Saturday 31 March 2018

Why dry hop? (part two)

I hadn't forgotten about this. Just been resting my brain a bit.

Not that I'll be getting through all of the second instalment of the article this time. For some reason part two of the article ios three times the length of part one. A bit strange.

The theory that wild yeasts on the hops were responsible for secondary fermentation is given short shrift. And with good reason. Stuff like Brettanomyces takes a while to get going. Longer than it takes a secondary fermentation to kick off.
"WE are now in position to ascertain how far the sugars of the hop are accountable for the after-fermentation in duced of dry hopping. If we consider that the brewer uses from a half to three-quarters of a pound of dry hops per barrel, the total quantity of sugars so introduced will amount, in round numbers, to 3.5 per cent. of this quantity, that is, from eight to twelve grams of sugar per barrel. This small amount of sugar is quite incapable of producing the observed effects, and that the freshening effect is not in any way due to this cause is clearly shown also by the fact that when the dry hops are submitted fora very short time to the action of steam, and they are afterwards introduced into the beer along with the small amount of water of condensation adhering to them, they are found to have entirely lost the power of inducing an after fermentation.

The second possible explanation that the vigorous after-fermentation is induced by the hops, owing to certain organised ferments introduced by them, has received our most careful attention, and we have made a very large number of experiments in this direction, both on a small and large scale,which, to our minds, are very conclusive. We can quite confirm the observations of various previous observers, that there certainly are several small varieties of yeast naturally adherent to the hop, and that these yeasts are capable of ready cultivation in sterilised worts and beer. There can be no doubt, also, that these “wild" yeasts occasionally develop and give trouble in the beer, but close observation, both in the laboratory and on a practical scale, has shown most conclusively that the particular conditioning property of the hop to which we are now drawing attention, is long antecedent to the growth and development of these wild yeast forms, and is quite independent of them.

We have now to consider the only remaining explanation of the freshening power of the dry hops in beer, viz., that they contain a diastase capable of hydrolysing the non-crystallisable products of starch transformation, which a beer always contains.

Our first experiments were performed with aqueous infusions of hops, made by macerating a large quantity of hops with a comparatively small quantity of water for forty-eight hours, and testing the filtered extract for diastatic power by digesting known quantities with a fixed volume of a solution of soluble starch at about 35° C., a temperature favourable to hydrolysis of a diastatic enzyme is present. Under no possible conditions could we in this way obtain an extract showing any diastatic power. We varied the experiment by taking the first filtrate from the hops and making another infusion with it, again repeating this until we had obtained no trace of diastase in solution, as not the slightest hydrolysis could be brought about by the extract in solutions of soluble starch, amyloins, or beer extract.

It might, perhaps, have been a reasonable deduction to make from these experiments that hops contain no diastase, but our previous experience on the extraction of hydrolytic enzcymes from animal and vegetable tissue had shown with what tenacity these ferments are sometimes held by the cell protoplasm, and that the tissue itself will often hydrolyse by contact when its aqueous infusions have but little or no such action. As it happened, also, there was in this special case another unsuspected disturbing cause, to which we shall make reference later on.

To determine if hops can hydrolyse by contact, 5 grams of unbroken hops were added to 250 c.c. of a solution of soluble starch, containing 2.5 grams per 100 c.c., and the mixture was digested at 30° C., with the addition of a little chloroform as an antiseptic. An exactly similar control experiment for correction purposes was carried on alongside, but in this case the whole had been previously boiled to inhibit any action. At the end of three days an increased reducing power was found in the unboiled sample, after due correction, equal to 0.883 gram of CuO per 100 c.c. This is equal to 0.656 gram of maltose; so that the 5 grams of hops in three 4 days had produced 0.625 X 2.5 = 1.640 grams of sugar calculated as maltose, or a little over one-third of the weight of hops employed.

In order to show that a fermentable sugar is really produced under these circumstances, another somewhat similar experiment was made, and the hydrolysed starch solution was fermented with yeast. On the disappearance of the free maltose, the solution, which still had a considerable reducing power, was distilled, and an amount of alcohol equal to 0.24 gram per 100 c.c. was obtained. This amount of alcohol corresponds to the quantity which would be yielded by the disappearance of 0.475 gram of maltose.

It is quite possible, under well-defined conditions, to determine with considerable accuracy the relative diastatic power of different vegetable tissues. As we shall shortly lay before the Chemical Society a somewhat lengthy paper dealing, amongst other matters, with the diastase of foliage leaves, in which the method is described at length, we will not enter into any detail here, but will merely give the results of some determinations of diastatic power of several kinds of hops acting under the standard conditions. The numbers really represent the actual number of grams of maltose capable of being produced from soluble starch and amyloins respectively by 10 grams of hops, acting for forty-eight hours at 30° C. :—

Series A. Soluble starch solution. Series B. Aymloins Solution.

Grams of Maltose. Grams of Maltose.
(1) 1891. Mid Kents 7.241 9.101
(2) 1892. Mid Kents 7.955 9.309
(3) 1892. Worcester 6 8.654
(4) 1892. Bavarians 3.752 5.665

Let us consider for a moment the full significance of these numbers. Taking No. 1 as an example, we find that 10 grams of these hops are capable, under the conditions of the experiment, of producing, in 48 hours, from an excess of soluble starch, 7.241 grams of maltose; whilst from amyloins, under the same conditions, the same amount of hops has produced by hydrolysis 9.101 grams maltose. In other words, within 48 hours the hops have, in the first case, produced by hydrolysis 72 per cent. of their own weight of fermentable sugar, and, in the second case, 91 per cent.

The conditions for hydrolysis are, of course, more favour able in the experiments we have just described than they are in actual practice, owing to the very fine state of division to which the hops had been reduced ; we, therefore, repeated the experiment in a different form, using this time a beer, instead of solution of soluble starch or amyloins.

The beer had an original gravity of 1,086, and, in order to prevent any fermentation occurring during the experiment, we added to it a few drops of chloroform. One gram of unbroken hops was added to 360 c.c. of this beer ; this is at the rate of one pound of hops to the barrel. The flask was then placed at a temperature of about 28° to 30° C. The beer had originally a cupric reducing power equal to 2.995 grams of maltose per 100 c.c. At the end of seven days this had increased under the action of the hops to 3.1903 grams, an increase equal to 0.1908 gram maltose per 100 c.c., or 0.687 gram for the 360 c.c. So we see that the hops in this case, acting upon a beer under conditions which may readily occur in practice, have, within seven days, produced from the non-crystallisable starch-products of the beer an amount of maltose equal to 68.7 per cent. of their total weight.

In a barrel of beer in which three-quarters of a pound of hopping-down hops have been used, this represents a production of 8.25 oz. of fermentable sugars in seven days, a quantity more than sufficient to account for the steady after-fermentation induced by dry-hopping."
The Brewers' Guardian 1893, pages 107 - 108.
Between 0.5 and 0.75 lbs per barrel of dry hops was pretty normal in the 19th century when beers were stronger. I've seen as much as a full pound in pre-WW I London-brewed Burton Ales. So the experiment is a good representation of what might happen in the real world.

It looks proven, then, that hops contain a diastase that can convert starch into sugar. My question is this: what is the effect of the very heavy dry-hopping that takes place nowadays? Does it provoke a secondary fermentation? Has anyone noticed this?

Friday 30 March 2018

A Modern Lager Beer Brewery

You're probably well aware of my Lager obsession. Especially British Lager. This article was given to me by Hugo Anderson, a former Watney brewer.

WW I was a funny time for British brewers. Especially if they were interested in brewing Lager. There were only a handful of breweries in the UK making Lager at the time. Mostly spcialised companies like the Red Tower Lager Brewery in Manchester and the Wrexham Lager Company. Many brewers had been put off by the spectacular failure of a couple of Lager startups in the late 19th century.

The war closed off the main sources of Lager in the UK. Not just Germany and Austria, but also Denmark and Holland. It gave brewers a new incentive to brew Lager themselves. Also because Continental Lager was no longer available in the Far East, which remained an impportant export market for UK brewers.
"A Modern Lager Beer Brewery: Its Product, Equipment, and Organisation.
By Fred. M. Maynard.

In order to avoid any misconception, I will explain that the two considerations which have prompted me to bring this subject before you at such a time are, firstly, that as our Teutonic enemies are now shut out from our Colonies and Dependencies, I feel that every endeavour should be made by our exporting firms, and that without delay, to place a true lager on the foreign markets. Such a beer will need to be, however, in every respect, as good an article as the Continental and better than the Japanese, for I understand that India is being flooded with lager, made in Japan, to the prejudice of British brewers. Should this suggestion be acted upon, I would strongly impress upon any firm contemplating taking such a step, to firmly set their face against coquetting with any of those bastard methods of producing a lager beer to compete with the genuine article; the only royal road to that result being found in the three mash decoction process, bottom fermentation in open vessels, and above all, lengthy storage at low temperatures, as practised at the original export brewery on the Continent, which was, I may say, one of those at which I acquired my knowledge of the subject.

In the second place, the question arose in my mind as to whether, in view of the weak beers brewers are now called upon to brew, a consideration of the peculiarities of lager beer and the methods employed in its production might not perhaps give us some hints not altogether valueless under present conditions of brewing. Further, as several writers, notably Chas. Graham and Wright, have drawn attention to the nutritious and non-intoxicating properties of lager beer, in order to verify these statements, two of our members, Messrs. Pope and Case, have kindly acceded to my request to make some independent analyses of various types of lager. These analyses are interesting at the present time, and more especially so when they are compared with the corresponding figures of top fermentation ales and stout.

Comparative Analyses of Stout, Ales and Lagers, and their corresponding values if reduced to one common original gravity of 1040°.
In 100 grams of beer. In 1 pint
Analyst. Description of beer. Original specific gravity. Grams absolute alcohol. Grams malt extract. Grams absolute alcohol. Grams malt extract.
M.Lambert Dublin stout 1074.4 6.58 5.65 37.51 32.2
If at 1040° 3.54 3.04 20.2 17.3
M. Lambert Dark lager 1048.8 3.08 6.02 17.56 34.31
If at 1040° 2.53 4.94 14.39 28.12
M. Lambert Pale ale 1001.4 5.5 4.33 31.86 24.68
If at 1040° 3.64 2.82 20.75 14.4
T. H. Pope Pale lager  1048.2 2.97 5.87 17.2 34
If at 1040° 2.46 4.87 14.27 28.2
A. E. Case Special lager (all malt) 1037.4 2.2 5.2 12.44 29.48
If at 1040° 2.35 5.56 13.35 31.52
M. Lambert Light dinner ale  1049.5 4.25 3.93 24.22 22.4
If at 1040° 3.4 3.17 19.57 18.1
A. E. Case Shell 2 per cent. ale 1011.2 0.8 10 5 5.6
If at 1040° 2.87 3.57 17.8 20

From these figures it will be seen that lagers vary in their strength and composition, but the "Special Lager" (see Table) is one perfectly well obtainable by suitable modifications in the malting and brewing processes, beers of this type having been regularly produced for some time at one of the oldest and most successful genuine lager beer breweries in England. The accompanying diagrams show the comparative analyses in a more striking manner."
Journal of the Institute of Brewing, vol. XVII, 1920, pages 485 - 486.
The Japanese didn't just flood British colonies with beer. I know from Dutch newpapers in the East Indies that their colonies also received large quantities of Japanese beer. You can't blame the Japanese. With supplies from Europe cut off, it was an obvious business opportunity.

I won't argue with Mr. Maynard about the processes required to brew a good Lager. Triple decoction, open fermenters and long lagering. That's exactly how most Franconian breweries still operate today.

More to come on this topic,

Thursday 29 March 2018

Let's Brew - 1932 Barclay Perkins Draught Lager

Barclay Perkins spotted a market for Lager during WW I, when supplies from the Continent were interrupted.

They experimented brewing Lager during WW I using their small kit. After the war they took the plunge and installed a shiny new specialist Lager brewhouse, bringing over a Dane to be its head brewer. The very first Lager was brewed 13th May 1921.

Initially they just brewed a Pale and a Dark Lager for bottling, but in 1922 they introduced a draught Lager, too. Draught Lager was the weakest of the three at 1044º. The Pale or Export Lager was 1051º and Dark Lager 1057º.

Lager was a niche market, but quite a profitable one. With only a handful of UK brewers producing Lager there was little competition and drinkers expected to pay a premium price. I’d be interested to know how many of its rivals’ pubs Barclays was able to get its Lager into.

It’s not exactly a complicated beer, with just base malt and a couple of types of hops. What the malt is exactly isn’t very clear. My guess would be pilsner malt, based on the name of the maltster, which was Schwill. It sounds to me like they were importing the malt from either Germany or Austria.

The hops – a mix of Saaz and Hallertau – were definitely imported from the Continent. Both these types of hops were also frequently used in British-style beers.

That’s me done. Over to Kristen . . .

Kristen’s Version:
Notes: Man its so cool to start picking apart some of the English lagers! There are a lot of neat little twists put on by some brewers and there’s some that pretty much look like their ales but fermented with lager yeast. So, lager…as in to lager… Here’s the rub. There is middling info about it in the log. The beer was fermented at 48F for about a week when it hits terminal gravity then 2 weeks later its at 34F lageringish temp. There is no record of letting this sucker warm in the least which leads me to believe it had at least a bit of VDK, if not a lot, hanging around. So to the lagering part, it’s a pretty small beer, so you shouldn’t have to do any extensive lagering. Maybe 3 weeks or so after terminal should do it. During that time it should drop bell bright and be ready to carbonate. In this belief, I bunged my fermenter 1.5 plato short of terminal, and crashed after reaching it to 34F and lagered for 3 weeks. In that time it dropped clear and was pretty much carbonated with a minor adjustment. As I wrote in the tasting notes, its got a touch of the ‘dreaded’ VDK but its not overtly so and plays well in the profile very much like a Světlé Výčepní does. Its not a primary flavor, but its there and that’s even too much for a lot of the Blahger lovers out there. If you get to try it in STL, shoot me a message and let me know what you thought. It’s a fun little beer!

Malt: Two malts. Both pale. One young and one old. Pretty much leaves this sucker wide open to interpretation. I went through my pils and pale malts to see what we could see. Turns out that the Floor-malted Czech pils malt is kind close to Maris Otter in ‘sweet malt’ and such so I went with that. Specifically, Criss No19 Maris. Turns out it was a good choice as that is a really great malt that’s not fat in the middle and will leave a bit of sweetness left, even when fermented dry. Most of the major maltsters in the UK have a nice Lager malt you could use also. Or even a continental one, probably Belgian or French would work out nice. Stay away from the German pilsy-type though. Although I’ve indicated a single infusion they doughed in at 120F for 20min, before they put the spurs to it raising to 158F in about 40min, rested 10min or so and then raised to 170F. Pick your poison.

Hops: They used 3 hops, from 2 different years….mostly Saaz and about 1/3 dose of Hallertauer. You can mix it up anyway you like. Heavier on the Saaz or the Haller. Up to you. I chose to add at 90 and 20 min as in the recipe but I split them equally with Saaz and Haller for each addition (eg 90 & 20 got Saaz and Haller). I wanted more of a blend than the specific aromas of each. When I do this again I think Ill change the hopping to about half added at 90 and then half in the whirlpool or at least closer to the end to have a big brighter finish. To me, this is one I wouldn’t really stray far from these hops. Most haven’t done a lager with the combo of UK malt and landrace hops. Give it a go if you haven’t.

Yeast: I’m not sure where the yeast came from in the log but playing it safe, going with the ubiquitous 34/70, you can make a really nice lager…of all types. It does a great job of letting the malt and hop shine without getting all farty and it drops pretty bright without much effort. Plus, you can get it dry, for all the people in the world that don’t have a house lager strain and don’t want to drop a bunch of cashola for a fun little experiment.

Wednesday 28 March 2018

Let's Brew - 1956 Tennant's Queen's Ale

I’m going to stick my neck out here, but my guess is that Queen’s Ale was first brewed in either 1952 or 1953.

It was a strong (by the standards of the day) Bitter which had a good reputation, at least in its early days. This is what one of Tennant’s brewers thought of it:

“Queen's Ale was a premium draught beer. It was a pale, hoppy beer with a good body. Its perfect balance of malty sweetness and the bitterness of the finest hops ensured that it was the best draught beer that I have ever tasted (and that is saying something).”
"The Brewer's Tale" by Frank Priestley, 2010, page 11.

Praise indeed. By the time I started drinking Tennant brewed no cask beer. But in the early 1981 they did reintroduce cask and guess which beer it was? Queen’s Ale. And at exactly the same gravity as this version.

Getting back to this beer, the grist is much the same as Best Bitter’s. Except this contains No. 1 instead of No. 2 invert. Plus CWA, which I’ve interpreted as No. 2 invert. There’s also no malt extract.

Note the lack of any malt other than pale and a touch of enzymic. As I keep saying, the use of crystal malt in Bitter is a pretty recent thing. Even after WW II, it was the exception rather than the rule.

The hops are all English: Kent Fuggles (1954), Worcester Fuggles (1954 CS) and Kent Goldings (1955 CS); plus Kent Goldings (1955) dry hops.

1956 Tennant's Queen's Ale
pale malt 6.25 lb 67.57%
enzymic malt 0.25 lb 2.70%
flaked maize 1.25 lb 13.51%
No. 1 invert sugar 0.50 lb 5.41%
No. 2 invert sugar 0.75 lb 8.11%
lactose 0.25 lb 2.70%
Fuggles 90 mins 0.75 oz
Goldings 90 mins 0.25 oz
Goldings 40 mins 0.50 oz
Goldings 20 mins 0.50 oz
Goldings dry hops 0.125 oz
OG 1044
FG 1009
ABV 4.63
Apparent attenuation 79.55%
IBU 26
Mash at 148º F
Sparge at 165º F
Boil time 95 minutes
pitching temp 60º F
Yeast Wyeast 1099 Whitbread ale

Tuesday 27 March 2018

Why dry hop

I'm very grateful to Boak and Bailey for pointing me in the direction the Google Books version of the 1893 Brewers' Guardian. It's packed with interesting stuff.

Like this article on what the point of dry-hopping was. I can't say that I'd ever given it much thought. Iassumed that it was all about adding aroma to the beer. It seems that it's rather more complicated than that.

It seems that one of the points from a brewer's point of view was to bring a cask more quickly into condition. A bit like priming with sugar. In which case you wonder why only certain types of beer were dry-hopped. Though that did vary from brewery to brewery.

Boddington, for example, dry-hopped everything except Stout. Barclay Perkins dry-hopped their Pale Ales, Burton Ales and some Stouts, but never Porter or Mild Ale.


THE addition of a certain amount of dry hops to the finished beer in cask or vat is a practice which, for certain classes of beer, has been followed for so many generations that all traces of the origin of custom have been lost. Although, no doubt, the introduction of dry-hopping was due to pure empiricism, to that constant trying of experiments in all directions, and the selection of those methods which gave improved results, yet we find, as might be expected, that there are certain fundamental scientific principles underlying the practice which up to the present time have been but very imperfectly recognised.

Let us first of all inquire what are the objects which the brewer has in view in adding this small quantity of hops to his finished beer. In the first place he obtains a distinct aroma and flavour which his beer would otherwise lack; secondly, the addition of hops has a most decided antiseptic action, not only upon the beer, but also upon the cask after it is emptied; thirdly, the beer undoubtedly clarifies more rapidly than when hops are not added; and, lastly, dry-hopping induces an earlier and more persistent cask fermentation in the beer; in other words, the hops have a distinct “conditioning or freshening" influence.

It is the true explanation of that wonderful “freshening or conditioning” power of the hop which we wish to bring before you, as no sufficient reason has ever yet been given of this very remarkable function, which is perhaps the most important of any of those to which we have just called attention.

In order to satisfy yourselves of this influence of the hop, take, with all the ordinary precautions, two forcing-tray samples of a beer from skimming vessel, unions, or racking square after the primary fermentation is over. To one of these add a small quantity of hops, equivalent in amount of those used ordinarily in hopping down, and place both samples on the tray. As a rule, you will find that the sample without hops shows little or no signs of fermentation for many days, whilst that containing the hops enters into a brisk after-fermentation in a very short time, and attenuates rapidly, whilst the specific gravity of the other sample is almost stationary. This experiment is a mere imitation on a laboratory scale of what takes place under similar conditions in cask. There seem to be only three possible explanations of this action, which are as follows :—

(1) The hops contain a fermentable sugar; (2) there are, adherent to the hops, and introduced with them, certain “wild yeasts” which are capable of carrying on an after-fermentation in the beer more readily than the ordinary forms of yeast left in the beer after the primary fermentation has ceased; and (3) the hops contain a diastase: which is capable of hydrolysing the amyloins and dextrin of the beer, in this way, indirectly, supplying the yeast with a readily fermentable sugar.

We must now examine these three possible explanations of the facts in detail. As regards (I), that the effects are due to a certain amount of fermentable sugars initially present in the following experiment shows:—

Twenty grams of hops, after previous treatment with ether, were completed extracted with alcohol of 80 per cent. The aqueous residue, after distillation of this extract, was made up to 100 c.c., and examined for sugars. In the 200 mm. tube, the polariscope reading was — 1.4 divisions, and the cupric reduction was equal to 1.610 gram CuO per 100 c.c. This amount of reduction was not increased on treatment with invertase or boiling with dilute hydrochloric acid, so that neither cane-sugar nor any other carbohydrate capable of being hydrolysed  by acid was present. The optical and reducing properties point to a mixture of dextrose and levulose in the following proportions, expressed as a percentage on the amount of dry hops taken :—

Dextrose    1.55 per cent.
Levulose    2.10   ,,
Total sugars    3.65   ,,

The complete fermentability of these sugars was proved by fermenting them with yeast, and their solution gave glucosazone with phenylhydrazin acetate.

(To be continued.)

* Abridged from the Trans. Inst. Brew, Vol. VI., No. 4. By permission."
The Brewers' Guardian 1893, pages 93 - 94.
To paraphrase, there were four functions of dry hops:

  1. to add aroma
  2. kill infection in both the beer and cask
  3. help clarrification
  4. promote secondary fermentation
Why exactly did dry hops help condition beer? Well it seems from theie analysis that there are sugars present in hops. I'd have never guessed that. But what of wild yeast and diastase? You'll have to wait until next time to find out about that.

Horace Brown, in case you're wondering, was a well-respected brewing scientist.

Monday 26 March 2018

On the management of Beer in Private houses (part two)

It's taken a while, but here's the second part of advice on how to look after cask beer at home.

When I lived in Leeds, a couple of times we got a firkin each of Tetley's Mild and Bitter. You had to keep a close eye on them or some idiot would start rocking the casks around or doing something else stupid. But it was worth it to have real cask.
"On the management of Beer in Private houses.
(Concluded from No. 592, page 173.)
CONSUMERS must not treat beer quite like a cask of clear water, which, no matter how often turned about, remains brilliant and clear, simply because there is no sediment to shake up and intermix, but which normal amount of sediment I think the consumer will now understand is so essential to beer. The domestic servant, too, as a rule, is a very bad friend to the brewer, not intentionally, but really for Want of a little forethought. On going to draw the beer for lunch or dinner, she suddenly finds the beer will not run without vent or ingress of atmospheric air to counteract the outside pressure ; the vent peg is with drawn, but, horrible to relate, is not returned, being carried away, lost or mislaid, or often replaced in a loose, imperfect fashion, and this free ingress of atmospheric air — which in warm weather is teeming with putrefactive germs, and which germs, on coming in contact with the beer, find here a choice field for reproduction — brings about the rapid decay of the beer.

No beer arrives at a perfect flavour without the presence of a few hops in the cask. These occasionally draw into the tap, which has Very often an open end in the cask,,instead of a closed end with small strainer holes. When this occurs the beer runs very slowly, and the domestic suddenly exclaims to herself, “The cask must be nearly empty, and therefore requires tilting," but which tilting is carried out in the most careless form, seldom leaving it scotched up, but pulling the cask up each time of drawing, producing a muddy and undrinkable fluid, for which the occupants of the dining-room again blame the brewer. The last charge I will institute against the user of beer (though many more might be mentioned) is the one of using a dirty tap, that is, the one removed from the previous cask, and again used without thoroughly washing, secreting mould and fungoid growths, which every now and again pass out into the beer when drawn, giving it anything but a pleasant appearance.

To sum up, if you require good beer and in drinking condition, bestow a little more care in its behalf. First of all find the coolest place in summer with medium temperature, in winter about 50° F. to 55° F. Provide a firm stand, those in the form of a large X being amongst the best, whilst occupying little space. Above all, order a couple of days before the previous cask is empty, and so allow it time to settle and become brilliant, and impress on those who have the drawing of the beer a few commonsense items, such as giving vent, if too gaseous; the ever necessary item of keeping it air-tight when quietude is once attained ; and drawing the beer only a short time before needed, so that it does not become flat by standing. A few such facts will prove of infinite advantage to producer and consumer alike; and when the cask is empty, cork and spile at once, so preventing acidity or mould getting a hold on the inside timber of cask; for if this happens many casks contract such a bad and unpleasant flavour as to be utterly useless for further trade, as the least foreign flavour of timber is immediately passed on to the beer which it contains.

When the beer has reached such a level in the cask that it requires tilting forward, it should be gently in clined and made firm in this position, so that no further disturbance will be necessary until the cask is empty. If this is so attended to, the last glass of beer will be quite as brilliant as the first."
The Brewers' Guardian 1893, page 199.
Last time I had a cask at home - not my home, but a home wher I was staying - was at my brother Dave's last summer. It was a firkin of Cat Asylum 1963 Red barrel. Very nice it was, too. If a little over-conditioned. I made sure to instruct the kids about what not to do with a cask. I didn't want them buggering up the whole cask when they poured themselves a pint.

The cask was just kept in a room, too. Didn't seem to do the beer any harm. Despite it being summer. A constant temperature, that's the most important.

Handling a cask isn't that difficult, if tou follow a few simple rules. I guess with the modern sludge beers it would be even simpler. No need to worry about disturbing the cask and making the beer muddy.

Sunday 25 March 2018

Newark again

There’s just enough bacon left in the packet for my two-rasher sarnie. That’s worked out well.

Dave makes his long trek to work, while I sit in his kitchen reading the paper and working my way through more Home Brewed. I’ve made quite a dent in the crate. Though Dave did say: “If you drink two more bottles I’ll have a whole crate of empties for Henry to take back.” Glad to oblige, brother.

Henry and Dave both turn up at 11, the appointed hour. I’m amazed at the improvement in Henry’s timekeeping. He always used to be late. Sometimes very late. Or didn’t turn up.

I way my goodbyes to Dave and Henry whisks us off to town. We’ve a bit of time before my train.

“We could try the Clay Tavern.” Henry suggests. “If it’s open.” It’s before noon.


“The Wheatsheaf.”

“Why do they keep changing the names of pubs? What the hell does Clay Tavern mean?”

“No idea.”

When we get to Slaughterhouse Lane the pub, whatever it’s called, is closed.

“Spoons it is, then, Ron.”

“The kids really like it there. Wetherspoons in general and the Sir John Arderne in particular. It was the picture of a man poking his finger up someone’s arse that swung it for Lexie.”

I get a pint of a beer I’ve never heard of from a brewery I never knew existed. It’s wet, alcoholic and tasty enough.

I should eat something. But what? I don’t want too big a pile. The small breakfast will do. Best hurry, mind. Only three minutes until 12 when they stop serving it.

“Do you anything, Henry?”

“I’ll have a crushed avocado bagel, please.” He says.

“Crushed avocado fucking bagel? What’s the world coming to when you can get a crushed avacado bagel in Newark Wetherspoons? You couldn’t have found either of those items in Newark when we were at school.”

Luckily, there’s no queue at the bar. My brekkie order goes in at 11:58. Yes!

“How’s your bagel?”


“I’ve never liked bagels. Like boiled cotton wool. But less appetising.”

I can’t see many other possible takers for a crushed avocado bagel in here. Me and Henry are the youngest, other than the barstaff. Until a middle-aged woman and her slightly disturbing-looking teenage son sit at the table behind us. We are in Newark, I guess. It’s full of frightening looking people. Just don’t ever catch their eye and you’re usually OK. Unless they’re really crazy, obviously.

My breakfast is middling for Wetherspoons. Having had their breakfasts in many different locations, I’ve become a bit of a connoisseur of the form. Best so far was in Edinburgh. As was the worst.

I only have time for the one pint. And a couple of cheeky whiskies. It’s a long train ride and I’ve no cans packed.

A woman of around my age is sitting in my reserved seat. It’s one of a block of four around a table. Her mate is sitting opposite and the table is full of travelling paraphernalia: food, magazines and booze, obviously. This is England.

Turfing her out of my seat could be awkward. Especially if she just sat at the remaining empty seat at the table. The aisle seat on the row behind is empty, though reserved. I’ll just sit here and see if anyone turns up.

The ride to London doesn’t excite much. Done this route so many times before. I close my eyes after we pull through the tunnel 20 minutes in. I don’t want to accidentally catch a glimpse of Newark’s evil twin, Grantham. Bad luck.

No-one does turn up to claim the seat where my arse is parked. Why do so many of these reserved seats go unclaimed?

It’s a bit weird changing trains in London for Amsterdam. OK, I still have to change in Brussels. But it’s all railed transport from here to home. Train, train, tram. Stumble down the street and fall through my front door.

I’ve quite a while before my Eurostar. How could I possibly fill the time? Maybe there’s some sort of warm, public space serving alcoholic refreshment? Like a pub. Oh look! There’s one.

It’s on my way. Sort of. Not that far out of it. I quite fancy a pint of ESB. Or two. As I approach the bar, there’s quite a pissy smell. Have I been careless in the toilet again? I ignore it and get my pint of beery stuff.

I twig that the source of the smell is the grey-haired bloke sitting at the end of the bar with a half of very fizzy Lager. He’s doing no-one harm. And I’ve been stinky myself. I’ll just try to stay upwind.

Just the two ESBs, that’s all I have. Before traipsing back to St. Pancras. Collecting rations on the way – an egg and cress sandwich, salt and vinegar crisps. One bag for me, four for the kids.

This direction I’ve a first class ticket. Bigger seat, some free food and drink.

I don’t bother with the wifi. I’ve got something to watch on my flipflop: Luizen Moeder. Very funny and the characters very much like those you find in Dutch primary schools. In particular, teachers who talk to parents as if they’re six years old. Highly recommended. Though I suppose you need to understand Dutch.

There’s a choice of roast beef or quiche. I go for the former, making a sarnie out of it. It’s OK. Especially with the wine.

I’ve a little time before my connection in Brussels. What to do? If only there were somewhere warm and dry I could shelter. Prefereably serving alcoholic refreshment. Like a pub.

Fortunately I was here not that long ago with Dolores. I know there’s a pub opposite the station: Taverna Horta. I sit myself down and look at the beer menu. Oh, look what they’ve got! My favourite: St. Bernardus Abt.

I photograph my beer and the interior of the pub. After a while someone comes up and asks why I’ve been taking photographs of him. I explain that I’m just photographing the pub. He seems to struggle to understand the concept and asks to look at the photos I’ve taken. Not remembering which button it is, I fiddle with my camera for a while. The bloke gets bored with my technical incompetence and wanders off again. That was surreal.

The rest of the train journey is uneventful and thankfully on time. A short tram ride and I’m home. And back on the grid after three days. Now I just need a day to go through all the emails and messages.

The Clay Tavern
Slaughter House Lane,
Newark NG24 1ER.
Tel: +44 1636 918630

The Sir John Arderne
3 Church St,
Newark NG24 1DT.
Tel: +44 1636 671334

The Euston Flyer
83-87 Euston Rd,
London NW1 2RA
Tel: +44 20 7383 0856

Taverne Horta
Place Victor Horta 30,
1060 Saint-Gilles,
Tel: +32 2 522 49 06

Saturday 24 March 2018

Let's Brew - 1953 Elgood BPA

One of the most popular styles of the 1950’s was Light Ale, a low-gravity, bottled Pale ale. It was often mixed with draught Bitter, usually in the hope of livening up cask beer in poor condition.

At 1031º, BPA (presumably standing for Bottled Pale Ale) was pretty typical for a Light Ale of the time. Not exactly heady stuff.

The recipe isn’t exactly what you’d call complicated. Just malt, a bit of sugar and a dash of malt extract. And a single, unspecified type of hop. Fuggles are just my guess. What isn’t a guess this time are the hop additions, which are handily noted in the log. The vast majority were added at the start of the boil.

The original mashing scheme was 20 minutes at 149º F, followed by an underlet and 1 hour 40 minutes at 152º F.

1953 Elgood BPA
pale malt 6.00 lb 88.89%
No. 2 invert sugar 0.50 lb 7.41%
malt extract 0.25 lb 3.70%
Fuggles 95 mins 1.50 oz
Fuggles 30 mins 0.25 oz
Fuggles hop back 0.125 oz
OG 1031
FG 1006.5
ABV 3.24
Apparent attenuation 79.03%
IBU 27
Mash at 152º F
Sparge at 167º F
Boil time 95 minutes
pitching temp 62º F
Yeast WLP025 Southwold

Friday 23 March 2018


Henry arrives at nine, as I’m just chewing the last bite of my bacon butty. He’s becoming scarily reliable. Maybe having his own business is having an effect.

It shouldn’t take too long to get to Wisbech. Though the roads aren’t that great and quite busy.

“This looks just like home.” I remark of the flat landscape of the fens laid out around us. I’ve never been to this particular bit of Lincolnshire before.

“I’m really poorly travelled in Britain. I’ve never been to Sleaford, for example.”

“You haven’t missed much.” Henry replies drily.

‘Or Retford. Only been to Mansfield once, with David to see Sunderland play.”

“Retford is a dump. Mansfield is a shithole.”

“You don’t seem to like anywhere around here, Henry.”

“Lincoln is OK.”

“And Newark.”

“No, that’s crap, too.”

As we enter the brewery yard, I say: “I recognise that smell. The one there used to be at school: boiling wort.”

We’ve an appointment with Alan Pateman, the head brewer.

As he leads us to the visitor centre, I remark: “I can smell that you’re brewing.”

“Yes, we usually brew on Tuesday and Wednesday.”

Alan leaves us alone with the books. One of which has been retrieved from a display case. Open on the page showing the brewery moving into the ownership of the Elgood family.

Having Henry along makes my life so much easier. With the two of us snapping away it’s literally half the time and half the work for me. We’re done in an hour.

We go to Alan’s office and he takes us around the brewery. It’s beautiful and unspoilt, filled with rugged old kit. Exactly my sort of brewery.

We start off at the boiler, a massive, chunky affair that used to be coal fired. Alan leads us up some stairs to the mash tun, a very solid-looking cast iron. The hopper above it looks like it’s made out of iron, too. It bears the date 1910. It’s a 14-quarter tun according to Alan.

“Do you have a Steele’s masher?” I’m bizarrely interested in this sort of thing.

“Yes. There’s the old screw, which is totally worn out. We had a replacement made from stainless steel.” Alan tells me. They certainly don’t throw anything away without good reason here.

While we’re looking at the mash tun the brewery cat sidles up. It doesn’t look up to catching many mice. Well-fed, is how I’d describe it. The cat follows us to the malt store next door. It’s piled with sacks of Crisp and French & Jupp malt. The cat tries to jump on a pile and only just makes it to the top. Not the most agile cat I’ve ever come across.

Moving along, we come to the copper with a, er, copper dome. Again, a very substantial-looking piece of equipment.

There’s one bit of kit that will get the geeks excited: the open cooler. Or rather, coolers. There’s a set of two at slightly different heights. Call them coolships if you like. I used to be pretty anal about that word. Until Derek Prentice mentioned that they had something called a coolship at the old Truman’s brewery.

Some substantial chunks of oak are attached above the coolers.

“They come from a big, old oak tree that had to come down. They counted the rings when they felled it: over 200 years old.” Alan explains. The wood is there to retain microflora.

We come across a second, smaller mash tun. It’s part of their small brew house, which they use for shorter run beers.

In the fermenting room, there are vessels of various shapes and sizes, mostly square.

 “The fermenters are lined with plastic. They used to be raw wood. You can imagine the problems that caused.”

In one fermenter yesterday’s brew is bubbling away nicely. It has a very healthy looking head.

At one time they used Hole’s yeast. The brewery I worked in back in 1975. Obviously they can’t get hold of that anymore. Now they have a Yorkshire square yeast.

“I noticed that you have fishtails. Do you rouse it?”

“Yes, twice a day.”

 Most of the fermenters are sealed. “It’s safer that way,” Alan says, “because of the CO2.” Co2 has been one of the biggest killers in breweries over the years. I keep finding reports of asphyxiated brewery workers in the newspaper archive.

The racking area is basic, to say the least: a tank, two hoses and a little ramp.

A large cool room is where the casks go after racking. It’s also home to the hops. There are varieties you’d expect in a traditional English brewery, like Fuggles, Bramling Cross and Northdown, but also US hops like Cascade. Though thinking about it, US hops were extensively used in British brewing.

Dotted around the brewery are various tanks, which are used for their sour and fruit beers. Some are typical modern stainless tanks, but others are strange old green things. They never seem to have thrown anything away and these have been repurposed after years of disuse. There are also the obligatory oak wine casks. Everyone has at least a few of those nowadays.

Tour over, we retire to the nearest Elgood pub, the Red Lion. Where Alan buys us a sandwich and a pint. I’m delighted to see that they have Black Dog, their Dark Mild, on cask. It’s a lovely beer, when on form. Which this pint is. What looks more lovely than a freshly-pulled pint of Mild?

Alan tells us a little about his career. It started off at Paines, where his father was head brewer before him. Later he joined Hardy & Hanson. He tells me that they added a gallon of primings per barrel to their Mild. No wonder it was so sweet.

Sadly we can’t hang around long. Henry has an appointment in Newark.

“Did you see the bloke fiddling with No. 2 invert?” Henry asks as we’re bumping through the fens.

“No, I missed that. Damn.”

Henry drops me on Balderton Gate and arranges to meet me later in the Woolpack. Sorry, the Prince Rupert. At least the new name does have a Newark connection. The prince having hung out in the town during the Civil War.

I notice that the Zoo has reopened under the name of Belam’s Bar & Bistro. It’s one of the few Newark pubs I’ve never been in. Just too damn dangerous. It doesn’t look any more tempting than in previous incarnations.

I can’t resist a quick pint in the Fox and Crown. I have to walk almost past it. Magic Rock Inhaler. A beer, I’ve heard of, but never tried. It’s fair enough, in a fruity hoppy way. But I don’t see what all the fuss is about. Maybe my trips to the US have spoilt me.

As I stroll through Newark town centre, it’s eerily quiet. Hardly anyone is around, either on the street of in the shops. There only seem to be two staff in WH Smiths. I can’t find Viz and have to ask for help. Both look, one after the other and eventually uncover it, mostly hidden by other magazines. I can never find it in this place.

It’s a bit depressing that there are so few people around Newark used to be much busier.

One place I do want to be quiet is the pub. The Prince Rupert doesn’t disappoint. There are only a couple of other punters. I get myself a pint of The Raven Milk Stout and settle into a seat. Making sure I get a good view of some of the wonderful old signs.

Henry rolls up after a while and I have another pint or two in his company, before he drives me back to my brother Dave’s.

I’ve timed it well. The chippie has just opened.

“Just order a kid’s portion of chips.” Dave advises. Which I do. It’s still a full plateful. More than I can eat. I wonder what single pensioners do?

Luckily, there’s still plenty of Home Brewed left. Which Dave and I get stuck into as we watch some more cricket.

I’m in bed quite early again. I want to be fresh for a final lunchtime sesh with Henry.

Elgood & Sons
72 N Brink,
Wisbech PE13 1LW.
Tel: +44 1945 583160

The Red Lion
32 N Brink,
Wisbech PE13 1JR.
Tel: +44 1945 582022

Fox & Crown
4-6, Appleton Gate,
Newark NG24 1JY.
Tel: +44 1636 605820

The Prince Rupert
46 Stodman Street,
Newark NG24 1AW.
Tel: +44 1636 918121

Thursday 22 March 2018


Dave has got in some bacon. I grill a couple of slices and make myself a sandwich. Bacon – what better start to the day?

I’ve a little time before I need to head off and take the opportunity to get the shopping in. Dolores has given me a list. Roasting joints, tea, hot chocolate powder, vinegar and, of course, salt and vinegar crisps for the kids. It’s good to get it all out of the way early.

There’s one downside to staying at Dave’s: he’s off the grid. No internet access in his house. In a way, it’s a relief to be free of the web for a few days. I spend way too much time on it.

I plan getting the bus at 9:35. By 9:50 there’s been no sign of a bus in either direction. I walk to Dave’s office and ask him to call me a cab. I’m quite surprised that he doesn’t say: “OK, you’re a taxi.”

He orders it for his home address. It arrives so quickly, it gets there before me. Ony six quid - bargain. Why was I going to mess around with the bus? Especially as it doesn’t go anywhere near Northgate Station?

I’m very early at Newark Northgate station. I get a posh coffee and sit in the waiting room. Which is decorated with old photographs of Newark. What date is that? Just before WW I, going by the clothes they’re wearing.

Ten minutes before my train is due, I go to see if I can spot Henry. He’s in the foyer. He had come into the coffee shop but failed to spot me.

When our train trundles in I notice that it’s an Intercity 125. It must be at least 40 years old.

“Why did they bother electrifying, Henry, if they’re going to run diesel trains?”

“Welcome to modern Britain.”

Luckily, we find two seats together. Despite all the seats being reserved.

We have to change in Doncaster. I’ve not been here for years.

“There’s quite a good pub on one of the platforms.” Henry remarks suggestively.

“We’ve only got 10 minutes. Too much of a rush.”

“Now there’s a first, you turning down a pub opportunity. Living abroad has ruined you.”

The connecting train to Sheffield is a bus-like two-coacher. It smells of piss. There’s no legroom, just six inches or so. We both have to sit sideways, which is fun.

“It’ll stop everywhere,“ Henry says, “shitholes like Mexborough and Rotherham. It’s so lovely, South Yorkshire.”

“Positive as ever, eh, Henry?”

The pissing rain doesn’t make it look any better. It’s still raining when we get to Sheffield.

“Fancy a quick one in the Sheffield Tap, Ron?”

“I suppose so.” I don’t want to overdo it, though. We’ve an appointment with some brewing records in Sheffield Archives. It is conveniently located right in the station. A magnificent space, lined with colourful Victorian tiles.

“How come the Best Bitter is weaker than the Session Pale Ale, Henry? That makes no sense.”

“These modern brewers call beers anything they like.”

“There should be some organisation making them stick to standards.”

“Like the BJCP?”

“No, not like the BJCP.”

We polish off our pints and head off into the rain. Luckily the archives are only a couple of hundred metres away. We’re still a big soggy when we arrive. I wish I’d brought my hat.

We quickly get reading passes and start trawling through the records I’ve ordered. This is so much quicker with two people. In less than an hour all the snapping is done. Tennant’s, in case you’re wondering.

We head to our next appointment: The Rutland Arms to meet Dann and Martha Paquette, former owners of Pretty Things. It’s still raining. And we’re not 100% certain of which way to go. Which ends up in us making a couple of hundred metre detour.

“Oh look, it’s an old Duncan Gilmour pub.” I say.

“What happened to them?”

“Bought and closed by Tetley. Look you can still see a huntsman there.”

It has a lovely tiled exterior. Though I prefer the inside – due to the rain – which warm and cosy. Dann and Martha are already there. It’s great to see them again. Been a while

I get an Anspach & Hobday Porter. Quite roasty, but nice.

Dann starts to tell us about all his problems finding premises for his brewery. It sounds like the council doesn’t want people to start businesses, which is insane. He’s remarkably positive, given all the bureaucratic hurdles being placed in front of him.

I have another Porter before we decide to brave the rain and move to another pub.

“Do you fancy going to a Sam Smiths pub?” Dann asks.

“Can do. I feel like spending an hour or two back in the 1970’s.”

“We can admire those magnificent little boxes that serve as keg fonts.” Henry chips in.

It rains all the way to the Brown Bear. We plonk ourselves down in the lounge. I wonder if beer is still more expensive here than in the public bar? Maybe they don’t bother with that anymore.

There’s a touch of sharpness to the Old Brewery Bitter. Not exactly off, but not exactly right, either.

“At least it’s only two quid a pint.” Henry observes.

“I had a pint on Saturday that cost over twelve quid. It was a 10% ABV Imperial Stout. And I didn’t pay for it.”

“Time for another pub before we go to the Devonshire Cat?” Dann asks.

“Of course, I reply. There’s always time for one more pub.”

We get rained on some more on our way over to the Bath Hotel. It gets its name from the Turkish baths further along the street.

Once inside, I’m glad we made the effort. It’s a gorgeous old pub, with its original layout and fittings intact. It’s a Thornbridge pub, so I get a pint of Jaipur. Something with a bit of oomph.

We’re running a bit late and only have time for one. I was supposed to be in the Devonshire Cat at 17:30 for a bite to eat before tonight’s event. It’s already past that. And we’ve some more rain walking to do first.

I’m surprised to see that the Devonshire Cat is a new building. I’d assumed it was an old pub. Inside, it’s fairly cavernous, but not soulless.

The Abbeydale guys are there, as is Jules of Hop Hideout. I’m soon stuck into a half of the William Younger 1868 No. 1. Yes, only a half. I’ve been drinking for several hours and still have an event to do. The beer is pretty nice. Perhaps a bit too nice, given how strong it is.

I’m soon getting stuck into pie, chips and mushy peas. Just the sort of grub I like, when in Britain.

The event is pretty low key. To the point of me not really doing anything but sit and chat with Jules, Dann, Martha and Henry. I’ve no problem with that. They’re all lovely people – well, maybe not Henry – and get along well with each other.

We decide to all trek to the Sheffield Tap for a last pint. Dann and Martha go for the unfiltered Bernard. I choose a Stout from the pub’s own brewery. Plus an Islay whisky. Just to set me up for the train.

The train back to Doncaster is classier than the one that brought us. Another Intercity 125.

“Good old British Rail, Ron, Good old British Rail.” Henry says as it trundles into view.

Those things must be like Routemasters. At least we can sat normally. There’s enough legroom for someone over seven years old. Unlike the other train.

“Do you fancy a drink in the bar, Ron?” Henry asks when we roll into Doncaster. “We’ve got twenty minutes. Almost.”

“OK.” I won’t disappoint Henry twice.

It’s the bar that does the disappointing, by being closed. No more beer for us.

Our train to Newark is the surprise of the day: it’s electric. And must have been built within the last 20 years.

Speeding back to Northgate is an electrifying experience. And we have seats. I was slightly concerned about the return journey. This is the last connection. And you never know with British trains. They aren’t exactly what I’d call reliable.

We get a taxi that drops off first me, then Henry.

“Directly behind the chip shop.” I tell the driver. Dave lives in a handy spot. If only they still ran buses after dark in Newark.

Sheffield Tap
1b, Sheffield Station,
Sheaf St,
Sheffield S1 2BP.
Tel: +44 114 273 7558

Sheffield Archives
52 Shoreham Street,
Sheffield S1 4SP
Tel: +44 0114 203 9395

Rutland Arms
86 Brown St,
Sheffield S1 2BS.
Tel: +44 114 272 9003

The Brown Bear
109 Norfolk St,
Sheffield S1 2JE.
Tel: +44 114 272 7744

The Bath Hotel
66-68, Victoria St,
Sheffield S3 7QL.
Tel: +44 114 249 5151

Devonshire Cat
49 Wellington St,
Sheffield S1 4HG.
Tel: +44 114 279 6700

Abbeydale Brewery
8 Aizlewood Rd,
Sheffield S8 0YX.
Tel: +44 114 281 2712