Thursday, 12 July 2018

1850-1880 Ale comes of age

What shocks me most, looking back after almost ten years, about the unfinished manuscript for my Big Book is how short it is. Only 126,000 words. A long way short of finished. Barely started, in parts.

The 1850 to 1880 chapter is particularly sketchy. Most is little more than headings or quotes intended as source material rather than final text. This excerpt from the styles section is about the sum total of coherent content. Other than some lovely tables.

The long slow decline of Porter was just beginning. A decline which ended in extinction around 1940. The most popular style at the beginning of this period, by its end Porter had been overtaken by Ale.

Loftus described Porter thus: "Indispensable qualities of good porter are fulness, potency, and flavour; and in these it differs from well-breed ale, which is thin, spirituous, and vinous." (Source: "The Brewer" by William Loftus, 1856, page 65.) "Its chief distinction lies in its peculiarly agreeable flavour, aided by its flushing, mantling effervescence:" (Source: "The Brewer" by William Loftus, 1856, page 62.)

Until about 1800, all London Porter was matured in large vats (often holding several hundred barrels) for between six and eighteen months before being racked into smaller casks to be delivered to pubs. It was discovered that it was unnecessary to age all Porter. A small quantity of highly aged beer (18 months or more) mixed with fresh or "mild" Porter produced a flavour similar to that of aged beer. It was a cheaper method of producing Porter, as less beer needed to be stored for long periods. The normal blend was around two parts young beer to one part old.

After 1860, as the popularity of both Porter and the aged taste began to wane, Porter was increasingly sold "mild". In the final decades of the century many breweries discontinued their Porter, though continued to brew one or two Stouts. Those which did still persist with Porter brewed it weaker and with fewer hops. Between 1860 and 1914 the gravity dropped from 1060° to 1050° and the hopping rate from two pounds to one pound per 36 gallon barrel. It was a mere shadow of the beer which had once been so respected and admired."
"Beer, Ale and Malt Liquor", by Ron Pattinson, 2133, pages 132 - 133.
Here's one of the nice tables:

Barclay Perkins Porter and Stout grists 1862 
pale malt % 80.19 76.44 81.19 65.19 66.11
amber malt % 0 0 0 11.11 11.26
brown malt % 14.78 19.93 14.47 20.91 19.79
black malt % 5.03 3.63 4.34 2.79 2.83
hops (lbs/brl) 4.32 4.6 5.66 8.33 10.02
hops (lbs/qtr) 22 18.08 25.45 17.9 15.58
gravity (OG) 1056 1063 1058 1090 1100
Brewing logs from the Courage archive in the London Metropolitan Archive.

Nicely. You did ask about how my new book is coming along? Of course you did. Very nicely. A commercial suicide project, obviously. But that's the beauty of self-publishing. I can write what the hell books I want. No matter how few might want to read them.


Tom Harkes said...

When you say Porter went extinct around 1940, wasn't it already pretty much interchangable with stouts at that point? Do you have a sense when it stopped being an easily identifiable style separate from Stout? Would that be around the 1914 date you referenced, or was it earlier?

I realize it's hard to pin down because of regional differences and idiosyncracies of different brewers, I'm just trying to get a general sense.

Ron Pattinson said...

Tom Harkes,

no, Porter was still distinct from Stout in London right up until 1940. It was always weaker than Stout.

Porter and Stout were always essentially the same thing, just different strengths.