Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Brewing in the 1950’s – British barley (part two)

Right. Time for some more bullshit about British barley. Let me know when you start getting bored of all this stuff about the 1950’s. It won’t stop me writing about it, but it might make you feel a little better.

This recaps some stuff I discovered when at John Innes about the history of British barley varieties.

“British two-rowed barleys can be divided into two main groups; namely the Goldthorpe and Chevallier types. In the early part of the century Goldthorpe and Chevallier varieties represented practically the whole of malting barley grown in Britain, but gradually new varieties were produced by crossing and the original Goldthorpe and Chevallier barleys were gradually superseded by three varieties known as Plumage-Archer, Spratt-Archer and Standwell The last named, a variety of Goldthorpe, with thinner skin and a stronger straw, now appears to have been replaced by newer types, and in 1954 Plumage-Archer and Spratt-Archer still represented the largest proportion of malting barley in this country; but a newer hybrid Proctor, which is referred to again later, has gained in popularity so that in the 1955 season it represents some 55% of the total crop.”
"Brewing Theory and Practice" by E. J. Jeffery, 1956, page 129. 

Back in the late 19th century Chevallier was totally dominant. But that all changed in the 20th century when plant breeders began to cross varieties to increase the yield for farmers. Many brewers would have been happy to stick with Chevallier, because they liked the flavour of malt made from it.

Plumage-Archer is the barley from the malt used in first couple of Past Masters beers I did with Fullers. At the time, it was the oldest type of barley they could find.

Now this is interesting. Spratt-Archer were considered to be of the Chevallier type:

“The Chevallier type, represented nowadays by Spratt-Archer and similar varieties, is narrow-eared, thin-skinned and of a greyish rather than a golden appearance, even when ripe. Such barleys are usually grown on light chalky soils and, as they generally have a low nitrogen content, are suitable for the production of pale ales and for bright bottled beers.”
"Brewing Theory and Practice" by E. J. Jeffery, 1956, pages 129 - 130.

While Plumage-Archer was the Goldthorpe type:

“The Goldthorpe, type, now represented by Plumage-Archer, is a wide-eared barley with somewhat heavier grain and thicker skin. When ripe it has a golden yellow colour, and is somewhat coarser in appearance than Spratt-Archer. It is suitable for growing on heavy, richer soils and may have higher nitrogen content as a result. Malt made from it is not so suitable for pale ale brewing as is that made from Spratt-Archer, although it can be blended with the latter for this purpose. A number of new varieties have been introduced in the last ten years. One such variety is Earl, introduced in 1947 and derived from Spratt-Archer. It has the advantage of earlier ripening and the grain is usually rather larger and more rounded.”
"Brewing Theory and Practice" by E. J. Jeffery, 1956, page 130.

When they say an ingredient was suitable for Pale Ales and bottled beers that means they’re top class. So clearly Spratt-Archer was considered superior to Plumage-Archer. Fascinating that the two varieties preferred different types of soil. That would imply that they were grown in different parts of the country.

Lots more of this coming. Next time about the new varieties available in the 1950’s.

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