Thursday 30 June 2016

Camerons build

Company reports can be a useful source of information. And not just about financial matters.

Below are some excerpts from Camerons chairman’s speech at their 1955 annual general meeting. And it reveals something about the difficulties of the immediate post-war period.

“As you will have read in the Press building licences are no longer required and we are faced with a heavy programme of expenditure on which have been maturing for some years past, but even now these cannot be carried out faster than the resources of the company permit.

New buildings
I was able to report last year that we were about to commence building our first post-war public house, the Powlett Hotel, West Hartlepool, and you will be pleased to know that this house which was entirely erected by our own works’ department staff, was open for business on November 29 1954, and is proving a successful venture. At the moment, we have four further houses under construction in different areas, and negotiations are proceeding for the erection further properties. Unfortunately, there is no sign any fall in building costs, and, as long as they remain at the extremely high level of today, many amenities we should like to provide in our houses will have to be forgone.”
Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer - Friday 21 January 1955, page 9.

The Powlett Hotel currently seems to be a Spar supermarket. And to have been severely buggered about. It was locally listed until 2012 when there seem to have been drastic alterations.  Originally it was quite an attractive building in a vaguely Georgian style.

It’s significant that it had taken Camerons almost a decade after the end of the war to build a new pub. Presumably the need for a building licence was one of the reasons they took so long.

“You will be pleased to know that John J. Hunt Limited, a subsidiary company, won a first prize at the Brewers’ Exhibition in October last for their Regal Stout, for which we are all grateful to their head brewer Mr. Whitmore. Consequent upon the closure of the Scarborough brewery, we rearranged our bottling plant at York and this is now reaping the benefits, particularly with the increased sales of Regal Stout, which is giving much satisfaction to customers throughout the area.

Although the public have so many other commitments these days, particularly in relation to hire purchase. is interesting to note that our customers have continued demand the higher gravity beers, both in draught and in bottle, although this generally entails a reduction in the overall quantity. Our bottled beer trade is giving satisfaction and sales are up in the 12 months under review: but here again, it has been proved that the public do not drink the quantity of bottled beer that they do when they drink draught.”
Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer - Friday 21 January 1955, page 9.

The brewery of John J. Hunt was in York. Regal Stout, according the label, contained lactose. Here are some analyses of it and other Camerons beers:

John J. Hunt and Camerons beers 1953 - 1963
Year Brewer Beer Style Price per pint OG FG ABV App. Atten-uation colour
1959 John J. Hunt Regal Stout Stout 30d 1039.4 1013.3 3.37 66.24% 275
1953 Camerons Sovereign Stout Stout 26d 1044.3 1009.6 4.51 78.33% 1R + 17B
1953 Camerons Sovereign Stout Stout 28d 1047.3 1018.6 3.70 60.68% 1 + 15
1959 Camerons Ebor Light Ale Light Ale 24d 1036.8 1011.9 3.11 67.66% 24
1963 Camerons Regal Stout Stout 28d 1041 1015.7 3.16 61.71% 225
Whitbread Gravity book held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number LMA/4453/D/02/002.
That’s an interesting point about customers drinking less beer when it was in bottled rather than draught form. Could that be connected to the higher level of carbonation?

This is particularly fascinating:

Country inns
I have recently read remarks in the press by an eminent brewery chairman to the effect that he hopes that the rural district council authorities would not be too insistent in their demands regarding the standards to be maintained by the smaller type of country house.

I fear, however, that it hopeless expressing this half pious hope, as while we wait for a decision by the authority concerned, houses such as this continue to lose money rapidly.

Much as the brewers would like to continue to keep many of these inns open, they are, after all, businessmen, and there seems to be a good deal of philanthropy in this expression.

As far as your company is concerned, the best thing to do with many these licences will be sell them off to those who will buy them with some purpose in view, such as poultry farming, etc., and be rid of what is undoubtedly an incubus to the average brewer who, owing to amalgamations and mergers, finds that he has been left with too many country inns.
Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer - Friday 21 January 1955, page 9.

What the chairman is saying is that the company has ended up with too many small, uneconomical country pubs as a result of buying other breweries. Isn’t that what happened to Watney after they took over all three Norwich breweries?

Wednesday 29 June 2016

Let's Brew Wednesday - 1885 William Younger No. 3

No. 3 is one of the beers I’m slightly obsessed with. For a couple of reasons.

One is that a clone of it was one of the first beers me and my brother brewed way back in the early 1970’s. Another is that I got to drink Scottish & Newcastle’s version when they reintroduced it in the late 1970’s.

I was never sure what style it was. I seem to remember someone calling it a dark Bitter. Which wasn’t really what it was. Now I realise it was a Scotch Ale. Or a Strong Ale, depending on which side of the Scottish border you were. Why didn’t I wonder where Nos. 1 and 2 were? I should have.

Back in the 1880’s, William Younger was still brewing both No. 1 and No. 2. No. 1 made it to at least the 1950’s before being dropped. That was more like the classic Strong Scotch Ale, the type that mostly only exists in Belgium today. That was an exclusively bottled beer, while No. 3 came in both bottled and draught form. When on draught, it filled the same evolutionary niche as Burton Ale.

Just as well I told you all that as there’s not a huge amount else to say. Especially about the recipe. Which is just pale malt and hops. Quite a lot of hops. At this time William Younger mainly used four types of hops: Kent, American, Spalt and Württemberg. Though occasionally they used Bohemian hops instead of the German ones. In the recipe below, I’ve combined the Spalt and Württemberg hops together as just Spalt.

Younger was particularly fond of dry-hopping their stronger Ales. And dry-hopping them pretty heavily. I’m intrigued as to what effect that would have. With the low rate of attenuation and heavy hopping, the resulting beer must have been bittersweet.

That’s it for now. Just the recipe and I’m done.

1885 William Younger No. 3
pale malt 17.25 lb 100.00%
Cluster 90 min 3.50 oz
Spalt 60 min 2.50 oz
Fuggles 30 min 1.75 oz
Goldings dry hops 2.25 oz
OG 1076
FG 1025
ABV 6.75
Apparent attenuation 67.11%
IBU 108
Mash at 256º F
Sparge at 163º F
Boil time 90 minutes
pitching temp 56º F
Yeast WLP028 Edinburgh Ale

Tuesday 28 June 2016

Me in Berlin in August

I'll be in Berlin 3rd - 7th August. For the Berlin Biermiele. Always a fun festival. And as ungeeky as you can get.

If you fancy meeting up, get in touch. Especially if you'd like me to talk or anything like that. I've got an excellent one on German sour beer styles, past and present.

Drinks after hours

They were pretty strict about opening hours in most of Britain during the 1950’s. With policemen actively looking for pubs serving outside permitted hours.

It must have been a barrel of laughs. Though I imagine there were some isolated country pubs too remote for the police to come by very often. Or in London’s East End, where the police had reason to turn a blind eye. The only place I came across pubs the regularly stayed open late was in the East End in the 1970’s and 1980’s. Pretty blatant it was, too, so the cops must have known.

CHATTING about the day’s shooting and drinking beer on licensed premises after permitted hours, cost four men £1 each and the landlady of the public house £5 in fines, at Towcester Magistrates Court on Tuesday.

The men were accused of “drinking intoxicants on licensed premises on December 13 after permitted hours” and the landlady of The Boat, Stoke Bruerne, Mrs. Emily Woodward was accused of aiding and abetting.

The men were: Norman Ellis Whitlock (29), farmer of Heathencote House, Watling Street, Paulerspury; Frank Smith (45), labourer of Stoke Bruerne; John Alfred Ratcliffe (41), coach painter of Stoke Brueme and Albert William Robinson (33), labourer of 3, Park View, Shutlanger.

A fifth man. Frederick Green (48), a labourer of 4, Park View, Shutlanger, was also accused, but the case against him was dismissed.

Green pleaded not guilty, the other four guilty.

Sgt. Ostle, giving evidence, said he was on duty at Stoke Brueme at 10.10 p.m. on December 13, keeping The Boat Inn under observation.

He tried to gain admittance through the front and back doors and eventually gained access through the kitchen door.

By this time it was 10.55, and when witness reached the room, he found four of the men with beer in their glasses.

There was a pint glass near Green about a third full of beer. P.C. Wells said he took particulars from the men. but Green refused to say anything. When questioned, Mrs. Woodward said she had not served any beer since 10 p.m.

Green, who was the only man to appear in court, was represented by Mr. A. L. Singlehurst (Messrs. Dennis, Faulkner and Alsop)

In evidence, Green said he had been drinking only bottled beer during that evening. The glass which was near him contained draught beer. It was not his glass. He was waiting for a lift from Whitlock who had promised to take him home.

On behalf of Mrs. Woodward, Mr. Singlehurst said that she had lived at The Boat Inn for 29 years and had been the licensee for the past 15 years. During this time she had had a clean record. She expressed her regret for what had happened.

Sitting on the bench was Earl Spencer (Lord Lieutenant for the county).

The other magistrates were: Mr. F. J. Snelson (chairman); Mrs. A. M. Jenkinson; Mrs. Jackson Stopps. Mr. T. A. Thorpe and Col. R. A. Collins." 
Northampton Mercury - Friday 16 January 1953, page 9.

I’ve come across several newspaper reports like this, where a policeman has obviously been hanging around pubs hoping to catch someone. And often entering the premises in a way that doesn’t sound totally legal. All to catch a couple of blokes with a bit of beer in their glasses half an hour after closing time.

To put those fines into context, a pint of Mild was 14d, meaning you got around 17 pints to the pound. Making a £1 fine the equivalent of £50-60 today.

The pub still exists and very scenic it is, too. Built from honey-coloured stone and with a thatched roof. Amazingly, it’s still run by the Woodward family

The Boat Inn
Stoke Bruerne
Nr. Towcester
NN12 7SB

Monday 27 June 2016

Bottled beer in the 1950’s – Bright Bottled Beers (part eighteen)

Another vital part of the bottling process was making sure the bottles were properly clean. No point taking the trouble to brew decent beer if you then ruined it by filling it into dirty bottles.

First, a surprising case for manual labour:

Bottle Washing
Assuming that the right type of bottle has been decided upon and purchased, the next step is to ensure its cleanliness and sterility before it is filled. This precaution would at first sight appear to be a simple matter, but experience has shown that such is not the case. It has lately been found necessary to install intricate, and, in some instances, very heavy machinery to do the work of bottle washing. Wonderful machines have been designed to take the place of manual labour, but one has not been invented which can smell the dirty bottles, and reject those which have been wrongly used for holding paraffin, oil or disinfectants.”
Brewing Theory and Practice" by E. J. Jeffery, 1956, page 349.

I doubt this is much of a problem nowadays, even in countries which still have returnable bottles. I can’t imagine anyone needing to use a beer bottle to hold those sorts of liquids. I guess with screw-stoppered bottles re-use was more likely. If you’re using all new bottles, as is the case in many countries now, then this situation can’t arise.

Judging by the amount of text Jeffery devotes to the topic, contaminated bottles was a big problem back in the 1950’s:

“Mentioning contaminated bottles compels us to state that this bugbear is the greatest problem which besets all bottlers, in spite of all precautions. Wrongly used bottles are almost impossible to put right, and people who so maltreat them should be held responsible and made to pay for them. Unfortunately it would be difficult or impossible to enforce such a step. The only solution therefore appears to be frequent notification by placards and leaflets of the financial loss and danger occasioned by such ill-usage. All empty bottles must be carefully examined on return, both by the licensed retailer and by the bottler. In spite of the rigid enforcement of this inspection, and in spite of a bonus being given for the detection of contaminated bottles, some still find their way occasionally into the bottle soaking tank. Should this unfortunately occur, there may be no alternative but to empty the tank and search for the offending bottle. If contamination has been severe, it may be found necessary to give the bottles an extra soaking in hot caustic soda solution. This solution should be run away and replaced by the normal solution. The only safe way to deal with the bottles used for the improper purposes described is to break them up. It would seem to be impossible for a hard substance like glass to retain any flavour, yet it often does so.”
"Brewing Theory and Practice" by E. J. Jeffery, 1956, pages 349 - 350.

Presumably the notices said that the deposit would not be returned on contaminated bottles. A dirty bottle leaking something like paraffin into the soaking tank must have been a nightmare. It sounds like it was messy and difficult to correct. I bet it drove the bottlers crazy.

We’ll be looking at the machines themselves next.

Sunday 26 June 2016

Things going well at J.W. Green

The early years of the 1950’s were good for J.W. Green. The company was expanding through acquisitions and it was starting to build up some widely-known bottled beer brands. All under the enthusiastic leadership of Bernard Dixon, one of the figures who, like Eddie Taylor, woke the British brewing industry from its lethargic slumber.

That their sales were increasing at a time when national beer sales were falling, was a measure of their success:

The Adjourned Fifty-sixth Annual General Meeting of J. W. Green Limited was held Luton on the 26th January, 1954. Mr. Bernard Dixon, chairman, presided. The following are points from his Statement:

Whereas during the winter months of the year under review had weather conditions hampered trade to some extent. I am pleased to report that this was largely rectified by improved sales during the second half of the year, which finished on a strong note. Last year, in common with many other Breweries, found that the steady increase which had taken place in Bottled Beer sales was beginning to ease. During the year we have successfully launched a number of new brands of Bottled Beer which already have achieved considerable popularity and our Bottled Beer sales have regained impetus and are steadily increasing in volume.”
Grantham Journal - Friday 29 January 1954, page 2.

There was a boom in bottled beer sales after WW II. It looks as if the growth was starting to level off. We’ll be seeing later more details about those bottled brands.

The company was also investing, both in its pubs and its plant:

“Throughout the Group the expenditure on properties have been exceedingly heavy. This is inevitable in the early stages where new groups of properties have been brought in. There will, of course, be a gradual easing of this expenditure, and this should have a beneficial effect on future profits.

I am glad to report that we are now the end of our programme for the rehabilitation of the plant at the Luton Brewery, where every department is thoroughly up-to-date and should give the Company many years service.

It is anticipated that the by-products plant will be in operation the early part of the new year. Considerable delay has been experienced in obtaining the equipment for this department.

At our Sunderland Brewery we have practically completed a large well-equipped Bottling Store, which should be fully capable of handling our requirements in that area for some time to come.”
Grantham Journal - Friday 29 January 1954, page 2.

Those investments show that the company was looking to the future. Of course, the Luton Brewery didn’t last that much longer, being replaced at the end of the 1960’s by a brand new brewery just out of town. By then Whitbread were in control.

Now more about those bottled beer brands:

“During the year the Company brought into operation a fleet of articulated vehicles for the purpose of supplying some of our better-known brands such as "Brewmaster", "Dragon's Blood" and "Poacher" to wholesale customers and other Breweries in the Group. This move has been entirely successful, with the result that these brands are becoming popular over an ever-widening area of the country.“
Grantham Journal - Friday 29 January 1954, page 2.

It sounds as if they were supplying not just their own pubs and off-licences with these bottled beers, by independent customers, too. A sign they were serious about building up their brands.

And what were those three beers like? This:

JW Green bottled brands 1953 - 1962
Year Beer Style Price per pint d OG FG ABV App. Atten-uation colour
1953 Dragon's Blood Old Ale 48 1073.4 1024.5 6.34 66.62% 4 + 40
1953 Dragon's Blood Old Ale 45 1073.6 1028.1 5.88 61.82% 56 B
1956 Brewmaster Ale Pale Ale 30 1045.8 1009.7 4.70 78.82% 18
1958 Brewmaster Export Beer Pale Ale 36 1045.4 1008 4.68 82.38% 16
1959 Brewmaster Pale Ale 34 1041.1 1009.2 4.14 77.62% 15
1960 Brewmaster Export Pale Ale 30 1047.4 1011 4.55 76.79% 17
1960 Brewmaster Pale Ale 30 1047.3 1011.15 4.70 76.43%
1962 Brewmaster Export PA Pale Ale 36 1046.6 1015.6 3.87 66.52% 18
1955 Poacher Ale Brown Ale 22 1034.9 1014.2 2.67 59.31% 115
Whitbread Gravity book held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number LMA/4453/D/02/002.
Which Beer Report, 1960, pages 171 - 173.

Dragon’s Blood was  pretty strong beer by early 1950’s standards. And Brewmaster a decent strength Pale Ale. But they weren’t cheap. To put the price into context, in 1953 a pint of draught Mild cost 14d, pint of Ordinary Bitter 17d and Best Bitter 20d.

Saturday 25 June 2016

Bottled beer in the 1950’s – Bright Bottled Beers (part seventeen)

I’ve renewed enthusiasm for this never-ending series. Especially when we’ve got to the fascinating subject of devices for closing beer bottles. I’m never going to get bored with that.

Stoppers and Crown Corks
because the closure forms an apparently minor part of the bottled beer equipment, it often does not receive the attention which is its due. What is the good of producing a good beer, and going to the further expense of bottling it, if it is to be spoilt at the last stage by the use of an inferior closure? There can be no doubt that the introduction of screw-stoppers and crown corks have contributed largely to the present-day popularity of bottled beers. But it is upon their use or abuse that the quality of the article depends. Stoppers as made to-day differ considerably from those originally turned out.”
"Brewing Theory and Practice" by E. J. Jeffery, 1956, page 348.

It’s pretty obvious that a cheap stopper than doesn’t seal properly is likely to bugger your beer. The triumph of the crown cork is a surprisingly recent development. Screw stoppers predominated from the late 19th century until around WW II. They were a huge improvement of corks, the earlier method of sealing bottles. Corks were porous and liable to jump out if the pressure inside the bottle became too great.

Flip-top stoppers, as used by Grolsch never seem to have been that popular in Britain. While in Germany they were the preferred format until at least WW II. And have made a comeback in the last 20 years.

Here’s what you should look for in a screw stopper:

“Early stoppers had the appearance of compressed charcoal, and the heads parted easily from the threaded portion. This fault is still to be found in cheap grades. Better class stoppers to-day are made from vulcanite, with a hard and smooth external appearance. The milling round the head is better defined, and tougher, so that it will not wear off as was formerly the case. A rubber band of good quality should be insisted upon, as upon it depends the final seal. With stoppers as with bottles, the makers can now supply a quality which will stand the strain of pasteurization with a minimum of damage.”
"Brewing Theory and Practice" by E. J. Jeffery, 1956, page 348.

I get the feeling that pasteurisation of bottled beer wasn’t that common before WW II. I assume that because makers were only just starting to deliver bottles that were up to it in the mid-1950’s.

Oddly, the type of stopper depended in the bottle size:

“For half pints the crown cork has entirely replaced the screw stopper; for pints the screw stopper still largely holds the field and for quarts, when produced, it is universal. The main advantage of the screw stopper over the crown is that if only part of the contents are to be consumed the remainder can be kept in good condition, whereas a crown cannot be replaced as an airtight closure, hence the retention of the screw stopper for pints and quarts. There is the necessity for a special opener for crown corks, but this is not serious as the crown corks opener seems nowadays to be usually available. The crown cork has two very great advantages over the screw stopper. For quick trade in the bar, where the crown can be easily and quickly removed this type of closure is unequalled. There is not the necessity of recovering the stopper and the bottler is not faced with the rather troublesome job of cleaning the screw-stopper and ensuring that the rubber rings are in good condition."
"Brewing Theory and Practice" by E. J. Jeffery, 1956, page 348.

I was wondering why half pints had all gone over to crown corks. Simple – you were unlikely to want to reseal a half pint. You don’t really need a special opener for a crown cork. Ask a Czech. They have dozens of methods of getting a crown cork off without a bottle opener. Even I can do it.

As well as being difficult to clean, screw stoppers could easily become separated from their bottle and get lost.

It’s worth noting that by the 1950’s most bottled beer in pubs was sold in half-pint bottles. Though there were still plenty of pints in the take-home trade.

More details about crown corks:

“At one time difficulty was experienced with porous corks in the crowns and often beer would come into contact with the metal crown and cause discoloration of the cork. A backing of lacquered paper or a layer of lacquer between cork and metal will prevent this trouble. Many crowns are furnished with an aluminium spot in the centre of the cork, so that the cork itself only comes into contact with the lip of the bottle. The use of a slice of natural cork has largely been superseded by a composite of cork particles bonded together with a synthetic resin. As received in their cartons crown corks are usually practically sterile and if care is used in their handling between carton and the hopper on the filling machine no serious trouble of infection need be anticipated. In fact such trouble is extremely rare. The use of ordinary corks as closures for beer bottles is to all intents and purposes obsolete. Polythene stoppers and caps are being developed, but have not yet come into use to any extent for beer in this country.”
"Brewing Theory and Practice" by E. J. Jeffery, 1956, page 349.

The seals are all of plastic now. I can remember when they were still little disks of real cork.

Bottle washing next.

Friday 24 June 2016

William Younger hop usage in May 1885

This is a short piece inspired by something in a brewing record that stuck out its leg and tripped me up. One of the little monthly summaries that you quite often see.

This is it:

Notice something strange? Almost three-quarters of the hops came from outside the UK. It’s more obvious in table form:

William Younger hop usage in May 1885
year hop lbs % of total
1884 Kent 2,070 24.64%
1884 California 990 11.79%
1884 Alsace 190 2.26%
1884 Wurtemberg 1,190 14.17%
1884 Spalt 1,410 16.79%
1884 American 1,960 23.33%
1883 American 350 4.17%
1883 East Kent 240 2.86%
Total 8,400
barrels brewed 5,670
William Younger brewing record held at the Scottish Brewing Archive, document number WY/6/1/2/31.

Here’s a table with percentages per country of origin:

Germany 33.21%
USA 39.29%
UK 27.50%

Do you know what surprised me? The amount of German hops. Note that it’s greater than the quantity of UK hops. I’d have expected more US hops, to be honest. 50% of the total, at least. The UK was totally dependent on hop imports at this time, UK production nothing like covering demand. London brewer, close to the hop gardens of Kent, tended to use more British hops.

It didn’t really matter that hops weren’t grown in Scotland. All UK brewers had to use imported hops. As most Scottish breweries were in places like Edinburgh or Alloa, close to the sea, importing them from abroad wasn’t a problem. Doubtless easier than for some English country brewers.

You can see that I calculated the quantity of hops per barrel. Just under 1.5 lbs. How did that compare with English practice? Here’s the hop usage from Whitbread for the year ending July 1885:

Whitbread hop usage in 1885
barrels lbs hops lbs/barrel
Ale 199,849 498,097 2.49
Porter 122,291 336,297 2.75
Whitbread brewing records held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document numbers LMA/4453/D/01/050 and LMA/4453/D/09/079.

You can see that Whitbread, on average, used significantly more hops than William Younger. Which hadn’t been the case earlier in the century. Hopping rates seem to have diverged between England and Scotland towards the end of the 19th century, particularly when it came to Pale Ales and Porter and Stout. Fascinating, eh? I must look into it more closely sometime.

Thursday 23 June 2016

Bottled beer in the 1950’s – Bright Bottled Beers (part sixteen)

Whoops. I’d forgotten about this. Not sure what distracted me. There are distractions galore in my life.

In this endless series on bright bottled beer we’ve finally got to the bottles themselves. And I must admit that the first paragraph here surprises me. I’ll let you read it first before I tell you why.

It would be of enormous advantage to all concerned with the bottled beer trade if it were possible to adopt a standardized bottle. This perfect bottle would be universal in regard to quality, size and shape and it would have an agreed design of neck and opening. Such a state of affairs would obviate the present unsightly collection of bottles of every description which may now be seen in bottling stores. Considerable labour costs are involved in sorting out the bottles, as well as expenses connected with the various bottle exchanges if a firm desires to use only its own bottles. In order to make sure of so doing it is necessary to have some means of identifying a bottle; at present, this is done by having the firm's name and address embossed In the glass. This embossing holds dirt, and adds to the difficulty of washing the bottle. The standardization suggested above would put an end to all these troubles.”
"Brewing Theory and Practice" by E. J. Jeffery, 1956, page 347.

My surprise is that the bottles weren’t standardised. Because my memories from the 1960’s and 1970’s is of total standardisation in beer bottles. You had the sloping imperial pint bottle, the round-shouldered half pint and the occasional nip. And even more rarely, quart bottles. Hang on. I can think of one exception. Newcastle Breweries had their own design of clear bottle.

I’d assumed – and this is the sort of assumption I get angry when others make, namely that present practice stretches far back into the past – that bottles had been standardised around the time of WW II. It seems to have been later than that.

Wondering what a bottle exchange was? It was a way of getting bottles returned through the retail trade back to brewers. Remember that these were all returnable bottles. There were no single use bottles at all back then. A mechanism was needed to get bottles back to where they belonged. Especially non-standard ones.

The bottle I remember from my youth were something called London Brewers’ standard. Which is what I believe Jeffery is discussing here:

“This uniformity in bottle design has been brought about to a considerable extent especially in the London area. Fewer firms have their names embossed on their bottles and hence the difficulties arising in sorting out the different kinds do not often arise. Although there are still differences in shape, the heights of the bottles are more standardized. Whatever the type of bottle preferred one thing is quite definite, that it must be of good quality and of a shape which renders it easy to clean. A beer bottle has to stand a great amount of knocking about and on that account it should be made of a material which will not chip readily. It should also be so designed that, if used in connection with crown cork, a chipped bottle is incapable of further employment. The glass must be tough and not liable to crack easily. For cleaning purposes a sloping neck is far to be preferred to a square shoulder, which is difficult to get at either with a brush or by liquor under pressure. A cushion of air forms in the shoulder and prevents contact with brush or liquid.”
"Brewing Theory and Practice" by E. J. Jeffery, 1956, pages 347 - 348.

If a shouldered bottle was harder to clean, it seems odd that that design was chosen for the standard half pint. He says: “if used in connection with crown cork” because there were still beer bottles with rubber stoppers and an internal screw thread. In fact those bottles were still around in the 1970’s. Bizarrely, national brewer Whitbread still used such bottles in their Kirkstall brewery in Leeds.

Next we’ll be looking at stoppers and crown corks in more detail.

Wednesday 22 June 2016


I once scribbled 30 pages of notes on the way beers styles evolve. A lot of it bollocks. I've had access to brewing records since. But one assertion I still in a steely grip around the throat: beer and beer styles evolve in reaction to their environment. Just like living creatures.

Tax is the apex preadator of the brewing environment. It's mostly responsible for the difference in strength between modern American and British versions of the same style. The US flat-rate tax makes high-ABV beers much more economical than in most European countries, where the tax is higher on stronger beers.

With a similar tax system, I'm sure the modern US marscape would look very different. That's why lower-strength beers are such bad value in the US. The difference in the cost of ingredients in brewing a 4% compared to a 7% one are minimal, compared to other costs.

A flat rate tax per barrel was a British thing in the 18th century. Up until 1830. When the tax was shifted to malt and hops alone. An important date for the divergence of the British styles brewed in the US from the originals.

It wasn't just in tax alone that the brewing traditions grew apart. But money screams.

Tracking the transformation of British styles transplanted elsewhere would be my thesis. If I had the arsing in me. But I'm all belly and no backside. Peter Symon's Bronzed Brews does the job for Australia. I can't recommend it enough. Properly researched from brewing records.

Did the US stick with the colonial system of taxing beer after independence?  I don't know. Sounds plausible, but I prefer facts. It's probably more complicated.

My belly outbulging my buttocks, can someone save me arseache?

1891 Barclay Perkins KKK

Since I’ve already given you the recipe for KK, I may as well let you have the one for its big brother, KKK, too.

Not that it’s very different. Just a little bit more of everything than the KK. But the same basic grist of 75%, 12.5% flaked rice and 12.5% No. 2 invert sugar. I can tell this is going to be a short post. That’s already pretty much everything I need to say.

I know something I can tell you. Unusually, Barclay Perkins continued to brew really strong K Ales after WW I. In the 1920’s they brewed a beer called KKKK, which had an OG of 1079º. It was only available in the winter and from adverts I’ve seen, appeared to be served from a pin on the bar.

I’ve just had a look at my spreadsheet of Barclay Perkins brewing records and was surprised to see that KKK, which was discontinued during WW I, did reappear in the early 1920’s, and with an OG of 1082º, just about at pre-war strength. And, with batch sizes of a little over 100 barrels, it was being brewed in decent quantities. Unlike Fuller’s OBE, a similar beer, of which there were usually fewer than 10 barrels brewed at a time.

I’m not sure in which form KKK was sold. Probably on draught, as was most beer in the 1890’s. That’s really about the start of bottled beer as a real mass-market product.

That’s me done. I told you it would be short.

1891 Barclay Perkins KKK
Mild malt 12.50 lb 69.44%
crystal malt 60L 0.75 lb 4.17%
flaked rice 2.50 lb 13.89%
No. 2 invert sugar 2.25 lb 12.50%
Hallertau 90 min 3.75 oz
Goldings 60 min 3.25 oz
Goldings 30 min 3.25 oz
Goldings dry hops 1.00 oz
OG 1085
FG 1024
ABV 8.07
Apparent attenuation 71.76%
IBU 112
SRM 15
Mash at 152º F
Sparge at 168º F
Boil time 90 minutes
pitching temp 60º F
Yeast Wyeast 1098 British ale - dry
Wyeast 1099 Whitbread Ale

Tuesday 21 June 2016

London in March (part two)

More stuff from real-time notes made during my trip to London in March. Really just notes made during a long afternoon session in one pub. What a boring twat I am.

Museum Tavern
Ah, heaven - sitting with an Old Peculier in front of me, Stone Roses on the stereo, sun shining. And no stupid Good Friday closing, the landlord tells me.

I ask if I can run a tab. No problem. I don't even have to leave a card.

"I can't run very fast. And you're younger than me." I quip.

"The last bloke to leave without paying was on crutches." He replies.

"That's how quick we are." the Polish barmaid chips in.

A bloke about my age says: "Can I push some tables together? I've some students joining me later."

"No problem."

"How much will a round for eight cost?"

"It depends on which beer you want. The Ales are the cheapest." The landlord says pointing to the seven handpulls. "Stay away from the craft Ales at the far end if you want to keep the cost down." That says it all for me.

Me, paper and a pub. And a day full of no appointments.

Yesterday's conference was fun. Even if I say so myself, I'm getting pretty good at this talking lark. Not surprising, really. I've always liked talking about beer. This way, people have to listen. Unlike my miserable family, who just wander off or switch on the telly.

Two weeks of geeking out. And it looks like Tim Hampson might  get me a look at the Bass archive. Finally met miles Jenner, too. What a gent. And got an invite to look at their brewing records. It's all like a dream.

The landlord's a friendly bloke. This is like a proper pub, despite its highly touristy location opposite the British Museum.

"Did this use to be a Watney's pub?" I ask because of the Watney's Imperial Stout mirror."

"I don't know. Could have just been a beer they sold. Though that must be the miror Karl Marx broke, as it's in a different font from the others."

Of course. Marx used to hang out at the British Library.

Hop Stuff Renegade IPA, 5.6% ABV
Oh no - London Murky. (Note the bar gun behind my pint in the picture. This is for Martyn. Bar gun - device for dispensing carbonated soft drinks.) Really nice hop aroma, but unappetising appearance. I take that back. The landlord just apologised for its appearance

"The cellar cooling is working too well and it's only 8-9 degrees. it's thrown a chill haze. It'll clear as it warms up." I'm dead impressed.

Horribly bitter in the mouth. Doesn't live up to the aroma, sadly.

I've gone back to Old Puke. It comes in a dimpled mug this time. When did I last drink from one of those?

Really love this pub. Proper beer, proper landlord, proper pub.

It's strangely quiet in London. The landlord confirms that "It's slow today."

I'm happy it's a bit slow. Room, time to chat with the barstaff. That pint of Puke looks so pretty in a straight sleeve. The way god intended Yorkshire beer to be served.

This really is a well-run pub. Last time I went to the bog, the toilet seat was all shitted up. Clean this time. I keep getting more impressed. There's an obvious gaffer, working hard and chatting. What a pub is all about. This could be my new London local. Surprised that it's managed, not tenanted.

Quite a few people just asking for "Two beers" when they have 20 draught/keg beers.

And that's where my notes end. You can probably spot when the puke started to kick in.

I got talking with the student bloke. English and teaching in the US. Somewhere in the Midwest. None of the students looked 21, but were well legal in the UK. They mostly drank Lager, cider or wine. I hope the round didn't cost him too much.

My main reason for going there was the Old Peculier. Always on and in good nick. The landlord told me that he tried rotating off when he first took over. And got some pretty negative comments from regulars. Well worth a try if you're in London, their Old Peculier. Especially if you've only ever had the bottled version. 

Museum Tavern
49, Bloomsbury House,
74-77 Great Russell St,
Bloomsbury WC1B 3BA.
Tel: +44 20 7242 8987

Monday 20 June 2016

Want to hear me talk?

I've gradually been building a portfolio of beer talks, as I get invited to lecture by various groups.
 And as I try to promote my book.

I think I've come up with some fascinating little chats. If you're a hard-core beer history geek. Not sure how many of those there are. A few, judging by the size of some of my audiences.

If you'd like to hear me pontificate on a beer history topic, just get in touch. My rates are very reasonable. These are the talks I currently have written:

title length
Brettanomyces in British Brewing 45 minutes
The Home Brewer’s Guide to Vintage Beer 45 minutes
The Home Brewer’s Guide to Vintage Beer 60 minutes
British Beer Styles: A Short History 60 minutes
The History of British Lager 60 minutes
Dutch Lager Styles 45 minutes
German Sour Styles 45 minutes
18th Century English brewing 75 minutes
Berliner Weisse 60 minutes
International cooperation in the 19th-century brewing industry 45 minutes

Or if you've a topic you'd like me to cover, I can be persuaded to write a new one. If you ask nicely and flutter your eyelashes.

If nothing else, my talks are a good chance to flog a few books.

The Home Brewer's Guide to Vintage Beer

Random Dutch beers (part thirty-three)

Here we are again at the weekend. It's 21:30 on Friday and I've beem writing since I got home.

Apart from my 30 minute walk. Slightly shitting shale about my talk a week on Saturday. Only started the slides this evening. Though I did get the wordy things done earlier this week.

No sulky comments from Andrew this time. He's at his mate's, as always on a Friday. Now I think about it, I rarely see him unless he's short of dosh. Mostly he's as lethargic as a sack of sedated sloths. Dolores bought him two slabs of 24 half litre cans of Amstel recently, which is why I haven't seen much of him. Only 8 cans left. I expect he'll be chattier tomorrow.

I'm puckering off with a beer from a well-respected Dutch brewer. Kees whatshisname (I'm crap with names), who used to work at Emelisse. Where he brewed some pretty liquid beers.

Brouwerij Kees Session IPA, 3.5% ABV
Now there's a thing. It's really session strength (according to the strict UK definition), unlike some US examples. Unlike some, I do like a Session IPA, when the circumstances are appropriate. Like a long afternoon session with a need to stand upright at the end of it. For example, my farewell session in Boston on the appropriately-named All Day IPA. Pours pretty clear, despite being bottle-conditioned. The aroma is spot on, a heady mix of peach, mango and passion fruit. Really dead good. Its not as fruity in the gob, but surprisingly bitter and a bit tobbacoey at the end. The body is decent for the ABV. I don't judge body by a standard of Imperial Stout or Barley Wine, as some seem to. Probably because my standard drinking beer used to be Mild.

"Do you want to try my beer Dolores?"


"Do you want to try my beer Dolores?"

"No." (With a touch of annoyance in her voice.)

She's watching Gardener's World. Not a good idea to disturb her.

I was amazed when someone told me while I was in the UK last weekend that they really liked this series. The tumblewood blowing through the comments had me thinking everyone hated it. I've only continued out of contrariness.

. . . .

It's now Saturday. I've just finished my presentation for the Brettanomyces festival next week. Glad that's out of the way. Time for a beer.

It's another from Dutch brewing superstar Kees. Another IPA, to be precise.

Brouwerij Kees Just Another IPA, 6.5% ABV (2.60 for 33cl. from Ton Overmars)
Smells much like the Session IPA, but is even more intense. Unlike its session sister, the tropical fruit is present in the mouth. But shares a pretty deep bitterness. Quite nice, but I don't think I'd want ten pints of it.

"Can I have thirty euros, Dad?" Andrew asks.

"I see inflation is kicking in. You usually ask for twenty. Do you want to try my beer, Andrew?"


"Not even after the thirty euros I gave you?"

"It's not very good for my health if I drink beer straight after I get up." It's 14:05. That counts as early morning for a teenager like Andrew.

"Do you want to try my beer, Dolores?"

"Not now."

Sunday 19 June 2016

Not the NHC

Last weekend I was in the pretty little town of Market Bosworth. For the Home Brew Festival, where I had been invited to speak. It sounded like a good laugh so why not? I might even get to flog a few books.

I’d been invited last year, but declined because it clashed with the NHC (American Homebrewers Association National Homebrewers Conference) in San Diego. Not that I went to the NHC – I was blackballed for the second year in a row – but I was in San Diego at the same time. It’s a long and slightly depressing story that I won’t go into now.

Having attended the NHC in 2014, I was able to compare and contrast the two events held either side of the pond.

The most obvious difference was the scale. The NHC draws hundreds, if not thousands of attendees, to big, flashy convention centres. The Market Bosworth event is held in a rugby club pavilion and a marquee. That’s partly a function of the relative popularity of the hobby in the two countries. After a burst of popularity in the 1960’s and 1970’s, home brewing fell out of favour in the UK, though there has been a recent resurgence. While in the USA it’s massive.

The NHC is a full-blown home-brewing exhibition, with manufacturers filling a hall with tempting shiny things. In Market Bosworth it was more about people swapping surplus bits of kit with each other.

And while the Americans have seminars in multiple theatres, the Brits have a tent with a few odd chairs for those listening.

But I have to say that in many ways I enjoyed the Home Brew Festival more than the NHC. Its smallness meant I had chance to talk to pretty well everyone there. At least anyone who wanted to talk to me. And a very friendly bunch they were. Neither I nor Dolores – whom I’d dragged along – lacked company at any point.

Then there was the beer. You don’t see much Mild at the NHC. While here there was plenty. That particularly impressed Dolores. She’s almost as big a fan of Mild as I am, which is quite an achievement. And there were plenty of other styles there, too, both fashionable and unfashionable. So as well as the inevitable IPAs, also Brown Ales and Ordinary Bitters.

Wine and cider, too. Dolores was particularly interested in the former, as she makes it herself. She’s been struggling to avoid oxidation and she managed to get some good tips from the winemakers in attendance. And to drink some of the surprisingly good wines that were available. Maybe she wouldn’t have drunk quite as much if they hadn’t been so good. For once wearing my sensible head, I just stuck to beer.

The only downer was the weather. I’d planned on dropping by on the Friday evening, but it absolutely pissed it down. I didn’t fancy walking a mile along a country road in the pouring rain. So we sheltered in the Ye Olde Red Lion, the pub where we were staying. Warm, dry and with several cask beers in pretty good nick. It could have been much worse.

We didn’t completely manage to avoid the rain, as it was raining when we left on Saturday evening. The walk was a little scary as well as damp. Country road with no pavement, at night, in the rain. Where were all those cars going to/coming from? I’m glad I wasn’t staying in a tent like many who attended. Must have been murder keeping dry.

Oh, one last difference with the NHC. The Home Brew Festival paid me travelling expenses. All I got from the NHC was free entrance to the conference.

The Home Brew Festival
Market Bosworth Rugby Football Club
Cadeby Lane,
Market Bosworth,
CV13 0BA

Ye Olde Red Lion Hotel
1 Park Street,
Market Bosworth,
CV 13 0LL
Tel.: +44 (0) 1455 291713

AHA National Homebrewers Conference