Monday, 10 January 2022

Barclay Perkins Imperial Stout in Scotland

Time to give my few remaining readers a relief from all the WW II and and Dutch stuff. What could I write about? I know: Imperial Stout.

Not a totally random choice. There's the obvious Barclay Perkins connection. I've spent quite a bit of time looking at their legendary Imperial Stout. They weren't the only ones by any means to have a beer of that name. Truman and Courage, for a start. Others who, like Whitbread might have not called it Imperial Stout in the brew house, had a beer sold under that name.

I love that Courage brewed two Imperial Stouts at different tines with completely different heritages. Their own and, after Barclay Perkins closed, the granddaddy of the style.

After banging in "Imperial Stout" search in the newspaper archive, I started off looking far back for the first mention of the term. Nothing in the 18th century. I wasn't that surprised, as Britain only became "imperial" in the 19th century.

A comment on the weediness of Barclay Perkins Russian Stout of the 1940s reminded me adverts for it in Scottish newspapers from that time. All for a weaker version - "Red Label". After the war a weak version was specifically identified as being for Scotland.

How far did this "Red Label" go back? Was it always weaker than the classic version? If so, how did they achieve that? Have I missed it in the brewing records? 

The first spotting I have (in the brewing books) of a weak Russian Stout is in 1921. Though I haven't seen a brewing log, just a Whitbread analysis, a full-strength version was on sale in 1922. Both beers were brewed right through the interwar years. 

The strong Russian Stout is identified as IBS ex in the logs. Indicating an export beer. But was it really only exported? Or just a name to distinguish it from its weedy sibling? 

I'll leave you with a table. I wouldn't want to disappoint. 

Weak Imperial Russian Stout 1921 - 1947
Year Beer OG FG ABV App. Atten-uation colour
1921 IBS 1061.3 1020.0 5.46 67.37%  
1922 IBS 1061.1 1019.0 5.57 68.90%  
1924 IBS 1061.0 1020.0 5.42 67.21% 340
1924 IBS 1061.4 1021.0 5.34 65.80% 280
1928 IBS 1060.8 1020.0 5.40 67.12% 260
1929 IBS 1060.7 1022.5 5.05 62.93% 290
1936 IBS 1060.4 1020.0 5.34 66.88% 360
1936 IBS 1060.5 1020.0 5.36 66.94% 360
1937 IBS 1060.8 1021.0 5.26 65.44% 330
1940 IBS 1055.4 1022.5 4.35 59.36% 280
1941 IBS 1055.6 1022.0 4.45 60.45% 290
1946 IBS (Scot.) 1043.8 1019.5 3.21 55.48% 310
1947 IBS (Scot.) 1043.5 1021.0 2.98 51.72%  
Barclay Perkins brewing records held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document numbers ACC/2305/01/608, ACC/2305/01/611, ACC/2305/01/614, ACC/2305/01/621, ACC/2305/01/623, ACC/2305/01/624 and ACC/2305/01/627.

Come with me as I dig further into the questions I've raised. After a little research - a couple of hours this afternoon while vaguely watching football - the story is mildly interesting. Who could ask for more than that? The tiniest scrap of excitement.

1 comment:

Dan Klingman said...

It's surprising that a 5%ABV beer was called 'imperial', let alone a 3% beer. But maybe in true marketing fashion, they were made with only 'the finest quality malt and hops'.