Tuesday 28 February 2017

Moving William Younger (part two)

Let’s learn some more details about the proposed removal of breweries from Canongate.

If you refer back to the map, you’ll see that there are four breweries marked. But William Younger’s Abbey and Holyrood breweries were far larger than the other two.

Asked by the Lord Provost where they would find a site of 32 acres for the breweries, Mr Plumstead said that they would get 19 acres in the London Road area by removing sub-standard tenement property and the rest could be found in the Craigmillar area.

The Lord Provost — What are you going to achieve by this wholesale removal at Holyrood?

Mr Plumstead — You are going to achieve a unity of residential property which could be of very fine character, in keeping with the Royal Mile.

The MacRae plan, said Mr Plumstead, envisaged a comparatively small amount of residential property, and the existing population of 3800 would fall to 1300. There was agreement between the advisory plan and the MacRae plan so far as the widening of Horse Wynd was concerned.

They differed in so far as Mr. MacRae retained the brewery immediately to the west and suggested Queensberry House for industrial use. The Advisory Plan suggested the retention of Queensberry House as an institution or for residential use.

The committee unanimously agreed to accept the MaeRae report for the redevelopment of the north side of the Canongate as a residential area, but Councillor Rhind moved an amendment that on the south side of the Canongate the Corporation should plan for the ultimate removal of industry from the area.

They could not, he argued, have both residential property and industry in the Canongate. He personally would not like to live in houses overlooking breweries and heavy industries.”
The Scotsman - Tuesday 04 July 1950, page 6.

So they were going to knocj down some old tenements to find space for the breweries. That and the Craigmillar area, by which they mean Duddingston. Which, although already home to half a dozen breweries, had plenty of open space, being surrounded by farmland. It seems a pretty obvious solution.

The north side of Canongate had less industry than the south side. Basically just a huge bus depot and one factory. A fair amount of land was taken up by a church and graveyard. Whereas on the south side most of the land was occupied by industry.

Personally, I’d be quite happy to live overlooking a brewery. You’d have the lovely smell of mashing every day. Who could object to that?

Bailie Robert Bell said they were dealing with one of Edinburgh's main industries and two of the leading firms in the brewery industry. He asked if the breweries knew of the plans to move them and if they had had an opportunity of expressing their views.

Mr Plumstead said that although they had never come before the committee, the committee had authority to have consultations with them.

The Lord Provost said that to clear out all industry down the south back of the Canongate would mean they would still need to clear everything on the other side of Holyrood Road. "That to my mind is so fantastically expensive that it is unrealistic," he declared.

Councillor Rhind suggested they should make a brewery precinct at Duddingston. He wanted to see the Canongate alive again — not dead as it was to-day — and a real Royal Mile.

Councillor J. B. Mackenzie said he was all in favour of the MacRae plan as achieving something in our generation rather than what he would regard as a theoretical dream.

Councillor J. G. Dunbar wanted to know what would be the ultimate cost of removing firms like Younger's.

The Lord Provost — It would be to my mind as big an expense as moving the railway from Princes Street Gardens.

After further discussion the Lord Provost moved the adoption of the MacRae report for the area of the Canongate — excluding the Abbeyhill district — bounded by the Calton Road up to New Street and down St John's Street to the south back of the Canongate and back to the frontage of the entrance to Holyroodhouse.”
The Scotsman - Tuesday 04 July 1950, page 6.

Brewing was still an important Edinburgh industry in 1950. Though over the next 15 years  mergers and closures would greatly reduce it importance. Eventuall being reduced to just a single brewery, Caledonian.

It doesn’t sound as if the breweries had been consulted at all about the council’s plans. Though it looks as if the expense of implementing them had effectively made them a non-starter right from the start. Eventually, the council didn’t need to force  the breweries to move: they closed of their own accord. The Abbey Brewery in the 1950’s and the Holyrood Brewery in the 1980’s. Patience was all the council needed.

Doubtless the council couldn’t imagine in 1950 what would happen to Edinburgh’s brewing industry. It had been around so long it must  have appeared permanent to them. How wrong they were.

Monday 27 February 2017

Scottish dropping

Been learning loads in my final sprint to finish my new Scottish book.

Particularly about fermentation. And the dropping system that William Younger employed.

I'm a bit obsessed with Scottish fermentations. Because I've suspected that a steaming pile of shite has been written about it.

They grey squares denote when the wort was dropped to a square.

Dead interesting for me. Doubtless dead boring for you.

Just a small taste of the obsessive detail in my new book. Which is almost done. Just the recipes to finish off. 25 detailed ones, 100 others. The last sprint takes the most out of your legs. Mine are totally Donalded. In a duck sort of way.

William Younger Shilling Ale fermentations in 1879
day 1 day 2 day 3 day 4 day 5
Beer OG pitch heat AM PM AM PM AM PM AM PM AM
50/- 1036 59.5º F 61.5º F 63.5º F 66.5º F 69º F 63º F 58º F
S 50/- 1042 61.5º F 62º F 65º F 66.5º F 65.5º F 68.5º F 64º F 68.5º F
H 60/- 1039 62º F 63.5º F 66.5º F 69º F 69º F 71.5º F 65º F 59º F
80/- 1059 61º F 65º F 70º F 75.5º F 70.6º F 65º F 59º F
100/- 1070 60º F 63º F 67º F 70º F 75º F 70º F 60º F 62.5º F
120/- 1083 59.5º F 62º F 66.5º F 72º F 75.5º F 78.5º F 72º F 64.5º F 60.5º F
140/- 1096 56º F 58º F 59º F 61º F 64º F 68º F 71º F 62º F 69.5º F 62.5º F
160/- 1109 55º F 60º F 65º F 69.5º F 68º F 65.5º F 62.5º F 60.5º F 57.5º F
William Younger brewing record held at the Scottish Brewing Archive, document number WY/6/1/2/28.

Fascinating the control of the fermentation temperature.

Sunday 26 February 2017

Scottish book update

Not that you'll be interested. But when has that stopped me? My blog is an ode to the obscure.

The main text is, as of this morning when finally wrote a bit about colouring, done. Doesn't mean the book is done. Recipes are part of it, too.

100 detailed recipes, 25 for each chapter. Plus another 250 bare bones jobs. I'm almost there. 85,000 words, as of now. Just need to dedicate the rest of my weekend to recipes.

The book is shaping up to be about double the size of my "proper" one. Which this one should, eventually, be as well. Professionally published, I mean. Nicely washed and trimmed.

I'd rush to get your copy when I publish it (probably next week). It won't be around for long.

Dolores is calling me for my tea. Salmon. Yum. I'll leave you with some pretty DDR Rolands.

Saturday 25 February 2017

Let's Brew - 1931 Thomas Usher IPA

Been a busy, busy day. The text of the Scottish book is done. Not all the recipes, though.

It was my Friday off today. Spent recipe fiddling for the final tweaks of the book. The ISBN came in today. A little more recipe rustling, a boot up Alexei's arse to do the cover and I'll be ready to rock and roll the book out to the publisher. Me, in this case. unless a real one steps out of the shadows.

Evening now. I would chat, but i'd quite like to watch something on the telly with Dolores.

Watery IPA, simple grist, English hops (but that's a guess because there's no mention of the hops in the record). Nothing much particularly Scottish, save for the simple mashing scheme.

Kettle's boiled. Here's the recipe:

1931 Thomas Usher IPA
pale malt 5.00 lb 74.07%
flaked maize 1.00 lb 14.81%
No. 2 invert sugar 0.75 lb 11.11%
Goldings 120 min 0.50 oz
Goldings 60 min 0.50 oz
Goldings 30 min 0.50 oz
Goldings dry hop 0.25 oz
OG 1032
FG 1011
ABV 2.78
Apparent attenuation 65.63%
IBU 22
Mash at 152º F
Sparge at 170º F
Boil time 120 minutes
pitching temp 60º F
Yeast WLP028 Edinburgh Ale

Friday 24 February 2017

Moving William Younger

Town planners – dontcha just love them?   Keen on demolition, they  were back in the immediate post-war years. Houses, pubs and even breweries. The total and utter bastards.

Back in the early 1950’s Edinburgh city council had rather grand plans for redeveloping the Holyrood Palace end of the Royal Mile. Which was home to several breweries, including the Abbey and Holyrood breweries of William Younger.

There were two rival plans for the development, the Abercrombie plan which would remove all industry from the area, and the rather less drastic McCrae plan.

Breweries May Not be Moved
By ten votes to two Edinburgh Planning Committee decided yesterday to accept the principles of the MacRae plan, prepared by the former City Architect, Mr E. J. MacRae for the future development of the Canongate.

The essential difference between the MacRae plan and the Abercrombie plan for the area, which was also before the committee, is that the former plan makes no provision for the eventual removal of the breweries or other industry from the Canongate area.

The committee's recommendation will be submitted to a meeting of Edinburgh Town Council on July 26.

Outlining the Advisory Plan, Mr D. Plumstead, Planning Officer, said that Sir Patrick Abercrombie and he had considered that the Canongate was one of the two historical parts of the city which, at one time 200 years or so ago, were essentially residential communities. The Royal Mile was really a "national preservation" and it would be more in keeping with it if the Canongate were residential and not industrial.”
The Scotsman - Tuesday 04 July 1950, page 6.

A look at an old map shows how surprisingly industrial this area of the old city was, with several other factories, in addition to the breweries, and a huge bus depot. They covered a considerable area, which was very tempting for the council.

Canongate around 1950

One concern about moving the breweries was their water supply. Breweries hadn’t clumped around Canongate randomly. They were there because of the presence of good quality brewing water which could be accessed by digging wells.

“To move the breweries would not be impossible so far as water was concerned. If the breweries were removed the Corporation would get 32 acres in the Canongate, which, if developed at a reasonable density, would accommodate 4000 people. It would be possible to build a block of luxury flats in the area, the revenue from which would help to pay any compensation in which the Corporation might be involved.

It would be possible to move the breweries one unit at a time. The buildings near Holyroodhouse could be moved first to a site in London Road and 200 people could be then accommodated in flats in the cleared area.

Although they had not got down to the details of the financial questions involved Mr Plumstead said it Was felt that as that Canongate was of national importance, it was very likely that the city would obtain considerable Government assistance if they decided to remove the breweries. It would be a most popular decision to remove the breweries to another area.

Bailie R. Bell — Popular with whom ?

Mr Plumstead — Popular with many people in the city. That is the impression Sir Patrick and I got.

If the breweries were to remain the Corporation would have to allow them to expand, and in that case they would have to reconsider the proposals of the Advisory Plan so far as the zoning of the centre of the city was concerned.”
The Scotsman - Tuesday 04 July 1950, page 6.

32 acres is a lot of  land. Especially so centrally in the city. I had to smile when I saw the bit about luxury flats. Building luxury flats is such a 21st-century approach to redevelopment.

By “The buildings near Holyroodhouse” they must mean William Younger’s Abbey Brewery, which was almost the last thing on Canongate before Holyrood Palace.

Next we’ll learn where they proposed moving the breweries to.

Thursday 23 February 2017

Eisenacher Brauerei

Pretty much done, my new Scottish book. You won't have to put up with flimsy posts like this for much longer.

Though I do have to write all those talks I'm meant to be giving in April and May. That might take up a little of my time.

I say just about done. The main text is complete, A few more detailed recipes need to be written. Not a huge number. And I have to drop in all the brief recipes. There are a couple of hundred of those. I still need to write some Drybrough and Maclay recipes, too. I'm still aiming for the end of the month for it to be ready for the printer.

Back to the putative them of this: Eisenacher Brauerei.

I drank a stack of beer from them. For the simple reason that Dolores lived there with her mum. And pretty much all the pubs in town sold their beer. It was by no means my favourite. The Helles had a shelf-life shorter than the walk home from the shop. The Pils was a bit sturdier, but not much. But I'm the forgiving type.

Eisenacher was also our wedding beer. We got through two kegs of it before the happy day. Blame my side of the wedding party. Small in number, but big in thirst.

The brewery is still going, according to Dolores, who was there last week. Odd it should have survived when breweries with better beer have disappeared.

Wednesday 22 February 2017

Let's Brew Wednesday - 1909 Maclay Table Beer 28/-

Table Beer was a bit of a Scottish speciality in the 19th century. When this low-gravity beer was shipped to England and beyond.

English brewers – in the big cities, at least – had kicked Table Beer into touch early in the 19th century. The Scots not only persisted with it, but earned good money from it. But towards the end of the 1800’s, it peters out in Scotland, too. The last William Younger example I have is from 1898. Making this the latest one I know.

Parti-gyled with 56/- Mild, you might have expected it to have the gravity. In reality, 28/- only had just over a third of the 56/- gravity of 1061º. For a pre-WW I beer, 28/- is laughably weak.  Though at least in those days you paid the tax proportionate to gravity, even below 1027º.

The grist is pretty interesting for a Scottish beer, with a full three different types of malt. Yahoo! Not a huge amount of bitterness, but what would you expect in a sub-2% ABV beer?

1909 Maclay Table Beer 28/-
pale malt 3.00 lb 63.16%
amber malt 0.125 lb 2.63%
black malt 0.125 lb 2.63%
grits 1.00 lb 21.05%
No. 2 invert sugar 0.50 lb 10.53%
Cluster 120 min 0.25 oz
Hallertau 60 min 0.25 oz
Fuggles 30 min 0.50 oz
OG 1022
FG 1007
ABV 1.98
Apparent attenuation 68.18%
IBU 16
Mash at 146º F
Sparge at 170º F
Boil time 90 minutes
pitching temp 63º F
Yeast WLP028 Edinburgh Ale

Tuesday 21 February 2017

Braugold, Erfurt

With the end in sight for my Scottish book, there's not much time for writing blog posts. A sane man would stop posting every day. Draw your own conclusions.

It's frustrating because, without external interference, the book would be done by now. And annoying filling in the last few bits. The good news is that I've only post-WW II boiling and Scotch Ale. Shouldn't take more than a day or two.

An tired and tested way of banging out a post is to resort to DDR labels. If nothing else they look pretty. Prettier than my words, if I'm honest.

I really rated Braugold back in the Happy Days. Angerbräu was pretty damn good, nice and bitter. And a decent draught Pils I remember drinking in a pub opposite the cathedrals in Erfurt itself. With my Mum, brother and various other members of our wedding party. My brother's friend Eddie got separated from us when he was distracted by a group of Russian soldiers.

Love the blood splatter on the last label.

Monday 20 February 2017

Porter fraud

Search the newspaper archive for Bass and what you'll mostly find are reports of court cases. Trademark cases against brewers and third parties passing off another beer as Bass Pale Ale.

Given the number of cases, people using their brand fraudulently must have been a big headache for Bass. But it seems they weren't the only ones to suffer brand fraud. Barclay Perkins, the fame of whose Porter spanned the world, were victims, too.

The name of Barclay, Perkins, & Co. having been affixed without their permission to Bottles containing ALE AND PORTER brewed by other parties:—

will be paid to any person giving such information as will lead to the conviction of the offender or offenders. By order,
JOHN TYRER, Sole Agent,
46, Hanover-street, Liverpool.
Dec. 3lst. 1853."
Liverpool Mail - Saturday 13 May 1854, page 1.
The very next advert explains exactly what John Tyrer did: he was an export bottler.

JOHN TYRER, SOLE AGENT for BARCLAY, PERKINS, and Co, begs to call the attention of Merchants and Shippers of Export Ale and Porter, to his Export Bottling Depot, Hanover-street. and Heywood’s Yard, where orders to any amount for BARCLAY, PERKINS & CO.’S LONDON PORTER; EAST INDIA PALE ALE, properly matured for long voyages, also BASS & CO.’S, and other EAST INDIA BURTON ALES, of the First Brands, can now be executed on the shortest possible notice.

Devoting himself to this branch of the trade, the most particular care will be exercised in putting up Ale and Porter. And it is well known that BARCLAY PERKINS & CO.’S name has been extensively attached to bottles containing spurious Porter, John Tyrer has determined, in order to prevent such frauds for the future, and for the purpose of affording to Shippers the best guarantee that they are supplied with the genuine article, to adopt Betts's Patent Capsule Covering on the Cork, and discontinue the use of tin foil altogether. Capsules, with his Name and Address stamped thereon, will be fixed over each bottle, and by this means Consignees abroad will have full for detecting the frauds practised, there, by filling the English labelled bottles with foreign beer, and passing them off for English brands.

Sole Agent for
Barclay, Perkins & Co.

The want of such an establishment has been long felt, and the arrangements now entered into will enable John Tyrer to compete with any of the London Houses, either in quality, packing, or PRICE.
46, Hanover-street, Liverpool, April 13, 1854."
Liverpool Mail - Saturday 13 May 1854, page 1.
I was asked a couple of weeks ago when beer was first exported already bottled. A quick investigation unearthed evidence from the 1840's. I suspect the real date is a good bit earlier that that. The usual way of packing bottles for shipping was in barrels padded with straw. It's often forgotten that there were two types of barrel. "Wet" barrels which contained liquids and "dry" barrels that contained solid goods.

I'd best explain what "by filling the English labelled bottles with foreign beer" means. Returned bottles which had contained genuine Bass were refilled with another beer. For this reason Bass recommended customers deface the label before returning the bottle to make refilling impossible.

More than 50 years later, Barclay Perkins were still struggling with fraud:

When buying LONDON STOUT, ask for BARCLAY, PERKINS’, and INSIST upon seeing their Name on the Label, as other Stouts are being sold with Labels similar in Colour and Appearance, which deceive the eye. BARCLAY PERKINS’ LONDON STOUTS are the BEST, and have stood the Test for more than 200 Years."
Fifeshire Advertiser - Saturday 05 February 1910, page 4.
The bastards, deliberately designing their labels to look like those of Barclay Perkins

Sunday 19 February 2017

Postwar Scottish Stout

I'm just filling in the final gaps in my Scottish manuscript over the weekend. The end is almost in sight.

I've marked all the sections that are incomplete and I'm working my way through them. They're all in the final section, covering 1939 to 1970. Or so. The end date isn't 100% fixed.

I was surpised to see I hadn't included the grist table. Then I looked in the spreadsheet. It was obvious what I'd been dodging:

Only five beers but more than a dozen ingredients. An absolute nightmare of a table to assemble. Hence my lack of arsing to get on with it.

That's sort of the story of me writing a book. I throw down the headings then start filling in the easiest bits. The stuff I can do mostly from my head. Next I'll start attacking specific sections with multiple megaton nuclear tables, divided by the occasional paragraph of text. The hard stuff - where I need to go back to the brewing records or do extra research - gets left until last. And - as in this case - the awkward data.

Now I've had time to think, the answer's there: transposition.

With the book just about done, time to get Alexei to conjour up a cover. I'll get an ISBN number next week. That's just about everything. Except one last thing. A title.

Any suggestions? There's a free copy of the book if I use your title.

Saturday 18 February 2017

Let's Brew - 1909 Maclay Mild 56/-

As I slowly assemble recipes for my new Scottish book, I realise how small a percentage of the brewing records I own I’ve ever turned into recipes.

The Mild Ales from Maclay are a case in point. Before WW I, like most Scottish breweries, Maclay still brewed genuine Mild Ales. At least things that were called Mild Ale in the brewery.  I’m inclined to believe that they were for one good reason: their grists differ from Maclay’s Pale Ales. After WW I, the Scots mostly abandoned Mild Ale. The few that were still produced I suspect were destined for the English market.

Talking of grists, the one from this beer tells a story. The tale of the gradual darkening of Mild Ale around 1900. It’s a process that I’ve observed in England, too. I’ve no real evidence as to what drove this change, only wild guesses. Which I won’t bore you with here. We may never know the real reason.

Neither of the two Milds Maclay brewed, 56/- and 42/-, was equivalent to London AX Ale. 56/- had a gravity around 10 points higher, while 42/-, at just 1035º, was far weaker than anything brewed in the capital. Around 1900 Scottish gravities began to diverge from those in England, with beers being brewed that were far weaker than anything seen in England until the latter phase of WW I. In 1914 the average OG in England was 1051.69º, but four points lower in Scotland at 1047.67º*.

Maclay’s Pale Ale grists also contain amber malt, though a smaller percentage at just 1.5% of the grist. Only their Milds included black malt. The purpose of the black malt  was surely to darken the wort. I suspect that Maclay were already colour-correcting with caramel because there’s a section in the brewing records with the title “colourings”. Unfortunately, I haven’t found an example where this was filled in.

As most of Maclay’s beers of this period, there’s a fair dose of grits, around 20% of the grist. The only exception were the Stouts, which instead contained 30% oats.

I’m not sure exactly what the sugar was. In the record it’s described as “inversion”. It’s obviously some sort of invert sugar. Possible one that Maclay had made themselves. No. 2 is me just playing it safe. It could also have been more like another invert, for example No. 1 or No. 3. Feel free to use one of those if it suits you.

Maclay used the same combination of hops in all their beers: Hallertau of three different ages (1905, 1906 and 1907 harvests), Californian hops from 1907 and two sets of English hops from 1905 and 1908. Because of the age of some of the hops I’ve reduced the hopping.

* Brewers' Journal 1921, page 246.

1909 Maclay Mild 56/-
pale malt 8.75 lb 66.67%
amber malt 0.50 lb 3.81%
black malt 0.125 lb 0.95%
grits 2.50 lb 19.05%
No. 2 invert sugar 1.25 lb 9.52%
Cluster 120 min 0.75 oz
Hallertau 60 min 0.75 oz
Fuggles 30 min 1.50 oz
OG 1061
FG 1025
ABV 4.76
Apparent attenuation 59.02%
IBU 36
SRM 12
Mash at 146º F
Sparge at 170º F
Boil time 120 minutes
pitching temp 61º F
Yeast WLP028 Edinburgh Ale

Beer and music

What was I drinking when I listened to Hawkwind in the 1970s? Homebrew mostly, as I was broke as a back on a mountain. Blankety blank, dosh-wise.

Strange to think of that 70's me, with his crap trousers, rubbbish hair and all sorts of socialising issues. I can can look back in horror at that me, but it's still me. All the crap baggage I've lugged around a lifetime. It's still all there.

Friday 17 February 2017

1909 Maclay Strong Ale

Writing the new Scottish book has unlocked many secrets. Not through extra reasearch, for the most part. But through combining information I'd already collected.

Admittedly, for one of the most revealing, I did take a second look at brewing records. Directly comparing the mashing schemes of multiple breweries was very revealing. Especially as to how prevalent the underlet mashing technique was. I wasn't especting that.

I've just put together the first set of Maclay recipes for the book. From 1909. I tell a lie, I had already done a couple from the 1930's. The later Maclay records in the Scottish Brewing Archive look more like someone's personal notebook than official records. They're in small notebooks with cardboard covers and lined pages. While those from 1909 are in a properly bound pre-printed ledger.

The 1909 book is in what I call English format. With each brew getting a whole page. Most Scottish breweries went with the one line per brew, across two pages, system. They're fairly well detailed, unlike the later notebooks. Which is how I know Maclay was another Scottish brewery to underlet mash.

Another thing I noticed. An early example of a new type of Scottish beer. A Strong Ale that, rather than being a type of Mild Ale, was a super-strength Pale Ale. Like this example from Maclay, which was parti-gyled with a 54/- Pale Ale. After WW I, this was the type of Strong Ale most Scottish breweries made. Other than William Younger. Who always were different.

Yet another new style for my BeerSmith.

Thursday 16 February 2017

A strange place for a supper party

Here’s a random report about the Ballingall brewery in Dundee.

Well, not totally random because it contains some pretty handy information. But it starts off with something I’m more accustomed to seeing in London: a dinner party held within a Porter vat:

A supper party without beer or other fluids to assist the digestion of the solids is, in these degenerate days  - as our teetotal friends would be inclined to call them — a rarity ; but a supper party held within a beer vat is a  still more uncommon spectacle. Such a party was held one night this week, in the premises of Messrs Ballingall & Son's, the well-known brewers at the Pleasance; and considering the novelty of the situation, it is well deserving public notice. Messrs Ballingall have lately, owing to the great increase of their porter business, been obliged considerably to extend their facilities for brewing, and one feature of their additions has been the erection two large new vats, for storing beer - among the largest receptacles of their kind in Scotland. They are strongly built of the best seasoned oak, jointed in the same manner as casks, and circled with hoops at intervals of about 20 inches. The dimensions of each are something surprising, being 17 feet in depth, and from 12 to 14 feet in diameter; but the best idea of their capacity will be obtained when we mention that each will contain 250 barrels of liquid, or between 3,000 and 10,000 gallons. Before putting them to their proper use, Mr Ballingall resolved to try their capacity another way, and on the evening in question invited several of his friends, to the number of about a dozen, who, descending to the bottom of the vat by means of a ladder, found there an excellent "spread," to which the most ample justice was done. The novelty of the idea gave a certain piquancy the repast, but all agreed that a more comfortable supper room could not have been improvised. There were no draughts except such as were of an agreeable and stimulating kind; and after supper the acoustic properties of the vat were shown off to great advantage by the vocal powers of the company, "Success to the firm of Messrs Ballingall & Son," was drunk with three times three, and hope expressed that their vats would never again contain such a company, but that they would always be in full operation, and be a source of profit to their owners.”
Dundee Advertiser - Friday 13 April 1866, page 5.

The 1860’s is a weird time to be installing new Porter vats. It’s the decade when Keeping Porter rapidly fell out of favour in London, before disappearing completely in the 1870’s. After which most London brewers ripped out their largest vats, only leaving some of the smaller ones for ageing Stout.

I’m also surprised that a Scottish brewery would need extra Porter capacity at this point. Even in London sales were slipping. I assume by Porter they mean both Porter and Stout. By the 1860’s few Scottish breweries were producing a true Porter. I suspect that these vats were really for Stout. Scottish breweries had a good export trade in Stout, particularly to the West Indies. As we will see later, Ballingall had an extensive export trade.

In London, a 250-barrel vat was nothing special. In the capital the largest vats were measure in thousands if not tens of thousands of barrels.

Next time we’ll be looking inside Ballingall’s brewery in more detail.

Wednesday 15 February 2017

Let's Brew Wednesday - 1965 Whitbread Mackeson Stout

“Let’s do a Sweet Stout next time” Kristen wrote to me. I thought, let’s go for the granddaddy of all Sweet Stouts: Mackeson.

When this beer was originally brewed, Mackeson was a big, mainstream product in the UK, heavily advertised on television. So much so that I can still remember the slogan: “It looks good, it tastes god and by golly it does you good”. Sadly, its fortunes were soon to take a turn for the worse.

Associated with old codgers sat in the corner of the pub with a half, Mackeson became as fashionable as the Bay City Rollers. Along with Brown Ale and Light Ale, Sweet Stout was a bottled beer that suddenly fell from favour. So much so that it’s hard to imagine now the enormous quantities of it that were sold.

Whitbread had been early players in the bottled beer game and as early as 1914 50% of their output was in bottled form. That was an enormous percentage for the time. I’m sure most UK breweries never got anywhere near that percentage at any point in the 20th century. It was through bottled beer that Whitbread became distributed nationally.

So a beer like Mackeson was very useful to have in their portfolio. And probably why Whitbread bought the Hythe Brewery in 1929. Especially a specialist and niche product like Mackeson. A beer they had a chance of getting into rival brewers’ public houses.

The version brewed at Chiswell Street in London, of which this is an example, was parti-gyled Whitbread’s other two Stouts, WOS, an Oatmeal Stout for the domestic market, and ES (Extra Stout) which was exported the Belgium. Which means some brews of Mackeson contained malted oat. How weird is that?

As brewed, Mackeson had a fairly normal attenuation of 70-75% apparent. Because the lactose wasn’t present during primary fermentation only being added after racking. It would have tasted very different before the addition of the lactose.

1965 was the year Whitbread started to voluntarily used unmalted grains, in the form of flaked barley, for the first time. The only other time had been when forced to by the government in WW II. A sad day.

Time to hand over to Kristen . . .

Kristen’s Version:

Notes: Bluntly, sweet stouts are a confusion to most brewers for many reasons. My guess is because very few people actual drink them, nor make them, anymore. It starts at the levels of sweetness. I’m talking proper sweet stouts now. Not the bastardized American versions that are basically a ‘comparatively’ sweet stout. Not the ones that are used as a vehicle for selling a process or a trademark, new bottle, new glass, etc etc. Only a few places still make them in the good old UK, and they don’t make much no matter how tasty they are. A lot of American brewers like chucking lactose into big stouts to beef them up but I like to think they are doing it to stick it to the millennials, again. Doesn’t make them sweet stouts. Stouts that are poorly fermented and sweet aren’t sweet stouts either. There is still one place where they like their ‘sweet’ stouts. Funny enough, these are in the hot tropical regions. You’ll basically find two versions; either in the lower alcohol ‘sweet’ stout or the omnipresent ‘tropical stouts’,  which on a side note is my desserted island beer (porpoiseful pun). There is just something refreshing about drinking a ‘hot’ 7.5% stout…soul soothing no less. To me, the very most important thing about this recipe, is that I’ll be half naked on a beach in Jamaica drinking myself legless on 7.5% tropical, sexy and ‘sweet’ Dragon Stout while you read this. So you can hate me, or you can hate me and do something stupid like doubling the gravity and making a big bastard of a beer and drink my sexy dad-bod out of your mind…I’d probably up the invert percent to 12-15% so it doesn’t get too heavy…but that’s not this beer. Wait! Just make this first before you cackhand it all up… Can we please just focus on this beer Kristen? Holy crap, who brought this guy…

Malt:  I’ve talked about mild malt a lot before. I have thought. Many thoughts sometimes. Basically, to me, Kristen, Paul’s Mild malt is in a league of its own. That’s not to say that all the other mild malts aren’t beautiful snowflakes in their own way…I’m saying, they may be snowflakes, but in the way your mom says you’re a unique snowflake. Seriously though, I’ve tried pretty much all non-UK mild malts and most are pretty much bluster and word smything. E.g. Turkish Delight. Sometimes you don’t need 3000# of Mild malt. Sometimes you can’t get 10# of the stuff. The most important thing to me about this entire recipe is that you get off your Khyber Pass and just do it. If you can’t get the mild malt good stuff, use a really nice and chewy pale malt. Maris is always great. Optic if you can get it. Canadian pale is really nice. Stay away from German pils and US pale malts on a whole. Even though not traditional, you can always throw in some Vienna or Munich to a more basic pale malt to get that ‘maltiness’ up a bit. I mean, there is nothing from stopping you from doing all Munich or Vienna. To me, this beer is much more about the play with roast and sugar than the base malt…although if you can, do it right. ALSO: Note that the lactose is added to this after fermentation which will bump up the gravity by 5 points or so. You can, however, throw it in at the whirlpool which I’ve found no difference AND is much easier to do, IMO. Which means if you put it in the whirlpool, your OG and FG will be about 5pts higher. Givertake. YMMV.

Hops: Doesn’t matter. Use whatevers. There is just a good amount to add an edge to the finish to keep its corpulence down.

Yeast: A nice English yeast will do nicely. Or a neutral one. Or a lager, like the tropical versions. Whatever your favorite house strain is, or play around with something new. Just make sure its healthy and not Belgian, Weizen, Wit, etc etc POF+.

Cask: Standard procedure:
1) let the beer ferment until finished and then give it another day or so. For me right around 5-7 days.
2) Rack the beer to your vessel of choice (firkin, polypin, cornie, whatever).
3) Add primings at ~3.5g/L
4) Add prepared isinglass at 1ml/L
5) ONLY add dry hops at 0.25g/l – 1g/L.
6) Bung it up and roll it around to mix. Condition at 55F or so for 4-5 days and its ready to go. Spile/vent. Tap. Settle. Serve at 55F.

Tuesday 14 February 2017


My new Scottish book is full of information. Too full. But even then, there's the odd bit I can't shoehorn in.

I spent the weekend looking at mashing details. I know that sounds a bit dull, but it was both English and Scottish mashing schemes. Which adds an extra piquancy.  It meant putting together loads of fascinating tables.

But there wasn't room for all of them in full. I couple I just used extracts from. That's how stuffed full the book is. 70,000 words, at the moment. Though probably half of those "words" are numbers. That's how many tables there are.

The tables below I assembled for a larger table on mashing schemes in the 1930's. A fascinating topic. No, I'm not taking the piss. It is dead interesting. And through looking at mashing details more closely I've learned stuff. In particular, stuff about underlet mashing.

I've always though of underlet mashing - adding more hot water to the mash through the bottom of the tun a while after the initial infusion - as a particularly London practice. After looking in more detail, it seems that the practice was widespread in England. Though the process wasn't exactly the same everywhere.

Courage 1930 KKK, MC and X mashing scheme
strike heat mash heat stood hours
mash 1 158.5º F 146º F
underlet 173º F 149º F 2
sparge 1 160º F
sparge 2 160º F
Courage brewing record held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number ACC/2305/08/258.

Courage's underlet was relatively cool compared to Camden's:

Camden 1922 PA mashing scheme
strike heat mash heat tap heat
mash 1 157.5º F 149º F
underlet 185º F 155º F 154.5º F
sparge 1 165º F 157.8º F
sparge 2 161º F
Camden Brewery brewing record held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number ACC/2305/9/5.

While Tetley's was hotter still:

Tetley 1934 X1 mashing scheme
strike heat mash heat tap heat stood hours
mash 154º F 147º F 155º F 0.75
underlet 200º F 152º F 153º F 1
sparge 168º F 147º F
Tetley brewing record held at the West Yorkshire Archives, document number WYL756/ACC3349/552.

Maybe I should start looking more at mashing. There's so much fun to be had.

Monday 13 February 2017

Diamant Brauerei Magdeburg

A change of pace today. I'm still up to my eyebrows in Scottish beer. But I thought I'd offer you a little relief from it. Witj some DDR labels.

There's something about DDR label design I just love. Not sure why. Partially nostalgia, I guess. For those fun days of the DDR. Oddly, I seem to be the only person who considered East Berlin a holiday paradise. But what else can you call somewhere beer is dirt cheap and you have more money than you can spend? It's so weird looking back. Weird that a walled city seemd somehow normal.

I wish I'd collected more labels at the time. I only have a handful though I know I drank dozens of different beers, mostly from Berlin, Sachsen and Thüringen.

But I digress. I'm supposed to be banging out a quick post of little more than some pretty beer labels. Labels from the Diamant Brauerei in Magdeburg. I never drank any of their beer that I can recall. Never been to Magdeburg, other than passing through it on the train to Berlin.

Brilliant ended up as part of Brau und Brunnen and closed in 1994. It's since re-opened as a museum and brewpub in part of the old premises.

Diamant Brauhaus
Alte Diamant Brauerei 21,
39124 Magdeburg.