Tuesday, 6 January 2015

American beer styles of the 1930’s – Stock Ale

We’ve now wandered from the woods of bottom-fermentation into the garden of Ales. Don’t worry. We’re getting close to done.

The first top-fermenter we’ll look at is American Stock Ale. This had been around for a while, probably since at least the middle of the 19th century and was derived from English Keeping or Stock Beers. Though the American versions had fared somewhat better than their British counterparts: by the 1930’s very few Stock Beers of any type were being brewed in Britain. The occasional strong Stout or Old Ale was about all that remained and the quantities brewed were tiny.

American Stock Ale
If an alcoholic content is desired in a brewed product higher than the Muenchener type of beer, the preferred method of brewing is with ale production methods. A brewed product with 6% alcohol by weight has such a large proportion of alcohol that its taste cannot readily be covered even with the flavor derived from malt and it is then necessary to use an entirely different yeast in its production. This is best accomplished by using top fermenting yeast and fermenting at relatively high temperatures. The flavor resulting from this type of fermentation is stronger and readily covers the ordinary alcohol taste.”
"Beer from the Expert's Viewpoint" by Arnold Spencer Wahl and Robert Wahl, 1937, page 172.

I find the first statement an intriguing one. Is it really true that you needed a top-fermenting yeast to cover up the alcohol flavour? I do know that it’s rare to find bottom-fermenting beers above 7.5% ABV (6% ABW). The Wahls do seem to have a thing about the alcohol flavour. And keep using it as an excuse to load up grists with adjuncts.

“The English method of brewing ale requires mashing in at relatively high temperatures (150 degrees F.) but it is preferred in making a stable bottle ale for American consumption to use all the principles of fine brewing such as observance of proper peptonization temperatures and the proper rest for saccharification, it being desirous in brewing ale to have a high percentage of sugar in the wort. Therefore, we prefer to brew American stock ales using regular mashes of the type for brewing a strong Pilsener beer, that is, a substantial percentage of brewing adjuncts and a strong powerful low-dried malt. Such a brew in the kettle will be approximately 13% original extract to which sugars are added to build up the original extract in the final wort to 16% or over. This type of ale should have a proper bitter character requiring approximately .7 pounds hops per barrel and after proper fermentation and storage the ale should be dry hopped considerably to give it the added fragrance of fresh hops. (See analysis on American Stock Ale.)”
"Beer from the Expert's Viewpoint" by Arnold Spencer Wahl and Robert Wahl, 1937, pages 172 - 173.

So they basically just mashed it like any other beer and used the same base of pilsner malt as their Lagers did. And, just like the Lagers, the grist was loaded up with adjuncts. I assume though that the colour was darker than Lagers, so where did the colour come from? There’s no mention of any darker mats. But . . . .

There is a lot of sugar being added in the copper. Raising the OG from 13º to 16º Balling implies that sugar forms about 19% of the grist. If there was the usual 30% unmalted grain, that’s leaving the malt component at barely more than 50%.

The hopping doesn’t seem very high to me. And it’s not much higher than for the other styles, despite having a higher gravity and supposedly having a bitter taste.

Compare the hopping with that of these Barclay Perkins beers:

Barclay Perkins Strong beers in 1928
Beer Style OG FG OG Plato ABV App. Atten-uation lbs hops/ qtr hops lb/brl hops lb/US brl dry hops (oz / barrel)
IBS Stout 1060.6 1021.0 14.92 5.24 65.35% 9.00 2.25 1.61 0.00
KK bottling Strong Ale 1069.4 1021.5 16.96 6.34 69.04% 11.00 2.99 2.15 8.00
PA export Pale Ale 1058.6 1017.5 14.44 5.43 70.12% 9.00 2.15 1.54 4.00
Barclay Perkins brewing record held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number ACC/2305/01/614.

The closest in terms of style and gravity is the KK Bottling, which was Barclay Perkins’ Old Ale. You can see that it’s hopped at three times the rate recommended for an American Stock Ale.

I wonder what quantity of dry hops was added to American Stock Ale? The half pound per barrel KK got is quite a lot. I can’t imagine it was anything like that much, based on the amount of copper hops.

Before I forget: remember that IPAs of the period were Stock Ales. Judging by descriptions of Ballantine India Pale Ale, it was considerably more heavily hopped than the Wahls recommended. But I suppose that beer was a bit of an exception.

Here’s the Stock Ale analysed by the Wahls:

Reported by Wahl Institute, April 2, 1936
This beer is composed of the following substances, reported in percentages or pounds per hundred:
Alcohol (by weight) 6.06
Real extract (dry substance) 4.2
Carbonic acid 0.59
Water 89.15
The real extract (4.2) is made up of the following substances:
In Percentage  In Percentage
of the beer  of the extract
Acid (lactic) 0.117 2.79
Acid salts 0.144 3.43
Protein 0.424 10.1
Ash 0.132 3.14
Sugar (reducing) 1.61 38.33
Dextrins 1.773 43.21
4.2 100
The following are important brewing figures:
Specific gravity of beer 1.007
Original balling of wort 16.32
Apparent extract of beer (balling) 1.65
Real attenuation 12.12
Fermentable sugar in the wort 13.93
Apparent attenuation 14.67
Alcohol (by volume) 7.58
Percent of extract fermented 74.3
Percent of extract unfermented 25.7
Percent of sugars in original wort 85.3
Percent of non-sugars in original wort 14.7
pH value 4.3
Total acidity 0.261
Carbonic acid by volumes 3
Amylo dextrins none
Beer from the Expert's Viewpoint by Arnold Spencer Wahl and Robert Wahl, 1937, page 178.

I’m struck by the very low finishing gravity. Which gives an apparent attenuation of 90%. You know what it reminds me of? Bottled Bass Pale Ale of the 19th century. That sometimes went up to 95% attenuation. But then again, that was getting help from Brettanomyces.

The loads of sugar added in the copper doubtless aided attenuation. You’ll note that the percentage of sugars in the wort was very high at 85%. The other styles we’ve seen were around 70%

I suppose the low FG would have made such a beer taste more bitter as the hops would have had little to compete with.

I’m slightly surprised that the lactic acid level is about the same as for the other styles. Then again, I doubt these beers underwent a real secondary fermentation where lactic acid would have developed.

Just one more style to go: Half and Half. And no, it’s not what you think.


Craig said...

I took a look at what Amsdell was doing 30 years prior to there stock ales—dry hop-wise. They indicate “hands” of hops going into their post fermented brews. For example, their December 22, 1904, Diamond Stock Ale had “4 hands of hops” added to the final yield of 208 barrels, when it was racked on January 4. 

This “hand” measurement seems to be consistent throughout their labeled “Stock” brews, usually 2 to 4 “hands” depending on the brew. With one exception—their Stock porter. A true measured amount is recorded—usually 20  to 25 lbs  of “new” hops for a 180-ish total barrel yield. the Stock porter entries are the only recipes (at least from the 1904-05 logs) that offer the poundage info

Interestingly, this may be a clue as to the difference between Amsdell’s Stock and standard Porter. While the Stock recipe lists a measure amount, their standard porter recipe from June 17, 1905 again  lists “hands” rather than the true measurement. 

So, the question is how much was a “hand”?

I have not had a chance to look at the older logs (1900-01), I’ll do that tonight!

Ron Pattinson said...


that's very interesting. I'd guess that a "hand" is a handful. Which wouldn't be a huge amount. I can't see how a measure called that could ever be very big.

Rod said...

I've met several old-school British brewers who have referred to a measure that is known as a SBH, which puzzled me until I worked out that it means a "standard brewer's handful".

Craig said...

Exactly, and I'd guess that even if a handful was enough hops to be grasped between two hands, four "hands" would never equal 20 to 25 pounds.

J. Karanka said...

I've read this stuff for ages and I'm still really curious about stock ale. Must be because it's close to extinct and you don't really bump into down the pub. When homebrewing... Should I consider adding some Brett to a KKK type beer and dry hop when it slows down? The attenuation does often not seem to match the extra attenuation of Brett, but that might be because it wasn't recorded or something. Or should I keep my stock ales pretty clean? How to get a 90% attenuation on a (stock) pale ale and a 75% attenuation in a fairly similar, and similarly aged, stock ale? :-D

The more I read, the more puzzled I am! Modern IPAs seem to lack that utter dryness. Would make a great summer drink. The most similar thing I can think about, relatively pale, dry hopped, dry finishing, medium strength, etc., is Orval. I'm rambling.

Ron Pattinson said...

J. Karanka,

I'd add Brettanomyces. The FG's I give are racking gravities at the end of primary. I know from Russian Stout that there was a big difference between that and the real FG.

Orval is probably the modern beer most similar to a 19th-century Stock IPA.

J. Karanka said...

That makes perfect sense now. Was gravity of pale ales that high at racking then?In any case, some KK with Brett in the pipeline for March brewing then.

Ron Pattinson said...

J. Karanka,

Pale Ales had higher gravities at racking time, too, but not quite as high as K Ales.