Thursday, 9 September 2021

Defining Pale Ale

Remember my piss-take style guide to IPA? Here's something similar for Pale Ale. Or rather the opposite.

As this time I'm publishing a serious style specification for Pale Ale. But according to the system mentioned in yest another post. That is, split up across time. In this case 1880 to 1914.And I've further subdivided it by region. I considered simply classifying it as England. Then remembered how different beers were in London and, say, Southwold. 

London is good. Because I have examples from numerous breweries. From the brewing records and analyses, it's obvious that the London brewers made beers which were roughly similar. Their X Ales were much the same. And so were their Pale Ales.

Making my life simple. Which is one of the thing I value most. A nice simple life, filled with archives and numbers.

Here's my stab at defining London Pale Ale. Not that many of you will be in a position to mark my homework.

I'm not sure what it was ordered as down the pub. Most likely, simply Bitter.

I haven't listed all the types of hops which were used at some point. Just the most commonly-used ones.In general, they tended to be the best varieties and fresh. 

The best quality pale malt was used. Mostly made from English 2-row barley, sometimes accompanied by 6-row Californian. No other type of malt was used. Definitely not crystal.

As they were going for as pale a colour as possible, the sugar was mostly No. 1 invert, or something similar.  Rice was more popular in the first decade or so of the period. After that, it was maize all the way. Not everyone used adjuncts, just most. There were those who never acquired the habit, such as Whitbread.

Hopping was heavy in both copper and cask. It would need all those hops as the chances are, especially in the 19th century, they were brewed as Stock Pale Ales, aged for up to 12 months in trade casks. Hence some Brettanomyces character is acceptable.

1880 - 1914 London PA (Best Bitter)
OG 1057-1065
ABV 5.5-7%
Apparent attenuation 70-85%
IBU 60-80
SRM 5 - 8
pale malt 75-100%
flaked rice or maize 10-15%
sugar 10-20%

If you find this stuff interesting I can write some more guidelines. Either horizontally or vertically.


Bendik said...

Nice. I really enjoyed this slice of history, and would love a vertical slice of London Porter throughout the 19th century if this will be a recurring theme.

I've recently fallen in love with porters heavy on the brown malt, so would definitely like more nice, crunchy history numbers. Long time lurker, first time commenter.

Michael N said...

I would love to see some more style guidelines along these lines. I often brew an AK or brown stout so this sort of thing from this era would be very useful to me.

Michael N said...

No Styrian Goldings in the hop list. Were these not used at this time?

Anonymous said...

Ron, is it a typo that IBUs and SRM are listed twice?

The Flat Hat said...

Good interesting fact based information rather than the drivel from style nazies, more please. Any general comments on hopping rates or should we go through the recipes in your books for guidance?

Unknown said...

Great post saved it for the future, looking forward more styles!.

Hegemonkey said...

IBU is listed twice.

Ron Pattinson said...

Fixed the repeated IBU and SRM.

Ron Pattinson said...

Michael N,

a bit early for Styrian Goldings.

Ross said...

Great information, thanks Ron. I'd be keen to see the specs for the Burton breweries' pale ales during this period.

Martyn Cornell said...

"Styrian Goldings" (actually Fuggle's, of course) were first planted in 1886. They were being imported to the US by 1915, but don't appear to have reached Britain until the 1930s., and they were mostly used for lager brewing.

qq said...

To be honest Ron, I think fact-based style guidelines are some of the most important things you can do for the community - and I'd start with post-WWII as people seem to get confused enough about the modernish beer let alone the old stuff.

In particular, I think one of the things that people don't really understand is the way British beers vary geographically. Obviously there's a lot of overlap at the edges, but the centres of gravity can be quite different. I see USians making "bitter" with 10% crystal and Windsor attenuating at 65% and it feels very different to what I was weaned on - Boddies and Stones.

From a personal POV I'd be interested in whether the data supports the idea that northwest mild is a distinctly different "thing" - sweeter, more crystal - to Black Country mild. That's the impression I get as a drinker, but I don't know whether it's just that I haven't drunk enough of a relatively rare style.

So I guess I'm asking for more northern post-WWII horizontals rather than verticals?