Friday 30 April 2021

AK during WW II

The excitement just never ends when it comes to AK. Or perhaps it just never started. For you. For me, I can't never get me enough.

Someone mentioned recently that they thought AK died out between the wars. That's not really true. AK was given a good old kick in the bollocks by WW I. Many found their demise in the war's brutal gravity cuts. Others, though fatally weakened, soldiered on. Another war was the last thing they needed.

Kicking off the war at a little over 1030º, there wasn't far they could go once a new round of gravity cuts began to bite. 

Greene King seem to have dropped theirs early doors. Its AK had the bad luck to have another beer, PA, that was just a tiny bit stronger. When gravities fell, it dropped into AK's slot and that was it.

At Fullers, their three pre-war Pale Ales, in ascending order of strength, AK, XK and PA, were pared back to just a single beer in 1942, PA No. 2.

Shepherd Neame's version had the good fortune that the next Pale Ale up the hierarchy of strength, BB, was a good bit stronger at the outbreak of war. 1039.3º to AK's 1031.3º. A gap large enough that, even after the drop in strength, there was still a gap of 4º at war's end. The reprieve was only temporary. AK was discontinued in 1951.

AK during WW II
Date Year Brewer Beer OG FG ABV App. Atten-uation lbs hops/ qtr hops lb/brl
23rd Jan 1940 Greene King AK 1031.6 1007.2 3.22 77.19% 6.00 0.75
8th May 1940 Fullers AK 1029.1 1008.6 2.71 70.48% 9.02 1.05
20th May 1940 Shepherd Neame AK 1030.5 1005.5 3.30 81.82% 6.89 0.80
25th May 1941 Fullers AK 1028.4 1006.4 2.91 77.56% 7.40 0.81
4th Feb 1943 Shepherd Neame AK 1027.1 1005.0 2.93 81.63% 4.62 0.54
18th Dec 1943 Shepherd Neame AK 1027.1 1005.9 2.81 78.16% 4.59 0.52
21st Feb 1944 Shepherd Neame AK 1027.1 1005.8 2.82 78.47% 4.45 0.51
27th Nov 1944 Shepherd Neame AK 1027.1 1006.4 2.75 76.53% 4.87 0.53
22nd Feb 1945 Shepherd Neame AK 1027.1 1005.5 2.86 79.59% 4.87 0.55
7th May 1945 Shepherd Neame AK 1027.1 1006.0 2.80 78.06% 4.75 0.55
Fullers brewing records held at the brewery.
Greene King brewing record held at the brewery, document number AC93/1/14 .
Shepherd Neame brewing record held at the brewery.

Grists next time.

Thursday 29 April 2021

AK hops 1925 - 1939

Finally, a look at the hops. With two exceptions – Pacifics in one Fullers example and Saaz in the Greene King beer – all of the hops were English. No great surprise there. After WW I knocked down gravities UK brewing needed fewer hops and was far closer to self-sufficiency than it had been before the war.

Where a region of origin in mentioned, Kent is by far the most common. With just a single example from Worcester. As Shepherd Neame was based in Kent and had its own hop gardens, it’s fair to assume that most of its hops would have come from their home county. The same is probably true of Fullers, too.

Note that every example contains at least two types and half contain three or more. This was typical of UK brewing at the time. Many of the hops used were not from the most recent season, something which was also standard practice.

AK hops 1925 - 1939
Year Brewer Beer hop 1 hop 2 hop 3 hop 4 hop 5
1925 Fullers AK Pacifics (1922) English (1923) English 1924)    
1930 Whitbread AK Worcester (1929) EK (1929) EK (1929)    
1931 Fullers AK English (1929) English (1930)      
1935 Fullers AK English (1935) English (1935)      
1937 Fullers AK English (1936) English (1936)      
1937 Greene King AK Kent (1935) MK (1935) EK (1936) Saaz (1936) EK (1936) dry hops
1937 Shepherd Neame AK English (1935) English (1936) English (1937)    
1939 Fullers AK English (1938) English (1938)      
Fullers brewing records held at the brewery.
Greene King brewing record held at the brewery, document number AC93/1/12 .
Shepherd Neame brewing record held at the brewery.
Whitbread brewing record held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number LMA/4453/D/01/096.

Wednesday 28 April 2021

Let's Brew Wednesday - 1938 Phipps AK

You could call this the lost AK. From a brewing record I forgot I had, and whose origin I can’t remember.

I’ve a single photograph of their brewing book. Two beers: AK on the left, PA on the right. I can’t remember who sent it to me and why. It must have been a while ago. The photograph is dated January 2005. Get in touch if it was you who sent it.

I keep finding stuff I’ve forgotten I had. Could be old age catching up with me. Or perhaps it’s on account of having just so much stuff.

A bit of background on the brewery. They first brewed in Northampton in 1817.  It merged with the Northampton Brewery in 1957 to form Phipps Northampton. Bought by Watney Mann in 1960, closed 1972 and replaced by a Carlsberg plant. *

The recipe shouts AK, with its combination of pale and crystal malt plus sugar. I’m not totally sure the last is No. 2 invert, in this case. The record isn’t clear, the description being simply “V.2”. That could be No. 2 from a supplier beginning with a letter V. Or it could be something else entirely.  I’ve plumped for the former.

All English hops Kent from the 1936 and 1937 harvests, the former cold stored, and Worcester from 1937, also cold stored. 

1938 Phipps AK
pale malt 5.50 lb 81.00%
crystal malt 60 L 0.75 lb 11.05%
No. 2 invert sugar 0.50 lb 7.36%
caramel 1000 SRM 0.04 lb 0.59%
Fuggles 120 min 0.50 oz
Fuggles 60 min 0.50 oz
Goldings 30 min 0.50 oz
Goldings dry hops 0.25 oz
OG 1030.5
FG 1007.5
ABV 3.04
Apparent attenuation 75.41%
IBU 21
SRM 10
Mash at 156º F
Sparge at 190º F
Boil time 120 minutes
pitching temp 60º F
Yeast WLP002 English Ale

* "A Century of British Brewers plus plus" by Norman Barber, 2012, page 117.

Tuesday 27 April 2021

AK sugars 1925 - 1939

The story is much more complicated when it comes to sugars. Between, the four brewers featured used six different types.

Only No. 2 invert was used by more than one brewery: Greene King and Fullers. Whitbread instead opted for No. 1 invert, and in large quantities. Making up no less than 16% of the total fermentables

With three different sugars, Fullers used the most types. In addition to the No. 2 invert there was also a little glucose. Not that common an ingredient in UK brewing, but one which Fullers seemed attached to. Intense is some type of caramel used for colour correction. Despite the many types, sugar made up less than 4% of the grist. Considerably less than at Whitbread and Greene king.

I’ve no real idea what Fiona was. Possibly a type of proprietary malt extract. 

AK sugars 1925 - 1939
Year Brewer Beer malt extract no. 1 sugar no. 2 sugar glucose intense Fiona total sugar
1925 Fullers AK     1.67% 1.67% 0.22%   3.56%
1930 Whitbread AK   16.33%         16.33%
1931 Fullers AK     2.18% 1.09% 0.20%   3.47%
1935 Fullers AK     2.42% 1.21% 0.13%   3.76%
1937 Fullers AK     2.11% 1.06% 0.10%   3.27%
1937 Greene King AK     9.88%     2.47% 12.35%
1937 Shepherd Neame AK 0.66%           0.66%
1939 Fullers AK     2.46% 1.23% 0.18%   3.88%
  Average   0.08% 2.04% 2.59% 0.78% 0.10% 0.31% 5.91%
Fullers brewing records held at the brewery.
Greene King brewing record held at the brewery, document number AC93/1/12 .
Shepherd Neame brewing record held at the brewery.
Whitbread brewing record held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number LMA/4453/D/01/096.

Only the hops to go now.

Monday 26 April 2021

Production of hops in England 1944 - 1945

Just for a change, nothing about AK today. Instead I'm back to WW II.

My recently arrived 1946 Brewers' Almanack might have disappointed me in terms of the details of wartime brewing restrictions. It did deliver in other ways. Such as this breakdown of the size and output of England's different hop-producing regions.

Hop growing was concentrated in a few locations, mostly in the Southeast. Only eight counties produced any hops at all. And three of those only grew tiny amounts.

No shock that Kent had by far the largest acreage, just over 50% of the total, and produced the most hops, almost 60% of the total. Within Kent, the Weald was number one, followed by Mid-Kent and East Kent.

Sussex, one county West of Kent was also a major player, coming third after Kent and Hereford. Harveys to this day buys all its hops from Sussex growers.

Hereford is a funny one. It had the second biggest output and was way ahead of number three, Worcester. Yet I can't recall it ever popping up in brewing records. While Worcester does appear with great regularity. I'm guessing that hops from the two counties were lumped together under the name Worcester.

Surrey may have grown relatively few hops, but they were top quality. Considered the equal if the best East Kents.

Brewers would have been happy with the 1945 harvest, which was 11% greater than in 1944. With no hops being imported, the 1945 crop would have to keep them going through 1946.

Production of hops in England 1944 - 1945
Counties, etc. Acreage Returned in June Estimated Average Yield per acre Estimated Total Production
  1944 1945 Average of Ten Years 1935-1944 1944 1945 1944 1945
  acres acres cwt. cwt. cwt. cwt. cwt.
East 2,075 2,087 16.9 14.8 15.4 30,700 32,100
Mid 3,280 3,423 15.5 14.3 15.9 46,800 54,400
Weald 5,594 5,650 14.4 13.3 14.7 74,500 83,100
Total Kent 10,949 11,160 15.2 13.9 15.1 152,000 169,600
Hants 600 636 13.8 13.6 15.4 8,100 9,800
Surrey 106 112 12.6 10.1 12.5 1,100 1,400
Sussex  1,845 1,900 14.6 13.8 12.7 25,500 24,200
Hereford 4,148 4,224 12 10.8 12.5 44,700 52,900
Worcester 1,902 1,925 12 11.5 12.7 21,900 24,400
Berkshire and Salop 53 52 12.8 11.8 10.9 600 600
Total 19,603 20,009 14.1 13 14.1 253,900 282,900
1946 Brewers' Almanack, page 92.

Sunday 25 April 2021

AK grists 1925 - 1939

And the AK series continues. This time into the interwar period. A time when AKs were becoming thinner on the ground. Or hiding away under the label of Light Ale.

It wasn't just the gravities and hopping rates which were pretty similar. There was also a fair degree of similarity in the recipes. All the examples are over 75% base malt. In the case of Whitbread, split into pale malt and PA (Pale Ale) malt. The latter being a top-quality pale malt. 

Shepherd Neame's AK, like their other Pale Ales, was 100% base malt. Well, other than a tiny quantity of malt extract.

Crystal malt only appears in The Whitbread and Greene King versions. As I keep reminding you, crystal malt only became generally used in Pale Ales after WW II.

The sole other ingredient is flaked maize, which appeared in both Fullers and Greene King AK. My guess is that it would turn up in pretty much any other brewer's AK. Shepherd Neame and Whitbread being in the small minority of brewers who employed no adjuncts in their beers.

AK grists 1925 - 1939
Year Brewer Beer pale malt PA malt crystal malt flaked maize
1925 Fullers AK 82.04%     14.40%
1930 Whitbread AK 36.73% 39.80% 7.14%  
1931 Fullers AK 81.80%     14.72%
1935 Fullers AK 81.71%     14.53%
1937 Fullers AK 81.67%     15.06%
1937 Greene King AK 77.78%   2.47% 7.41%
1937 Shepherd Neame AK 99.34%      
1939 Fullers AK 81.33%     14.79%
  Average   77.80% 4.97% 1.20% 10.11%
Fullers brewing records held at the brewery.
Greene King brewing record held at the brewery, document number AC93/1/12 .
Shepherd Neame brewing record held at the brewery.
Whitbread brewing record held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number LMA/4453/D/01/096.



Saturday 24 April 2021

Let's Brew - 1918 Fullers AK

To go with my earlier post on Fullers AK during WW I, here's another wartime recipe.I could keep the stream of AK stuff up for a good bit longer. And may well do, unless I get distracted.

It wasn’t just X Ale that had its gravity slashed. The same fate befell Fullers AK.

Not really surprising as on 1st April 1918, a few weeks before this beer was brewed, average gravity was cut to 1030º. It was logical that big-selling beers would need to have a gravity lower than that.

There have been more adjustments to the recipe, too. Back are No. 2 invert sugar and glucose, leaving the grist quite similar to the 1916 version, save for the absence of flaked maize.

The hops are exactly the same two types as in X Ale: Cobbs (1916) and Mid-Kent (1916).

The real mashing scheme was mash of an hour with an initial heat of 150º F, raised to 152º F after 25 minutes by an underlet. Left to stand for a further 1 hour and 35 minutes.

1918 Fullers AK
pale malt 4.25 lb 77.20%
No. 2 invert sugar 1.00 lb 18.17%
glucose 0.25 lb 4.54%
caramel 500 SRM 0.005 lb 0.09%
Fuggles 90 mins 0.75 oz
Goldings 60 mins 0.75 oz
Goldings 30 mins 0.75 oz
Goldings dry hops 0.25 oz
OG 1026
FG 1005.5
ABV 2.71
Apparent attenuation 78.85%
IBU 33
Mash at 152º F
Sparge at 168º F
Boil time 90 minutes
pitching temp 60º F
Yeast Wyeast 1968 London ESB


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

Friday 23 April 2021

AK 1925 - 1939

I warned you that I had loads more AK stuff. I wasn't joking. 

This time we're looking at the interwar period. Many breweries dropped their AK during WW I. But not Whitbread. They introduced one in 1930. It didn't last long. In all, only 1,012 barrels were brewed. That's a tiny proportion of the 535,271 barrels they brewed that year.

Small batches is a bit of a theme with these interwar AKs. The largest batch of Fullers AK was just nine barrels, the smallest a mere two barrels. Greene King's and Shepherd Neame's were only 70-odd barrels, still far short of their full brew length.

The gravities are all pretty similar, mostly in the 1031º-1034º range. The exception being Whitbread at a tad under 1030º. Most are pretty well-attenuated, the only exception being Greene King. That high degree of attenuation leaves most a good bit over 3% ABV.

It's no surprise that the London examples - Whitbread and Fullers - are more heavily hopped that the beers from more rural districts. London brewers always seem to have been heavier with the hops than most of their provincial rivals.

AK 1925 - 1939
Year Brewer Beer OG FG ABV App. Atten-uation lbs hops/ qtr hops lb/brl
1925 Fullers AK 1032.3 1007.8 3.24 75.97% 9.8 1.28
1930 Whitbread AK 1029.3 1004.0 3.35 86.36% 13.0 1.54
1931 Fullers AK 1032.3 1006.1 3.46 81.12% 9.9 1.27
1935 Fullers AK 1033.4 1006.4 3.58 80.93% 9.2 1.44
1937 Fullers AK 1033.7 1007.2 3.50 78.62% 9.5 1.25
1937 Greene King AK 1033.8 1011.1 3.00 67.21% 7.0 0.95
1937 Shepherd Neame AK 1031.3 1006.9 3.22 77.88% 6.9 0.64
1939 Fullers AK 1033.4 1006.6 3.53 80.07% 9.2 1.25
  Average   1032.4 1007.0 3.36 78.52% 9.3 1.20
Fullers brewing records held at the brewery.
Greene King brewing record held at the brewery, document number AC93/1/12 .
Shepherd Neame brewing record held at the brewery.
Whitbread brewing record held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number LMA/4453/D/01/096.

Next time: interwar AK grists.

Thursday 22 April 2021

Fullers AK grists in WW I

Not sure when I'm going to get bored with AK. Probably not until another shiny thing distracts me.

What immediately strikes me is how no new ingredients were added during the war years. And that the exact same five ingredients were being used in 1920 as in 1914. Though during the war some of these elements were dropped for a while. Only pale malt and No. 2 invert sugar were omnipresent.

Pale malt bubbled along at around 80% of the grist for most of the war. Other than in 1917 and part of 1920, when it was 90%. This coincided with absence of maize and a reduction in the sugar content.

It's easy to understand why maize was removed from the recipe in the later war years. Being an ingredient which could only be imported, supplies of it were going to restricted and even nonexistent. Interesting that when it was freely available in 1920, rather more of it was used than had been pre-war.

Getting a grip on what was happening with the sugars is trickier. There's a sudden surge in the quantity of No. 2 invert used in 1918, at one point reaching almost 20% of the grist. It seems odd at a time when sugar for food uses was in short supply. By 1919 the sugar content was much the same as in 1914, but in 1920 it was halved. I'm struggling to make any sense of that.

Fullers AK grists in WW I
Date Year pale malt flaked maize no. 2 sugar glucose intense
20th Nov 1914 81.67% 6.05% 6.05% 6.05% 0.18%
2nd Jul 1915 80.08% 6.36% 6.78% 6.78%  
1st Jun 1916 81.36% 5.08% 6.78% 6.78%  
3rd Nov 1916 82.35% 5.88% 5.88% 5.88%  
20th Jun 1917 90.00%   4.00% 6.00%  
2nd Jan 1918 93.81%   6.05%   0.14%
11th Apr 1918 74.94%   12.49% 12.49% 0.08%
7th Nov 1918 80.72%   19.09%   0.19%
19th Jun 1919 79.20% 6.89% 6.89% 6.89% 0.14%
11th Feb 1920 79.78% 13.50% 3.27% 3.27% 0.17%
fall   2.31% -123.18% 45.90% 45.90% 6.67%
Fullers brewing records held at the brewery.