Wednesday, 16 January 2019

Let's Brew Wednesday - 1939 Whitbread SSS

Now here’s a beer that I’m not sure that I understand. Or rather, I don’t understand why it was brewed in 1939.

One of the handy features of Whitbread’s brewing records is a table in the back showing how much of each beer was brewed each week. Useful for knowing which were the most popular beers. But also to make sure I never miss any beers that were only brewed very occasionally when I’m snapping logs.

I know that SSS was brewed from at least 1837. Though there was an interruption between 1853 and 1867. It wasn’t brewed in enormous quantities, usually between 10,000 and 15,000 barrels a year. That was until March 1917, when it was dropped. Presumably as a result of changes in the rules in April 1917. It was briefly replaced by a strong Stout called Imperial, until this in turn was discontinued in April 1918.

Usually that would have been the end of it. In the interwar period, Whitbread didn’t brew a Stout stronger than Extra Stout, which was a mere 1055.5º. Then in April 1939, only a few months before the outbreak of war, SSS returned. Why, I have no idea. Not that much of it was brewed. The largest batch was 80 barrels. In the whole of 1939 a mere 928 barrels were brewed. The final brew was in March 1940.

Clearly, they couldn’t have brewed such small quantities single-gyle. This particular example was parti-gyled with Mackeson. Something Whitbread could do as they only added the lactose at racking time as a sort of priming.

I’d love to know where SSS was sold and under what name. I suspect it might have been an export beer. Though it could also have been conceived as a rival to Barclay Perkins Russian Stout, as beer with a similar gravity.

The grist is the same as Whitbread’s other Stouts, with the backbone formed by pale, brown and chocolate malt. I’m not quite sure why the oats were included as none of this brew ended up as Oatmeal Stout. I suppose they just used the same recipe, no matter what.

The hops were an unusual mixture of English and German: Kent from the 1938 harvest, Whitbread Mid-Kent from 1937 (kept in a cold store) and Hallertau from 1935.

1939 Whitbread SSS
pale malt 18.00 lb 72.38%
brown malt 2.00 lb 8.04%
chocolate malt 2.00 lb 8.04%
flaked oats 0.20 lb 0.80%
No. 3 invert sugar 2.00 lb 8.04%
caramel 1000 SRM 0.67 lb 2.69%
Hallertau 75 mins 1.00 oz
Fuggles 75 mins 2.00 oz
Goldings 30 mins 3.00 oz
OG 1110.5
FG 1043
ABV 8.93
Apparent attenuation 61.09%
IBU 47
SRM 69
Mash at 149º F
Sparge at 170º F
Boil time 75 minutes
pitching temp 62º F
Yeast Wyeast 1099 Whitbread Ale


Ken Stroud said...

1110 OG -- if that's not the highest for one of your recipes, it must be up there.

I wonder if someone was thinking of laying in supplies of high gravity beer in anticipation of a long, ugly war ahead. Or, if someone was being ridiculously optimistic and expecting a quick victory and a big celebration before long.

Anonymous said...

Big switch at Whitbread from black malt to chocolate malt.
Sometime between 1922 and 1932?

Ron Pattinson said...


between 2nd August and 5th October 1922.

Ron Pattinson said...

Ken Stroud,

or they got a contract in Belgium. Look at when they last brewed it: March 1940.

I do have details of the trade the other way. As Whitbread imported Stella from Belgium. That dried up in 1940, too. I've posted about this: