Wednesday 31 August 2016

Let's Brew Wednesday - 1865 William Younger Ext

Here’s a special treat. A beer from the William Younger brewing record I hadn’t really looked at.

Younger had two breweries pretty much door to each other. Their original Abbey Brewery and the newer Holyrood Brewery. Each had its own brewing book. I’ve mostly stuck to the Abbey Brewery’s records, but do have photos of two Holyrood logs.

There’s a logic behind my decision. Holyrood was mostly a Pale Ale brewery. There are pages and pages of XP and XXP, with the occasional other beer. But it doesn’t look like they brewed anything close to the full set there. While at Abbey they brewed XP and XXP alongside their Shilling Ales, Stouts and Strong Ales. In other words, the full set. Or so I thought.

Giving the 1865 Holyrood book the once over, I spotted a beer that wasn’t in the Abbey records from that period: Ext. Which I’m pretty sure stands for Export. A Strong Pale Ale that they were still brewing in 1949, almost 100 years later.

Do you know what this beer looks like to me? A classic Burton Pale Ale. An OG in the mid-1060’s and lots and lots of hops. And a pretty high degree of attenuation for Younger. They mostly struggled to hit 65%, but this is over 75%.

The recipe is just pale malt and hops. A combination of US, Bavarian and Kent hops. With a huge amount of dry hops. There are some 20th-century Younger recipes that use fewer kettle hops than this beer has in dry hops. What a wacky place the 19th century was.

It wouldn’t surprise me if this beer was aged for months before sale. The hopping – especially all those dry hops – indicates to me a beer that wasn’t going to be drunk quickly. Meaning the FG, when drunk, would have been lower and the ABV higher, possibly by as much as 1-1.5%.

1865 William Younger Ext
pale malt 14.75 lb 100.00%
Cluster 90 min 2.75 oz
Goldings 60 min 3.00 oz
Goldings 30 min 2.00 oz
Spalt 30 min 1.50 oz
Goldings dry hops 2.00 oz
OG 1064
FG 1015
ABV 6.48
Apparent attenuation 76.56%
IBU 132
Mash at 152º F
Sparge at 185º F
Boil time 90 minutes
pitching temp 59º F
Yeast WLP028 Edinburgh Ale

Tuesday 30 August 2016

Random Dutch beers (part forty)

It's just after noon on Sunday, the joint is in the oven, and it's been pissing it down since I got up.

I'm glad the weather was better yesterday. We were at Butcher's Tears for their third anniversary. It was totally mobbed so most people had to stand outside. At least the queues meant I couldn't drink too quickly.

Dolores was happy as they had Green Cap on tap. She's rather partial to it but isn't as keen on the bottled version. We'll be back there this afternoon. Assuming it stops pissing it down.

Time for a beer while the meat roasts.

Maximus Tenhop White, 4.8% ABV
"Obnoxious hopped wheat beer" Surely that should obnoxiously? I'm trying not to let it put me off. Smells like rum punch. Just without the overproof. Which is the best bit, really. In the mouth, it tastes like an IPA. I can't really pick out any wheat element underneath the hops. Just another beer with modern hops.

I'm roasting a lump of pork we bought in Berlin. The crackling is coming on a treat. I'm drooling onto the keyboard just thinking about it.

The sun has just come out. Yippee! We won't be getting soaked later.

. . . .

A week has passed. It's a rather unsettled Sunday.Rain, bit of sun. The chicken is in the oven. Time to crack a beer. From one of the favourites of the new Dutch beer scene, Oersep.

Oersoep Hopfather 5% ABV (€2.65 for 33cl from Tom Overmars)
Billed as a hoppy blond. Right colour, for sure. And smells it - another grapefruit job. with an undercurrent of toilet cleaner. Must have one of those trendy modern hops in it. Mosaic, the label says. It's quite tasty, not too heavy and seems well brewed. Nothing I can really fault it on. I'll leave finding fault to Dolores.

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

""It's OK-ish. A bit flat, actually."

"That's my fault, I knocked most of the CO2 out of it."


Monday 29 August 2016

Kimchi Festival 2016

One of my favourite non-beer festival beer festivals recently. The Kimchi Festival. Which has cleverly transformed itself from a food festival with some beer to a beer festival with some food. Seemingly without the outside world noticing.

Man looking at the the Silo, the world's craziest ever club

Which is OK by me, because it keeps the international riff-raff out. You know who I mean. The people who turn up at every geek fest. Not that this isn't a geek fest in a way. just not an international one.

And there are plenty of seats. Something old people like me appreciate. I don't want to spend all day standing up drinking form a plasctic cup. Which brings me to the second cool feature this year: a proper glass glass and only 2 euros for 15 cl. Often closer to 20 cl. That's cheaper than most pubs.

Lovely location on the IJ in a trendy outdoor café. And cheap food. Because we brought our own. I really am gradually transforming into the mean pensioner I'll finish my days as.

Quite a lot of words for what was meant to be a photo essay. So I'm shutting up. And saving my words for next time. They're starting to run low. I can already see the bottom of my word bucket.


Sunday 28 August 2016

Television hits the pubs and cinemas

The pub trade didn’t just have to worry about government policy and taxation. Technological developments had an impact, too.

The year of the below article is significant: 1953. There was a massive increase in TV ownership that year because of the coronation. Many people acquired sets specifically to be able to watch that event.

Television hits the pubs and cinemas
ONE out of six homes in Britain now has television. Licences in Leeds Post Office district show a 25 per cent. increase in six months, and have nearly doubled in the past year.

There is already strong evidence that television is exerting a powerful influence trade and leisure. Attendances at cinemas, public houses and lending libraries have fallen. Because of the increase in home entertainment, sales of bottled beer in off-licence shops are soaring.

Electrical dealers report no falling off in demand for ordinary radio, but a preference for smaller and cheaper sets.

Cinemas have felt the main effect of television. Mr. C. H. Whincup, vice-president of the Cinematograph Exhibitors' Association, said; "It has been evident in different parts of the country that television affects the cinema during the first year or two after the opening of a regional transmitter.

"Then cinema attendances start going up again. By that time the novelty of a television set is wearing off, and the financial strain of buying has eased.

"There was a similar situation when sound broadcasting began. Gloomy prophets said it would be the end of the theatre, cinema, gramophone companies and many book publishers."

Mr. Arthur Rank has said: "About 2,300,000 free cinemas have been created in our homes. Naturally, such competition must have a considerable impact upon the cinema business."

Mr. J. Beaumont, controller of Yorkshire group theatres, including Leeds Grand, said: "Television affected our audiences this summer, but ultimately it will benefit the theatre considerably by creating new stars."

A suburban public-house manager said: "Television has definitely affected our sales. It has created a shortage of ready money because people are paying for their sets by instalments, we notice the difference in custom particularly on Sunday evenings."

An off-licence shopkeeper only 100 yards away, said: "Television has sent our sales up. We are getting back the trade lost to the public houses before the war.

"Our trade originated in middleclass people entertaining home. I can always tell when there something good on television; we get a rush between 7.30 and 8 pm., and then nothing."

A Yorkshire brewery director confirmed that there is a trend towards bigger sales of bottled beer.”
Yorkshire Evening Post - Monday 02 November 1953, page 6.

Yet another reason why sales of bottled beer were increasing at the expense of draught. In pubs, it was preference or dissatisfaction with the quality of draught beer that boosted bottled sales. But for drinking at home, punters didn’t have much in the way of an alternative. They were pretty much forced to buy bottled beer. Though having said that, there were some old-fashioned Leeds off-licences that had draught beer in the 1970’s.

What interested me was what the offie owner said about winning back trade the pubs had taken from them pre-war. I wasn’t particularly aware of a swing to pub-drinking in the 1930’s I must remember to hunt down more on that.

Saturday 27 August 2016

Brewery Yard

Monday 12th September at the Fulton Street Taproom in Chicago you'll be able to hear me talk about - and hopefully get to drink - a very special collaboration beer I've made with Goose Island: Stock Pale Ale. Made the old-fashioned way.

An authentic 1870's Burton Pale Ale recipe, matured in neutral oak for eleven momths. With, here's the twist, Brettanomyces clauesenii. Just like a real Victorian Pale Ale would have been.

The result is beer unlike anything else available today, Goose Island Brewery Yard.

Come to the launch. It's going to be loads of fun.

Let's Brew - 1949 William Younger Btlg DBS

Scottish Stouts can be pretty odd. Especially in the 20th century. I’m still trying to get my head around them.

You have the incredibly sweet, barely fermented type like Sweetheart Stout. Robert Younger who parti-gyled one with Ordinary Bitter. And Drybrough who somehow magicked one from their single Pale Ale recipe, presumably by dumping a load of caramel in at racking time.

Then there’s this beer.

Stouts came and went at William Younger, but DBS had real longevity. My first spotting of it in their brewing records is 1851. At that time it was highly-attenuated and heavily-hopped. Very unlike the Scottish-style beers that they brewed. In the 1870’s it was joined by a group of weaker, less well-attenuated Stouts with minimal hopping. As time went on, these Stouts became even less well-attenuated and even more minimally hopped. They must have been incredibly sweet.

DBS remained much the same until WW I, though the attenuation and OG both fell a bit. The weak Stouts didn’t survive the war. Maybe that’s why the attenuation of DBS fell to 50% in the 1920’s. Though it continued to have reasonably decent hopping. In the 1930’s, attenuation and hopping increased again. And liquorice and lactose added to the ingredients. This is so confusing.

Which brings us to this incarnation. With it’s odd combination of quite heavy hopping, low attenuation, lots of roast barley and lots of lactose. There must have been quite a clash of flavours, with both malts and hop bitterness battling it out with the sweetness from the lactose. Which had me really intrigued. What would it taste like? I suspect not much like anything on the market today. Maybe like Mackeson XXX, a beer I really rated but no longer see around.

1949 William Younger Btlg DBS
pale malt 6.00 lb 57.14%
crystal malt 60L 0.50 lb 4.76%
mild malt 0.50 lb 4.76%
roast barley 1.00 lb 9.52%
flaked barley 1.00 lb 9.52%
caramel 0.25 lb 2.38%
lactose 1.25 lb 11.90%
Fuggles 90 min 0.75 oz
Fuggles 60 min 0.75 oz
Fuggles 30 min 0.75 oz
Goldings dry hops 0.125 oz
OG 1046
FG 1019
ABV 3.57
Apparent attenuation 58.70%
IBU 29
SRM 27
Mash at 151º F
Sparge at 160º F
Boil time 90 minutes
pitching temp 60º F
Yeast WLP028 Edinburgh Ale

Friday 26 August 2016

Another reason for drinking bottled beer

I’m so pleased that I found these letter in the Yorkshire Evening Post. It explains both why some drinkers eschewed bottled beer and reminds me of my youth.

What’s being described is a autovac or economiser. A way of serving beer that was standard in any Leeds pub with handpulls. But also the reason why when I arrived in the city in 1975 almost every pub used electric pumps.

Beer overspill
A. M (Leeds 8): It is time the practice "pulling the plug" out of the beer trough was discontinued. This method of getting rid the over-spill is unhygienic.

Every pint or half-pint drawn is swilled over the glass into the trough, and a proportion is drawn back through the pump into the glass. I have no complaint against the publican, as he cannot afford the loss of much beer, but it is time the brewers did something about this so-called modern method of beer saving.”
Yorkshire Evening Post - Wednesday 17 June 1953, page 4.

The point was to serve a pint with a creamy head in a brim measure glass. To get the right effect you needed to pull at least a pint and a quarter to fill a pint. Which would be a lot of beer to throw down the drain. Reusing the overspill as described was the obvious solution.

There’s been some discussion recently of just how traditional a creamy Yorkshire head is. I seem to remember someone saying it only developed after WW II. The description of the Univac as a modern method of saving beer implies that its use was a fairly recent development.

I’ve just searched for autovac and it’s clear from this advert that they were in use before the war:

“DALEX 2-pull Beer Pump, fitted with auto-vac, no waste; nearly new. McGowan, Craven St., Hull.”
Yorkshire Evening Post - Saturday 18 July 1936, page 2.

The “no waste” promise is a sure sign they expected to owner to be pulling tight, creamy heads.

This customer agrees that the use of an autovac was unhygienic and had taken measures:

Beer overspill
P. M. (Leeds 7): A. M. (Leeds 8) makes pertinent comment on beer overspill. Until something Is done about serving beer in more civilised, hygienic way. I drink bottled beer (and ask for the bottle and a dry glass).

It would be simple to make glasses taller and mark them with half-pint one pint line. It would then be possible to get both beer and froth inside the glass.”
Yorkshire Evening Post - Friday 19 June 1953, page 4.

His suggestion was taken up. In the early 1970’s it was ruled that autovacs were unhygienic and as a result Leeds pubs ripped out their handpumps and replaced them with metered electric pumps. As the pumps were metered oversized glasses could be used without the risk of serving a long measure. That’s why there were virtually no hand pumps when I arrived in Leeds.

There was only one tiny little problem. Tetley’s didn’t taste right served that way. In 1976 handpumps started to reappear in Tetley’s pubs. Within a few years all the electric pumps were gone.

You know what’s really weird? I feel dead nostalgic for electric pumps. They were everywhere when I started drinking. Are there any still in use?

Thursday 25 August 2016

Random Dutch beers (part thirty-nine)

It's 1 PM, Saturday and sun is shining. Time to hide inside and drink more Dutch beers. It's no wonder I'm such a healthy white colour.

Andrew has already appeared and uttered his standaard: "Can I have 30 euros, Mama?" He got downstairs before I cracked my first beer of the day. Not sure which of us that reflects best on.

Another beer from oldish/new Utrecht brewery, De Leckere:

De Leckere Paulus, 7.5% ABV
I see it's billed as Koyt, a venerable and once extinct Dutch beer style.Looking at the ingredients, I can see they aren't joking: it contains barley, oat and wheat malt. The colour is pale yellow. Which I think is right. Nice orangey, malty aroma. Surprisingly light for the ABV. Not a huge amount of hop presence. Other than that, I'd have mistaken it for a Tripel. A pleasant enough beer.

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

"No, not right now, Dad"

"It wasn't a question."

He wanders off before I can force him to take a sip. Bastard.

It's been a quieter week, thank Stalin. Though I did assemble a 730 page book. And noticed I had another book I'd never published. I've so many manuscripts, it's difficult to keep track of them all.

Gebrouwen door Vrouwen Tricky Tripel, 7.8% ABV
Mmm Is this the elderflower beer again? Smells like it. No, it's more like coriander. I'll stick with spicy, as a description. Like walking through a sea of grass and then sniffing your kecks. Or something like that. My word mill is all ground out. Let's see if the flavour can get it grinding again. No, hasn't worked. Orange, spice and a warming undercurrent of alcohol. That'll do. The alcohol, I mean, not my rubbish description.

Me and Dolores are off to Butcher's Tears soon. For their third anniversary do. It's perfect. Just around the corner, so no need to brave the tourist hordes in the town centre. Though it's threatening to rain. Bastard weather.

Wednesday 24 August 2016

Let's Brew Wednesday - 1940 William Younger P Btlg

Let’s move to the other end of Pale Ale spectrum at William Younger. With a luvverly watery beer, P. But not just any P, the bottling version of P.

You know what it looks like to me? A post-war 60/-. They were usually around 1030º. And pretty lightly hopped. Both of which characteristics this beer shares. During the first half of the 20th century Scottish brewers really knocked down their hopping rates. Leaving their beers much less hoppy than those from south of the border.

Whitbread’s XX Mild Ale from the same year contained almost twice as many hops, while having only a slightly higher OG (1031.5º) . The same was true of Barclay Perkins weaker Mild, A and X (1029º and 1032º) which had around 50% more hops than P. And remember that these beers are Mild, not Pale Ales.

You may have already spotted one unusual feature of this beer. It’s all malt. There’s a simple explanation for that. Pre-war, Younger’s recipes were mostly just pale malt and grits. The war made all maize products unobtainable, as it needed to be imported. At the time there was no maize grown in the UK.  Later in the war brewers used either oats or flaked barley as a replacement for maize.

I assume the relatively high OG is to stop the beer tasting too thin. It also means you’ve got zero chance of getting pissed on it. It’s not even 2.5% ABV.

Do let me know if you brew this. I’d love to know how it tastes.

1940 William Younger P Btlg
pale malt 6.50 lb 100.00%
Fuggles 90 min 0.50 oz
Fuggles 30 min 0.50 oz
Goldings dry hops 0.125 oz
OG 1028
FG 1010
ABV 2.38
Apparent attenuation 64.29%
IBU 14
Mash at 154.5º F
Sparge at 160º F
Boil time 105 minutes
pitching temp 63.5º F
Yeast WLP028 Edinburgh Ale

Tuesday 23 August 2016

Something else I forgot

Another book. Can you believe it? I forgot about it. Mostly put together last year, fiddled with this week. Polished up with my patented turd buffer.

A guidebook to (bits) of a country that no longer exists. Descriptions of beers that haven't been brewed for decades. Ratings for razed pubs. So useful. [insert time machine joke].

All of the bits. No, not all. Quite a few of the bits I've written about the DDR in the last 20-odd years. Mostly totally, totally useless information.

You can buy it here, if your head has a few too many bumps:

Another cracking cover from Alexei. Much better than the useless crap inside. It's an old trick. Classy cover, rubbish inside.

Drinkers want cheaper not stronger beer

Cripps budget in April 1950 didn’t please everyone. The tax on beer was cut, but the government forced brewers to increase the strength of beer rather than reduce the price.

I’m not sure why the government didn’t want the price to fall. That’s certainly what those in the trade wanted. And I can understand why. But I’ll let someone with personal experience explain:

Sir Stafford Cripps is out of touch with public opinion, says Mr. G. B. Green, President of the Cheltenham Licensed Victuallers' Association.

"The public want a cheaper, not a stronger beer. The three per cent gravity increase is just a 'sweetener.'

"We licensees are very grieved that there has been no reduction in price. We had quite expected it.

"I think the public generally is quite satisfied with the beer at present on the market. It's a good, honest beer.

"But— it's too expensive."

Brewing of the new Cripps special stronger beer will begin at the Cheltenham and Hereford Breweries "in the next day or two."

Mr. N. H. R. Wardle, manager of the Brewery, told the "Echo" to-day that it was not possible to say how soon the higher gravity beer would be available to the consumer.

Bottled beer, he explained. required up to three weeks' conditioning; draught beer, about a week.

Complicated instructions concerning the brewing of the stronger beer were received by the Brewery from the Customs and Excise authorities during the morning.

Commenting on Sir Stafford's Budget decision to increase the gravity of beer instead of making any alteration in the price, Mr. Wardle said:

"We are sorry that the Chancellor has not considered it possible to lower the duty on beer, but at the same time we feel that the public will appreciate a stronger beer for the same money.

"But I doubt if the new strength will do anything to increase sales.

"There is lot of disappointment among licensees who had hoped for a price reduction which would arrest the present decline trade." ,
Gloucestershire Echo - Wednesday 19 April 1950, page 1.

A small increase in strength was likely to have marginal impact on demand for beer. While a decrease in price almost certainly would have increased sales. And revenue to the government. Which makes their decision to increase beer gravity even stranger.

Here’s what the changes meant in terms of tax and gravity:

Ordinary Mild

old rate new rate
tax per standard barrel 4120.5 3852 3852 3852
OG 1030 1030 1032 1033
tax per 36-gallon barrel 2247.55 2101.09 2241.16 2311.2
tax per pint 7.80 7.30 7.78 8.03

Ordinary Bitter
old rate new rate
tax per standard barrel 4120.5 3852 3852 3852
OG 1035 1035 1037 1038
tax per 36-gallon barrel 2622.14 2451.27 2591.35 2661.38
tax per pint 9.10 8.51 9.00 9.24

The tax cut amounted to about 0.5d per pint on Ordinary Mild and Bitter. An increase in gravity by 3º left breweries slightly out of pocket, if they continued to sell the beer at the same price.

Note what a huge percentage of the retail price the tax amounted to. At this time a pint of Mild retailed for about 13d per pint, Ordinary Bitter 15d. Doesn’t leave a huge margin for either brewer or publican.

Monday 22 August 2016

Hull prefers fags to stronger beer

Despite an increase in the strength of beer in 1950, beer sales in Hull were down.

Breweries had an explanation: money was tight and drinkers used what little money they had on cigarettes rather than beer.


BREWERY SPOKESMEN in Hull today confirmed that beer sales are down in the city as well as in the country, and they all gave one reason —lack of money.

Current slump in Hull's fishing industry has had the biggest effect on Hull ale consumption. Home from sea the typical trawlerman spent a good slice of his big earnings on beer. Now the money has gone and the beer, though 10 per cent, stronger, stays unsold.

Sales of wines, spirits, and bottled beer are also down.

"I'm a non-smoker myself." said one brewery chief. " I've no prejudice against smoking, but if 1/- was taken off the price of a packet of cigarettes, our sales would go up. Most people insist on putting their fags first. Even if we could double the gravity of beer, they would still make cigarettes No. 1 and ale No. 2."

Another expert said. "Shortage of money has brought a four per cent decrease in beer sales, but the confirmed drinkers are still spending to the limit of their spare cash."

A third said. Some clubs in Hull are doing very well on beer sales, but public-houses in the fish dock area are having a thin time." Even so, brewers are having to order more hops this year, because of the increased gravity, which is appreciated by the seasoned drinker and which sometimes puts the unseasoned under the table, or into court.”
Hull Daily Mail - Tuesday 08 August 1950, page 3.

You may not remember this, but the average gravity of beer only went up by 2º, or by about 0.2% ABV. Not really enough difference to put the unwary under the table or in hospital.

I can think of a good reason why people would choose fags first – they’re addicted to nicotine. Unless you’re a raging alcy, giving up beer would be way easier than going cold turkey on ciggies.

“spending to the limit of their spare cash" sounds very much like me in my younger days with regard to buying beer. A perfectly logical approach, if you ask me.

I’ll end with some figures that show it wasn’t just in Hull that beer consumption was falling. It was a national trend.

UK beer production, consumption, average OG and tax 1947 - 1952
UK 1947 1948 1949 1950 1951 1952
Production 29,261,398 30,408,634 26,990,144 26,513,997 24,891,746 25,156,489
Consumption 30,011,879 31,067,391 27,611,545 27,311,390 25,597,793 25,850,381
Exports 109,680 205,098 254,147 221,210 275,433 267,390
Imports 860,161 863,855 875,548 1,018,603 981,480 961,282
Production Irish Republic 1,952,583 1,988,580 2,119,583 2,304,668 2,279,655 2,339,224
Duty per standard barrel 286s 5.5d 325s 5d 364s 4.5d 343s 4.5d 321s 321s
Average OG 1032.59 1032.66 1033.43 1033.88 1036.99 1037.07
Brewers' Almanack 1955, p. 57
Brewers' Almanack 1955, p. 50
Brewers' Almanack 1955, p.107-110

Sunday 21 August 2016

Köpenick (part two)

It is with a certain amount of dread that I walk down the steps to the Keller. Have they have fucked it up?

Luckily, they haven’t. Little has changed from my memories, other than a coat of paint and a new bar counter. Still looks pretty classy. Much classier than the prices.

There’s a smattering of other diners, but not too many. It is after 2 PM, so not that surprising. We grab a table for two next a long and very nicely laid out one. Very posh.

It’s been at least 10 minutes since my last beer. Best order something quickly. Oh look, they’ve got Köstritzer Schwarzbier on draught. Not had a pint of that for ages. That’ll do nicely. Dolores opts for a Wernesgrüner Pils. I’m impressed by how DDR the beer selection is. They may well have sold Wernesgrüner in the old days, it being fairly posh here back then, too. Can’t say I was ever that impressed with the stuff myself or Radeberger. I much preferred the Pilseners of Thüringen.

We’re only after something light. Dolores opts for one of her favourite things: raw minced pork.

“Not much cooking for the chef to do there.” I quip.

Did I mention that Dolores’s paternal grandmother was from East Prussia? Dolores’s paternal grandmother came from East Prussia. Which is why Dolores knows how to make Königsberger Klopse, a type of boiled meatball. After I order a portion, I realise I’ve a bit of a Kö- theme going on: Ratskeller Köpenick, Köstritzer Schwarzbier, Königsberger Klopse.

We’re halfway through our meal when we realise why the long table looks so posh. A wedding party turns up. It’s slightly odd when the speeches start, as we’re sitting right next to them. Like less fashionable relations at a satellite table.

Did I mention how ridiculously cheap it is? A meal each, 2 pints for me and a pint and a half for Dolores comes to €32.80. A bargain. Especially as it was also really tasty.

All prandialled-up, we set off to stretch our legs a little.  Our destination is Schloss Köpenick, a baroque palace. I have vague memories of visiting it last time we were down this way all those years ago. It’s not much of a leg-stretcher, being not much more than 100 metres.

The palace itself doesn’t seem to be open, so we go and sit in the garden. Just as well I’ve my emergency pint with me. I suck on that as we watch another wedding party have their photos taken. I can see why they chose here. It’s a very pretty spot. And a short stroll from the Rathaus where I assume the official formalities took place.

It’s pretty obvious this must have originally been a castle. The centre of Köpenick is on an island and the Schloss is on a smaller island off that. An obvious spot for a settlement and fortification.

When the photographer has done his work and my emergency pint is used up, it’s time to move on. Not to worry. A brewery is just a few steps away. One I’d wanted to visit for a while.

Not just any old brewery. What claims to be the smallest commercial brewery in Germany. I won’t argue with them. Their kettle is tiny. Really tiny. Most serious home brewers have larger kit.

It’s a strange sort of place. Basically a glass cube in the middle of the square. There’s a bit of seating inside, but far more room at outside tables. Which is where me and Dolores park our arses, trying to stay upwind of the smokers. Of which there are plenty.

For a German brewpub, the beer range isn’t bad. Not just the dreaded Helles, Dunkles, Weizen trio, all served very green. I don’t understand how anyone can drink the godawful Helles many brewpubs offer. Here there’s also a Pale Ale a Kirsch-Chilli Bier and, what most impressed me, Köpenicker Moll, a local style.

They say on their website that the recipe was developed from archive material and in collaboration with a historian. But I’ve learnt to be pretty cynical about these things. Without more details about the recipe, it’s hard for me to judge how authentic the beer is.

The beers are pleasant enough. Definitely drinkable, which isn’t always a given. We have a couple before wending our way back to the S-Bahn station.

It’s been a fun day out. Köpenick hasn’t disappointed.

Ratskeller Köpenick,
Alt Köpenick 21,
12555 Berlin.
Tel: + 49 (0)30 6 55 51 78
Fax: +49 (0)30 65 47 27 49

Draught beers: Wernesgrüner Pils, Köstritzer Schwarzbier, Erdinger Hefeweizen and Guinness

Schlossplatzbrauerei Köpenick
Grünstraße 24
12555 Berlin- Köpenick
Tel. : 030 42096876

Saturday 20 August 2016

1939 William Younger Ext

Another Scottish beer, but this time probably more like what you would expect.

Ext – which probably stands for Export – was William Younger’s top of the range Pale Ale. I’m still struggling to make sense of their beer range. There seem to be far more beers that necessary. But this one I think I can place. It’s not  million miles away from Drybrough 80/- of the same year. That had an OG of 1050 and was the forerunner of their post-war Export.

The term “Export” for a strong Pale Ale seems to have come into use before the war. While “Light” and “Heavy” I’ve only seen used after the war. At least in terms of Pale Ale. Heavy was sometimes used for Strong Ales – like Fowler’s Wee Heavy – earlier, but not for a mid-strength Pale Ale.

The recipe is pretty dull, just pale malt and grits. And one type of hops, plus dry hops. At least it’s only 20% grits this time. Not too crazy.

For a Scottish beer the attenuation is pretty reasonable at over 70%. Leaving a beer with over 5% ABV. The FG should be much easier to achieve than with the under-attenuated ones.

I don’t have much more to add, other than that you can colour it darker with caramel, if the fancy takes you. I doubt it was always – if ever – sold as brewed. That’s the Scots for you. They loved their caramel.

1939 William Younger Ext
pale malt 10.00 lb 80.00%
grits 2.50 lb 20.00%
Fuggles 90 min 1.25 oz
Fuggles 30 min 1.25 oz
Goldings dry hops 0.25 oz
OG 1054
FG 1015
ABV 5.16
Apparent attenuation 72.22%
IBU 30
Mash at 153º F
Sparge at 160º F
Boil time 105 minutes
pitching temp 60º F
Yeast WLP028 Edinburgh Ale

Friday 19 August 2016

Progressive year for all but brewers

By 1950 things were starting to pick up in Britain. For many industries it was boom time. But not for all of them.

Edinburgh’s breweries were having a rather difficult time:

Progressive year for all but brewers

A review of trade and industry in Edinburgh during 1950 presents a cheerful picture. Engineering firms are in a very much better position than they were a year ago; printers report that they have had a “very full year”; while retailers of other than luxury goods and particularly those in the furniture and furnishing lines, report improved business which has been checked only a little by the rising prices in recent months.

Of the city’s main industries, brewing has had, perhaps, the least successful year. Over the past six months there is a reported reduction in consumption of beer of something under 10 per cent. On the other hand, production is still in excess of pre-war., exports of bottled beer are better than last year and the Christmas trade in bottled beers is reported to be going extremely well. One brewer thought that the reduction in home consumption over past months had been noticeable without being calamitous. In a few cases there have been staff reductions and certain subsidiary trades have been affected. In this industry, as in most others, rising costs have provided one of the year’s biggest problems, and many brewers are hoping that the Chancellor of the Exchequer may reduce the tax on their products in 1951.”
Falkirk Herald - Saturday 06 January 1951, page 7.

The prominence given to the brewing industry in the article is a sign of its importance to the city. Edinburgh had quite a few decent-sized breweries, which brewed far more beer than could be drunk in th city, or even in the whole country. Scotland was a big exporter of beer both to England and abroad. Not only did brewing provide employment, it also brought money into the city.

The importance of exports over domestic trade is highlighted by the fact that a 10% drop in local consumption wasn’t a disaster for the industry. Let’s take a look at some numbers.

Bum. That’s annoying. I don’t have the output of the UK constituent countries for the years 1937 to 1950. That’s really irritating. You’ll have to make do with the numbers I do have. They are fascinating. And are making me rethink some of what I’ve written about Scottish brewing after WW II.

Beer production 1932 - 1959 (bulk barrels)
Year UK Production Production Scotland % Scotland
1932 20,790,812 918,000 4.42%
1933 17,950,303 1,002,000 5.58%
1934 20,182,308 1,089,000 5.40%
1935 20,864,814 1,179,000 5.65%
1936 21,969,763 1,236,000 5.63%
1951 24,891,746 2,000,000 8.03%
1952 25,156,489 2,019,000 8.03%
1953 24,883,227 2,106,000 8.46%
1954 24,582,303 1,981,000 8.06%
1955 23,934,215 2,068,000 8.64%
1956 24,551,158 2,086,000 8.50%
1957 24,506,524 2,156,000 8.80%
1958 24,647,978 2,111,000 8.56%
1959 23,783,833 2,226,000 9.36%
Brewers' Almanack 1955, p. 50
Brewers' Almanack 1962, p. 48
"A History of the Brewing Industry in Scotland" by Ian Donnachie, 1998, page 237.

In the early 1950’s, beer production was much higher than before WW II. But while beer production fell slightly in the UK as a whole between 1951 and 1959, in Scotland it increased. And the percentage of the UK’s breer that was brewed in Scotland increased from 5.63% in 1936 to 9.36% in 1959.

Here’s me been saying that Scottish brewers suffered from loss of export markets in the 1950’s as the Empire melted away. Yet this shows Scottish brewers doing better than those in England. I’ll need to go away and have a think about this. Looks like I might have been talking out of my arse again.

Thursday 18 August 2016


Dolores and I really got to know each other in Berlin. We’d met a few times, corresponded a lot. Truth comes when you look into each other’s eyes.

That we met in Berlin wasn’t by whim or design. We couldn't easily meet anywhere else, Dolores being a citizen of East Germany.

In the cold dark days of the, er, Cold War, travelling to an Eastern block country was a right palaver. You had to go to the embassy to apply for a visa. A total pain. Berlin, though, was another story.

Weird rules applied in Berlin. Despite being the capital of the DDR, you didn’t need a visa in advance like everywhere else in the country. You could buy one at the door. For 24 hours. Nae probs, a weekend is only 48 hours, just need to recross the border once. 

Already living in Amsterdam. I could jump on a train Friday night and be in Berlin by 6 AM. Leave East Berlin and re-enter it without leaving Friedrichstrasse station and get another 24 hours. Then take the night tram back to the flat. Happy days.

We must have spent at least a dozen weekends in Berlin in 1987 and 1988. Plenty of time to explore the city. My visa was only valid in Berlin, but fortunately the city’s boundaries are very generous. There was a large area I could legally visit. Though, in reality, I could probably have jumped on a train to Leipzig and no-one would have been the wiser.

I can’t remember why we visited Köpenick. It might have been because of the palace. There’s a baroque job that used to belong to the Prussian royal family. Frederick the Great used it. Or it may have been simply because that was as far as I could go and remain in Berlin.

Eating in the Ratskeller, I do remember. Under a grand gothic revival vaulted cellar. Quite posh, but, it being the DDR, still dirt cheap. For me. All those Ostmarks I was forced to buy had to get used up somehow. In particular, I remember what I drank. Because it was a first time thing. Tokay.

The Tokay I’d read about in Gide’s “Les Faux Monnayeurs”. It seemed wonderfully exotic. Not something I’d come across in the pubs of Leeds or Newark. Seeing it in the DDR was a surprise. It didn’t disappoint. Feeling supremely sophisticated, I sipped it slowly.

“Do you fancy going to Köpenick, Dolores?”

“What’s there?”

“Don’t you remember eating there before we were married? In the Ratskeller.”

“Yes. So?”

“Would you fancy going back? There’s also a little brewery close by.”

“Why is that no surprise?”

On the way to the S-Bahn station we drop by the Getränkemarkt. To look for Tannenzäpfle with the retro fifties label. I can’t find any so pick up a bottle of Tegernsee Spezial instead. Not sure why. But a spare bottle of beer is always handy to have to hand.

It’s a surprisingly quick journey, despite the distance and a change in Ostkreuz.  But I’m still in urgent need of a wee when we arrive in Köpenick.

“I need a wee. I’m going to nip into that pub.”

Dolores declines and heads instead for the chemist opposite.

It’s not the fanciest of pubs. But the barmaid insists on pouring my Pils the slow, multi-step way. All very nice, except when you’re waiting for her to finish so you can rush to the bog.

There’s a new shopping centre next to the station. That wasn’t there before. I remember it looking like typical late 19th-century Berlin. Except perhaps a little crumblier. Past the shopping centre, it’s more like what I remember. Though obviously much less crumbly.

When we get to the Rathaus I ask Dolores “Fancy eating in the Ratskeller?”

“It looks posh. Probably too expensive.”

I check the price list and it’s remarkably reasonable. Cheap enough even for Dolores. In Amsterdam we’d be limited to eating in FEBO for a similar price.

Inside it looks . . . . well, you’ll have to wait until next time to discover about Ratskeller’s interior. Because it’s time for my bed now.