Friday, 23 January 2015

American brewing in the 1930’s - materials

More numbers. Lots of them. It’s happy day for me, if not for you.

I’m really glad to get the numbers below. Why? Because they give the true picture of adjunct use in the USA. And because I’ve similar numbers for the UK. Perfect for a little compare and contrast session.

“The quantities of materials used in 1935 are given in Table II.

Table II
Brewing Materials Used in 1935
cwt. Per cent. on malt.
Malt 15,408,357
Maize and corn products 3,043,224 19.75
Rice 1,247,580 8.1
Sugar and syrups 1,387,273 9
Hops 283,740

The average hop rate, expressed in English measures, would thus be 6.18 lb. per quarter of malt; 4.6 lb. per quarter of all materials; or 0.9 lb. per British barrel.”
Journal of the Institute of Brewing, Volume 42, Issue 5, September-October 1936, page 416.

A quick reformatting of the table is probably more useful, as if shows the percentage of malt and adjuncts used:

Brewing Materials Used in 1935
cwt. %
Malt 15,408,357 73.07%
Maize and corn products 3,043,224 14.43%
Rice 1,247,580 5.92%
Sugar and syrups 1,387,273 6.58%
total 21,086,434 100.00%

You may remember that the Wahls reckoned Lagers used about 30% adjuncts. Taken over the industry as a whole, the figure is 27% - not a million miles away from the Wahls’ claim.

How does that compare with the UK? Like this:

Brewing Materials Used in the UK in 1935
cwt. %
malt 8,444,452 79.10%
unmalted corn 10,956 0.10%
rice, maize, etc 587,841 5.51%
sugar 1,631,926 15.29%
total 10,675,175 100.00%
Brewers' Almanack 1955, page 62

Adjunct usage in Britain wasn’t just lower, the forms used differed. The use of rice and corn was four times higher in the US, while less than half the proportion of sugar was used. The pattern is clear. Britain loved sugar, the USA maize.

It makes sense on several levels. Sugar was often used for colouring in Britain. But in the USA, where most beer was very pale, sugar wasn’t needed for this purpose. Maize was widely grown and cheap in the USA, but had to be imported into Britain. Sugar, on the other hand, was produced in the UK from sugar beet.

Now for hopping. Time for another table:

Brewing materials in the UK (cwt)
year malt unmalted corn rice, maize, etc sugar hops bulk barrels lbs hops/ qtr lbs hops/ brl.
1930 10,080,120 25,765 762,633 1,835,238 307,289 24,488,629 7.58 1.41
1931 9,119,236 22,725 688,850 1,698,163 277,406 22,561,497 7.53 1.38
1932 7,115,230 12,586 533,405 1,377,126 219,587 18,864,711 7.59 1.30
1933 7,239,776 12,294 521,151 1,379,965 222,868 18,931,185 7.61 1.32
1934 7,995,574 11,816 547,865 1,543,228 233,419 20,378,879 7.22 1.28
1935 8,444,452 10,956 587,841 1,631,926 248,744 21,598,179 7.27 1.29
1936 8,646,322 10,734 592,734 1,705,418 258,300 22,207,859 7.35 1.30
Brewers' Almanack 1955, page 62

As you probably guessed, hopping rates were considerably higher in the UK, around 1.3 lbs per barrel compared to 0.9 lbs in the USA. But remember that American beer was on average stronger. The hopping rate per quarter is a fairer way to compare the hopping of beers of different strengths: 7.5 lbs per quarter of all materials compared to 4.6 lbs in the USA.

Here’s a nice table of that information:

Hopping rates in 1935
USA UK % difference
lbs / brl 0.9 1.29 43.33%
lbs / qtr 4.6 7.27 58.04%
Brewers' Almanack 1955, page 62
Journal of the Institute of Brewing, Volume 42, Issue 5, September-October 1936, page 416.

Next time we’ll be looking at taxes and other costs.


Gary Gillman said...

That's an acute explanation of the differences a Michael Jackson could identify between the traditions of English brewing he lauded and the the one he found wanting America in the late 1970's. Budweiser, which Jackson said had 70% malt, quite consistently for earlier in the century it seems, seemed light years from the average bitter, say (a widely available beer type of the 30's), yet all that separated them on average was 10% of adjunct/sugar and more hops in the English product. But it was these two things that made the crucial difference, essentially nothing else.

Michelob, said Michael, used 80% malt, so one would think it would be more comparable in palate impact to a British ale. It didn't, due IMO to using less hops but also pasteurization and robust filtration of the bottled product.

Of course I'd never claim lager and ale taste "the same" but I am speaking of palate impact and quality. Few would dispute that Pilsner Urquell or the good Munich helles beers are on a quality par with the best British ales (now getting blurred due to the influence of American pale ale and IPA but that doesn't affect the point I'm making).

Maybe one could argue that dry-hopping added an additional quality to the English beers, but not all were or are dry-hopped, e.g. milds would not have been but even many pale ales.

Good work, as usual.


Pat said...

Any idea if the hops were still mostly domestic Cluster hops, or by the 1930s were they importing more German Noble hops (or English hops, for that matter)?

I'm curious when the US started either importing lots of German hops for all the Pilsnery type lagers they were producing, or else started growing their own. I assume by the late 1930s, if US brewers were importing hops they were probably getting nervous about supplies getting suddenly cut off, but I'd be interested if you have any further info.

Ron Pattinson said...


in the 19th century lots of German hops were imported. But in the 1930's, there was a high import duty on hops that made them very expensive. Most of the hops being used were grown domestically.