Thursday 30 November 2023

Beer, Ale and Malt Liquor

There is a point. To what I'm doing. I have a clear goal. Just to reassure you that I'm not losing the thread thing that runs through stories. What\s the word? Plot, that's it.

When I plunged first into the boiling copper of beer history, I soon upgraded my goals from finding out what the fuck Porter was. Or the origins of Dark Mild. (Which are still obscure to me to this day.) Like a miner belling out from an initial shaft, I broadened my research. And aims.

It all crystalised with a highly-frustrating job. Where, not only was it musical chairs every morning to try and find a desk. There also wasn't really any work to do. And only intranet. How to stop myself going insane?

USB drives. I loaded up pdfs of old brewing manuals. Not just to read, but to use as sources for my planned book: "Beer, Ale and Malt Liquor". A history of UK beer and brewing from 1700 to 1973. Fairly ambitious. I cracked on. And, as the months went by, I scrambled together a very rough manuscript. Part notes, source quotes with some properly written bits.

Weirdly, other than the interwar period, the coverage of the 20th century is pretty sketchy. The most complete chapter, "1815-1850 Porter supreme", I published as, perhaps, the longest ever blog post, just short of 22,000 words. A book in itself, you might say.

Which is why each chapter has ended up a book.

1880-1914 Free (in progress)
1910-1920 Armistice
1918-1940 Peace
1939-1947 Blitzkrieg
1945-1970 Austerity
1968-1980 Keg (in progress)

I'm getting there. When I've polished off the current two, I'll start moving backwards in time. 1830 to 1880, 1780 to 1830. Something like that. I'm not quite settled yet.

Writing a history of IK brewing over the last couple of hundres years. That's my long-term goal. And why I seldom stray into continental beer any longer. Just concentrating what energies I have left on what's most important to me. What I would like to be remembered for.

At least I should have 100 years worth finished soon.

Wednesday 29 November 2023

Let's Brew Wednesday - 1971 Shepherd Neame Bishop's Finger

I polished off the Shepherd Neame recipes for "Keg!" yesterday. Including this little number.

Finally, we’re at the top end of the one Pale Ale parti-gyle: Bishop’s Finger. It seems to have been first brewed sometime in the first half of the 1960s.

The brewery bills it as a Strong Ale. Though, given the way it was parti-gyled with SXX and Light Ale, it could easily pass for an ESB. I suppose it was all down to what the brewery thought would sell better. And it was exclusively bottled, which would tilt against the term “Bitter”.

Like the Abbey Ale parti-gyle, there’s more base malt and less of the other malts and adjunct. Though, in contrast to Abbey Ale, the hopping rate is the same as for the base parti-gyle. That is, 4.5 lbs of hops per quarter (336 lbs) of malt.

There’s a slight difference in the hopping, in that the 1969 vintage was now kept in a cold store. 

1971 Shepherd Neame Bishop's Finger
pale malt 6.25 lb 58.58%
amber malt 0.67 lb 6.28%
crystal malt 60 L 0.67 lb 6.28%
wheat malt 0.50 lb 4.69%
flaked maize 0.50 lb 4.69%
No. 3 invert sugar 1.25 lb 11.72%
No. 1 invert sugar 0.75 lb 7.03%
malt extract 0.08 lb 0.75%
Fuggles 105 mins 1.00 oz
Fuggles 60 mins 0.75 oz
Goldings 30 mins 0.75 oz
OG 1053
FG 1017
ABV 4.76
Apparent attenuation 67.92%
IBU 30
SRM 14
Mash at 152º F
Sparge at 165º F
Boil time 105 minutes
pitching temp 63º F
Yeast WLP007 Dry English Ale

Tuesday 28 November 2023

Shepherd Neame sugars in 1971

Next, we’re taking look at the sugars.

You can see that Shepherd Neame was one of the brewers who threw some malt extract into the mash tun. Presumably, to add extra diastatic power. I’m not sure it was really necessary. It seems to have been a sort of safety net for nervous brewers.

It’s odd to see No. 3 invert turning up in beers like Light Ale. Beers you would expect to be quite pale. Whereas you would expect to, and do, find it in the Mild and Brown Ale. Here, it appears in everything except the one Pale Ale parti-gyle.

And that’s about where my understanding of the sugars ends. Everything other than the Brown Ale/Mild parti-gyle included something called Wortex. What was it? I don’t rightly know. But, given the beers it appears in, I doubt it had much colour.

Whereas the UKCS in the dark beers probably was quite dark. My guess is that the “CS” stands for caramel syrup. And, certainly, that assumption helps to give the finished beers the expected colour.

WSI? Possibly some sort of Special Invert? That’s about the best guess I can come up with.

I won’t bother with a table for the hops. All the beers contained the same two types, both from the brewery’s own hop gardens, one from the 1968 harvest and the other from 1970. 

Shepherd Neame sugars in 1971
Beer Style malt extract no. 3 sugar Wortex UKCS WSI caramel total sugar
Brown Ale Brown Ale 0.80% 9.61%   9.61% 6.41% 1.49% 27.92%
Mild Mild 0.80% 9.61%   9.61% 6.41% 1.49% 27.92%
Light Ale Pale Ale 0.92% 11.01% 5.50%       17.43%
Bitter Pale Ale 0.99%   6.93%       7.92%
Best Bitter Pale Ale 1.10%   6.59%       7.69%
Abbey Ale Pale Ale 0.64% 12.74% 6.37%       19.75%
Old English Stock Ale Pale Ale 0.92% 11.01% 5.50%       17.43%
Bishop's Finger Strong Ale 0.71% 11.35% 7.09%       19.15%
Stout Stout   6.12%       2.04% 8.16%
Shepherd Neame brewing book held at the brewery, document number H-5O5.

Monday 27 November 2023

Shepherd Neame grists in 1971

Time to look at what went into these beers. Starting off with the malts and adjuncts.

Pale malt was the only base employed. Nothing very unusual about that. More uncommon is the presence of crystal malt in every single beer. Which was a bit of a turnaround. Because up until at least 1966, they didn’t use crystal malt at all.

Even more odd is the presence of amber malt in one of the Pale Ale parti-gyles. It’s not a malt you’d usually find in a Pale Ale. In fact, you rarely see it in anything other than Porter and Stout. And then mostly before WW I.

I’m not 100% that the wheat was in malted form. It’s not clear from the brewing record. Though, as it just says “wheat” and not “flaked wheat” but it does say “flaked maize”. I assume wheat is there for its head-promoting properties.

Speaking of which, it’s a little strange that flaked maize only appears in the one Pale Ale parti-gyle. And not in the Mild and Brown Ale. Looking back through the logs, it’s another ingredient which was only introduced sometime after 1966. 

Shepherd Neame grists in 1971
Beer Style pale malt amber malt crystal malt wheat malt total malt flaked maize
Brown Ale Brown Ale 67.28%   4.81%   72.08%  
Mild Mild 67.28%   4.81%   72.08%  
Light Ale Pale Ale 60.55% 5.50% 5.50% 5.50% 77.06% 5.50%
Bitter Pale Ale 84.65%   7.43%   92.08%  
Best Bitter Pale Ale 84.07%   8.24%   92.31%  
Abbey Ale Pale Ale 61.15% 5.73% 5.73% 3.82% 76.43% 3.82%
Old English Stock Ale Pale Ale 60.55% 5.50% 5.50% 5.50% 77.06% 5.50%
Bishop's Finger Strong Ale 59.57% 6.38% 6.38% 4.26% 76.60% 4.26%
Stout Stout 85.71%   6.12%   91.84%  
Shepherd Neame brewing book held at the brewery, document number H-5O5.

Sunday 26 November 2023

Wasting my time?

I've assembled all this information about 1970s beers. Enough to do something like the brewery section of the Good Beer Guide. But with the bottled and keg beers included.

Is it weird to do a guide the past? For a lost world? Though I have done all that stuff about the DDR. There's a whole country that's gone forever.

Here's what an entry might look like.

Shepherd Neame
Favershan, Kent Tied houses 235    
    OG ABV  
Bitter Pale Ale 1031 3.00 well hopped
Best Bitter Pale Ale 1036 3.68  
Light Mild Mild     similar to the Bitter, only in clubs and on the Isle of Sheppey
Mild Mild 1031 3.21 Dark Mild
Old English Stock Ale Pale Ale 1039 4.01  
Draught Abbey Pale Ale 1044 4.01  
Hurlimann Swiss Lager Lager     imported
Light Ale Pale Ale 1029 2.83  
Abbey Ale Pale Ale 1044 4.01 medium-strength
Bishop's Finger Strong Ale 1053 4.71 pale
Christmas Ale Old Ale     very strong
Brown Ale Brown Ale 1026 2.75  

Am I wasting my time?

A busy week

Though I haven't been performing paid work for almost four years now, that doesn't mean I'm idle.

I was going to say that I write every day. But that's not quite true. Some days are fully occupied by research. 

Like this week. Much of which was spent going through Shepherd Neame's brewing records from 1971. A process which was slightly more complicated than I expected. And left me with some dilemmas. Like what do I do with the primings. And then there was the weird Stout parti-gyle.

It's nice to not be in a rush. To have the time to spend on proper research. Which is something I genuinely enjoy. Despite the tedium of extracting details from dozens of brewing records.

In this way, every week is a busy week for me. Which is good. It stops me just vegetating now paid employment is but a distant memory.

Shepherd Neame beers in 1971

I’d been struggling quite a bit with some of the Shepherd Neame beers. Trying to work out what the hell they were.

I spent quite a while trying to find a price list in the newspaper archive. No luck. A partial answer finally came when I scoured Frank Baillie’s “The Beer Drinker’s Companion”. Which has a pretty complete list of most brewers’ beers.

The one that really had me stumped was SXX. Which I couldn’t decide if it was a Strong Ale, Pale Ale or Old Ale. I now know it was called “Old English Stock Ale”. Though that doesn’t really make the style much clearer. But I’m pretty sure now it was a Pale Ale.

There’s still some confusion, though, when I try to map these beers onto those in the 1978 Good Beer Guide. Which lists Bitter at 1036º, Best Bitter at 1039º and Stock Ale at 1038º. So where does that leave BB? I’m guessing that it was the Light Mild mentioned by Frank Baillie.

Leaving aside what the brewery marketed these beers as. Let’s look at what they were like.

I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the number of Brown Ales I’ve found in brewing records. Often, they are invisible shadow beers. Conjured up from Dark Mild at bottling time. OK, the one here was parti-gyled with Mild, but it was its own distinct brew. And a particularly watery one at quite a few degrees below 1030º. This is one of the better-attenuated examples. Many had FGs of 1008º or 1009º.

The Mild is at least over 3% ABV. Not exactly rocket fuel, but at least vaguely intoxicating. A low hopping rate of just 3 lbs per quarter (336 lbs) of malt was employed. If you flick back to Boddington or forward to Whitbread, you’ll see that hopped at 4.5 lbs to 5 lbs per quarter.

The Pale Ale analogue of Brown Ale, Light Ale, is also below 1030º and 3% ABV. Though with a slightly hopping rate of 4 lbs per quarter of malt.

Obviously, there was a lot of parti-gyling going on with the Pale Ales. Abbey Ale, Bishop’s Finger, Old English Stock Ale and Light Ale were brewed together in various combinations. Though the hopping rate was higher when Abbey Ale was involved.

Bishop’s Finger, despite being billed as a Strong Ale, is really just a very strong Bitter. Nothing wrong with that. It and Abbey Ale were only available in bottled form. Though there does appear to have been a keg version of the latter.

There was a second Pale Ale parti-gyle of BB and PA. Separate, presumably, because the hopping rate was higher.

The weirdest parti-gyle was for the Stout. Which, in a brew with Mild and Brown Ale, was given its own copper with different sugars. In a slightly obscure process.

Overall, the rate of attenuation isn’t great. The beers I chose were mostly the best-attenuated examples. Many were under 70%. And an average of all the beers I’ve photographed came out just barely over 70%. 

Shepherd Neame beers in 1971
Beer Style OG FG ABV App. Atten-uation lbs hops/ qtr hops lb/brl
Brown Ale Brown Ale 1026.3 1005.5 2.75 79.10% 3.07 0.35
Mild Mild 1031.3 1007 3.21 77.64% 3.07 0.41
Light Ale Pale Ale 1029.4 1008 2.83 72.75% 4.12 0.52
Bitter Pale Ale 1030.2 1007.5 3.00 75.16% 5.73 0.71
Best Bitter Pale Ale 1036.3 1008.5 3.68 76.58% 5.98 0.89
Abbey Ale Pale Ale 1044.3 1014 4.01 68.41% 5.59 1.05
Old English Stock Ale Pale Ale 1039.3 1009 4.01 77.12% 4.21 0.69
Bishop's Finger Strong Ale 1052.6 1017 4.71 67.70% 4.52 1.12
Stout Stout 1032.1 1011.5 2.73 64.21% 1.33 0.18
Shepherd Neame brewing book held at the brewery, document number H-5O5.

Saturday 25 November 2023

Let's Brew - 1879 William Younger No. 2

Of Younger’s four numbered Ales, No. 1 and No. 3 had the most legs, stretching past WW II. No.2 didn’t quite manage such a long run, being discontinued during WW I.

It’s another very simple recipe. It includes two types of pale malt. That’s about all I can say about the malt, as the description is an unreadable squiggle. If you were to hold a gun to my head, I’d guess that some was from foreign barley.

The hops are listed as Spalt, American, Californian and Kent. The quantity of Spalt, however, is so small that I’ve combined it with the Goldings. As in the recipe below, the bulk of the hops were from the USA.

Lasting 8 days, the fermentation was longer than most at Younger. Fairly warm, too, as most of it was in the high 60’s F.

The finished beer looks to be very pale and very bitter. It probably tastes like a modern DIPA.

1879 William Younger No. 2
pale malt 19.50 lb 100.00%
Cluster 90 min 3.50 oz
Cluster 60 min 3.50 oz
Goldings 30 min 1.75 oz
Goldings dry hops 1.50 oz
OG 1084
FG 1035
ABV 6.48
Apparent attenuation 58.33%
IBU 135
Mash at 156º F
Sparge at 165º F
Boil time 90 minutes
pitching temp 55º F
Yeast WLP028 Edinburgh Ale

The above is an excerpt from my excellent book on Scottish brewing:

Which is also available in Kindle form:


Friday 24 November 2023

Other Christmas ideas

Like one of my Kindle books. I earn less per book, but it's all money, eh?

"How many books have you published?" I'm often asked.  

"Forty-ish" I usually reply. While the real answer is fuck knows.

My record-keeping wasn't the best in the past. So I'm not 100% sure about all the books and editions. Don't worry, I'm keeping better track of it now.

Buy (if you must - I get more if you go the Lulu route) one of my many Kindle books:

Yule Logs!!!!!!!!!

Yes! I have got my finger out and produced a new edition of Yule Logs!!!!!!!!! And I've finished it in November. Pat on the back to me. Though, to be honest, I don't have much else to do, being retired and all that.

I even made a new cover. Though that wasn't voluntary. Lulu made me do it. This is it:

Cool, eh?

If you want to make your Christmas extra special, get your copy now!

Weird gyling

I was planning to post something about Shepherd Neame beers in 1971. There are quire a lot of them Twelve, according to Christopher Hutt. But there's one he doesn't mention: Stout. Hurray! Another English Stout. Just one problem: how do I untangle its recipe from the weird parti-gyle?

That puzzle has occupied me this afternoon. And left some of the brewing record untranscribed. I've come up with a sort of solution. Not sure it's 100% right.

There were three coppers rather than two and one is handily labelled "Stout". This received different sugars to the other two coppers. Just No. 3 invert and quite a lot of caramel. The sugars aren't the problem. Nor are the hops. Which are specified separately for each copper. It's the malts. How to work out how much went into each of the three beers in the parti-gyle.*

My solution? Just base it on the % of the gravity points in each beer. I think that comes close. If you understand what I mean.

This is the record. A bit blurry, I'm afraid. If you can make any sense of the mashing scheme, let me know. I can't see a sparge.

 * The others being Mild and Brown Ale. (MB and Br in the record.)

Thursday 23 November 2023

UK breweries after WW II

In the 1950s the first truly national brewing companies began to form. As the coalescing groups bought more rivals, it inevitably whittled down the number of active breweries. Purchasers were rarely interested in the brewery itself, only the pubs that it owned. With new licenses almost impossible to obtain, about the only way to expand the number of outlets was to buy another brewery.

The process of amalgamation was kicked off by Canadian Eddie Taylor, who had already built a national brewing group in his homeland. Using Yorkshire brewer Hammonds at its core, he embarked on a buying frenzy across the North of England and Scotland.

By the late 1960s, seven brewing groups dominated the industry: Allied Breweries, Bass Charrington, Courage, Watney Mann, Whitbread, Scottish & Newcastle and Guinness. They were usually referred to as the Big Six, Guinness being left out because it owned no pubs. 

No. of UK breweries
Year No.
1945 708
1946 680
1947 648
1948 625
1949 602
1950 567
1951 539
1952 524
1953 501
1954 479
1955 460
1956 426
1957 416
1958 399
1959 378
1960 358
1964 295
1965 274
Brewers' Almanack 1955, p.68
Brewers' Almanack 1962, p.67
BBPA Statistical Handbook 2003, p. 92

Amalgamation was often a complex affair. Bass Charrington was formed by the merger of Charrington United Breweries and Bass, Mitchells & Butlers. The former itself the result of a merger between Hammonds United Breweries and Charrington. The latter, created when Bass and M & B merged. Hammonds United Breweries was itself the result of a series of takeovers.

Between them, the Big Six controlled over half the UK’s pubs. As most beer was consumed in pubs and those pubs could only sell beer from the brewery that owned them, that gave the big brewers a stranglehold on the beer trade.

Ironically, this hold started to be broken in the 1980s when supermarkets started to shift large quantities of beer. It’s ironic because the big brewers dumped beer at ridiculously low prices to the supermarkets to gain market share. All the really did was devalue their pubs as assets.

The Big Seven 1963 - 1967
  1963 1967
Company Tied estate Nominal capital Market value Company Tied estate Nominal capital Market value
    £m £m     £m £m
Allied 9,300 90.4 177.3 Bass Charr 10,230 80.7 243.2
Watney Mann 5,500 43.8 103.5 Allied 8,250 128.1 234.7
Charr Utd 5,000 43.1 92.7 Whitbread 7,376 104.8 127.8
CB&S 4,800 45.3 76.3 Watney Mann 6,667 84.8 144.7
BM&B 4,100 33 96 CB&S 4,418 57.1 94.4
Whitbread 3,500 40.6 95.2 S&N 2,076 64.8 127
S&N 1,700 44.9 92.1 Guinness 2 26.5 102.2
Guinness 2 19.5 94        
Total 33,902       39,019    
Total pubs 67,450       66,373    
* Guinness's tied estate = Castle Inn, Bodiam and Guinness Club House, Park Royal.
BM&B Bass, Mitchells & Butlers
Bass Charr Bass Charrington
CB&S Courage, Barclay & Simonds
Charr Utd Charrington United
S&N Scottish & Newcastle
The British Brewing Industry 1830 - 1980 by T.R. Gourvish and R.G. Wilson, 1994, page 472.

There was also consolidation on a regional level, where breweries like Greene King, Greenall Whitley and Marstons bought up rivals for their pubs and closed their breweries.

At a much smaller level, most of the remaining home brew pubs closed between 1945 and 1965. There had still been around 2,500 publican brewers at the outbreak of WW I, but large numbers gave up in the interwar period. By 1965 they were just a handful. 

This is an excerptfrom from my overly detailed look at post-war UK brewing, Austerity!

Wednesday 22 November 2023

Let's Brew Wednesday - 1985 Tetley Falstaff

I never drank this beer. Despite it being brewed in the town where I lived.

Tetley also produced a Light Mild in their Hunslet brewery. Not that I can ever remember it being sold in Leeds. Maybe it was for the bits of West Yorkshire where they liked their Mild pale.*

I seem to remember it being a keg-only beer. It only appears in the Good Beer Guide from the early 1980s. I suppose that’s when they started selling some in cask form.

The recipe isn’t hugely different from Mild. It’s 0.5º higher in gravity. And the sugar is different – ERC 4ths. No idea what that was. As this is a beer meant to be pale, I’ve substituted No. 1 invert.

There are a few more hops, as the bitterness level was higher. About halfway between Mild and Bitter. Which has me thinking. This is a bit like mixed – Mild and Bitter in equal quantities. Just a little paler than that combination.

There was less “sterilised beer” than in the Mild added after fermentation, just 7.5% maximum.

For a change, this isn't an excerpt from a recently-published book. It's from the one I'm currently working on, "Keg!". A laugh a minute look at UK beer in the 1970s. Which will be available when I finish it. 


* Let me know if I'm talking out of my arse here.

1985 Tetley Falstaff
pale malt 5.25 lb 77.55%
torrefied barley 0.50 lb 7.39%
No. 1 invert sugar 1.00 lb 14.77%
caramel 2000 SRM 0.02 lb 0.30%
Fuggles 90 mins 0.75 oz
Fuggles 60 mins 0.75 oz
Fuggles 30 mins 0.50 oz
Northdown dry hops 0.125 oz
OG 1032.5
FG 1006.5
ABV 3.44
Apparent attenuation 80.00%
IBU 27
SRM 7.5
Mash at 146º F
Sparge at 165º F
Boil time 90 minutes
pitching temp 63º F
Yeast Wyeast 1469 West Yorkshire Ale