Tuesday 27 September 2022

Regional Beer Styles ca. 1900 (part three)

This time we're looking at the use of sugar in different types of beers.

If you've looked at the recipes I've produced, you'll have seen how many different types of sugar were employed. They weren't just thrown in randomly. The varying sugars each had their own properties and purpose.

"It is well to remember, however, that invert and cane sugars yield luscious beers which do not maintain much condition in cask for any length of time. Dextrinous sugars blended with invert somewhat remedy this transient condition. Glucose yields dry and possibly thin beers, but those which possess a peculiar flavour of their own are more suitable for quick consumption. Then again, high-dried malts, mashed fairly low, yield beers which in their earlier stages possess palate-fulness and lusciousness. Pale malts, mashed high, yield beers which during early storage lack condition and palate-fulness, but which improve in condition and in fulness the longer they are kept. Any sugars employed which have dextrin present are suitable for beers which are to be stored more than a fortnight, and the percentage of such sugars used should vary according to the length of storage of the beers. Then again, the quality of the sugar employed for priming in cask materially affects palate-fulness and permanent condition, and in the production of stouts we have to consider the question of the mashing temperatures employed; these should be suitable for the quality of the caramelised matter used in the mash-tun; otherwise the diastase will not correctly do its work, as there will not be sufficient of it to carry out the necessary conversion of starch into saccharine matter."
"A Treatise of Practical Brewing and Malting" by Frank Thatcher, The Country Brewers' Gazette, 1905, pages 294 - 295. 

It's obvious why invert and cane sugar (sucrose) would create beers whose condition didn't last long. Being highly fermentable, they would be quickly consumed by the yeast. Such sugars were clearly best suited to running beers, which needed to come into condition quickly.

On the other, sugars high in dextrin, which is much less readily fermentable, would provide food for the yeast to slowly nibble through during a long secondary fermentation.

It's interesting that Thatcher describes how to achieve both transient and long-lasting body by malt selection and manipulation of the mashing temperatures, but the emphasis is on the use of sugars to achieve the same effect. I think that's telling. It may also explain why the overwhelming majority of brewers in England used sugar. even ones, such as Whitbread, who eschewed adjuncts.


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