinking goes on at home, so that naturally boosts the amount of bottled or canned beer sold. On the other hand, bottled beer is much less often consumed in pubs.

Here’s a table of draught vs. bottled, showing the ebb and flow in the late 20th century:

UK Draught and bottled beer 1970 - 2002
year draught can/bottle
1960 64 36
1970 73 27
1976 77.1 22.9
1980 78.9 21.1
1985 77.2 22.8
1986 75.8 24.2
1987 74.4 25.6
1988 73.4 26.6
1989 72.1 27.8
1990 71.6 28.4
1991 70.3 29.7
1992 69.3 30.7
1993 68.2 31.8
1994 67 33
1995 65.3 34.7
1996 65.4 34.5
1997 65 35
1998 63.9 36.1
2001 60.3 39.7
2002 58.3 41.7
British Beer and Pub Association

Bottled sales fell between 1960 and 1980, then started to rise again.

Why was the demand for bottled beer increasing in the 1950’s? I’ll let Jeffrey answer that:

“There are many reasons for this increasing demand for bottled beer. The trend in this direction was no doubt increased by higher prices owing to heavy duties. Formerly many beer drinkers could afford to buy a small cask, but now they cannot spare the prohibitive price for that amount. They have to be content with a number of bottles instead. Bottles are much easier to deal with than a cask in the home, and need no tapping and spiling. It must not be forgotten, too, that whereas when the beer was naturally conditioned a certain amount of beer and sediment had to be left in the bottles, nowadays every drop is available for consumption. With chilled and filtered beers there is no waste, a big consideration when the cost is taken into account. Undoubtedly, also, present-day gravities play an important part in the preference for bottled beers. The gravity is often so low that anything approaching reasonable condition is difficult to develop in draught beers. Artificial condition is introduced in bottled beers and makes them more palatable.”
"Brewing Theory and Practice" by E. J. Jeffery, 1956, page 330.

I believe that‘s the first time I’ve seen anyone say that low gravities caused problems in conditioning draught beer. The usual complaint is that it didn’t have a very long shelf-life and was easily messed by poor cellarmanship.

That’s a nice little introduction to the topic. Next we’ll be plunging into the ridiculous detail pool head first.

Saturday 19 December 2015

Random Dutch beers (part ten)

Hi there. Time for another of our little post-prandial whatever they ares. Chat, tasting, steaming pile of crap. The future will decide.

Weird experience, my visit to Ton Overmars between getting off the bus and throwing off my shoes at home. I didn't buy a single bottle of St. Bernardus. No Abt. No Prior. Just seven single beers. Clearly this beer-reviewing lark is getting out of hand.

Another from one of the brewery-less brewers:

Cinema Brewers Bock to the Future 6.5% ABV, 2.65 for 33cl
Full marks for the name. Slightly worried by the "Chocolate and vanilla porter" description. Muddy brown. Bit of a plippitty-ploppitty head. No, Swiss cheese head, full of holes. Malty sort of smell. Definitely chocolate in the gob. In an artificial flavour added way.* OK. Doesn't make me want to vomit or change religion. Like a couple of chunks of milk chocolate dissolved in Amstel Bok. Would be great, if I ate chocolate. Not to my taste.

"Do you want to try my beer, Andrew?"

Andrew briefly lifts his head from his soup and says, quietly, but firmly, "No."

"You know what to expect, don't you Andrew man?" says Dolores supportively.

"This one is too chocolately for me, Dolores."

She gets what I'm hinting at, but doesn't bite: "I'm too tired for all that now."

You'll have to take my word for it again.

The Sisters Brewery Queen Bee 7.7% ABV, €3.35 for 33cl
Naughty yellow, with a tinge of regret. A thorough beating lifts the head for a while, like a trout reaching for a fly. It soon sinks, like the heart of a teenage boy at each rejection. Smells hoppy. After my Uiltje embarrassment, I'll be steering well clear of ingredient-guessing. More twig than tropic in the hops. Bitter in a constructive way. And the bitterness hangs around, perhaps a little too long, like a crafty early-morning fart before the missus awakes.

* Based on my last attempt at ingredient guessing, I'm probably way off the mark and it's flavoured with the finest Venezuelan artisan chocolate.

Friday 18 December 2015

Last Of Scotland's Dry Towns Now Wet

Thought you'd like to know when this momentus occasion was:

"Last Of Scotland's Dry Towns Now Wet

(AP) - The Scots of Kirkintilloch voted 5,293-4,858 to allow pubs in the town for the first time in almost half a century.

Residents in 1920 voted pubs out under a local option and the drys won five polls in the 48 years since.

Kirkintilloch, a town of 24,000, was the last of Scotland's dry districts."
Sarasota Journal Jan 6th 1969
(Thanks to Alan of A Good Beer Blog for finding this.)

A surprisingly high turnout. And pretty close.

Branded Bitter in 1953

How could I have forgotten Bitter? Only the second most popular style of the day. I blame Pale Ale.

Because in my own table I make no distinction between Bitter and Pale Ale. I list both as Pale Ale. Why? Because there is no effing difference between them. Simple as that. No need to make things any more complicated than they already are. You can see the confusion of the two terms was common: several of the brands in the table are called Pale Ales.

I’m sort of wondering how they came to classify some beers as Pale Ales and others as Bitters. They haven’t even used the conventional Bitter = draught, Pale Ale = bottled divider. It all just seems . . . random.

As only one of the breweries – Everard’s – still exists, it should come as no shock that most of these beers are long gone. Ruddle’s County is the only one to have survived, though obviously not at its home brewery. I’m surprised it made the list. In the 1950’s, Ruddle’s was a tiny brewery in a not very fashionable part of the country.

I can remember seeing bottles of English Stock – with its distinctive, garish label – in Whitbread pubs in the 1970’s and 1980’s. Fremlins was, of course, long gone by then. But the brand continued a sort of zombie exietence. I was never tempted to try it, just intrigued by the odd labels.

Getting back to County, it was a very trendy beer, in its day, amongst nerdier drinkers. Never cared for it myself. I always found it too sweet and heavy. Mind you, I didn’t like their Ordinary Bitter, Blue, much more. Just one of those breweries whose beers just didn’t appeal for some reason.

Nice to see Newark beer Hole's Golden Age make the cut.

Branded Bitter in 1953
Brewery Brand Type
Hartley's Brewery Golden Star Best Bitter
G. Ruddle County Ale Best Bitter, bottled
Alton Court Brewery Diamond Pale Ale Bitter
Alton Court Brewery Queen's Ale Bitter
Bents Brewery King Hal Bitter
H. & G. Simonds Reading Pale Ale Bitter
James Hole Golden Age Bitter
Tennant Brothers Queen's Ale Bitter
Thomas Ramsden Riding  Bitter
Whitwell, Mark Amber Ale Bitter
Fremlins Ltd. English Stock Bitter Ale
The Ely Brewery Golden Gleam Bitter Ale
Moors' & Robson's Red Cap Bitter Beer
Buckley's Brewery Special Welsh Bitter, bottled
John Aitchison Best Cellar Bitter, bottled
West Auckland Brewery Oak Tree Bitter
Everard's Red Crown Burton Bitter
Duncan Gilmour Windsor Ale Draught Bitter
Newcastle Breweries Exhibition Pale Ale Draught Bitter
Lamb Brewery Rouser Strong Bitter
Brewery Manual 1953-1954, pages 382 - 394.

I’ve definitely not finished. I spotted some other categories I’ve missed when plucking this set.