Monday, 22 December 2014

The South

When I said my Northwestern tour would complete my coverage of the US, some correctly pointed out that this wasn't true as I'd not been anywhere in the Southeast.

I can't say that it's a part of the world I know well. Not at all, really. Weekends in New Orleans and North Carolina a few decades back don't really count for much. Which is why I'm asking for your advice and suggestions.

I'm starting to pencil in a trip, probably in April. Though there's not much even pencilled in so far, other than the start and end point. That will be Miami. Or maybe not. I'd assumed there would be direct flights from Amsterdam. But there aren't. So it looks like it might have to start and end in Houston. Definitely are direct flights to there.

Which four cities in the South would you recommend I include? Places with a decent beer culture and lots of home brewers I can persuade to buy my book. Like I said, I'm pretty ignorant about this part of the USA.

This is what it's all about - promoting my amazing book:

The Home Brewer's Guide to Vintage Beer.

German brewing in 1966 – water

I bet you thought I’d forgotten about this series, based on an article by Narziss in the Journal of the Institute of Brewing. And you’d be perfectly right. I had.

I blame all the travelling I’ve been doing. I only remembered when pulling new material into “Decoction!”. The series came to an abrupt end with a promise of details of brewhouse operations.  Looking through past posts I realised that it wasn’t the only unfinished series. I’ll be aiming to fix that over the next month.

The title of the article section refers to the brewhouse, but it kicks off with a discussion of water. Surely that belongs to ingredients rather than brewhouse operations?

Brewhouse and Brewhouse Work
Liquor preparation.—The various types of beer require different liquors. Pilsener beers require a very soft water, and dark beers a medium hard to hard carbonate water. In between these two there are uncountable different types of water, dependent partially upon availability and partially on the working habits of the individual breweries.

Frequently, excessively hard waters are treated. In the case of some magnesium hardness, saturated calcium water is used, Recently, ion exchangers have been used employing a weak acid cation exchanger which removes part of calcium and magnesium hardness.”
Journal of the Institute of Brewing, Volume 72, Issue 1, January-February 1966, page 18.

That Pilsen has very soft water is well known.  And Munich, originally famous for its Dark Lagers, has water high in carbonates. No surprises there.

Here’s a British take on different brewing waters:

"Historically, different regions became famous for particular types of beer and in part these beer types were defined by the waters available for brewing (Table 3.1). Thus Pilsen, famous for very pale and delicate lagers has, like Melbourne, very soft water. Burton-on-Trent, with its extremely hard water, rich in calcium sulphate, is famous for its pale ales while Munich is well-known for its dark lagers, and Dublin (which has similar soft water) for its stouts."
"Brewing: science and practice", by Dennis E. Briggs, Chris A. Boulton, Peter A. Brookes and Roger Stevens, 2004, page 53.

And here’s the table that goes with it:

Analyses of some waters from famous brewing centres, (expressed as mg/l).
Parameter Pilsen Burton-on-Trent München (Munich) Dortmund London Wien (Vienna) Melbourne
Total dry solids  51 -  1226 536 273 984 320 984 25
Calcium (Ca2+)  7.1 352 268 109 80 237 90 163 1.3
Magnesium (Mg2+)  3.4 24 62 21 19 26 4 68 0.8
Bicarbonate (HCO3-)  14 320 -  171 -  174 -  243 -
Carbonate (CO32-)  -  -  141 -  164 -  123 -  3.6
Sulphate (SO42-)  4.8 820 638 7.9 5 318 58 216 0.9
Nitrate (NO3-)  tr.  18 31 53 3 46 3 tr.  0.2
Chloride (Cl-)  5 16 36 36 1 53 18 39 6.5
Sodium (Na+)  -  -  30 -  1 -  24 -  4.5
tr. ˆ Traces.
- ˆ Not given.
"Brewing: science and practice", by Dennis E. Briggs, Chris A. Boulton, Peter A. Brookes and Roger Stevens, 2004, page 56.

I’m amazed that Melbourne water manages to be a good bit softer than that of Pilsen. No wonder Victoria Bitter tastes so damn good.

Back to Narziss and water treatment:

“Water which has only limited amounts of non-carbonate hardness can be extensively softened. The carbonic acid freed must be removed by rinsing and subsequent addition of calcium. By varying the intensity of the rinsing, and introducing greater or lesser quantities of calcium-rich water, it is possible to achieve the desired hardness. By addition of slaked lime, pure calcium hardness is introduced into the water. For lightly hopped beers one desires a minimum of residual carbonate hardness of 3-5° otherwise it is feared that the beers may taste rather empty and characterless. For the building of new plants the use of weak acid exchangers is preferred, despite the increase in capital outlay and running costs. The exchange units are smaller and lighter and servicing is simpler, in spite of the need for special measures to de-activate the acidic regeneration waste water.”
Journal of the Institute of Brewing, Volume 72, Issue 1, January-February 1966, page 18.

Not sure I understand how adding calcium softens water. Surely it would harden it? And what the hell is a weak acid exchanger? Never heard of that before.

Now handling more difficult hardness:

“For waters with heavy non-carbonate hardness the so-called strong acid exchange unit is usually chosen. In this case all cations are exchanged, resulting in a water with free mineral acids. Neutralization is with lime water, and as a result the prepared liquor contains only the calcium salts of mineral acids. On the other hand, if nitrates are present in greater quantities than 40 mg. per litre in the brewing liquor then objections from the health authorities can be expected. In this case it is usual for the non-carbonate hardness to be removed by means of anion exchangers, or with water of low chloride content, by means of a chloride exchanger, which will transform the salts of the other mineral acids into chlorides. In practice, it is found necessary to improve the de-salted waters by means of an active carbon filter, in order to give greater plant security. Beers brewed from largely soft liquors are finer but also less full bodied. These characteristics can be compensated by a slight increase in hop dosage and also by the use of malts kilned off at high temperatures. Treatment with up to 15 g. per hl. of gypsum or calcium chloride is frequently used. This is equivalent to 5° of German hardness. Greater quantities are not used, as the effect on beer flavour may be detrimental.
Journal of the Institute of Brewing, Volume 72, Issue 1, January-February 1966, page 18.

I think I understand a few bits of that.

The stuff about very soft water intrigues me, and a perceived lack of body. Particular with regard to Pilsner Urquell. The extra hop dosage I can see there, but I’m sure it doesn’t use malt kilned at a higher temperature.

Adding gypsum is what’s called Burtonisation in Britain, though 15 g. per hl. is quite a small amount. Before WW II the water treatment for Barclay Perkins Pale Ales included the addition of 3.25 oz. of gypsum per barrel – the equivalent of 57 g. per hl.*

I’ll let Briggs explain why nitrates are bad:

"Nitrate levels, which vary widely, are a cause of concern as water sources are increasingly contaminated by nitrate from leached agricultural fertilizers. The fear is that during the preparation of the beer or in the consumer the nitrate may be reduced to nitrite (also limited, Table 3.2) and this, in turn, may give rise to carcinogens."
"Brewing: science and practice", by Dennis E. Briggs, Chris A. Boulton, Peter A. Brookes and Roger Stevens, 2004, page 54.

Doesn’t sound very nice, does it?

Next time we really will get to actual brewing.

* Barclay Perkins brewing record held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number ACC/2305/01/612.

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Storage of German and English Beer in the 1930’s

Staying with the Wahls, we’re now considering the different storage method employed by British and German brewers.

It stresses the different methods of preserving beer in the two countries. Basically it’s refrigeration versus hopping and alcohol. Sadly, it contains at least one statement which I’m sure is completely wrong.

Preservation during Storage
The high alcoholic content and heavy hopping have a preservative effect so that these beers keep well during the long storage period. For this reason they were made with a high alcoholic content and highly hopped. Substitutes for some of the malt are generally employed in England; these are sugar, rice and corn products. The draft ales and stouts are but lightly bunged by using porous spiles in storage casks and do not foam much when drawn into the glass. Little regard is had for effervescence or foam stability. They should however be as clear as sparkling wines in this respect.

German lager beers are kept in storage at cellar temperatures of 34 to 35 degrees F. which prevents their spoiling. The beer itself when reaching the stock vat or tank has a temperature of about 40 degrees. The vats are exclusively of wood construction. It requires 4 to 6 weeks for the beer to reach within one degree of the temperature of the cellar. During this period the beers are bunged.

The English stock ales and stouts undergo a brisk secondary fermentation induced by a peculiar yeast-like organism saccharomyces Pastorianus. It takes several months before this fermentation is completed. This wild yeast gives to stock ale its peculiar flavor, and it has the peculiarity of fermenting malto-dextrins —a power not possessed by either the bottom or top pure brewers' yeast. The organism Pastorianus develops the fine flavor for which ales and stouts are known and seems to accompany all top yeast in England. Therefore pure culture yeast has found no favor as secondary fermentation could not set in if it were used.
"Beer from the Expert's Viewpoint" by Arnold Spencer Wahl and Robert Wahl, 1937, page 155.

They’re right about adjuncts, but after WW I rice wasn’t normally used. Too expensive, I think.

Cask British beer is more complicated than he describes. A soft, porous spile is only used for part of the process. Non-porous hard spiles are also used to build condition in the cask. Compared to American beer, I suppose it would seem to have little condition.

But the stuff about secondary conditioning yeast is clearly wrong. For a start, they’ve got the capitalisation wrong: it should be Saccharomyces pastorianus, not saccharomyces Pastorianus. It’s not yeast-like, or wild, but a normal brewer’s yeast. Lager yeast is what it’s usually called. That or Saccharomyces carlsbergensis.

But that’s small beer compared to the assertion that it was responsible for the aged flavour of British Stock Beers. And that it can ferment malto-dextrins. I can’t believe that it was really in pitching strains.

What’s really odd is that they then go on to discuss Brettanomyces:

Stock and Bottle English Beers
After secondary fermentation is concluded the stock beers both ale and stout are stored for 4 to 6 months in casks after which they may be bottled. Then in the bottle a third fermentation sets in, which, according to Chapman was thought for a long time to be due to the same wild yeast that carries on secondary fermentation but it has been shown (first by Claussen) that certain organisms belonging to the group of Torula which he named Brettanomyces are in reality the active agents. These are closely allied to the true Saccharomyces in which they differ chiefly in their inability to form ascospores. Chapman says "It is highly probable that the characteristic flavor of certain bottle beers (English unpasteurized ales) is to some extent the result of their activity."
"Beer from the Expert's Viewpoint" by Arnold Spencer Wahl and Robert Wahl, 1937, page 156.

So the Brettanomyces only kicked in after bottling? I’m certain that’s incorrect. Six months in a cask would have been plenty of time for it to become active.

I’m confused and disappointed by this section. It’s so wrong in a period when the mechanisms of ageing were known.

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Pilsener and WW I (part four)

Silly me. I’d forgotten I’d collected more on Pilsener in WW I. Blame all my recent travelling.

A couple of times recently someone has made a remark about my post that day. I have to confess that I hadn’t the foggiest idea what the post was about. Once, even when the subject was mentioned, I could recall no details. Am I that forgetful?

No. The explanation is simple. I line my posts up well in advance. I try to be always at least three days ahead. But when I know I’ll be travelling, I bump that up to a week or two. Or, in extreme cases like my near back-to-back US trips in November, as much as three or four weeks. Back to the real topic.

An article I read recently – or was it on TV? – made a really good point about attacks on merchant shipping in WW I. While German U-boats might have sunk a considerable amount of Allied shipping in 1917 and briefly threatened Britain’s food supply, the situation for Germany was far, far worse. By 1915 its merchant fleet had disappeared from the seas completely.

The supply of beer and its constituent raw materials might have been bad in Britain in 1917 and 1918, but the situation was much worse, and sooner, in Germany.

All the North German associations of hotelkeepers, licensed victuallers, owners of concert and dancing rooms, and so on, have addressed to the Food Dictator, Herr von Batocki, an urgent appeal against further restrictions, which are now imminent, of the production of beer. It is understood that the authorised supply of barley to the breweries, which has already been reduced one-half, is now to reduced to one-fourth of the peace figures.

The petitioners make the interesting statement that the Prussian Army takes 11 per cent of the peace-time consumption, so that there would remain for the Prussian public only 14 per cent of the peace-time consumption. It is complained that in Bavaria beer is privileged as "an article of food," and that such differentiation will cause great bitterness in North Germany. It is declared that the petitioners have suffered more than any other class owing partly to the various restrictions on amusements, but still more to the fact that "meat, eggs, butter, fats, coffee, milk, tea and now spirits can hardly be obtained."

The "Berliner Tageblatt" observes that there are 16,000 restaurants Berlin alone, and that a great part them are already hardly able to exist. It is expected that the supply of Munich beer for North Germany will cease and Pilsen beer is very scarce.”
Manchester Evening News - Friday 17 November 1916, page 4.

That’s a massive drop in beer output. Though it’s safe to assume that the decline in the amount of beer brewed was smaller because, as in Britain, gravities were lowered. Meaning a greater quantity of beer was brewed from the same amount of materials.

I’ll recap an earlier table for comparison purposes:

Drop in UK beer output
period standard barrels bulk barrels
1914 to 1916 15.99% 14.51%
1914 to 1917 26.16% 19.69%
1914 to 1918 67.20% 53.18%
1914 to 1919 76.37% 44.52%
The Brewers' Almanack 1928 pages 100 and 110.

Standard barrels is what you need to look at as that relates directly to the quantity of materials being used. Even by 1917, that had fallen by just over 25%, compared to a 75% drop in Germany by 1916.

As you can see, the reduction in raw materials did eventually hit German levels, but not until 1919. Though drastic gravity cuts meant that bulk beer production only fell to a little under 50% of the pre-war level.

Food Dictator sounds like a pretty crazy office, though effectively the Food Controller, filled the same role. His Thomas the Tank Engine name is somehow less frightening.

I can understand why the publicans were complaining in Berlin. Their livelihoods were under direct threat. In Britain the situation was more complex. On the one hand, they had less beer to sell. On the other, price increases meant that by keeping the same margin of profit, their income could increase. And restrictions on pub opening hours drastically reduced their working day and the amount they paid bar staff. Only in areas where the men had all been called away by the war did publicans really suffer.

Considering beer as food is a very Bavarian attitude. Presumably that meant there was some sort of priority given to its supply. Meaning there was none left over to send North to the thirsty Prussians.

I’m sure I’m not done with this theme yet. As long as I remember I’m not done.

Friday, 19 December 2014


It's that time of year again. Just before Santa is due to call, comes my annual pilgrimage to Essen for the Kerstbierfestival.

I love the Kerstbierfestival. One of my absulute favourites. Not too much time wasted trudging around a hall to fetch beer - the one bar design is a great idea for the old and slightly infirm such as I. A reasonable number of seats - a great idea for the old and slightly infirm such as I.And they have all the Belgian winter seasonals in one convenient spot - a great idea for the old and slightly infirm such as I.

Give me a yell if you spot me there tomorrow. There's no prize, other than have me slobber over your jacket. Not really a prize that, is it?

As Dolores is coming along, I may even remember some of the event this year. She tends to make sure we leave at a sensible time.

European beers in 1929

Not much this time. Just a table of analyses.

It's in the Wahls' book, but they had borrowed them from someone else:

"Composition of various European beers, according to Prof. Dr. H. Luers, Munich, in "Grafe Handbuch Der Organischen Warenkunde", Volume III, 1929."

It's mostly Bavarian breweries, speiced with a few exotics from Prague and Britain:

European beers in 1929
Year Brewer Town country Beer OG FG ABV App. Atten-uation OG Plato
1929 Pschorr Munich Germany Dunkles 1054.26 1019.2 4.53 64.61% 13.43
1929 Hofbrau Munich Germany Dunkles 1057.58 1020.2 4.75 64.92% 14.21
1929 Weihenstephan Freising Germany Dunkles 1057.16 1017.2 5.16 69.91% 14.11
1929 Spaten Munich Germany Dunkles 1053.83 1021.4 4.19 60.25% 13.33
1929 Tucher Nuernberg Germany Dunkles 1053.45 1017.8 4.59 66.70% 13.24
1929 Kulmbacher Sandlerbraeu Kulmbach Germany Dunkles 1062.61 1015.8 6.05 74.76% 15.38
1929 Dortmunder Union Dortmund Germany Export 1055.15 1012 5.55 78.24% 13.64
1929 Schultheiss brauerei Berlin Germany Maerzenbler 1053.75 1012.3 5.09 77.12% 13.31
1929 Erste Pilsener Actienbrauerei Pilsen Czech Republic Pilsener 1046.99 1011.6 4.56 75.32% 11.71
1929 Burgerliches Brauhaus Pilsen Czech Republic Pilsener Urquell 1048.17 1013.4 4.51 72.18% 11.99
1929 Dreher Kleinschwechat Austria Wiener Maerzenbier 1058.95 1016.9 5.44 71.33% 14.53
1929 Unknown Berlin Germany Berliner Weissbier 1036.68 1007.1 3.84 80.64% 9.23
1929 Barclay Perkins London UK Porter 1087.61 1022.9 8.40 73.86% 21.06
1929 Bass Burton UK Pale Ale 1060.80 1018.8 6.28 69.08% 14.96
Beer from the Expert's Viewpoint by Arnold Spencer Wahl and Robert Wahl, 1937, page 166.

I've no idea what that Barclay Perkins beer is. Obviously some sort of Stout. But it doesn't match any they brewed in the 1920's: BBS Ex had an OG of 1079º and IBS Ex 1103º*. I suspect the analysis is really from before WW I.

The Bass Pale Ale has an OG that looks right for the export version, but the FG looks far too high. Don't quite understand that one.

Moving on to the Munich beers, they still have the high OG and poor attenuation of the 19th century.

The Kulmbcher has a surprisingly high gravity  - though didn't we just read something saying it had a bock-like OG? - and reasonable attenuation leaving quite an alcoholic beer.

The Pilseners look . . . very much like modern Pilsner Urquell in terms of OG and ABV. It seems a very unchaging beer in terms of strength. More so than any other individual beer I can think of.

Told you there wasn't much this time. That's it.

* Barclay Perkins brewing record held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number ACC/2305/01/614.

Thursday, 18 December 2014

German and English Beer Types Compared in the 1930’s

In case you hadn’t guessed, this is more from the Wahls. Where they compare British top-fermenting beer with German bottom-fermenting beer.

I love this sort of stuff. These were the two main families of beer at the time. Still are today, really. And the USA was one of the few places in the world where they were both brewed in large quantities.

But first a quick overview of each group:

“The continental lager beers are termed bottom fermentation beers because the yeast settles to the bottom of the fermenting vat while the English beers are termed top fermentation beers because the yeast works to the top where it is removed by skimming. This skimming is generally done with the aid of what is called a parachute, a funnel that can be rotated, raised or lowered with a pipe connection extending through bottom of open vat through which the yeast passes into the yeast vat. Another method is by cleansing, that is, the yeast is allowed to work out of the bung hole at the top of the cask. In the case of unions holding usually about four American barrels they are provided with a curved tube, a so-called swan neck. Through these the yeast works from the bung hole into a common trough running along the upper side of the casks.”
"Beer from the Expert's Viewpoint" by Arnold Spencer Wahl and Robert Wahl, 1937, pages 155 - 156.

It’s one of the few times I’ve ever seen cleansing mentioned in an American document. It seems to have been dropped very early in US Ale-brewing. Having seen how much of a head bottom-fermenting yeast throws, cleansing probably wouldn’t be out of order in Lager-brewing, too. Though I suppose lagering and filtering took care of yeast removal.

Now some more detail:

German and English Beer Types Compared
German beers are all of the so-called lager beer type undergoing cold storage in artificially cooled cellars whereas the English beers, like ale, porter, stout, are produced without any refrigeration of cellars whatever. They are either put out directly after fermentation as are the mild "1 day ales and porters" of London or are stored for a considerable period in casks as are the stock ales and stouts which are heavily brewed for high sugar content in the wort and are consequently highly alcoholic and heavily hopped. Two pounds of hops are brewed in per barrel for stock ale; besides, these stock ales are further dry-hopped in the storage tanks. The stouts are heavily hopped in brewing but are not dry-hopped.”
"Beer from the Expert's Viewpoint" by Arnold Spencer Wahl and Robert Wahl, 1937, pages 154 - 155.

Again, I think the Wahls were discussing British beer from before WW I. Not many British beers were being brewed in Stock form in the 1930’s. Just a few very special Strong Ales and Stouts. Everyday Stouts were not aged before sale and weren’t particularly high in alcohol.

Here are Barclay Perkins beers as proof:

Barclay Perkins Ales 1928 - 1931
Year Beer Style OG FG ABV App. Atten-uation lbs hops/ qtr hops lb/brl dry hops (oz / barrel) colour
1928 Ale 4d Mild 1028.8 1006.5 2.95 77.43% 7.43 0.90 34
1928 X Mild 1042.9 1011.0 4.22 74.35% 5.50 0.94 42
1929 DB Brown Ale 1040.6 1009.0 4.18 77.82% 7.50 1.20
1928 IPA bottling IPA 1045.8 1012.0 4.47 73.80% 8.00 1.44 3.00 15
1928 PA Pale Ale 1052.7 1013.0 5.25 75.32% 6.49 1.36 3.00 20
1931 PA (trade) Pale Ale 1052.6 1014.5 5.04 72.43% 7.50 1.57 3.00 23
1929 PA export Pale Ale 1058.9 1017.0 5.55 71.15% 8.89 2.00 4.00 21
1931 XLK Pale Ale 1044.6 1008.5 4.78 80.95% 8.00 1.47 3.00 22
1931 KK Strong Ale 1055.7 1014.0 5.52 74.86% 9.00 1.98 3.00 88
1928 KK bottling Strong Ale 1069.4 1021.5 6.34 69.04% 11.00 2.99 8.00 96
1928 KKKK Strong Ale 1079.0 1024.0 7.27 69.61% 11.00 3.44 4.00 120
Barclay Perkins brewing record held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number ACC/2305/01/614.

Barclay Perkins Porters 1928 - 1929
Year Beer Style OG FG ABV App. Atten-uation lbs hops/ qtr hops lb/brl dry hops (oz / barrel) colour
1929 TT Porter 1033.0 1012.0 2.77 63.58% 6.00 0.81 240
1929 IBS Stout 1060.7 1022.5 5.05 62.93% 8.00 1.95 290
1928 OMS Stout 1050.9 1017.0 4.48 66.57% 6.50 1.36 220
1928 RNS Stout 1054.5 1017.5 4.90 67.91% 8.00 1.80 320
1929 SBS Stout 1054.7 1019.0 4.72 65.24% 7.50 1.68 260
1928 IBS Ex Stout 1102.8 1042.0 8.05 59.16% 14.19 6.75 10.66 680
1928 BBS Ex Stout 1080.0 1027.5 6.94 65.62% 15.00 5.15 8.00 320
1928 BS Exp Stout 1071.6 1022.0 6.56 69.27% 14.00 4.29 8.00 240
Barclay Perkins brewing record held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number ACC/2305/01/614.

I’ve used Barclay Perkins and not Whitbread for a reason: the former includes dry-hopping details and the latter doesn’t. I believe only these six were aged: IBS Ex, BBS Ex, BS Exp, KK bottling, KKKK and PA export. Unsurprisingly, they also have the highest level of dry-hopping.

You can see that Stock Stouts were both very heavily hopped in the kettle and dry-hopped, despite the claim of the Wahls. Though running Stouts were, indeed, without dry hops. Most of Barclay Perkins Stock Beers had considerably more than two pounds of hops per barrel. As the Wahls are probably talking in US barrels, which are smaller than imperial ones, you need to knock about 25% off the value in the tables. Which still leaves most of the examples way over 2 lbs per barrel.

Next time we’ll be looking at storage of British and German beers. Where I think there’s a huge howler in the Wahls’ text.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

More Christmas Ale

Some stuff I found in the newspaper archive.

First a heartwarming story of philanthropy:

"Terling —Colonel Strutt's Benevolence.— Although Col. has been living at Bath upwards two years in consequence of ill health, he is continually doing good amongst the poor of this parish. the November in every year (being Col. Strutt's birthday) a number of blankets are delivered out on loan to the poor children during the winter months; and bread has been distributed to fifteen families every Sunday morning regularly for the last two years, taking the families alphabetically. Lately the Colonel ordered two shillings and sixpence to be given to each aged person on the first of every month, which has been continued, and besides this several infirm persons receive weekly allowances, &c.- —On Christmas eve there was distributed Col. Strutt's annual gift to the poor: two bullocks, five sacks of flour baked into half peck loaves, and flannel to the widows; in addition to which this year a large sum of money was also distributed amongst them in silver, many reiceiving as much five shillings each family. Besides this Col. Strutt ordered breakfast on Christmas day at the White Hart Inn, Terling. which was provided by Mr. Smith, the landlord, for the ringers, and also a good hot dinner at five o'clock of roast beef, plum pudding, &c. and a plentiful supply of old Christmas ale, for the tradesmen and of this this parish."
Chelmsford Chronicle - Friday 29 December 1843, page 3.

Now a typical tale of drunkenness:

"William Francis, a labourer, of Purleigh, was on Monday last charged before Joseph Pattisson, Esq. by police constable (41) Smith, with being drunk and disorderly, on Saturday night, about twelve o'clock, in Purleigh street. It appeared that a party had been making free with Mr. Harris's old Christmas ale, at the Bell public-house, and a quarrel arising in the house they were put into the street. A pugilistic combat followed, on which the police interfered, but Francis refused to leave, abused the police, and was eventually lodged in the cage. Dr. Baker, however, spoke highly of his previous character, in consideration of which he was discharged, on paving 8s. dd. expenses.
Chelmsford Chronicle - Friday 06 January 1843, page 3."

Finally something much mastier:

"AFFRAY WITH POACHERS. At a late hour on Monday night last, two gamekeepers in the employ of Mr. Wilton Harlingscone, of Fell wood Hall, near Strunfield, were returning to their homes from the hall, where they had been partaking of their worthy master's hospitality. On arriving at a secluded lot of plantations called the "Dells" they came suddenly upon a party of four men- three ef whom had guns, whilst the fourth carried a large and apparently well-filled sack. On perceiving the game, keepers the three men presented their guns, and warned the others to keep off, at the same time calling to the man who carried the sack to lun, upon which he immediately made off with his burden. One of the keepers then called out, as though they had assistance at hand, " Here they are, come on my lads," when the poachers, thinking, doubtless, that a strong party was upon them, turned and retreated with all possible expedition, closely followed by the keepers, who being strong, active fellows, and moreover somewhat elevated by the liberal quantity of old Christmas ale they had been imbibing, dashed after the poachers, shouting at the top of their voices, and haviug no other weapons save a couple of stout cudgels. After a chase of several hundred yards the keepers succeeded in overtaking the man who carried the sack, whom they seized, upon which the man shouted to his companions for assistance, calling out that there were but two of them, meaning the keepers, and one of the poachers returned to the spot, and presenting his gun swore that he would blow the keepers' brains out if they did not instantly quit their hold of tbe captured man ; but tbe keepers, thrusting the fellow they held before them so as to cover themselves from the effects of the poacher's fire, told him to fire away and shoot his confederate. The man then dropped the muzzle of his piece, and, clubbing the firearm, dealt the keeper nearest him a heavy blow with tbe but-end, which, lighting on the back of the other's neck, brought him to the ground. Upon this the other keeper quitted the grasp on the man he held, and springing on the poacher with the gun, seized him round the waist whilst in the act of aiming a blow at him (the keeper), and threw him down. The gun exploded in the fall, and part of the contents lodged in the poacher's back, upon which the wounded man calling out that he was shot, his companion immediately took to flight. The keeper who had been struck down recovered, and as no further attempt at attack or rescue was made, the two keepers carried the wounded man between them to the nearest habitation, and sent off for medical advice, the man complained of great pain from his wound. It was nearly two hours before a surgeon could be procured, and it was then ascertained that the spine was severely shattered by the shot. He remains in a very precarious state. The poachers were probably aware of the " merry-making" at the hall, and calculated on the absence of the keepers. Upwards of 30 head of game were found in the sack."
London Standard - Thursday 30 December 1841, page 4.

I really should get on with mylife rather than spending my evening looking for refeerences to Christmas Ale.

How old are Christmas beers?

I've been prompted by Boak and Bailey's post about Christmas beers. Not being all that old.

You know me by now. I've ridiculous piles of information. If you'd been around mine you'd realise just how literal the piles are. I was sure I had older examples of beers specifically labelled "Christmas".

Being labels, it makes more sense to do this visually:

My guess is that they are all from the 1950's.

These I have from the Whitbread Gravity Book:

1956 Well's & Winch Christmas Ale 4.97%
1950 Younger, Geo. Gordon Xmas Ale (bottled in Antwerp) 7.58%

These from brewing records:

1902 Fuller, Smith & Turner XK for Xmas 5.83%

This is a Lovibond record from 1864:

The beer, coincidentally, will feature in our special Christmas Eve Let's Brew.

Yule Logs!! competition!! still on

There's still a chance to win one of my wordless books in my super-duper christmas competition. 

You've a pretty good chance of nabbing the prize as I have exactly been swamped with entries.

I've noticed a certain reluctance to join in the fun with comments such as "Isn't interp[reting these things your job?" and "How the hell am I supposed to make sense of that scribble?" 

And I thought you were a game bunch.

You don't have to do anything very complicated. Just pluck the relevant details from the Whitbread brewing record below. The entry with the most details wins a copy of the book. But, you have to have a minimum of these details:

ingredients, type and quantity
racking gravity
volume of TS in barrels

Extra points for yield per quarter and gyle volumes and gravities.

Send in your entries via the "get in touch" form at the top left hand corner of this page. Or via the email link you'll find on my website:

It's hard. But that's the point.

Almost forgot the prize: my strange book.

Buy my strange book! Think up your own reason. Do you expect me to do everything for you?

Let's Brew Wednesday - 1938 Starkey, Knight and Ford FA

Starkey, Knight and Ford - dontcha just love them? Er was that hate? I can't quite remember. I'm becoming a bit of a goldfish in the memory department.

I am quite pleased that they occasionally brewed one of their Milds straight. Unlike their Pale Ales, where they magic several from one brew. The asme trick was pulled with their Mild, conjuring up different strength ones, but this, at least, is a straight brew.

The first thing that strikes me about this beer is its strength. It looks very much like a pre-1931 X Ale, with its gravity in the low 1040's. But after Snowden's disastrous 1931 emergency Budget, most breweries knocked their X Ales down to around 1036º. Though some did continue with a Mild at the old strngth, usually giving it a different name. For example, Barclay Perkins, whose XX Ale was really their pre-1931 X Ale.

A gravity of 1043º implies to me a retail price of 6d per pint in 1938. However, in the log it says that it was all racked as FA 5d, implying a gravity of 1036º. The record is tricky to interpret because it doesn't give the gravity of the combined worts. And it's not so simple to see the volumes of each of the two constituent worts because they're given as 54+11 and 71+11. If you assume they were all wort, then the combined gravity is 1043º. However, if the figure after the plus sign is water, then the gravity is 1037º, which fits in better with a 5d beer.

Feel free to brew to whichever of those gravities you fancy. I've no way of knowing which is correct. Starkey, Knight and Ford - dontcha just hate them? They really are driving me nuts. Their records have so much information, yet are still virtually unusable.

Turning to the recipe, it's a very typical Mild Ale of the 1930's. The grist is a combination of pale and crystal malt, plumped up with flaked maize and No. 3 invert sugar. As was usual, the colour comes primcipally from sugar and no malt darker than crystal is involved.

If you'd like to brew the Brown Ale whose label I've reproduced, knock the gravity down to 1037º and bottle.

Can't think of anything more to say, which means that it's Kristen time . . . . . .

Kristen’s Version:

Notes: This is a really great recipe for you lot to mess around. It gets nearly all its color from caramel and the Invert No3. Allows you to even add it to the fermenter if you want. Or split it into 4 and do one with No1-No3 sugars in each. Basically it gives a great platform to see what dark invert can do. Make some proper homemade stuff. Make some by dilution with blackstrap. See what you like best. Not a lot to really say about this beer other than use this for something fun. It’s brown. It’s wet. Make it more interesting.

Malt: As I said, there is no dark malts at all in this beer. Not to mention that but there is nearly 30% adjunct! As previously, choose a nice pale malt. I’m going to choose Mild malt because I can and I want as much character as I can get as its such a little amount. Could even use a Vienna or Munich if you were lazy and only had that on hand!

Hops: Hops are pretty straightforward. Goldings, US, Styrain. All that really matters is you hit your numbers regardless of what you use. A good place to use some old hops you’ve been meaning too!

Yeast: Any yeast really will work. We’ve been using London III and Southwold. Either will work really well.

Cask: Standard procedure:
1) let the beer ferment until finished and then give it another day or so. For me right around 5-7 days.
2) Rack the beer to your vessel of choice (firkin, polypin, cornie, whatever).
3) Add primings at ~3.5g/L
4) Add prepared isinglass at 1ml/L
5) ONLY add dry hops at 0.25g/l – 1g/L.
6) Bung it up and roll it around to mix. Condition at 55F or so for 4-5 days and its ready to go. Spile/vent. Tap. Settle. Serve at 55F.