Monday, 25 September 2017

Session Imperial Stout

No, I’m not just pissing you around. Such a thing did exist. Sort of.

WW I had a devastating effect on British beer, especially when it came to strength. Average gravity fell by almost 25% between 1914 and 1922. But the beers at the very top end were the most badly affected. Few could afford to buy beers with gravities over 1100º and most such beers disappeared.

Barclay Perkins, of course, were famous for their extremely strong Russian Stout. It was discontinued during WW I, but then brought back in 1921. But the gravity had tumbled from over 1100º to just 1061º. Not very imperial, really. They did also brew an export version at the old strength, though I’m not sure when that returned. The first record I have of it is in 1924, but it could have been earlier than that.

At not much more than half the strength of the original beer, you really could call it a session version. I’m not sure how this version was matured, if at all. Given its modest gravity, I can’t imagine it being vatted for two years. Though it might have had a few months in vats.

I know that it was usually a bottled beer. Though there is one Whitbread Gravity Book entry from 1925 for a draught version, selling at 8d a pint. From other Whitbread Gravity Book entries it looks like the weaker version was called Imperial Stout and the stronger one Russian Imperial Stout. There was a big difference in price. In 1937 a nip of the strong version cost 10d, while a half pint of the weak one cost 6d.

Both beers were discontinued during WW II and only the stronger version seems to have returned after the war. The first record I have is from 1950, when a half pint bottle cost 22.5d. Though that’s good value compared to their Lager, which cosy 12.5d per half pint despite only having an OG of 1036.5º. So a third of the strength, but almost half the price. I know which I’d have been drinking.

Here are some details:

Barclay Perkins Session Imperial Stout 1921 - 1941
Year OG FG ABV App. Atten-uation lbs hops/ qtr hops lb/brl dry hops (oz / barrel) Pitch temp boil time (hours) colour
1921 1061.3 1020.0 5.46 67.37% 8.49 2.18 2.00 58.5º 2 2
1924 1061.4 1021.0 5.34 65.80% 8.00 2.02 0.00 59º 2 1.75 280
1928 1060.4 1021.5 5.14 64.39% 6.70 1.68 0.00 59º 2.25 300
1929 1060.7 1022.5 5.05 62.93% 8.00 1.95 0.00 59º 2 1.75 290
1936 1060.4 1020.0 5.34 66.88% 6.25 2.25 0.00 59.5º F 2.5 2 360
1940 1055.4 1022.5 4.35 59.36% 7.65 2.09 0.00 60.5º 2 1.75 280
1941 1055.6 1022.0 4.45 60.45% 6.56 1.65 0.00 60º 1.75 1.75 1.5 290
Barclay Perkins brewing records held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document numbers ACC/2305/01/608, ACC/2305/01/611, ACC/2305/01/614, ACC/2305/01/621, ACC/2305/01/623 and ACC/2305/01/624.

Next time we’ll be looking at the grist.


Bosh said...

How the mighty have fallen...

Phil said...

From other Whitbread Gravity Book entries it looks like the weaker version was called Imperial Stout and the stronger one Russian Imperial Stout.

Ha! Just as I thought - all those crafties making Imperial Russian Stouts with names like Anastasia and Rasputin have got it backwards. It's not (or it wasn't) "(Imperial Russian) Stout" or "(Russian Imperial) Stout". It was "Russian (Imperial Stout)"; "Imperial Stout" was a thing in its own right, and 'imperial' referred to the British rather than the Romanov empire (to the extent that it referred to an empire). Might I add, ha! And I wish I'd had a bet on!