Saturday 24 February 2024

Let's Brew - 1899 Barclay Perkins X Ale

At the end of the 1880s, there was quite a big cut in the gravity of X Ale. Followed by another, smaller one, in the second half of the 1890s. Presumably in reaction to increases in duty.

The recipe was also quite unstable in that period. In addition to base malt, sometimes there was brown malt, sometimes crystal malt and others both. After 1891, They settled on just pale and crystal malt. Along with a bit of flaked maize and a shitload of sugar. As often in the 19th century, it’s just described as “saccharum”. I’ve opted for No. 3. Partly because it feels right. But also because it gets the colour to about the right spot.

In the copper, were some American hops, from the most recent harvest, 1898. There were also some Mid-Kent hops from the same year. The other type of Mid-Kent hops were a year older, but are specifically described as Goldings.

The finished beer would have been semi-dark, fairly hoppy and with a decent alcoholic kick. My type of Mild. 

1899 Barclay Perkins X Ale
pale malt 6.75 lb 63.26%
crystal malt 60L  0.25 lb 2.34%
flaked maize 1.00 lb 9.37%
No. 3 invert sugar 2.67 lb 25.02%
Cluster 120 mins 1.00 oz
Fuggles 120 mins 0.50 oz
Fuggles 60 mins 1.25 oz
Goldings 30 mins 1.25 oz
OG 1055
FG 1009
ABV 6.09
Apparent attenuation 83.64%
IBU 55
SRM 16
Mash at 148º F
After underlet 153º F
Sparge at 165º F
Boil time 120 minutes
pitching temp 61º F
Yeast Wyeast 1099 Whitbread ale

Friday 23 February 2024

Bass Charrington's £20m. brewery project

More about the wonderful Runcorn brewery. This time it's a puff piece in the Brewers' Guardian.

It's rather typical of the technocrat tone of the publication at the time. As sort of Hooray for Everything approach

"Bass Charrington's £20m. brewery project
As can be seen from the above scale model, a feature of Bass Charrington's proposed £20m. brewery on a 100-acre site at Runcorn New Town, Cheshire, is that much of the production plant will be in the open air. At this stage, the company are not disclosing any technical details of the project, but it is thought likely that there will be a system of batch wort production and a degree continuous fermentation.

The practice of placing some of the plant outside the brewery walls follows similar recent moves at the Beamish & Crawford brewery in Cork and the Cornbrook Brewery, Manchester, where they have outside fermenters. Last year a completely exposed brewhouse at the Tennent Caledonian Brewery in Glasgow also went into production.

Bass Charrington's announcement follows the completion of a survey into the, brewing, packaging and distribution requirements the company are likely to be facing in the l970's and 1980’s."
Brewers' Guardian, Volume 99, May 1970, page 33.

This open-air shit seems to have been an obsession of Bass Charrington.I can understand why you'd put conical fermenters outside, especially the huge ones. But why the hell would you put the brewhouse outside? This is the UK. Where rain isn't totally unknown. Wouldn't it just be a right pain in the arse for the brewing staff?

"The new brewery, along with packaging and kegging facilities should come into production in 1972-73. It will have an annual capacity of 2.5 million barrels and will employ approximately 1,250 people. When completed it will be Europe’s largest single unit and it will be capable of expansion if this should prove necessary at some later date.

Stone & Webster in London are producing the engineering design, carrying out the purchasing and supervising construction of the development which will use processes specified bv Bass Charrington. Stone & Webster have been working as consultants with Bass Charrington during the planning stages and engineering design work has already been started by them."
Brewers' Guardian, Volume 99, May 1970, page 33. 

It actually opened in 1974. And initially employed 500. Which turned out to be far too many. Eventually it was staffed by just 150.

This next bit is rather disingenuous. Because the medium-term plan was to close all their breweries in England and Wales, other than Runcorn and Cape Hill. It looks like bottling and canning was already being concentrated at Runcorn in anticipation of this.

"Once the new brewery comes into operation a number of existing plants in the Group will be closed during 1972-73. The breweries affected are Barrow, Blackpool, Burnley, Liverpool, Manchester, Aberbeeg, Fernvale and Mile End. The Cannon brewery at Sheffield may also be closed.

Bottling will cease at Tadcaster and Wolverhampton; bottling and canning will cease at Cape Hill: and bottling and kegging will cease at Cardiff, but all these units will continue to brew. The bottling, kegging and canning plant at Tottenham will also close as will the bottling plant at Yeovil.

As a result of this reorganisation Bass Charrington breweries in England and Wales will, after the new brewers has come into production, be sited at: Runcorn; Tadcaster; Sheffield; Burton; Birmingham; Cardiff; Wolverhampton. The reorganisation will not affect Bass Charrington's operations in Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic."
Brewers' Guardian, Volume 99, May 1970, page 33.

They seem to have forgotten about one English brewery: Highgate in Walsall. Or was it jsut too small to be worth mentioning? Never heard of Fernvale? Neither had I. It was in South Wales, apparently. Aberbeeg was the home of Webbs, another brewery from South Wales that I've never come across before. Probably because it was so small.

Thursday 22 February 2024


One of the questions I get asked most often - along with "Why is your blog called that?", "Why don't you get a haircut?", "Who is this mysterious woman called Dolores?" and "Are you sure you want a pint of Imperial Stout this early in the day?" - is "When are you going to write a book about Ireland?"

I think I've already got the title nailed down. But that's about it. Which is why my answer has always been: "I don't have enough information." That wouldn't have put everyone off. In the past, at least. Being positive (however uneasy that makes me feel), writers just making stuff up doesn't happen now. So much.

A second answer is: more research.

The limited photos of Irish brewing records were almost all sent to me. Time for me to get off my arse and head to Ireland.

In April, I'll visit three archives. In Dublin, Portlaoise and Cork. If past experience is anything to go by, I'll get filthy fingers, backache and a desire to never take a photograph again. And lots of surprises when I start slowly trawling through those photographs.

Research is so much fun.

When branding fails

Marketing releases are often hilarous when looked at with hindsight. Like Bass's new regional Bitter for Yorkshire. Which tried to build a nrew brand from a previous success.

"Bass launch new “regional” bitter
Despite the continuing disappearance of many local brews, one of the country’s largest brewing groups, Bass Charrington Ltd., is showing its awareness of regional palate preferences by the introduction of beers suited to a particular area.

Latest beer in this context is Brew Ten, which has been launched in the North-East and is advertised as being “specially brewed for the men of the North by Bass".

Described as a medium-priced draught bitter — it has a recommended public bar price of 2s. 2d. per pint — Brew Ten follows on from the success Bass Charrington have had in the Midlands with their Brew XI.

A major programme of television, Press and poster advertising starting this month has been planned by Bass Charrington to support the launch of Brew Ten."
Brewers' Guardian, Volume 99, May 1970, page 49.

Spoiler here: Brew XI was shit. A sweetish beer sometimes likened more to a Pale Mild than a Bitter. And Brew Ten? That was even worse. The success of Brew XI might not have totally been on its own merits.

"Brew XI draught beer took the Midlands by storm and was a genuine success; of course, that success was helped along by strenuous statements that it was successful - like a government minister justifying his policies - and the fact that it was replacing the existing M&B brands which had a ready-made market."
"The Brewing Industry 1950 - 1990", by Anthony Avis, 1997, page 104.

Picking a lower number for the new beer possibly wasn't the brightest idea.

"As part of the same thought process the Tadcaster Brewery had been allocated X, by which to call its main draught beer; and that too was a failure in marketing terms - the Yorkshire drinking public were convinced they were being sold weaker beer than the Midlands, since X was less than XI; so it was dropped as a brand name."
"The Brewing Industry 1950 - 1990", by Anthony Avis, 1997, page 107.

A top-down approach always works so well.

Wednesday 21 February 2024

Let's Brew Wednesday - 1890 Adnams SS

Stout would remain an obligatory element in an English brewery’s beer range well into the 20th century. Though the quantities brewed might be quite small as it became increasingly only available in bottled form.

For a Stout, the grist is pretty simple. Just one coloured grain: black malt. Along with some sugar and caramel. You may have noticed that Adnams didn’t a whole load of different types of malt. Other than base malt, the small amount of black malt they needed for Stout was the only other one.

Two types of hops, Altmark and Sussex. I’m not really sure what variety the former were. I’ve just gone with the most common type of German hops. Ditto with Sussex and Fuggles.

Was this aged? I don’t really know. Maybe. But probably not more than six months. 

1890 Adnams SS
pale malt 8.50 lb 65.94%
black malt 1.25 lb 9.70%
No. 2 invert sugar 3.00 lb 23.27%
caramel 1000 SRM 0.14 lb 1.09%
Hallertau 105 mins 2.75 oz
Fuggles 30 mins 0.75 oz
Goldings dry hops 0.75 oz
OG 1064
FG 1019
ABV 5.95
Apparent attenuation 70.31%
IBU 42
SRM 42
Mash at 151º F
Sparge at 170º F
Boil time 105 minutes
pitching temp 57º F
Yeast WLP025 Southwold

Tuesday 20 February 2024

More Mablethorpe memories

There were two Bass Charrington pubs in town. The Eagle, a substantial detached Victorian building a bit outside the centre. I went in there at least once with my brother. Pretty sure they had no cask. As it’s the one and only time I drank Bass No. 1.

Just down the road, towards the seafront, was a rather good chippy. With an attached fish restaurant. A place where they served the chippy food, but on china with proper cutlery, accompanied by white sliced bread spread thinly with margarine and mugs of tea. It’s the only type of restaurant I’d eaten in before going to university.

The other Bass house was on the High Street. The Book in Hand. A pub whose narrow frontage shouted: fuck off, you’re not welcome. Just looking at it, you knew the atmosphere was shit, the beer was shit, the people were shit. They’d think you were a little shit and quite possibly kick the shit out of you.

I never visited it, oddly.

My memories are of walking past and being met by a waft of warm air. Caressing on the cheek but a frontal assault on the nose. A mixture of stale beer, fag smoke and other assorted odours I don’t care to think about too much. OK, it was much like any pub smelt at the time. Just in a more concentrated form. Perhaps on account of the narrow frontage not offering the foul air many routes of escape.

Just over the road was the was the far more salubrious Louth Hotel, a large and airy Home Ales house. In their plain, no-nonsense house style. But with cask Mild and Bitter served, as almost always in Home pubs, by electric pumps. The pubs could open crazily early – 10:00. And the Louth always seemed to do a surprisingly good trade in the two hours before midday. The democratically-priced beer might have been the key.

Much to my regret, unlike Skegness, Mablethorpe had no Shipstones pub.

Monday 19 February 2024

Runcorn mega-keggery

The classic idiotically-conceived mega-brewery. Thought up by a chairman without brewing experience (who believed any beer could be brewed anywhere) and constructed by chemical engineers. How could it possibly have gone wrong?

The idea was that the whole of England and Wales would be served by just two breweries: Cape Hill and Runcorn. Beer brewed in Runcorn would be shipped by train to a depot in Stratford, East London. The train would later return to Runcorn with empties.

It was a personal project of H Alan Walker, chairman and chief executive of Bass Charrington. A man with, to put it mildly, a rather autocratic management style. Despite many in the company having misgivings about the plans, no dissent was allowed. The chairman made it very clear than anyone raising objections would be sacked.

After some delays, the brewery opened in 1974. With all the company’s breweries in Lancashire closing as well as the Charrington brewery in Mile End to make way for it. For some reason, the packaging plant was built far away from the brew house meaning beer had to be moved between the two through a very long pipe. Not exactly an efficient way of operating.

At the time, Bass Charrington was weirdly keen on having most of the brewing kit outdoors. Not just conical fermenters, but even the brewhouse itself. Something they had already done at Tennent’s Wellpark Brewery in Glasgow.

As soon as the brewery opened, it ran into problems. On the one hand, it struggled to replicate the beers from the existing breweries. And on the other, it had terrible industrial relations, leading to repeated strikes.

CAMRA weren’t great fans, as the brewery produced no cask beer. And had entailed the closure of a string of regional breweries: Barrow, Blackpool, Burnley, Liverpool, Manchester, Aberbeeg, Fernvale and Mile End. It left the group with no brewery further south than Birmingham.  

Eventually, they did manage to sort out the problems at the brewery, albeit too late:

"The beer was improved by rebuilding the brewery along orthodox lines, and the beer became acceptable for what it was, and not a pretence of being something else. Just as everything was going quite well the depression in the brewery trade descended, and there was too much brewing and canning capacity."
"The Brewing Industry 1950 - 1990", by Anthony Avis, 1997, page 109.

The brewery closed in 1993. Fewer than 20 years after first coming onstream. 

Sunday 18 February 2024

Men in white coats

I'm finding that reading old issues of the Brewers' Guardian is conjouring up the mood of the 1970s even better than my music playlist. At least when it comes to the point of view if industry insiders. It's very much a technocratic view.

The writers are very gung ho about all the latest technological developments like continuous fermentation and tank beer. Which are portyaed as the future of brewing. There's rarely any mention of beer flavour. Other than claiming the new proceses had no impact on it.

And it the photos of all the gleaming stainless steel, the brewers are always wearing white coats. Like laboratory workers. It's telling of the way brewers were regarded at the time. Oh so different from today's hippy rock stars.

I've only got to June 1970. But already so much really useful material. Going through the whole decade is going to be so much fun. I'm really looking forward to the reaction to CAMRA and the Real Ale movement.

Saturday 17 February 2024

Let's Brew - 1890 Adnams Tally Ho

Strongest in Adnams range remains Tally Ho. Not sure what they called it back then. In recent years, they’ve called it a Barley Wine. Not so sure they would have called it that in 1890. More likely Old Ale or even just Strong Ale.

Main difference with the 1879 recipe is the presence of something called “colour”. Which I’m taking to mean a caramel of some sort. A bit tricky to work out the quantity, as it’s listed in pints rather than pounds. Or to know exactly what shade it was. Guesses all around, then.

While we’re on the topic of guesses, the brewing records don’t include FG’s or boil times. Though, oddly, they do specify when a copper sample was taken. After two hours for this brew. Meaning the boil time must have been, at least, 120 minutes.

Three types of hops: Worcester, Kent and Burgundy. No real clue what variety the last might have been. I’ve gone with the only French-grown type I know. Could me miles off there. But, as the quantity is small and I’ve put it at the start of the boil, it will probably have a negligible effect on the flavour.

Returning to guesses, one to two years conditioning in oak is what I’d plump for. Along with Brettanomyces, obviously. 

1890 Adnams Tally Ho
pale malt  13.00 lb 76.11%
No. 2 invert sugar  4.00 lb 23.42%
caramel 1000 SRM 0.08 lb 0.47%
Fuggles 120 mins  3.75 oz
Strisslespalt 120 mins  1.25 oz
Goldings 30 mins  4.50 oz
OG  1086
FG  1024
ABV  8.2
Apparent attenuation  69.66%
IBU  88
SRM  18
Mash at  153º F
Sparge at  165º F
Boil time  120 minutes 
pitching temp  57º F
Yeast  WLP025 Southwold 

Friday 16 February 2024

Another foreign Lager-brewer moves in

Tuborg, Carlsberg’s big local rivals had also been active in the UK market in the interwar period. Just like Carlsberg, their beer looked much like its domestic product at 4.5% ABV.

And, this is so weird, after the war, they had a Pilsner at 3% ABV and a stronger “Export Beer” at 5.3% ABV.

In 1970, they struck a deal with Truman, then still independent, to sell. And then later brew under licence, their draught Lager in the UK. 

Another agreement signed for sale of foreign lager
In line with a marked increase in sales of lager beers and its healthy prospective growth rate, yet another trading agreement has been signed with a foreign brewer for the sale of its beer in this country. Trumans have made a long-term agreement with Tuborg of Denmark to sell Tuborg lager on draught in their houses from the beginning of this month.

Truman's will be producing the lager in their re-built London brewery with purpose-built plant which is being installed in consultation with Tuborg and produced to their specification and under their surveillance. An English brewer will be in charge of production.

As an interim measure, until the new plant is functioning, Tuborg will supply beer to the brewery by bulk tankers direct from Copenhagen.

From May 1, it will be available initially in 350 Truman’s houses and progressively in the majority of their 1,200 pubs and for their free trade.

At the moment, Truman’s sell Skol and Harp lagers in their houses, plus a certain amount of Holsten on draught, and carry a selection of Continental bottled lagers. The company have said the new move will not immediately jeopardise existing ties but agreements with Harp and Skol expire in 1973.
Brewers' Guardian, Volume 99, April 1970, page 23.

Takeovers of the two breweries involved by larger local rivals would render this dear irrelevant very quickly.


Thursday 15 February 2024

The foreign view of English pubs in the 1970s

What did foreign tourists think of UK pubs? Well, luckily someone went to the trouble of carrying out a survey.

Not very clean, seems to have been the main complaint. I can understand what they meant. late in the evening, especially if a pub was busy, the staff might not have time to go around collecting glasses, emptying ashtrays and cleaning tables. Which is one of the reasons I always took my empties back to the bar. If you didn't, your table could become completely filled with empty glasses.

"Tourist's eye-view of English pubs
Dirty glasses and full ashtrays are the two main gripes tourists have about English pubs, according to a recent survey carried out by Interflow Ltd., on behalf of Reckitt & Colman Industrial Division. Public houses were under the room-for-improvement section and were, in fact, bettered only by hotels, restaurants and "top-of-the-table” London Airport.

The survey, full title: The Qualitative Survey on the Attitudes of Overseas Tourists to Cleanliness in English Pub Buildings, concluded that although many pubs were thought to be bright and welcoming - and the respondents praised the whole institution of the English pub — some foreigners remarked adversely on the standards of cleanliness encountered in many pubs which they had visited.

Typical of the comments was the statement from an Italian visitor: "I have been to quite a lot of pubs. Sometimes they are very drab and messy and sometimes they are bright and comfortable. I like a pub to have comfortable chairs and carpets. I think when people are in a place with a carpet they do not so easily throw things down, like cigarette packets or ash.”

But let the last word come from a German who remarked:    ". . . although the place was rather dirty the beer was very good. They must have looked after their cellar so beautifully they didn't have time to dust.”"
Brewers' Guardian, Volume 99, May 1970, page 34.

 At least you don't have to worry about overflowing ashtrays any more. But the weird London thing of not providing beers mats mean that tables in the capital's pubs soon become annoyingly wet.

Wednesday 14 February 2024

Let's Brew Wednesday - 1890 Adnams PA

They continued to brew a full-strength Pale Ale at Adnams. And, unlike the Mild Ales, it was around the same strength as an equivalent beer brewed in London.

As with most Pale Ales of the late 19th century, there wasn’t much to the recipe. Just base malt and sugar. Though the base was split 50-50 between English and foreign barley. Which wasn’t unusual for the time. The foreign barley, however, would have been malted in the UK.

There were also two types of sugar. One, the usual Saccharum, the other, rather enigmatically, simply described as “P”. I’ve absolutely no idea what that might be. So I’ve just stuck with No. 1 invert.

Following the theme of twos, there’s also a pair of hop types: Worcester and Kent. With no season indicated. I’ve interpreted the former as Fuggles and the latter as Goldings.

This might well have been a Stock Pale Ale. In which case, it would have had at least six to nine months of secondary conditioning. Possibly more. 

1890 Adnams PA
pale malt  9.50 lb 79.17%
No. 1 invert sugar 2.50 lb 20.83%
Fuggles 105 mins 2.75 oz
Fuggles 60 mins 2.75 oz
Goldings 30 mins 2.75 oz
Goldings dry hops 0.75 oz
OG 1060
FG 1016
ABV 5.82
Apparent attenuation 73.33%
IBU 93
SRM 7.5
Mash at 153º F
Sparge at 165º F
Boil time 105 minutes
pitching temp 58º F
Yeast WLP025 Southwold

Tuesday 13 February 2024

Guinness in the 1970s

The seventh member of the Big Six. Somehow excluded from their club, Guinness wasn’t seen as one of the big brewers, because they owned no pubs. Ironically, it was Guinness who brought down the tied house system with a complaint which eventually led to the Beer Orders in the 1980s.

Because they owned no pubs and had a bottle-conditioned beer in every pub, Guinness mostly escaped the ire of CAMRA. And weren’t considered part of the evil Big Six, despite having a market share as large as that of Courage.

The company operated two European breweries: St. James Gate in Dublin and Park Royal in London. The latter was opened in the 1930s in reaction to trade friction between the UK and the newly-founded Irish Free State. In General, the North of England and Scotland received beer from Dublin and the South from London.

Before 1970, the vast majority of Guinness sold in UK pubs was in bottle-conditioned format. Most of which wasn’t bottled by Guinness themselves, but by other brewers or third-party bottlers. For example, in Leeds, all the Guinness in Tetley’s pubs was bottled by Musgrave & Sagar, a former brewery in the town.

In 1970, a satellite racking facility was built in Runcorn. This seems to have been mostly dedicated to filling Draught Guinness into 50-litre kegs. The beer came from both their Dublin and London breweries. It had an annual capacity of 500,000 barrels and was intended only to supply the North of England.  

Guinness needed the facility after signing agreements with 19 of the 20 largest breweries to sell draught Stout in their pubs. At Park Royal, where kegging had taken place up until then, there was insufficient space for expansion.  

For home brewers, Guinness Extra Stout was an excellent source of a very active yeast. Me and my brother used it often.

Monday 12 February 2024

Who drank what in 1970

In 1969, United Glass Ltd. commissioned our old friends at Mass Observation to investigate drinking habits in the UK. The results are, as you would expect, fascinating.

"It was found that on average, a consumer drinks between 2 and 3 types of drink per day. The highest duplication occurs on Friday and Saturday and the lowest on Monday and Tuesday. Also the under 25’s and the AB social class consume a greater variety of drinks than other informants."
Brewers' Guardian, Volume 99, March 1970, page 87.

I think what they're saying there is that people went out drinking more at the weekend than at the start of the week. Now there's a surprise. And the young and the wealthy drank more different drinks than the average. Not much of a shock, either.

"U.G. say that men drink an average of 79 fl. oz. per day compared to the 59 fl. oz. consumed by women. The difference is least marked at the beginning of the week but the gap widens considerably towards the week-end when the consumption of beer amongst males rapidly increases. Conversely, women do tend to drink less at weekends it was found. Further details of the survey are available on application to the market research manager, United Glass Ltd."
Brewers' Guardian, Volume 99, March 1970, page 87.

Again, nothing really shocking. Men drank more than women and drank more beer at the weekend. I think I could have guessed that.

What did surprise me is the difference in beer drinking between men and women - 36% of men but just 7% of women. That's a huge difference. I wonder what the numbers would be now? My guess would be that the overall average would be something similar to 21%, but that the split between men and women would be more even.

One big change from today would be regards to tea. I'm sure the percentage of people making tea with teabags would be much higher than 5%.

I'm shocked to see only 10% of people drank water. Barely more than the 9% who drank hot chocolate. 

Type of drink X proportion drinking
  Total Sex Age Social Class
    Male Female 16-24 25-34 35-44 45-64 AB C1 C2 DE
All Respondents 2107 1052 1055 421 378 423 885 253 415 806 633
  % % % % % % % % % % %
Tea 90 91 89 84 87 90 94 89 87 91 91
Instant Coffee  57 51 62 64 68 57 48 71 61 58 46
Beer  21 36 7 27 24 18 19 26 20 12 21
MiIk 13 11 15 22 13 8 11 16 16 11 13
Water  10 9 11 13 10 8 10 13 12 9 10
Hot Chocolate  9 7 11 12 12 8 8 11 11 9 8
Squash  9 7 10 15 12 5 6 10 8 9 7
Milk Drinks  7 6 9 4 8 7 9 8 10 6 7
Ground Coffee  7 7 7 6 8 5 9 15 13 6 2
Spirits and Fortified Wine  7 6 7 5 8 5 8 19 9 5 3
Tea made with tea-bags  5 4 5 6 5 5 4 9 5 4 3
Others  21 17 22 29 19 18 17 27 25 21 15
Duplication 156 152 155 187 174 134 143 214 177 150 126
Brewers' Guardian, Volume 99, March 1970, page 87.

Sunday 11 February 2024

Cask tank beer

Bass Charrington, rather oddly, given that they closed the brewery a couple of years later, put a lot of effort into developing a type of tank beer at Joules, at Stone in Staffordshire. The idea being to replicate cask beer in a more economical way.

"Over the past few years many traditional, locally-brewed beers have fallen by the wayside because of the economies offered by nationally distributed brands. But one smaller brewing concern, John Joule & Sons Ltd., a Bass Charrington subsidiary, are managing to retain their traditional beers by cashing in on the savings afforded by bulk tank distribution to pub cellars.

To cater for the increased demand for this tank beer they have recently opened a new £25,000 department at the Stone brewery. Beer which is used in the tanks is naturally conditioned but, instead of being racked into casks, it is racked into Porter Lancastrian tanks, conditioned for 48 hours and then chilled to about 52-54° F before being sent out to trade."
Brewers' Guardian, Volume 99, April 1970, page 60.

Instead of being racked into casks, the beer was transferred to tanks where it was conditioned for 48 hours at 58° F while being roused. The beer was centrifuged on the way into the tank, but not all the yeast was removed, as its presence helped extend the shelf-life to three to four weeks. Before transfer to delivery tankers by compressed air, the beer was chilled to 52-54° F.  

Pubs were fitted with five-barrel tanks, either Fairey and Grundy. Before each delivery a team from the brewery cleaned and sterilised the tanks. After filling, the beer was fined for clarity, left for 48 hours and presumably served by electric pump.  

It sounds basically like cask beer, just in a larger container. I wonder what it tasted like? Could drinkers tell it apart from true cask?

Saturday 10 February 2024

Let's Brew Wednesday - 1890 Adnams XXXX

By this point Adnams had slimmed down their range of Mild Ales a little, having dropped X. They did, however, continue to brew the strongest version, XXXX. Not quite as strong as in 1878, though, being 5º weaker.

As with most 19th-century beers, there’s not a great deal to the recipe. Just base malt, sugar and a dash of caramel. I’ve no real idea what the sugar was. No. 2 invert is my conservative guess. As there’s no indication whatsoever of its type in the brewing record, it could be anything.

Owing to a fairly sparse brewing record, there are lots of guesses. Like the FG, mashing temperature and boiling time.

The hopping rate is fairly robust, consisting of Kent and Bavarian hops. No age is given for the hops. 

1890 Adnams XXXX
pale malt 8.50 lb 71.85%
No. 2 invert sugar 3.25 lb 27.47%
caramel 1000 SRM 0.08 lb 0.68%
Fuggles 90 mins 3.00 oz
Hallertau 90 mins 0.75 oz
OG 1062
FG 1016
ABV 6.09
Apparent attenuation 74.19%
IBU 43
SRM 16
Mash at 154º F
Sparge at 170º F
Boil time 90 minutes
pitching temp 59º F
Yeast WLP025 Southwold

Friday 9 February 2024

Spying with beer

I have a large collection of brewery histories. They are often a frustrating read, concentrating on owning family members or the company's finances. But some are much handier. Providing some real insights. The first volume of Heineken's history falls into the latter category.

Published in 1949, just a few years after the end of the war, the conflict was clearly still in the author's mind. There are some passages which layout the attitude and goals of the C.B.K. (Centraal Brouwerj Kantoor), the Dutch brewers' organisation.

"We have just mentioned two fundamental aspects of the C.B.K. However, the practical side of the unity of the brewing world vis-à-vis the occupying forces must also be emphasized. Initially, the requisitioning of brewery staff took place on an individual basis. Due to the intervention of the management of the C.B.K. However, it has been achieved that such individual actions will not be taken. Afterwards, the C.B.K. also led the Germans to classify the brewery staff and beer merchants as indispensable. Furthermore, the C.B.K. took action when the occupiers took the position of allowing some breweries to continue working and forcing others to close: it was possible to manage that all breweries were allowed to continue working. In order to arrive at this result, reference was made to the mandatory deliveries to the "Wehrmacht", which, however, never amounted to more than 8 percent of the total turnover and guaranteed that sales to Dutch customers, which were always seriously threatened, would continue. It could also be averted by invoking those mandatory deliveries by pointing to Hitler's demand "Bier soll sein" and so too could the threat of copper requisitioning. This was of great significance. In the previous war the copper requisitioning in Belgium had fatal consequences for the brewing industry of our southern neighbors and the consequences for our breweries would certainly have been even more serious in connection with the serious shortage of materials that existed after the Second War."
Korte Geschiedenis der Heineken's Bierbrouwerij Maatschappij N.V. 1873-1948, H. A. Korthals, 1949, pages 390-391.

The primary aim of the C.B.K. was to keep all Dutch breweries open until the end of the war.Specifically, they wanted to avoid the fate og Belgium's breweries in WW I, when most were stripped of their copper by the Germans. Many never to reopen. They managed to convince the Germans that all breweries needed to stay open in order to supply the Whrmacht. Even though only 8% of production was needed. Leaving plenty of beer for Dutch civilians.

Unwisely, the Germans let the C.B.K. organise beer deliveries to German units.

"It is worth mentioning that the regulation of deliveries to the "Wehrmacht" proposed by the C.B.K. enabled the agency to determine almost exactly the strength of the troop concentrations in the various parts of our country. This information was also passed on to the English spy service. The leadership of the C.B.K. had, however, anticipated the possibility of "passing on" the figures when setting up the scheme and, when submitting the proposals in the accompanying letter, it had pointed out - otherwise unspecified - dangers associated with the scheme. When Mr. Stikker was called to account, he was able to point out to the Germans that he had alerted them to possible dangers and furthermore he argued that he could hardly be held responsible for the "leak" in the C.B.K. where no fewer than 70 people worked!"
Korte Geschiedenis der Heineken's Bierbrouwerij Maatschappij N.V. 1873-1948, H. A. Korthals, 1949, page 391.

It seems that the Germans were so keen to let someone else organise their beer for them, that they didn't worry about the information about their troops that was being given away. I wonder exactly how the information was passed on to British intelligence? It's not like they could just call them on the phone. 

(My translation.)

Thursday 8 February 2024


While the big Lager brands coming from speciaslist Lager plants were to some extent "authentic", the same wasn't the case for smaller brewers. Who made "Lagers" which were really just very pale Light Ales.

Let's look at the hops. Most of which are English. Which is dead authentic for the style. At least London Lager has continental hops, in the form of Styrian. Though even they were descended from English hop varieties. Given how few hops went into the Drybrough and Truman examples, it probably didn’t really matter what type they were.

We’ll now have a chance to see how authentic the fermentations were.

Not much really to say about the boil times. Other than that, the two hours for Elgood’s is a bit on the long side. But not stupidly so.

The Elgood fermentation profile looks just like those for its other beers. And way too warm for a Lager. But, as they were using their standard top-fermenting yeast, they couldn’t really have fermented cold.

Truman did pitch their Lager cooler, but not as low as in proper bottom-fermentation. Based on a fermentation length of just six days, I can’t imagine the Continental was fermented cold. From what I can make out in the brewing record, it looks as if they were using their standard yeast.

Elgood used the same underlet mash as for all their beers. While Truman employed a modified version of theirs, with the initial infusion a good bit cooler and the underlet quite warmer. Details are too scarce to tell what exactly what was going on at Drybrough. It certainly looks like a more complicated process than for their other beers. A mash with four steps, possibly.

Overall, not very authentic Lagers, then. Pseudo-Lagers, really. Which isn’t much of a surprise as none of the three breweries had a dedicated Lager kit.  

Lager hops 1969 - 1975
Year Brewer Beer hop 1 hop 2
1970 Drybrough Continental English English
1975 Elgood Lager English (1974)  
1969 Truman London Lager Styrian  
As in the table above.

Lager boiling and fermentation 1969 - 1975
Year Brewer Beer boil time (hours) Pitch temp max. fermen-tation temp length of fermen-tation (days)
1970 Drybrough Continental       6
1975 Elgood Lager 2 60º F 69.5º F 8
1969 Truman London Lager 1.5 53º F 60º F 8
  Average   1.8 57º F 65º F 7.3
As in the table above.