Tuesday 30 April 2024

Another train!

A rather longer journey and earlier start today. As I’m travelling to Cork and have a morning appointment. My train is at 8:00.

No time for a ‘Spoons breakfast today. Instead, I pick up a coffee and a sandwich in the station to eat on the train.

The train is busier than the one I took yesterday. Though no-one is standing. And there are a few empty seats. The journey is much longer today, around 2 hours and 40 minutes. Which isn’t too bad for 250 km.

The approach to Cork Kent station is a bit unusual. After emerging from a long tunnel, there’s a sharp right turn and there you are.

I jump in a taxi and rumble through the centre of Cork, heading for University College. Once there, the Boole library is easy to find. It’s a pretty typical brutalist concrete lump. Just like the ones in Leeds University.

It’s slightly weird walking around a university campus with all these young people milling around. It fair takes me back to the days of my youth.

I’m headed down to the basement, where the archiyey things happen. Everything is ready for me. They pass me the books one at a time.

The first couple, which are pretty old and scribbly, are quite short. It only takes a few minutes to photograph all the pages. Not exactly sure what’s in them, as they’re hard to read. I did see the words “India” and “Pale Ale”. I’ll be giving them a closer look, when I have some time.

It was great fun working out which volumes I wanted to consult. As the brewing and fermentation records are in different books. And not always described properly in the catalogue. Meaning I had to order matching books. It makes things far more complicated.

Receiving the brewing book first, I also have to remember which dates I photograph, so I can also snap the matching fermentation records. Luckily, Murphy only brewed a couple of different beers. And regularly. By photographing all of January and half of October, I’m sure of getting multiple examples of all their beers.

It’s a lot of work. And I’m not sure I’ve got it all right. Luckily, I plan another visit. Simply because I’ve only been able to get through maybe half of the documents I want to consult.

A student group enters the research room. It seems that they're doing some archive study. Luckily, I find it easy to zone out and they don’t disturb me at all. After a while of snapping, I just go onto autopilot. Working away without really thinking about it.

At the end of four hours, I’m knacked and through everything. At least, through all the documents I’ve ordered. And there’s still time for a pint.

On my way in, I noticed a pub just opposite the station. That’ll do. And I’ll be just a couple of minutes away from my train.

It doesn’t look that promising from the outside. Inside, it’s rather bland and modern. With only a couple of customers.

They have the full set of industrial Stouts: Guinness, Murphy’s and Beamish. As I haven’t seen it for ages, I get the last.

It looks the part. But there’s something a bit weird about the flavour. Is it old? Are the lines dirty? Not sure. But something’s not right. I mange to force it down, without any pleasure. Not going to waste it, however bad it might taste.

I get myself a sandwich and Taytos for the train journey. It’s quite busy, without being totally packed. We trundle along at a decent pace. Through a sea of green fields and grey skies. Rain occasionally lashes the windows.

It’s 20:00 when we get back to Heuston station. After a short cab ride, I’m back at my hotel. Pausing only to nip into Tesco for some more scran. And the bar to get a pint for my room.

The Brehon Oatmeal Stout has finished. I get a pint of Old Peculier instead. It’s not bad.

Whisky has me tumbling down the slumber hill.

Station View Tavern

87 Lower Glanmire Rd,
T23 A265.

Monday 29 April 2024


This is so exciting. I’m taking an Irish train for the first time. A proper express service. I have been on the DART before, but that doesn’t really count. Just being a commuter-type train.

There’s no rush. My appointment in Portlaoise is only at 14:00. I rise a little before nine and drop downstairs for breakfast. Being very unimaginative when it comes to breakfast choices, I go for the traditional Irish again. Should keep me going until after lunchtime.

My train isn’t until 13:00. Leaving me a little time to stock up on stuff to eat later.

After a short cab ride, I’m at Heuston station. A rather impressive stone edifice in a classical style. Inside, it reminds me a bit of Manchester Piccadilly. With a large concourse filled with shops in front of the platforms.

I’m quite early, leaving me time to poke around the shops a little. And pick up food and drink for the train: an egg and bacon sandwich, Taytos cheese and onion and a bottle of cola.

Soon after leaving, we’re out in the countryside. Which is surprisingly green. Well, not really. Surprising, I mean. It has been raining off and on the whole time I’ve been here. And Ireland sort of has a reputation for being, er, green.

The train rattles along at a decent pace and in 40 minutes we’re in Portlaoise. Which has another attractive stone station building. The library, where I’m headed, is just a short walk away down Main Street.

I knew that the library must be new, as it’s still under construction on streetview. It’s rather nice: airy and bright. I’m led up to the local studies room, where they already have the Perry brewing records laid out for me.

Now the fun starts. There are only ten books, which means that I can take my time. Well, not rush too crazily. I have around three hours, my train being booked for a bit after 17:00.

I sit down to do the snapping today. I stood yesterday and by the end my back was aching like crazy. Over the course of two hours, I take just shy of 500 photos. About one every 15 seconds.

I like the Perry’s records. They’re compact, easy to read and include pretty much all the information I need. Ingredients, mashing and boil details, and a fermentation record. They’re some of the easiest to process.

Cherry’s, which I photographed yesterday, records are a bit frustrating, not giving boil times and having only a partial fermentation record, finishing at what looks like cleansing.

Cairnes’ are in what I call “Scottish format”. Where there are several records spread horizontally across two pages. The upside, is that I capture multiple brews with a pair of photographs. The downside, is that they’re rather cramped and some of the writing rather small. And, in the case of Cairnes, the beer type is annoyingly on the second page.

While I’m snapping away, a couple of groups of schoolkids wander in, apparently doing some sort of local history project. It doesn’t bother me. I’m totally focussed when doing this stuff.

By 16:00, I’ve snapped all that needs snapping. Great. I’ve time for a pint before getting on the train. I noticed a suitable looking pub on the way in: Kavanaghs.

There are half a dozen or so other customers, mostly clumped around the bar. I order a pint of Guinness. The other punters are mostly drinking Lager. Other than a two who are getting stuck into Smithwicks.

A couple of TVs are showing racing. One horses, the other dogs. It reminds me very much of lunchtime in some pubs in Leeds back in the 1970s and 1980s. The Guinness isn’t bad. Drinkable, if a little low-powered on flavour.

I’ve only time for the one. Before trailing back to the station. It’s raining again. But the half-hearted type of rain that hydrates rather than soaks. I’m used to this sort of stuff. We get plenty of it in Amsterdam.

My train is on time. Which is just as well, as I’ve an early evening appointment. The legroom is much better than on most modern UK express trains. And the windows match the seating layout.

Back in Heuston, I’ve no time to lose. As I’ve an early evening appointment. I nip back to my hotel, pick up my USB drive and books to flog, then head off again. To Underdog, where I’ll be giving a talk tonight.

I get there a little after 19:00. Which isn’t too bad going. I immediately bump into John Duffy. Who recommends a super-strong, barrel-aged Stout. Well, that should get me in the mood.

The talk compares the beers of an Irish brewery (Cairnes) with those of an English brewery (Rose of Malton) and a Scottish brewery (Usher). There are lots of questions as I trundle along. Which I rather like. As it offers me plenty of opportunity to digress.

When the talk is done, it’s time for some talking. I chat with various people, before ending up with Lisa Grimm and John Duffy. It’s good to see both of them again. Though I end up staying rather longer than I’d intended. It’s past midnight by the time I jump into a cab.

I’ve an early start tomorrow. I go to bed almost as soon as I get back to my room. Pausing only to briefly reacquaint myself with Mr. Whisky.


28 Main St,
Co. Laois,
R32 EP2K.

199 King St N,
Dublin 1,
D07 PR5X.

Sunday 28 April 2024


I rise a little after eight. Then trapse downstairs to the bar for brekkie.

The big question is: should I get the traditional or the large Irish breakfast? Good sense prevails, and I plump for the large. Only joking. I’m not a total pig.

Is a description necessary? It’s a Wetherspoons breakfast. Functional, is the word that comes to mind. A way to efficiently load up on calories for the day. Two mugs of tea, too. Proper tea. Strong and milky.

I have to ask at the Storehouse information desk for Eibhlin Colgan, the archivist. And soon she’s leading me up to the reading room. Where she already has the volumes I’m going to consult.

There are eight in total: two Cherry, two Perry and four Cairnes. Covering a pretty decent span of years, between them. 1876 to 1966. Lots to get my teeth stuck into.

I wouldn’t describe the work of photographing brewing records as fun. It isn’t. Tedious. Repetitive. Filthy, sometimes. Backbreaking. Mostly just boring.

Pages are turned, photos are taken. Occasionally, I’ll pause to take a look. More so at the start than at the end of the session.

At lunch, I notice that my phone is down to 38% battery. Which is a bit worrying. I ask about charging it while I eat. Unfortunately, I’ve only brought a USB cable. Damn.

It makes the afternoon session even more frantic than usual. I start to regret how much time I spent on some of the Cairnes records this morning.

When I finish, I’ve still a little battery left. But that was much more stressful than it needed to be. Stress is the last thing I need.

1,000 snaps snapped, I head back to my hotel. Where I recharge my phone and copy all those valuable photos to my laptop. After all the effort it took to take them, I wouldn’t want to lose them by dropping my phone or having it nicked.

In one taxi, I explained to the driver what type of pub I like. Old men’s pubs, basically. One he recommended was Cassidy’s, just over the road from my hotel. After nipping into Tesco Express to pick up a couple of sandwiches (and Taytos cheese and onion crisps) for my tea, I drop by there.

It is, as advertised, and old-fashioned sort of pub. The perfect place to try out the Guinness.

I’m not expecting a sensory overload. Let’s be honest: Draught Guinness is pretty bland. But this pint is smooth and easy to drink. With the vaguest flicker of roast lurking somewhere in its shadows.

I quite like quiet times in pubs. Though his one is by no means empty, there’s plenty of space for me to fill with my fat arse. But still enough fellow customers to observe to keep things interesting.

Only the one pint. I’m not made of fucking money. I retreat back to the ‘Spoons. And the warm embrace off cheap cask beer. I enjoyed the Brehon Black Hills so much yesterday, I get myself another. Which I take to my room. Where whisky I don’t need to pay for (again) is waiting for me.

This isn’t going to be a very pubby trip. I’ve a busy schedule and don’t want to knack myself just hanging around in pubs. Much as I love doing that.

Instead, I hang around my room a bit. Nibbling on my Tesco sarnies and sipping my hotel whisky. While watching some shit TV on my laptop.

It’s me chasing the whisky to sleep today.

42 Camden Street Lower,
Saint Kevin's,
Dublin 2,
D02 YP57.


Saturday 27 April 2024

Let's Brew - 1970 Youngs PAB

One of the things I was particularly interested in getting from the Young's archive were brewing records from the 1970's. Because of the book I'm working on about that period. This specific record is one that my son Andrew photographed. He made the whole process of harvesting so much quicker. I should probably always take him along.

I’ll kick off by explaining the name PAB. I’m pretty sure it stands for “Pale Ale Bottling”, I’m guessing that it dates from around WW I. When brewers introduced a weaker version of their Pals Ales for bottling. Though I can’t say for certain, as Young’s records only go back to 1932. By 1970, I’m sure that this was marketed as Light Ale.

The recipe looks pretty typical of Pale Ales of the period: pale malt, flaked maize and invert sugar. Note that there’s no crystal malt. Which, along with the sugar and maize, is why the colour is so pale. And would have been even paler without the small amount of caramel.

There aren’t many details about the hops. About all that I can deduce is that there were two types, both English. I’ve guessed Fuggles and Goldings. 

1970 Youngs PAB
pale malt 4.25 lb 67.89%
flaked maize 0.75 lb 11.98%
No. 1 invert sugar 1.25 lb 19.97%
caramel 1000 SRM 0.01 lb 0.16%
Fuggles 160 min 0.75 oz
Goldings 15 min 0.75 oz
OG 1031
FG 1005.5
ABV 3.37
Apparent attenuation 82.26%
IBU 18
SRM 5.5
Mash at 148º F
Sparge at 170º F
Boil time 160 minutes
pitching temp 62.5º F
Yeast WLP002 English Ale

Friday 26 April 2024

Dublin bound

As with most trips, it begins with a taxi ride to the airport. I’m such a lazy git, there being loads of public transport alternatives. I do, at least, have the excuse of being old.

The airport is busier than I’d expected. The taxi struggles to find a spot to dump me. This is slightly concerning. Security won’t be a problem with my pushing-in status. The trouble is likely to be at passport control. Where I don’t get any priority.

It turns out that the queue at passport control isn’t that bad. I’m through in fewer than ten minutes. And sail on immediately to duty free. Where I pick up some hotel whisky. Not Islay, I’m afraid. That’s all way out of my price range now.

After that small diversion, it’s straight to the lounge. Where I kick off with a brace of whiskies. My server must be new, as she pours very generously. At least a double for each. Much better than the usual stingy single measures.

They’re still serving the breakfast food. Hurray! I get scrambled egg, sausage, mushrooms and spuds. I pass on the chicken bacon. I believe that bacon only grows on pigs. I’ve yet to be proven wrong.

I collect another pair of whiskies – sadly, stingy singles – before heading back to the buffet for my second course. This time, it’s bread, cheese and some salad.

I’m just thinking of heading to the gate, when I notice that my flight has been delayed. Time for more whisky, then.

It’s a City Hopper service. Which means no air bridge. It’s a bus and then climbing up stairs from the tarmac. The flight is full. But at least it only lasts a bit over an hour.

Having no checked in bag, I’m quickly through the airport and searching for the taxi rank. In no time I’m bouncing along the road with a very chatty taxi driver. Who makes all sorts of food recommendations. Before telling me that he can’t eat any more after having throat cancer.

When I booked my hotel, I had no idea it was a Wetherspoons. Honestly, I genuinely didn’t. It is handy, though.

I’ve a little time until my evening appointment in Dún Laoghaire. Time for a pint downstairs. I’m tempted by the Old Puke. But I plan having some of that in London next week. And there’s an Irish Stout: Brehon Black Hills Oatmeal Stout.

It’s rather nice. In pretty good condition and only 2.60 euros a pint. What the fuck? How can Wetherspoons knock out beer at less than half the price of the other pubs in Dublin?

Feeling a bit peckish, I order an all-day breakfast to go with my pint. It fills the considerable hole in my belly wholly fully. I won’t need to eat again for a couple of days. At least, that’s what it feels like at the moment.

My destination tonight is Dunphy’s, a traditional type of pub. Where I’m meeting Oscar O’Sullivan, a reader of my blog.

He’s waiting for me at the bar. Once I have a pint of Sullivan’s Red in my hand, we start chatting about beer in general and Irish beer in particular. Things I can bullshit away about for hours. And hours. I should really win an award for my ability to talk about beer, uninterrupted, for hours. I’m sure my family think I deserve something for it. Probably a long prison sentence. Without the prospect of an early release.

Sullivan’s Red isn’t very red. More like dark brown. A typical Dark Mild colour, really. It tastes quite like a keg Mild, too.

I don’t stay out too late. I only have the three pints.  I need to be up reasonably early, as I have an appointment at 9:30. And I wouldn’t want to face a day off hard archiving without the fuel of a Wetherspoons breakfast.

Whisky pursues me to sleep.

Keavans Port
1 Camden Street Upper,
D02 K854.

41 George's Street Lower,
Dún Laoghaire,
Co. Dublin, A96 YR23.



Thursday 25 April 2024

Bass Charrington

The company was formed in 1967 by the merger of Charrington United Breweries and Bass Mitchells & Butlers.  Creating the largest brewing group in the UK. A position it would retain until it eventually sold up.

They started the decade with a bewildering array of breweries, some quite small and many in close proximity to each other. For example, in the West Midlands and Northwest England. Heavy pruning ensued.

Who knows what Bass Charrington could have achieved, if they hadn’t been led by H Alan Walker, a domineering lunatic with no knowledge of the brewing industry? Despite his best efforts, the company became the biggest brewer in the UK and one of the largest in the world. In the hands of someone more competent, they could only have been more successful.

The chairman’s insane plan was to have just two breweries, Cape Hill in Birmingham and the new brewery in Runcorn serving the whole of the UK.  Which led them to closing most of their breweries. Though, when they discovered Runcorn couldn’t brew acceptable versions of some of their Northern brands, breweries such as Stones in Sheffield and the Tower Brewery in Tadcaster were reprieved.

They were one of the worst in terms of pub vandalism. When there was a pub swap in the 1980s, they took over the Little Park from Tetley. It was a lovely little pub, with two distinct rooms. Bass almost immediately fucked it up, knocking it through into a single room. Totally ruining the atmosphere.

The renowned Burton Pale Ale brewery of the 19th century, the glory days of Bass were well over after WW II. Once the largest brewery in England, its beers remained nationally available, making it a tempting target for the ambitious M&B. Even though their tied house estate was quite small.

Despite coming first in the company name, Bass had never been one of the driving forces of the conglomerate. Having lost their independence before the formation of Bass Charrington. Their name remained prominent on account of its historic resonance. Though the company could have promoted the brand better


A classic London Ale brewery, Charrington’s directors seem to have been naïve about what joining the Bass Charrington collective entailed. Hoping for a shiny new plant just outside London, they were greatly disappointed when the replacement for their East End brewery was Cape Hill in Birmingham.

Cape Hill
The original Mitchell & Butler brewery in Birmingham. And, for a while, the largest cask brewery in the world. I can’t say I was that keen on their cask beer. Brew XI was a crap, sweet excuse of a Bitter. The Mild was OK. But no better than that. When in Birmingham, I much preferred Ansells Mild.

One of the group’s three breweries in the West Midlands. They brewed Dunkirk Pale Ale and Springfield Bitter. Both lovely, delicate Bitters. Way better than Brew XI. So, obviously, it was closed and the beers discontinued, though Springfield Bitter was brewed at Cape Hill for a while.

Bass Charrington had a weird variation in the size of their breweries. Highgate in Walsall being very much at the small end. And even weirder, as their only product was a Mild Ale.

It had been scheduled for closure around the start of WW II, but was kept open as each brewery was allocated a certain quantity of materials based on their pre-war usage. Had the brewery closed, M & B would have missed out on the ingredients. In the end, it outlasted all the other former M & B breweries, including Cape Hill.

It’s really odd how all three Tadcaster breweries have managed to survive. There were three substantial breweries in the town in the 1970s. And there are still three now. Back then, they were Sam Smiths, John Smiths and what was the former Tower Brewery, owned by Bass.

I can’t say that I cared for its beers. What was the Bitter? Brew X? Yes, that was it. Can’t ever remember trying it. I usually stuck to Mild, which came in the form of XXXX. A bit thin and insipid. Not a patch on Tetley Mild.


William Stones was a successful Sheffield Brewery, but owing to the large spread in ownership of their shares, they feared a hostile takeover. For a while they managed to play their two potential suitors – Charrington United and Bass M & B – off against each other. Until the two merged in 1967 to form Bass Charrington. And gobbled up Stones.

Their Bitter, which was very pale, along the lines of Boddington, had a strong local following and was a pretty decent pint. At least in the early years. It caused the company lots of problems. They wanted to close it, but attempts to replicate it at Runcorn were a dismal failure and the Sheffield brewery had to stay open.

Hope & Anchor

Another Sheffield brewery, but one which played a weird role in the formation of Bass Charrington.

In the 1950s, they were trying to market their Jubilee Stout to Canada. They came to an agreement with Canadian brewery owner Eddie Taylor. He would brew Jubilee Stout and in return Hope & Anchor would brew Black Label in the UK.   It was a deal which, eventually, gifted one of the UK’s most popular Lagers to Bass Charrington.

This transaction prompted Taylor to take a closer look at the UK brewing industry. And soon he was in the UK trying to put together a national brewery group. Just as he had done in Canada. And eventually led to the creation of the UK’s largest brewing company, Bass Charrington.

In 1960, it merged with Hammonds United Breweries and had started on one of the paths which would lead to Bass Charrington. Surprisingly, given the company’s rigorous pruning of its breweries, it didn’t close until 1994.

Home of Glasgow’s – and Scotland’s – favourite Lager. Tennent got into the Lager game very early, in 1885, importing Germans to build them a suitable brew house, which opened in 1889. Unlike most who got into the Lager game in the 19th century, they were able to make a fist of it.

The brewery was lucky that Lager took off much earlier in Scotland than in England. Despite only being available in Scotland and Northern Ireland, by 1970 Tennents was one of the best-selling Lagers in the UK. Only Harp, a cooperative beer of several large brewers, outsold it.

Welsh Brewers

Formerly Hancock, which was a major player in South Wales before falling into Bass Charrington’s hands.

Wednesday 24 April 2024

Let's Brew Wednesday - 1885 Thomas Usher 50/- B

Slightly stronger, but still pretty watery, was 50/- B. Wondering what the B stands for? So am I. My best guess would be “Bottling”.

It’s another simple, low-gravity beer. Which I’m guessing was intended for consumption at home.

The grist is slightly more complicated than for 40/- B, as there are two types of malt: pale and high-dried. I’ve substituted Munich malt for it. Though Simpson’s Imperial is probably the closest modern equivalent to high-dried malt.

The hops are just the same as 40/- B: Californian from the 1884 harvest and Alsace from 1883. 

1885 Thomas Usher 50/- B
pale malt 2.25 lb 31.03%
Munich malt 4.00 lb 55.17%
No. 2 invert sugar 1.00 lb 13.79%
Cluster 120 min 1.00 oz
Strisselspalt 30 min 0.67 oz
Goldings dry hops 0.25 oz
OG 1035
FG 1013
ABV 2.91
Apparent attenuation 62.86%
IBU 30
Mash at 150º F
Sparge at 175º F
Boil time 120 minutes
pitching temp 59º F
Yeast WLP028 Edinburgh Ale

Tuesday 23 April 2024

Allied Breweries

Unlike the other large brewing groups, which had mostly coalesced around one large brewery, Allied was more like a merger of equals. Those parties being Tetley Walker, Ind Coope and Ansells, which joined together in 1961.  And, to some extent, they kept their regional identity. Other than Double Diamond and Skol, they didn’t really have national draught brands.

The grouping made a lot of sense. Tetley Walker was active mostly in the North, Ansells in the Midlands and Ind Coope in the South. Combined, they covered most of the country.

Allied didn’t go for a standard livery across the group, as most of the Big Six did. Well, not quite. The whole group had yellow signboards with brown lettering in a standard font. However, this was accompanied by the trademark of one of the constituent breweries

In the 1980s, this uniform look was dropped and the constituent breweries reverted to something like the livery they had before they grouped together.

In 1973, the group owned eight breweries, split amongst the three original companies. The relatively low number of breweries meant that Allied closed fewer breweries during the 1970s than most of the Big Six.

They also owned two breweries in Holland: Oranjeboom in Rotterdam and Drie Hoefijzers in Breda.

Let’s look at the three members of the group in detail.

Founded in 1857, Ansells grew to be one of the largest breweries in Birmingham.  In 1973, it operated two breweries in Birmingham: the original Ansells plant in Aston and the former Holts brewery. The latter had been acquired in 1934 and remained active until 1974.

In 1973, the brewery served 1,890 pubs. Which was less than a third of the 8,000 or so pubs controlled by Allied.

The Ansells brewery in Birmingham was the scene of much industrial unrest. Which led to its closure in 1981, with the Ansells beers being moved to other breweries in the group. Mainly the Ind Coope brewery in Burton.  Though the pubs retained their Ansells branding.

Ind Coope

Based in Romford, just outside London, Ind Coope moved into the big boy leagues in 1934 by merging with Allsopp. Whose brewery in Burton they continued to operate in the 1970s.

Two cask beers were brewed in the Romford plant, a Light Mild called KK (1031º) and Bitter (1037º). I can’t remember ever drinking either. Though I might have tried the Mild at a beer festival.

In the mid-1970s, Burton Ale, a cask version of Double Diamond, was introduced. Taken by CAMRA as a reassuring sign of a Big Six brewer taking cask seriously. Despite its confusing name. It being a Burton Pale Ale and not a Burton Ale. Which is a completely different style. At a gravity of 1047.5º, it was amongst the stronger Bitters brewed in the UK. And an excellent beer, when in good condition.

The only other cask beer from Burton was a fairly bland Bitter of 1037º.

Double Diamond, which had been a premium bottled Pale Ale, was first sold in keg form in 1962. It was a big success, becoming the best-selling keg beer in the UK. It was exclusively brewed in the Burton plant.

Tetley Walker
This arm of Allied operated two breweries, the former Walker plant in Warrington and Tetley in Leeds. Each serving one side of the Pennines.

In Yorkshire, Tetley was much better than most of the Big Six. They didn’t mess their pubs around and were happy for most of them to sell cask beer. It’s a brewery I had a lot of affection for. Obviously, it’s now closed.


The Tetley brewery West of the Pennines was a little schizophrenic. It brewed versions of the Leeds Mild and Bitter, but also Walkers Bitter, named after the original firm. They later also introduced a Walkers Mild.

Of the many breweries that once graced Alloa, in the 1970s just two remained: this and Maclay.

Formerly known as Arrols, this was one of handful of brewers making Lager between the wars. When Allsopp went bust just before WW I and John Calder was called in to sort the mess out, the extremely expensive Lager kit was moved from Burton to Alloa.

That kit was the reason this was the group’s principal source of Skol, their main Lager. A beer which had started life between the wars as an Arrol’s beer called Graham’s Golden Lager, with the name being changed to the more Germanic Skol in the 1950s.  

Wrexham Lager Brewery
It’s really strange that two of the six breweries producing Lager between the war, two ended up in the hands of Allied.

Wrexham was one of the specialist Lager breweries in the late 19th century. But, unlike most such breweries, it didn’t go bust after a few years.

Monday 22 April 2024

Thomas Usher boiling and fermentation in 1894

Time now for processes.

For most beers, there were two boils. The first of 90 minutes and the second of 120 minutes. The big exceptions were the Stouts, where there was a single, much longer boil. I wonder if the boil was that long to add colour. Which was the case often in London.

The pitching temperatures are all pretty consistent at between 58º F to 60º F. Which is all pretty standard. With 60º F being the most common pitching temperature generally for standard-strength beers.

The maximum temperatures, on the other hand, are a little on the low side, being mostly between 67º F and 69º F. While at most breweries the temperature was allowed to rise over 70º F. 

Thomas Usher boiling and fermentation in 1894
Beer Style boil time (hours) boil time (hours) Pitch temp max. fermen-tation temp
XX 60/- Mild 1.75 2.25 58º F 71º F
50/- Br Ale 1.5 2 60º F 67º F
60/- Ale 2   60º F 68º F
60/- Br Ale 1.5 2 59º F 67º F
80/- Ale 1.5 2 60º F 68º F
100/- Ale 1.5 2 58º F 68º F
3 XX Stock Ale 1.5 2.25 58º F 70º F
IP IPA 1.5 2 58º F 68º F
PA Pale Ale 1.5 2 58º F 68º F
PA 60/- Pale Ale 1.5 2 58º F 68º F
Stout Stout 3   59º F 69º F
Stout Export Stout 3.5   58º F 72º F
Thomas Usher brewing record held at the Scottish Brewing Archives, document number TU/6/1/2.

Sunday 21 April 2024

Thomas Usher hops in 1894

Moving on to the hops, the great majority are English. Other than one lot of British Columbian and one of Californian.

As for the English, almost all are either from Kent or Sussex. The former is no surprise, being, the UK’s biggest hop-growing region. Sussex, on the other hand, was a relatively minor player in the hop game. Worcester, which appears once, was another major hop county. Thus, not unusual.

It may seem odd that an expensive beer like the Export Stout contains only American hops. But it does make sense. An export beer would need lots of protection from hops. And US hops had a higher preservative value. Also, in a beer that was aged and had loads of roast, hop aroma wouldn’t have been a prominent flavour. 

Thomas Usher hops in 1894
Beer Style hop 1 hop 2
XX 60/- Mild Kent British Columbia
50/- Br Ale Kent Sussex
60/- Ale Kent Sussex
60/- Br Ale Kent Sussex
80/- Ale Kent Sussex
100/- Ale Kent Sussex
3 XX Stock Ale Kent  
IP IPA Worcester Kent
PA Pale Ale Kent Sussex
PA 60/- Pale Ale Kent Sussex
Stout Stout Kent Sussex
Stout Export Stout Californian  
Thomas Usher brewing record held at the Scottish Brewing Archives, document number TU/6/1/2.

Saturday 20 April 2024

Let's Brew - 1885 Thomas Usher 40/- B

Let’s kick off Usher’s beers with the surprisingly watery Forty Bob. Looking like a 1918 beer at a gravity of just 1030º. And not even 3% ABV. Though the real FG might have been lower.

This could easily have been called as Table Beer. And might well have been a couple of decades before. But, along with the tax category, the term itself had become obsolete. How was this drunk? Probably with food. At home.

It’s a very simple recipe of just pale malt and sugar. An undefined type of sugar. No. 2 invert is just my conservative guess.

Most off the hops are Californian. With 20% from Alsace. From the 1883 and 1884 harvests, respectively. The dry hops are my guess.

1885 Thomas Usher 40/- B
pale malt 5.75 lb 88.46%
No. 2 invert sugar 0.75 lb 11.54%
Cluster 120 min 0.75 oz
Cluster 30 min 0.25 oz
Strisselspalt 30 min 0.25 oz
Goldings dry hops 0.25 oz
OG 1030
FG 1011
ABV 2.51
Apparent attenuation 63.33%
IBU 25
Mash at 148º F
Sparge at 175º F
Boil time 120 minutes
pitching temp 57.5º F
Yeast WLP028 Edinburgh Ale


Friday 19 April 2024

Thomas Usher sugars in 1894

Every beer, except for Export Stout, contains some sugar. Not really much of a surprise that. Though there’s a big variation in the quantity, from 5% all the way to 25%.

Joint most common type, Garton, is almost certainly some sort of invert. Garton just being the manufacturer. It could well be one of the numbered inverts. Sharing joint first is something described as “cane”. By which they probably mean raw cane sugar.

One Stout contains CDM (Caramelised Dextro-Maltose), a less easily fermentable sugar which would have added body and colour.

I’ve no idea what the other sugar was. The description is illegible. At least to me. 

Thomas Usher sugars in 1894
Beer Style Garton cane CDM other sugar total sugar
XX 60/- Mild       5.97% 5.97%
50/- Br Ale 8.93%     5.36% 14.29%
60/- Ale   25.00%     25.00%
60/- Br Ale 8.93%     5.36% 14.29%
80/- Ale   25.00%     25.00%
100/- Ale   25.00%     25.00%
3 XX Stock Ale 4.76%       4.76%
IP IPA 8.93%     5.36% 14.29%
PA Pale Ale   25.00%     25.00%
PA 60/- Pale Ale 8.93%     5.36% 14.29%
Stout Stout   19.80% 5.94%   25.74%
Stout Export Stout         0.00%
Thomas Usher brewing record held at the Scottish Brewing Archives, document number TU/6/1/2.

Thursday 18 April 2024

Amsterdam bound

I meet Mike for breakfast at nine.

I’m feeling a bit crap. Not sure why. A cold coming on, perhaps. Maybe lack of sleep. Or it could have been those cocktails. And the soju. Yeah, maybe it makes sense. I’m tired and have a cold.

The best in such circumstances is to fill your stomach. Preferably with salt and grease. Also known as a full English. I get scrambled egg, mushrooms, lots of bacon and, in a daring move, a sausage. Only because it’s labelled “Cumberland sausage”.

It’s not too bad. Could maybe have done with a bit more texture. I have some more orange juice. And more coffee. I’m still really thirsty. That’s it. I’m, ill, tired and dehydrated. It’s so simple.

We’re due over in Wandswortth at 11:00. I wouldn’t know the best way to get there. We take a District line train to East Putney. Then walk. It’s not stupidly far. But I have my luggage with me.

We’re meeting various people at Sambrooks. Which is located on the part of the former Youngs brewery site. Never been there before, so should be fun. Despite the walk.

After a while of fiddling around outside, we find Derek and his son Michael are already inside. Along with Duncan Sambrook of, er, Sambrooks.

We start off with a drink. For me, a water. I’m weirdly thirsty.

We have a quick spin around the brewery. Where John, a former Youngs brewer who kept brewing going on the site after the closure. He’s busy brewing on his small kit. An IPA. We don’t have long to chat as he’s, well, brewing. 

After Sambrooks, it’s the turn of the Youngs Heritage Centre. Where, in one of the few bits of the original structure, they have some old bits and bobs. And a couple of brewing logs. Including the final one, covering 2006-2007. I quickly snap a few random pages.

There’s just time for a beer before we need to leave for our next appointment. I get a half of Porter. Don’t want to drink too much beer. I have a long tube ride to consider. Don’t want to soil my kecks on the way to the airport.

We take a bus to the Bricklayer’s Arms in Putney. A famous beer pub, which I’ve never visited before. It’s sort of Timothy Taylor’s London HQ. Selling no fewer than four of their beers: Dark Mild, Landlord, Landlord Dark and Boltmaker. Pretty impressive. I get a half of Landlord Dark. As the Mild has just gone off.

I can’t stay for long. I need to get over to Heathrow for a 5 PM flight. I start getting ready to leave around 2 PM. But everything takes longer than you expect in London.

By the time my Uber drops me at Hammersmith tube station, it’s 14:40. Mmm. I’d like to get to the airport around three-ish. When’s the next train to terminal 4? Bum. Not for another 15 minutes.

Luckily, it’s only 30 minutes to the airport. I’m there at 15:30. Where I discover that my flight is delayed by 60 minutes. More time in the lounge, I suppose.

It’s pretty full. I manage to find a seat, though. After setting up my flip-flop, I visit the bar to fetch a whisky. The think about food. As I’ve not eaten since breakfast. The hot food isn’t that bad. So I get stuck in.

I fiddle around on the internet for a while. While sipping whisky and stuffing my face.

Eventually it says my flight is 45-minutes late. Though, by the time it leaves, it’s delayed by more than an hour.

Not much to report about the flight. We take off, fly for a bit, land and then spend forever taxiing to the terminal.

When I open my front door, there’s a cup of tea ready. Andrew tracked my flight this time.

Sambrook's Brewery
1 Bellwether Ln,
London SW18 1UD.

The Bricklayer’s Arms
32 Waterman St,
London SW15 1DD.

Disclosure: my travel and all expenses were paid by Goose Island.