Sunday, 19 May 2019

Barclay’s London Lager

Barclay Perkins began experimenting with Lager during WW I. Once the war was over, they lost no time in entering Lager production seriously.

Barclay’s opened their shiny Lager brew house in 1921 and employed a Danish brewer, Arthur Henius, to run it.

Unlike today, it Lager was a posh drink in the 1920’s. The Brewer’s Journal reported:

“Doubtless they do not imagine that any large trade in this type of beer can at present be looked for from the working classes. The potentiality of trade lies with the middle and upper classes, and with that floating population from the ends of the earth which the Metropolis always embraces."
Brewers' Journal 1921, Page 275.

Barclay’s brewed their first production Lager on 13th May 1921. The first brew, Export Lager, was just 64 barrels. To put this into context, batches of X Ale in the same year varied between 600 and 1,200 barrels. Even Russian Stout was usually brewed in batches of 150 barrels. In its first 12 months of operation, Barclays Lager brewery produced 3,000 barrels. Or about as much as three batches of X Ale. 

They brewed three different types of Lager: Export at 1050º, Dark at 1049º and Special Dark (also called Munich) at 1057º . Two out of the three were dark, only Export being pale. Initially, only bottled beer was produced.

Barclay Perkins Lagers in 1925
Beer Style OG FG ABV App. Atten-uation lbs hops/ qtr hops lb/brl barrels Pitch temp
Export Export 1050.5 1014.1 4.82 72.08% 6.54 1.31 129.75 48º
Dark Dunkles 1057.6 1020.1 4.96 65.10% 4.64 1.29 62.25 48.5º
Barclay Perkins brewing record held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number ACC/2305/1/638.

The name that Barclay’s chose for their Lager is also revealing: London Lager. Presumably they avoided a Teutonic-sounding name because of the anti-German feeling engendered by the war.

Barclay’s were ambitious. They saw opportunities for their Lager not only in Britain, but also abroad. WW I and prohibition had taken the three largest Lager exporters, Germany, Austria and the USA, out of the game .

Building a Lager plant was a brave decision by Barclay’s. As the Brewers’ Journal remarked at the time:

“They [brewers] are not unmindful, also, of the fact that large sums of money have unprofitably been sunk in like enterprises.”
Brewers' Journal 1921, Page 275.

There had been several spectacular failures of modern Lager breweries at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century. At the very moment Barclay’s were building theirs, Allsopp’s Lager brewery, bought at great expense in the 1890’s, lay idle in Burton.

Like this? Then you'll love the book it comes from, Lager! (UK):

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