Monday 30 November 2015

Random Dutch beers (part three)

More of this stodge. You'll have noticed I'm no Beer Nut.

Don't expect any particular logic to the selection of beers. It's just whatever caught my eye at Ton Overmars. I attempt a bit of variety. Tempting as it is to just get a crate of Abt and a half crate of Prior every Saturday.

Christoffel Nobel 8.7% ABV
Dry-hopped strong pale beer., it's described as. It's a slightly hazy gold. Looks quite pretty, especoially with the foamy, almost Duvel-like head. Ever had a strong Dutch Lager? Bavaria 8.6, Grolsch Het Canon, that sort of thing? It's similar to those, but bitterer. Has the same underlying malty warmth. I could imagine necking a can or two of this on the top deck on an NS train on the way to Bodegraven. Three cans more like. It takes the best part of an hour. Even better than Gordon's Platinum. And that's journey-shortener supreme.

"Like some of the beers from Butcher's Tears. The ones I don't like." Dolores comments in her usual, brutally-honest way. She does really like some of their beers. Green Cap, in particular.

Next - a beer from Butcher's Tears.

La Condition Humaine IV Forgotten in Space 6% ABV
Erik likes odd names. Not sure what the name means. I've read the book. In French. (During my long only reading French period. That left me better read in French literature than English.) Can't remember bugger all about it, other than it's set in 1920's China. Not sure what relevance that has. It's golden, a bit hazy - I did buy it just 45 minutes ago at Ton Overmars.* Smells sort of fruity. In a good way. Yeah. Gently punches some spot. Wish I'd poured it a bit clearer.

Another Butcher's Tears beer:

The Last possession 5% ABV
Darker, this one. Just about amber in colour. Smells a bit spicy. Damn that's bitter. Really bitter. No. Don't really like this one.

"Andrew, try this."

"What is it?"

"A beer from Butcher's Tears."

He takes a sip.

"It's OK. Similar to what I've tasted before from those kinds of breweries."

Praise indeed.

* "You're paying for his retirement." Dolores always says.

Sunday 29 November 2015

Hammonds international collaboration

Bottling was of vital importance to brewers in the 1950’s. Bottled beer was the only place there was any growth and breweries were keen to cash in.

But a lack of investment in the 1940’s had left many with far from optimal bottling arrangements. Once restrictions on building works were lifted, ambitious breweries like Hammonds were keen to put that right. Where would you go for the latest bottling expertise? Surprisingly, Denmark was a good choice.

There was a big shift to bottled beer in Denmark in the early 20th century. Something similar happened in many countries, but in few as dramatically as in Denmark. Draught beer became very scarce, even in pubs. That situation still prevailed when I first visited Copenhagen in the late 1980’s. The resurgence of draught beer in Denmark has gone hand in hand with a renewed interest in beer in general.

This gives an idea of the importance of bottled beer in Denmark:

Beer Sales (Carlsberg Brewery) in Barrels.
Bottled. Cask. Total. % bottled
1914-15 250,300 19,200 269,600 92.84%
1916-16 270,100 19,200 280,300 96.36%
1916-17 281,300 40,000* 321,300 87.55%
1917-18 182,000 18,900 195,900 92.90%
1918-19 254,800 17,600 272,400 93.54%
1919-20 406,400 21,400 447,800 90.75%
* Including 25,000 hectl. Pilsener at 18 Balling exported to Germany.
Journal of the Institute of Brewing 1921, page 28.

So no surprise that Hammonds looked to Carlsberg and Tuborg to help them out with their bottling plant:

"The way was now clear to consider serious and extensive changes to the brewing and bottling resources of the Hammonds' group of companies. Bottling was the first priority, being carried out in several locations in old buildings and with outdated equipment. The directors had a connection with the Danish brewery companies of Carlsberg and Tuborg, and through them engaged a Danish consultant engineer. Visits were made to Copenhagen and Elsinore to see modern bottling plants, and the consultant began work on designs. Unfortunately, he did not come up to expectation and an approach was made to Hammonds' friends at Ind Coope & Allsopp for assistance."
"The Brewing Industry 1950 - 1990", by Anthony Avis, 1997, page 35.

Elsinore is normally called Helsingborg Helsingør nowadays. Shame it didn’t work out with the Danes.

Saturday 28 November 2015

Random Dutch beers (part two)

More beers I just happen to have drunk recently. Not sure what interest any of this crap is to you. Or me, fo that matter.

Zwarte Piet Bitterzoet 5.5% ABV
Here's a controversial beer, as the label should tell you. Zwarte Piet (Black Pete) is Sinter Klaas's helper. But, unfortunately for modern sensibilites, he's portrayed by someone white blacked up a la Black & White Minstrels. There's nothing on the label to say where or by whom it was brewed. Probably just as well. It tastes like watered-down Bok (it's 5.5% ABV). With added sweetener. Very metallic. Weird vegetable aroma. Not at all nice. Soon it will be making acquaintance with my sink. Then I'll give my Chimay glass a good rinse and pour myself a well-deserved Abt.

Sinterklaas Bier 7.5% ABV
Rather less contentious, this one. A nice spicy aroma.

"What are you smelling, Dad?"
"Try it, Lexie."
"It's like pepernoten*."
"I guess that's the idea."
 "You know that he's Turkish, Dad, Sinter Klaas?"

Bit thin, but OK. Wonder who brewed it?

Hertog Jan Grand Prestige 10% ABV
Used to be the strongest beer brewed in Holland. And something special. But Dutch beer has moved on. Will the years have been kind to this grand old lady? Smells nice and strong. Rum-soaked raisins or some such bollocks. Sweet, bit spicy, some bitterness, liquorice. OK. Just banged out more of the carbonation and it's much better. Rich and bittersweet.

"Try this Dolores"
"It looks like one of those horrible dark beers."
Drinks tentatively, nose withdrawn, face tensed. Then suddenly relaxes.
"A bit watery."
"Watery, Ronald."
"It's 10% ABV."
"Tastes watery to me."

* A sort of spiced small biscuit the Dutch eat for Sinterklaas.

Friday 27 November 2015

Strong Ale in 1960

I’m starting to realise just how many series of posts I’ve left hanging, uncompleted. Time for some tidying up.

Only two posts away from the, er, finishing post on this one. Quickly rattle through this and I’m almost done. Almost.

The Which? report didn’t include a huge number of Strong Ales. Just five in total. But do you know the weird thing? I’ve brewing records for three of them: the two Younger’s beers and Final Selection. Though not for this exact year.

The one beer in the set that I’ve drunk, the legendary No. 3, is shockingly poor value. Especially if you compare it to Younger’s other Strong Ale. No. 1 (King of Ales) is just 2d more a pint, but around 50% stronger. I know which one I’d have been drinking.

Actually, that wasn’t quite right when I said No. 3 was the only one I’d drunk. Pretty Things brewed a very tasty version of Younger’s No. 1 based on the 1949 recipe. Really very nice. It was amusing too read geeks saying it was a typical Scotch Ale when the recipe bore no resemblance to the style guidelines. Not a single person spotted the secret ingredient: lactose.

I’m surprised at the relatively low level of bitterness. Especially in Final Selection as I know that it contained more the 2lbs of hops per barrel. Double the amount in King of Ales and triple the amount in No. 3.

Once again, I didn’t have enough examples from 1960 in my collection so have also used ones from 1959 and 1961. I hope you don’t mind.

As you can see, they’re all over the place in terms of strength. From the sublime Royal Toby to the ridiculous Hancock’s Strong Ale. Clearly Strong Ale was a pretty vague concept and being strong wasn’t an essential requirement.

Colour is also hugely variable, from the shade of a pale Bitter (Treble Gold) to near-black (King & Barnes Strong Ale). With most of the colours between those two extremes also represented. Though the average of just over 80 is about the shade I would expect a Strong Ale to be – dark brown.

Mansfield’s Golden Drop is spectacularly poor value – around a third more expensive than the average. While Stroud’s Charter Brew manages to be almost as cheap as Treble Gold, the only draught beer in the set. The very high degree of attenuation helps.

Strong Ale in 1960
Brewer Beer Price per pint d OG FG ABV App. Atten-uation Index of Hop Bitter price per % ABV
John Smiths Magnet Old Ale 28 1070.2 1021.7 6.30 69.09% 43 4.45
Younger, Wm. Younger's King of Ales  32 1065.9 1019 6.10 71.17% 25 5.25
Thwaites Old Dan 35 1074.6 1016.5 7.60 77.88% 30 4.61
Whitbread Final Selection Extra Strong Ale 36 1077.7 1013.7 8.40 82.37% 34 4.28
Younger, Wm. Younger's No. 3 Scotch Ale 30 1046.2 1013.05 4.30 71.75% 25 6.98
32.2 1066.9 1016.8 6.54 74.45% 31.4 5.11
Which Beer Report, 1960, pages 171 - 173.

Strong Ale 1959 - 1961
Date Beer Price per pint d OG FG ABV App. Attenu-ation colour price per % ABV
Adnams Fisherman Strong Ale 28.5 1044.3 1014.3 3.88 67.72% 115 7.34
Bentleys Old Timothy 45 1074.5 1015.1 7.43 79.73% 65 6.06
Charrington Royal Toby 1077.8 1018.9 7.70 75.71% 45
Eldridge Pope Dorset Special Ale 1076.1 1019.9 7.33 73.85% 90
John Groves Stingo 1062.4 1009.5 6.93 84.78% 125
King & Barnes Golding Ale 1070.4 1017.1 6.95 75.71% 50
King & Barnes Strong Ale 1044 1011.8 4.18 73.18% 130
Lees Strong Ale 1070.0
Mansfield Brewery Golden Drop 54 1055.4 1014.9 5.06 73.10% 80 10.67
Meux Treble Gold (draught) 20 1042.7 1010.4 4.19 75.64% 21 4.77
Peter Walker Merrie England Strong Ale 51 1073.8 1023.2 6.32 68.56% 75 8.06
Ramsdens ??? Strong Ale 40 1064.8 1018.1 6.07 72.07% 70 6.59
Strong Strong 'un 1040.3 1010.2 3.91 74.69% 100
Stroud Brewery Co Charter Brew 37 1058.5 1006.3 6.85 89.23% 65 5.40
Whitakers Ramtam Strong Ale 54 1070.6 1024.8 5.93 64.87% 70 9.10
Whitakers Strong Shire Ale 24 1042.2 1017 3.25 59.72% 70 7.38
Greene King Suffolk Ale 51 1056.8 1015.7 5.14 72.36% 70 9.93
Hancock, Cardiff Strong Ale 1030
Lees Strong Ale 1070.0
St. Austell Brewery Smugglers Ale 45 1068 1019.6 6.05 71.18% 100 7.44
Watney Burton Ale 32 1053.6 1019.7 4.38 63.25% 125 7.31
Lees Strong Ale 1076.0
Offilers, Derby Derby Strong 34 1045.4 1013.6 3.98 70.04% 75 8.55
Average 39.7 1059.5 1015.8 5.55 72.92% 81.1 7.58
“Cardiff Pubs and Breweries” by Brian Glover, 2005. pages 97-101
Lees brewing records
Whitbread Gravity book held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number LMA/4453/D/02/002.

We’ll be finishing with Lagers in the final instalment.

Wednesday 25 November 2015

Let's Brew Wednesday – 1958 Fullers London Pride

This is a beer you may possibly have heard of. I’ve heard it’s quite popular.

It certainly is with Dolores. Pride is her preferred drink, when in London. Though you’ll notice that the brewhouse name wasn’t LP, as in later logs, but SPA. Which presumably stands for Special Pale Ale. I’m not sure exactly when it was introduced, but it seems to have been sometime in the early 1950’s. Something called Best PA appears in the Whitbread Gravity Book in 1951. It looks very similar to Pride in gravity. The first mention of London Pride in the Gravity Book is in 1953.

Many brewers took the opportunity to introduce a stronger Bitter in the 1950’s. Wartime restrictions had killed forced Bitters to drop below 4% ABV. Both Watney and Youngs called theirs Special Bitter, beers of a similar strength to London Pride. They sold for 2d a pint more than Ordinary Bitter. A premium I’d be willing to pay for the extra oomph.

It’s a simple recipe. Which I’ve made even simpler by replacing the glucose and the proprietary sugar PEX with more No.2 invert. The sugar content is quite low. 10% to 15% was more usual. In case wondering, the current version of London Pride has quite a different grist. Fullers now brew all-malt. There’s 5% crystal malt, 0.25% chocolate malt and the rest is pale malt.

The original mashing scheme was an underlet mash. It started at 144º F and stood for half an hour. There was then an underlet that raised the temperature to 152º F and it was stood for 2 hours. Feel free to replicate that if you want to go for full authenticity.

That’s all I can think of so over to me for the recipe . . . . .

1958 Fullers SPA
pale malt 7.75 lb 79.49%
flaked maize 1.50 lb 15.38%
no. 2 sugar 0.50 lb 5.13%
Fuggles 90 min 1.00 oz
Fuggles 60 min 0.75 oz
Goldings 30 min 0.75 oz
OG 1043.2
FG 1011.4
ABV 4.21
Apparent attenuation 73.61%
IBU 34
SRM 12
Mash at 152º F
Sparge at 165º F
Boil time 90 minutes
pitching temp 60º F
Yeast WLP002 English Ale

Tuesday 24 November 2015

Branded Brown Ale in 1953

Enjoying this series? I think I am. Not totally sure. Let me get back to you in a day or two.

Brown Ale. One the favourite styles of the 1950’s. Which is why I’m surprised there are relatively few examples, a mere 17. 16, really, because Southwarke Ale (as it’s really spelled) is an Old Ale. Not difficult to work out. That’s how it’s described on the label. Their Brown Ale was called Doctor Brown. Which for some reason doesn’t make the list.

Flowers had a whole bunch of Brown Ales – Poacher, Brownex, to name two – though some were from the J.W. Green portfolio. At this point the two were still separate companies. Whitbread also had another Brown Ale, Double Brown. That was their original Brown Ale, stronger and more bitter than was usual by the 1950’s. It was already taking a back seat to Forest Brown, a more typical type, and would be phased out within a couple of years. Forest Brown continued through the Whitbread period as the group’s flagship Brown Ale.

Simmonds Berry Brown Ale was a big brand in its day, brewed not just in Simonds’ own Reading brewery, but at other plants they owned, too. It was a big enough brand to survive the Courage takeover, though with the name changed to Courage Berry Brown Ale. I wonder how long it lasted? That got me wondering: what was Courage’s own version called? About as dull as you could get: Courage Brown Ale.

What’s left of this lot? Double Maxim. Though even that has long left its home brewery. Will Brown Ale die out? Probably not as long as Newcastle Brown still retains popularity. But I can’t see it becoming part of a brewery’s standard range again.

Branded Brown Ale in 1953
Brewery Beer Type
Whitbread Forest Brown Brown
Barclay Perkins Southwark Ale Brown Ale
Flowers Anchor Brown Ale
Fremlins Double Elephant Brown Ale
H. & G. Simonds Berry Brown Ale
John Smith's Tawney Brown Ale
Meux's Brewery Winter Ale Brown Ale
Mitchells & Butlers Sam Brown Brown Ale
Star Brewery Old Star Brown Ale
T. Losco Bradley Red Lion Brown Ale
Thompsons Brewery Bell Brown Ale
Tomson & Wotton Double Thatch Brown Ale
Westoe Breweries Lifeboat Brown Ale
Wm. Younger Castle Brown Ale
Vaux Double Maxim Brown Ale, bottled
Higson's Brewery Double Top Brown Ale, bottled
Yates's Castle Brewery Cobnut Brown Ale, bottled
Brewery Manual 1953-1954, pages 382 - 394.

Stout next, I think.

Monday 23 November 2015

Glückauf Brauerei, Gersdorf

More DDR brewery fun. I've neglected it a little recently.

A shame, because Dolores got me a dead handy book, "Die Biere des Ostens", for my birthday. It's all about the breweries of the former DDR. A bit old, but still handy. For example, it tells me that Glückauf brewed 60,000 hl a year in 2004 when the book was published.

I'd been wanting to write something about the Glückauf brewery, just beacuse I like their labels so much. Well, some of them. One set is pretty dull.

Gersdorf is a small town about 15 km west of Karl-Marx-Stadt, sorry, Chemnitz, in the state of Saxony. The brewery was founded in 1880, nationalised in 1946 and sold to management in 1991. Between 1995 and 1998 a completely new brewery was built and the old one turned into a museum. As far as I can tell, it's still privately owned.

here are some lovely old seals:

Notice the unusual beer in there? Pilsner Schankbier. I've never come across another. Nor seen a mention of one anywhere. Judging by the label, it must be pretty early. It doesn't even state the price.

The next set aren't quite so pretty, but do give an idea of the range they brewed.

All three of those are still brewed. Or at least there's still a Pils, Helles and Dunkles Bock in their range. Tale a look:

Glückauf beers in 2015
Beer Style OG Plato FG Plato ABV App. Atten-uation
Pilsener Pils 11.50 2.20 4.90 81.57%
Premium Pils Pils 11.60 2.30 4.90 80.87%
Edel Helles 11.70 2.41 4.90 80.19%
Kräusenbier Kellerbier 11.50 2.01 5.00 83.19%
Bock Bock, Dunkel 16.00 4.34 6.30 74.11%
Schwarzes Schwarzbier 11.80 2.51 4.90 79.52%
Deputat Helles 4.90
Edelpils Pils 4.90
GB Prime Pils 11.50 2.20 4.90 81.57%
Gersdorfer Ale Pale Ale 6.80
Heller Bock Bock, Hell 6.30
Cheer Kirschbier 11.60 3.60
Brewery website

Schwarzbier is becoming a standard beer in parts of the East, particularly Saxony. I don't know how many used to be brewed, other than Köstritzer. I'm not sure Kellerbier existed at all in the DDR time, though some of the bottled beers were pretty roughly filtered.

I'm not sure why they four Pils, all with virtually identical specs. I suspect there are only really two variants, one at 11.5º Plato and another at 11.6º Plato.

I was quite shocked to see a relatively small brewery brewing something called an Ale. Not quite sure what it is or if it's top-fermented, but based on the ABV, it looks like they're aiming for Pale Ale to me.

And finally there's a cherry abomination. I won't say anything more about that.

Lots more of this to come when I can get my arse in gear.

Sunday 22 November 2015

20 hours in Britain

I was back in the UK extremely briefly this week. Not even a full day.

I won't go into too many details as to why, because it was a work thing. And I don't talk about that here.

Being in another country for such a short time - and almost half of it spent sleeping - is disorientating. Here's a quick check list of what I did:

Bought the Radio Times and the Christmas Viz. Got some sweets for Alexei and some salt and vinegar crisps for Andrew. Plus two bags of crumpets for me. If Andrew doesn't nab them all first.

But what about beer? Here's the really sad part. I had two bottles of Singha in a Thai restaurant and that was it. My hotel only sold keg beer and there wasn't a pub close by. Just a Harvester. And no guarantee that would have cask. So I watched Peep Show in my hotel room.

All was not lost. There are plenty who get snotty about Wetherspoons. But there's one great service they've provided: putting decent beer into airports. I'd a while to wait for my plane. Time for a quick pint. There was nothing too exotic or weird on the bar. But there was an old favourite. A beer that rarely disappoints, unless the cellarman is a complete idiot. London Pride.

It floated down. A pleasure from first gulp to last sip. Shame I only had time for the one.

Saturday 21 November 2015

Branded Old Ale and Strong Ale in 1953

It’s been a while. And, yes, I had forgotten. At least, temporarily. Not to worry, I’ve remembered now.

Though I can’t recall what the point of the series was, other than conjuring up multiple posts from table. Then again, doesn’t that pretty much sum up my blog?

This is quite a long set. I can think of a couple of good reasons why. Strong beers were more likely to be named because they were higher profile beers. And they were very often bottled. At a time when pump clips weren’t universal and keg still rare, the branding opportunities at point of sale were much smaller for draught beers. Amongst draught beers I think it’s no coincidence that many of the first ones to be heavily branded were in keg form. You had those brightly-lit bartop boxes to splash a name across.

Unsurprisingly, the adjective “Old” features heavily in names. Though, ironically enough, not in any described as Old Ale. How odd.

How many of these beers survive? I think only Robinson’s Old Tom. Though a revival of Colne Spring Ale is on the cards. And Tally Ho! Is still around, but brewed by someone else, Adnams. Mind you, Adnams have been using the name since the 1880’s.

I love some of the names. Oh be Joyful in particular. Also the echo of Arctic Ale. And Lees enigmatic “C”. Though to be fair that wasn’t a their own brand, C Ales be9ing brewed by several breweries around Manchester. Before you ask, I’ve no idea of where the name came from. Unlike October Brew which is doubtless a reference to the old practice of brewing strong keeping beers in either March or October. Though for conjouring up the cosy image of a strong beer on a cold, dark winter’s evening, it’s hard to beat Fireside.

Branded Old Ale and Strong Ale in 1953
Brewery Beer Type
Benskin's Colne Spring Ale Old
Broadway Brewery Broadway Old
Brickwood Little Bricky Old Ale, bottled
Samuel Webster Coronation Old Brown, very strong
Flowers Breweries Dragon's Blood Old English Ale
East Anglian Breweries Old Nell Strong
Samuel Webster Old Tom Strong
Wm. Younger King of Ales Strong
Barclay, Perkins Winter Brew Strong Ale
Brampton Brewery Golden Bud Strong Ale
Dutton's Oh Be Joyful Strong Ale
Campbell Praed Pride Strong Ale
Courage Double Courage Strong Ale
Drybrough Burns Strong Ale
Frederick Robinson Old Tom Strong Ale
Fredk. Robinson Young Tom Strong Ale
Gardner Kentish Fire Strong Ale
Guernsey Brewery Double Pony Strong Ale
H. & G. Simonds Old Berkshire Strong Ale
Ind Coope & Allsopp Arctic Strong Ale
J. & J. Morison J & J Strong Ale
J. C. & H. R. Palmer Tally-Ho! Strong Ale
J. W. Lees C Strong Ale
John Rowell John Barleycorn Strong Ale
Massey's King's Ale Strong Ale
Morrell's Brewery College Ale Strong Ale
Richard Whitaker Bantam Strong Ale
Timothy Taylor Blue Label Strong Ale
Ushers Wiltshire Brewery Triple Crown Strong Ale
Wenlock Brewery Fireside Strong Ale
Norman & Pring Imperial Strong Ale, bottle and draught
Cornbrook Brewery Cornbrook Old Tom Strong Ale, bottled
Daniel Thwaites Big Ben Strong Ale, bottled
Greene King Stingo Strong Ale, bottled
Truswell's Brewery October Brew Strong Ale, bottled
Daniel Thwaites Old Ben Strong Ale, draught
Truswelt's Brewery Imperial Strong Ale, draught
Hope & Anchor Old English Strong Beer
Lamb Brewery Stingo Strong beer
Higson's Brewery Stingo Strong beer, bottled
Lamb Brewery Rouser Strong Bitter
Ridley Stock Strong Brown Ale
Ridley Xmas Strong Brown Ale
Brewery Manual 1953-1954, pages 382 - 394.

Stouts next. Maybe.