Friday, 16 October 2020

Essex Old Strong Beer

I just stumbled upon this lovely snippit about long ageing of beer. To be specific, a strong, vat-aged Ale.

It's frustrating how few descriptions there are of vat ageing. This gives us at least a glimpse into the process:

As regards acidity and flavours we knew of an Essex brewery many years ago which was noted for the pine-apple flavour of its old strong beer. This beer, of about 30 lb. O.G., was made in three successive brewings which after primary fermentation were pumped into a 500-barrel vat. These vats were very acid ; getting into them to see if they were properly cleaned (!) made one’s eyes water, and the beer went through a strong bacterial fermentation in from six to nine months after filling. The beer was then full of long rods, often called vibrios in those days but actually a butyricus bacillus, and the taste was offensively acid. But on further storage the acidity mellowed greatly, the titratable acidity dropped at least 30%, a pine-apple flavour developed and the beer was ready for consumption at the end of two years. There were one or two breweries in the East Anglian counties which brewed these old acid beers which incidentally were much favoured by jockeys for keeping their weight down !"
The Brewing Trade Review, September 1943, page 278. 

30 lbs per barrel is 1082.4º. Strong, but not stupidly strong. who knows what bugs there were in that vat, All sorts of stuff, as in a Lambic barrel would be my guess.

Fascinating that a very specific flavour is mentioned: pineapple. And that it took a couple of years for it to develop and the beer to mellow out.

Not sure why this beer would have been so useful for jockeys. I'm baffled.


Edd The Brew said...

Hi Ron ,
It's the 'purgative'properties of the
Butrycus bacteria in the beer that would be popular with jockeys

Chris Pickles said...

I remember reading that the preferred drink for jockeys, since it allegedly does not cause weight gain, is champagne. I guess it must be due to the lack of sugar due to an extended secondary fermentation, as with this ale. But pineapple... don't tell the modern style IPA brewers!

Gary Gillman said...

In my research I'd come across other (a couple) of references to 'pineapple' ale, here is one from Herbert Wright in 1892:

Your account is in synch.

The weight control comes from the old idea that drinking vinegar promotes slimming. There was a 19th century fashion for it.

Kimmo Valtonen said...

So, the pineapple would fit Brett. Claussenii? I at least get a very distinct pineapple every time I use it for a reconstruction of a beer like this.

Unknown said...

Probably have them the shits and therefore helped to keep their weight down!

Jeff Renner said...

I’ve gotten pineapple from Brettanomyces clausenii.

Mike in NSW said...

Strong laxative effect, maybe?

Scott Sommer said...

Perhaps worked to reduce, or numb, the appetite.

Yann said...

Some brettanomyces is often described as producing pineapple taste.


Ed said...

Pineapple flavour sounds very much like Brettanomyces.

Anonymous said...

Ethyl Butyrate is the ester of ethanol and butyric acid. It has a fruity odour, similar to pineapple. If the beer was infected with a butyric acid producing bacteria, it would contain both ethanol and butyric acid. Maybe they just reacted over time, maybe other microbes helped... In Jamica they distill some kind of sludge containing ethanol and carboxylic acids (especially butyric acid) to make rum, the esterification supposedly goes on in the still rather than the fermenter.

Eric Branchaud said...

I agree with pineapple sounding like Brett. Sometimes Orval comes off as cherry pie, other times it's pineapple to me.