Friday, 16 January 2015

American beer styles of the 1930’s – colour

As promised, I’m wringing the final drops of moisture out of the wet tea towel that is the Wahls’ "Beer from the Expert's Viewpoint". This time we’re looking at beer colour.

“Color, Clarity and Effervescence
The American public is disposed to judge beer according to visible properties like color, clarity and effervescence. Pale or extra pale beers may seem too dark to some. While dark beers are not generally flavored excepting probably in Bock beer season, that conforms with what we term the Lenten season, they are preferred by some connoisseurs who favor the Bavarian type of lager beer which differs from the light Pilsener generally served, in being of a less bitter type besides differences in color, clarity and effervescence. The color may not only be one of degrees of darkness but may suggest something faulty. It may appeal to the eye as reddish instead of purely dark. The latter characteristic comes naturally from the character of the malt in the process of kiln drying. Exceptionally high kiln dried malt is used in the manufacture of the celebrated Irish Stouts, like Guinness of Dublin. These beers are never reddish although they are very dark and sometimes almost black. This applies also to very dark lager beers, like the Kulmbacher.”
"Beer from the Expert's Viewpoint" by Arnold Spencer Wahl and Robert Wahl, 1937, pages 182 - 183.

I think there’s a misprint in there. Pretty sure that should read “dark beers are not generally favored .  . . “.

It’s pretty naïve believing colour in dark beer comes from highly-kilned malt. That’s not even totally true for Germany, where caramel or sinamar were/are used for colour.

Working out the colour of beer in the past is a really tricky. That’s why I’m always glad to see some numbers. Descriptions like “dark” or “brown” really don’t tell you much. So I’m delighted to see some hard figures here.

Color by Tintometer Scale
Scientifically the color is determined by reference to a color scale established somewhat on the method adopted for the degree of color introduced in laboratory examination tests by the Lovibond Tintometer Method.

To indicate the niceties required by scientific methods and at the same time giving an idea of the differences in color of beer we give the following scale of variation in color from Pilsener to Kulmbacher.

Pilsener......... 0.5— 0.7 cc n/10 iodine solution*
Dortmunder...... 0.7— 1.5 cc "
Wiener.......... 2.0— 3.5 cc   " '
Muenchener...... 3-5— 5.0 cc "
Bock and Salvator. 5.0— 8.0 cc "
Kulmbacher...... 8.0—14.0 cc "
Irish Stout......12.00—18.0 cc "
"Beer from the Expert's Viewpoint" by Arnold Spencer Wahl and Robert Wahl, 1937, page 183.

I’m surprised at how relatively pale Muenchener is. Only barely dark, by the look of it. While the bottom of the Vienna range looks yellow rather than amber or pale brown which you would expect. Whereas Kulmbacher, as billed, is near black.

It’s a shame that no American top-fermenting styles are listed. I’d love to know how dark Ales were back then. I suspect paler than British-brewed Ales.

“The color of the wort should be as near as possible that of the beer to be produced. It is described more minutely as light or dark Vienna and light or dark Bavarian. For Vienna beer it is not desirable to use color malt for deepening the color, which cannot be avoided, however, for Bavarian beers. The paler the color of the wort, the shorter should be the time of complete saccharification and the more sugar may and should the wort contain. The Lovibond tintometer is preferred for measuring color but when not available it is customary to determine the color of the wort by comparison with dilution of a tenth normal iodine solution.

* Amount in 100 cc of water.”
"Beer from the Expert's Viewpoint" by Arnold Spencer Wahl and Robert Wahl, 1937, pages 183 - 184.

So if you don’t use coloured malt in Vienna Lager how do you get the colour? Pretty sure the stuff about paler wort containing more sugar is total crap.

Pretty sure that’s it for this source. But not to worry. I’ll be starting on a Journal of the Institute of Brewing article next.

1 comment:

Matt said...

I can never see the word "Edelweiss" without thinking of Hylda Baker's retort to Jimmy Jewel in Nearest and Dearest that she'd been to the cinema and seen a film with a song about him in it, "Idle Swine". It's ruined The Sound of Music for me (that and the knowledge that they actually escaped Austria by taking a train to Italy.)