Tuesday 31 December 2019

Christmas will not be dry

Now there's good news. Though there was bad news, too. especially if you lived outside London.


Recent fears that this will be a "dry" Christmas have happily been dispelled. Although thgre is a severe shortage of wines and spirits there should be adequate supplies of beer.

Captain A. J. Dyer, Chairman of the National Consultative Council of the Retail Liquor Trade, said: "The same amount of bottled beer will be available in London this Christmas time as hitherto — and there will be plenty of draught beer.

"In the provices although beer is still virtually rationed, there will no further curtailment. With a return to cooler weather the shortage generally has been alleviated.

Many people may, have to carry their Christmas beer home in jugs if bottled supplies run short'

"There is still a serious shortage of glasses, despite the fact that the Board of Trade have increased our war-time quota — one-third oft pre-war supplies - by eight or nine per cent.

"There will be very little sherry or port, and spirits Will be shared out among regular customers."

A leading brewer said: "There is no reason to anticipate either a decrease of an increase in Christmas beer supplies." "
Lichfield Mercury - Friday 26 December 1941, page 3.
That's the first time I've seen a specific mention of the beer supply situation being better in London than elsewhere. I'm not sure why that should be, Other than that London always gets preferential treatment.

Fetching beer in a jug makes sense if bottled supplies run out. It's also cheaper to buy draught in a jug than bottled beer.

It's no wonder there are so many complaints by publicans about stolen glasses if they were only allowed 33% of the pre-war number. It also explains why there are so many court cases for seemingly petty offences of nicking a few glasses from a pub.

What's really odd is the date of this article: Boxing Day. Which seems rather later for a piece of news like this.

Monday 30 December 2019

Hops in WW I

The UK started struggling to grow enough hops to satisfy demand from brewers in the 1850s. As the century progressed, more and more foreign hops were imported.

The principal source was the USA, initially from New York State, later California and Oregon. But hops were imported from every region in the world. Large quantities of European hops were imported, too. Bavarian and Bohemian hops were considered equal to quality UK hops. Lower quality hops from Belgium and France were also used, despite brewers not much caring for them. They did have the big advantage of being cheap.

Despite the UK being one of the world’s biggest producers of hops, it was enough to meet the needs of brewing.  The industry was dependent on importing large quantities of hops.

There was an enormous fall in the quantity of hops being imported, down to just a few hundred cwts. In 1918. Oddly, one country from which supplies continued to be imported was Belgium, despite most of the country being occupied by the Germans. The one corner still in Belgian hands just happened to include Poperinge, home to the Belgian hop industry.

You can see from the table below that hop imports came to an almost complete stop in the final two years of the war:

Hop production and imports (cwt)
year Acreage UK production yield per acre Average price of English hops net imports of foreign hops exports of British hops
£ s. d.
1910 32,886 302,675 9.20 5 6 6 172,032 8,927
1915 34,744 254,101 7.31 6 7 0 199,347 8,288
1917 16,946 225,763 13.32 8 15 0 8,530 12,796
1918 15,666 138,491 8.84 18 15 0 259 6,928
1919 16,745 187,795 11.21 20 5 0 154,091 2,606
1920 21,002 258,042 12.29 19 10 0 455,799 3,672
1921 25,133 236,172 9.40 19 10 0 216,571 2,200
1928 Brewers' Almanack, page 119

The price of hops also increased dramatically to around three times the pre-war level.

The above is an excerpt from Armistice,  my this wonderful book on brewing in WW I.

There's now also a Kindle version.

Sunday 29 December 2019

The problem of providing beer for troops overseas

Learning new stuff. It's the main resaon I do all my research. I'm always happy to be pointed at something I'd never contemplated.

In this case, it's about all the beer shipped to the British troops serving abroad. Well, not so much the beer, as the bottles, crates and barrels in which it was packaged. It shouldn't come a surprise that virtually none of the packaging was returned. Which was a big problem during the war and its immediate aftermath as they could not easily be replaced.

The head of the off-licence trade organisation was very aware of this problem and made an appeal to the public in this letter:

"Christmas Beer
Sir —Despite acute shortages of hops, barley, labour and transport, the brewing industry is doing its best to provide Christmas beer for the public and our troops overseas.

Of the millions of beer bottles sent overseas very few return, and the consequent strain on supplies for home distribution is enormous. Brewers, licensees and off-licence holders will be faced with a breakdown in the bottled beer supply over the festive season unless they have the wholehearted co-operation of the public in returning all empty bottles, complete with stoppers, whatever their condition and wherever they may be unearthed.

May I, therefore, appeal to every beer consumer to search his cupboards and deliver to his "local” or off-licence every bottle he can find, and to renew the effort after the holiday.—Yours etc.
Secretary, National Federation of Off-licence Holders’ Association."
Birmingham Daily Gazette - Monday 17 December 1945, page 2.
Here are UK wartime exports by destination:

UK beer exports by destination 1939 - 1945
Destination 1939 1940 1941 1942 1943 1944 1945
Egypt 26,597 28,857 28,519 3,658 45 4,804 2,966
Irish Free State 52,081 35,306 25,843 16,730 14,810 4,878 128
British W. Africa 12,468 13,873 22,328 15,544 19,161 10,225 1,190
India & Straits Settlements 63,186 69,963 62,260 11,523 638 2,506 38,333
Brit. West India 10,925 8,499 8,081 5,082 6,629 1,701 7
Belgium 29,140 13,080
Other Countries  89,577 97,188 78,521 42,259 65,736 53,483 78,732
Total  283,974 266,766 225,552 94,796 107,019 77,597 130,443
Brewers' Almanack 1955, page 57.

Why the big fall in 1942? Could it be connected with the USA's entry into the war?

Saturday 28 December 2019

Another new Kindle edition

This time it's Armistice!

Let's Brew - 1942 Drybrough 54/-

On the face of it, not much has happened to 54 bob since 1941. But on digging deeper, there’s one big change.

Like most UK breweries, Drybrough used some flaked maize pre-war. It was the favourite adjunct. As all maize had to be imported, its use became problematic once the conflict kicked off. Most breweries initially substituted flaked rice for maize, then went over to flaked barley.

Drybrough was a little different. Yes, like everyone else they dropped maize soon after the start of the war. But, after briefly flirting with flaked rice in the summer of 1940, they went over to just malt and sugar. Until early in 1942. When flaked barley was added to their grists.

One thing hadn’t changed. 54/- remained as watery as fuck. Though an increase in the percentage of chocolate malt meant it was darker, as brewed. A little. Though who knows what colour it was when it hit your glass.

1942 Drybrough 54/-
pale malt 5.00 lb 80.06%
enzymic malt 0.125 lb 2.00%
chocolate malt 0.05 lb 0.80%
flaked barley 0.50 lb 8.01%
malt extract 0.07 lb 1.12%
No. 2 invert sugar 0.50 lb 8.01%
Fuggles 135 mins 0.50 oz
Fuggles 90 mins 0.25 oz
Goldings 30 mins 0.25 oz
Goldings dry hops 0.25 oz
OG 1028
FG 1012.5
ABV 2.05
Apparent attenuation 55.36%
IBU 15
SRM 6.5
Mash at 151º F
Sparge at 165º F
Boil time 135 minutes
pitching temp 60º F
Yeast WLP028 Edinburgh Ale

Friday 27 December 2019

UK beer imports Imports 1936 - 1965

On the face of it, the UK had a big trade deficit in beer, importing around 1 million barrels more than it exported. But it’s not quite as simple as that. As more than 1 million barrels of those imports came from a country not so far away: Ireland. And the vast majority of that beer was Guinness Extra Stout.

Initially, only tiny amounts were imported from elsewhere, fewer than 50,000 barrels.

The amount of beer coming in started to rise from the middle of the 1950s, mostly due to a jump in imports from Denmark. So loads of Carlsberg and Tuborg.

That the numbers fell again after 1960 is probably attributable to one factor: Carlsberg starting to brew in the UK.

It’s safe to assume that almost 100% of the beer imported from Continental Europe was Lager of some kind.

UK beer imports 1936 - 1953
Country of Origin 1938 1950 1951 1952 1953
Irish Republic 836,624 1,031,159 1,025,902 1,023,031 1,088,076
Other British Countries 108 22 31 133 422
Total British Countries 836,732 1,031,181 1,025,933 1,023,164 1,088,498
Denmark 25,459 17,686 23,058 30,959 36,410
Germany 18,813 - - - 2,307
Netherlands 8,708 2,685 3,492 5,905 8,910
Belgium 821 700 1,150 2,136 2,205
Czechoslovakia 3,810 915 903 702 713
Other Foreign Countries 278 224 1,703 1,922 244
Total Foreign Countries 57,895 22,110 30,306 41,624 50,879
Total Bulk Barrels 894,627 1,053,291 1,056,239 1,064,788 1,139,377
Total Standard Barrels 856,331
“1955 Brewers' Almanack”, page 60.

UK beer imports 1954 - 1959
Country of Origin 1954 1955 1956 1957 1958 1959
Irish Republic 1,099,717 1,166,980 1,281,064 1,234,214 1,196,066 1,232,946
Other British Countries 408 689 100 317 486 601
Total British Countries 1,100,125 1,167,669 1,281,164 1,234,531 1,197,152 1,233,547
Denmark 45,238 77,125 98,216 139,682 154,726 209,244
Germany 4,366 6,651 7,627 10,272 9,372 13,523
Netherlands 9,560 17,707 21,540 26,549 24,564 28,473
Belgium 1,024 3,181 4,349 7,138 8,180 13,084
Norway - - - 1,215 1,586 3,075
Czechoslovakia 688 16 140 1,033 935 1,164
Sweden - - - 662 692 734
Other Foreign Countries 384 505 1,101 266 145 352
Total Foreign Countries 62,160 105,185 132,973 186,817 200,200 260,049
Total Bulk Barrels 1,162,285 1,272,854 1,414,137 1,421,348 1,397,352 1,503,196
“1962 Brewers' Almanack”, page 58.

UK beer imports 1960 - 1965
Country of Origin 1960 1961 1962 1963 1964 1965
Irish Republic 1,257,695 1,329,752 1,245,451 1,215,539 1,281,126 1,215,168
Other British Countries 940 1,740 2,303 3,793 3,007 3,344
Total British Countries 1,258,635 1,331,492 1,247,758 1,219,332 1,284,133 1,218,512
Denmark 184,076 178,975 148,018 149,974 159,164 143,189
Germany 7,476 8,926 7,601 9,805 13,925 12,485
Netherlands 27,444 28,077 21,212 23,321 28,245 28,363
Belgium 8,704 8,907 8,391 5,303 5,803 5,053
Norway 3,019 2,390 2,308 3,887 4,491 6,081
Czechoslovakia 1,174 1,083 1,038 922 1,391 1,276
Sweden 1063 670 578 1,112 459 460
Other Foreign Countries 402 655 589 853 1,392 1,166
Total Foreign Countries 233,358 229,689 189,795 195,177 214,870 198,073
Total Bulk Barrels 1,491,993 1,561,181 1,437,553 1,414,509 1,499,003 1,416,585
“1971 Brewers' Almanack”, page 55.

The above is an excerpt from my overly detailed look at post-war UK brewing, Austerity!


Which is now also available in Kindle format.

Thursday 26 December 2019

We don't recognise your vegetables

Let's Brew! - Kindle version

Due to popular demand - well, one person requested it - I've created a Kindle version of Let's Brew!


19th-century Scottish Porter and Stout

Spurred on by their enormous popularity amongst Scottish drinkers, local brewers began to brew their own versions to rival those brewed in England. Though it never quite attained the level of popularity in England, considerable quantities were brewed in Scotland.

Initially, these Scottish versions seem to have closely mimicked the London originals, in the second half of the 19th century Scottish Porter, and more importantly Stout, began to acquire their own unique character.

While most English provincial dropped brown malt from their Porter and Stout grists early in the 19th century, Scottish brewers continued to use it, and to use it large quantities.

By the 1870’s, William Younger had discontinued their Porter and introduced a new range of Stouts, S1, S2 and S3. These were far more lightly hopped than DBS and often contained large quantities of spent hops. S3 had an unusually low gravity for the 19th century, some examples being under 3% ABV. The new Stouts, in contrast to DBS, were not dry hopped.

Throughout this period William Younger aged Porter and DBS in vats. S1, S2 and S3, however, were not vatted.

William Younger Porter and Stout in 1851
Date Beer Style OG FG ABV App. Atten-uation lbs hops/ qtr hops lb/brl
3rd Nov BS Porter 1056 1015 5.42 73.21% 23.87 2.86
11th Oct BS Porter 1057 1017 5.29 70.18% 21.75 3.08
29th Nov BS Porter 1060 1024 4.76 60.00% 27.37 3.17
29th Oct DBS Stout 1078 1015 8.33 80.77% 13.40 5.63
13th Dec DBS Stout 1089 1025 8.47 71.91% 14.00 5.68
William Younger brewing record held at the Scottish Brewing Archive, document number WY/6/1/2/5.

William Younger Porter and Stout in 1879
Date Beer Style OG FG ABV App. Atten-uation lbs hops/ qtr hops lb/brl
19th Sep S1 Stout 1070 1026 5.82 62.86% 6.47 2.07
6th June S2 Stout 1060 1020 5.29 66.67% 3.33 0.87
13th June S3 Stout 1032 1011 2.78 65.63% all spent hops
11th Aug S3 Stout 1043 1010 4.37 76.74% 4.71 0.86
20th Nov DBS Stout 1073 1035 5.03 52.05% 12.86 5.00
William Younger brewing record held at the Scottish Brewing Archive, document number WY/6/1/2/28.

The above is an excerpt from my excellent book on Scottish brewing:

Wednesday 25 December 2019

Drinkalongathon 2019 - port and cheese


The kids seem to be getting a taste for port. The bastards. I'd hoped those bottles would be safe.

We're getting tucked into what I hope isn't our last bottle as we get stuck into the pate and cheese. So decadent, we are.

No time to talk. Need to return to the port bottle before the kids drink it all.

Drinkalongathon 2019 - duck and dodge


Been busy cooking. Ducks and spuds don't roast themselves. Well, not this side of hell.

The fuck was as tasty as d*ck. I think I got that the right way around. I did a bit of a Biggles while cooking and slipped in a flyer of Islay. Didn't have time to post about it, what with the boiling duck fat spitting at me.

I'd come up with some bullshit about the red wine cutting through the duck. But I'm getting tired and I've just had a really big dump. I'm all out of shit.

Drinkalongathon 2019 - red wine and sausage roll


Sorry for the delay. Been busy with cooking duties. Excellent sausage roll from Dolores to fill in the gap.

The red wine is wine and the sausage roll sausagey. I'm really crap at this review stuff. But the duck is done and the spuds are roasting. Happy days.

Good news: Alexei wasn't keen on his gin and tonic. More gin for mum and dad.

Drinkalongathon 2019 - gin and Grommet


Dolores has poured me a gin and tonic. With the cheapo gin she bought in Germany. She's been hiding it for the last couple of months, the gin. "Otherwise it wouldn't last five minutes." She said, looking at me accusingly. I've no idea what she means.

Wallace and Grommet are always relaxing. Much like a sin and tonic. Though slightly less alcoholic.

The duck is roasting away. Time to relax for an hour or so.

Drinkalongathon 2019 - white wine and goats cheese starter


Trying to pick up the pace a bit, but lacking motivation.

The goatiness of the goats cheese does something with the wininess of the wine. Not sure what. Not really a pairy sort of person. Other than with Dolores.

Maybe some more Bowmore will liven me up. Or some Ace Lager.

10% off my print books

Today and tomorrow you can get 10% off my print books with this code:


Drinkalongathon 2019 - Bowmore Legend and Top of the Pops


Apologies for the slow start. The kids were late getting up. That's my excuse.

And apologies for the lack of Lagavullin. Have you seen how much that stuff costs nowadays? The cheapest bottle was over 60 euros. The Bowmore cost half that. And is full of smoky goodness.

That smokiness complements perfectly the bablity of Top of the Pops. I see they only have female presentors now, I wonder why that is?

How weird is that? They're playing I love Sausage Rolls just as Dolores is making some.

Drinkalongathon 2019 - sherry and some Channel 5 shit


This must be my latest start ever. After noon before I poured my first drink. I was even later than Dolores. She made herself a gin and tonic half an hour ago.

The salty dryness of the sherry contrasts nicely with the sugary sweetness of Britain's Favourite christmas songs.

"Is that sherry?"


"That's a wine glass."

"I couldn't find a smaller one."


Drinkalongathon 2019 - about to start

Time to get your string and eggs ready. This year's Drinkalongathon is about to kick off.

A bit later this year. As Dolores is currently occupying the kitchen, I may not have my first sherry until after noon. What have I become?

Tuesday 24 December 2019

Let's Brew Wednesday - 1940 Truman Pale 1B

Truman’s recipes are confusing. Basically they had two parti-gyles: one for all the Mild Ales and another for the numbered Ales and Pale Ales.

Pale 1B, the bottling version of the Best Bitter, slots right in between B3 and R4. Just about exactly half-way, in gravity terms. The grists are identical. So what was the real difference between them? I’ve no idea, to be honest.

My guess is that the real difference probably lay in the dry-hopping. With R4 and B3 receiving little or none, while the Pale Ales got a shitload. This can only be a guess as Truman’s couldn’t be arsed to record dry-hopping in their brewing records.

The strength of Pale 1B is holding up well. It’s only fallen by 1º since the start of the war. And was still over 5% ABV. Happy days, if you could find it.

There was another version, without the B suffix, which I assume was the draught version. As the recipe is identical to this, I couldn’t see the point in publishing it.

1940 Truman Pale 1B
pale malt 9.25 lb 75.51%
high dried malt 1.75 lb 14.29%
flaked rice 1.00 lb 8.16%
No. 1 invert sugar 0.25 lb 2.04%
Fuggles 90 mins 0.75 oz
Fuggles 60 mins 0.75 oz
Goldings 30 mins 0.75 oz
Goldings dry hops 0.50 oz
OG 1052.5
FG 1012.5
ABV 5.29
Apparent attenuation 76.19%
IBU 27
Mash at 151º F
Sparge at 160º F
Boil time 90 minutes
pitching temp 60º F
Yeast Wyeast 1028 London Ale (Worthington White Shield)

Monday 23 December 2019

Drinkalongathon 2019

As I always sing to the kids, it's the most thrubbliest time of the year. Drinkalongathon time!

When I started this - sometine in the past I can't remember exactly when - I never expected this tradition to last beyond Boxing Day.

But here I am after (check number of years) years still peddling this shite.

To take Brexit into account, there's a different set of required items this year. So pay close attention to what follows, or you won't be fully able to take part in the most wonderful event of the year.

4 pieces of string (this year 2 medium and 2 long: no short string)
3 bottles of Lagavullin (it's been a depressing year)
1 egg, boiled, semi-hard
1 egg, boiled, dead hard
1 egg, boiled, die hard
1 medium rare chicken fillet
3 more bottles of Lagavullin (it's been a damn depressing year)
12 bottles of St. Bernardus Abt
3 more bottles of Lagavullin (it's been a bloody depressing year)
1 egg, soft boiled

3 more bottles of Lagavullin (it's been a shitty depressing year)
4 elastic bands, blue (no other colours are acceptable, not even turquoise)
1 carrot that's been up a reindeer's arse.
1 mouse trap
Several claptraps
A Salty Dog (the album)
3 more bottles of Lagavullin (it's been a bastard depressing year)
More string
A bag of salt
Salt of the earth
3 more bottles of Lagavullin (it's been a fucking depressing year)
Really thick string
Quite clever string
2 racists (boxed)
3 raw eggs

Maybe some more Lagavullin. Just in case.