Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Barclay Perkins Porter quality 1922 - 1923

"Thank you, Ronald," I can hear you saying. "Thank you for continuing your series on draught beer quality in 1920's London.

We've now got as far as Porter. If I'm honest, the Porter analyses are the most revealing about what was happening in the London pub trade. It gives some clues as to both the state Porter and why it was in decline. You could call it the Mild Effect.

What's that? Let me explain. In the 1970's, Mild sales were falling. Dramatically falling in some regions. This decline kicked off a vicious circle. A low volume of sales, meant that it was often too old and in bad condition. Which deterred drinkers from buying, leading to even lower sales and even poorer beer quality. Eventually it wasn't worth the landlord's while to sell it any more.

The comments on flavour in the Whitbread Gravity Book tend to confirm this. To put it bluntly: there was a lot of crap Porter about in the 1920's. Why do I think poor sales were to blame? Because I can see the decline that Porter went into after WW I quite clearly in Whitbread's production figures by type.

Here's what happened with their Porter 1910 - 1929:

Output of Whitbread Porter 1910 - 1929
year barrels brewed Total Port Total Ale & Porter % of Porter/Stout % of total
1910 108,166 361,847 850,828 29.89% 12.71%
1911 101,934 368,953 907,173 27.63% 11.24%
1912 111,239 386,734 988,981 28.76% 11.25%
1913 127,838 378,629 901,807 33.76% 14.18%
1914 123,085 382,984 900,636 32.14% 13.67%
1915 65,216 314,169 762,438 20.76% 8.55%
1916 80,298 369,130 777,127 21.75% 10.33%
1917 8,493 286,163 578,502 2.97% 1.47%
1918 7,136 110,695 413,112 6.45% 1.73%
1919 21,602 117,284 565,624 18.42% 3.82%
1920 24,910 234,413 10.63%
1921 15,688 238,623 675,647 6.57% 2.32%
1922 16,562 192,717 576,118 8.59% 2.87%
1923 14,165 169,977 505,097 8.33% 2.80%
1924 15,948 178,192 551,616 8.95% 2.89%
1925 14,943 163,932 527,977 9.12% 2.83%
1926 13,511 168,513 512,528 8.02% 2.64%
1927 10,708 149,725 462,250 7.15% 2.32%
1928 10,105 142,153 488,357 7.11% 2.07%
1929 5,558 85,779 443,888 6.48% 1.25%
Whitbread brewing records held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document numbers LMA/4453/D/01/075, LMA/4453/D/01/076, LMA/4453/D/01/077, LMA/4453/D/01/078, LMA/4453/D/01/079, LMA/4453/D/01/080, LMA/4453/D/01/081 LMA/4453/D/01/082, LMA/4453/D/01/083, LMA/4453/D/01/084, LMA/4453/D/01/085, LMA/4453/D/01/086, LMA/4453/D/01/087, LMA/4453/D/01/088, LMA/4453/D/01/089, LMA/4453/D/01/090, LMA/4453/D/01/091, LMA/4453/D/01/092, LMA/4453/D/01/093, LMA/4453/D/01/094, LMA/4453/D/01/095,
LMA/4453/D/09/104, LMA/4453/D/09/105, LMA/4453/D/09/106, LMA/4453/D/09/107, LMA/4453/D/09/108, LMA/4453/D/09/109, LMA/4453/D/09/110, LMA/4453/D/09/111, LMA/4453/D/09/112, LMA/4453/D/09/113, LMA/4453/D/09/114, LMA/4453/D/09/115, LMA/4453/D/09/116, LMA/4453/D/09/117, LMA/4453/D/09/118, LMA/4453/D/09/119, LMA/4453/D/09/120, LMA/4453/D/09/121, LMA/4453/D/09/122 and LMA/4453/D/09/123.

Whitbread's Porter was in surprisingly good health leading up to WW I, with sales increasing. The war put a stop to that and output of it almost dried up after 1916. It bounced back a little in 1920, then went into a steady decline.

It also seems that many Porter drinkers switched to Stout. During the war, often the Porter and Stout on offer in a pub were the same beer, the only difference being the price. After the war, standard draught Stout was similar in gravity to pre-war Porter, in the range 1052 - 1056. Switchching to Stout is exactly what I would have done, if I had been able to afford it.

On with Barclay Perkins' Porter. Remember that they had been one of the great Porter breweries, and had brewed Porter for over 150 years. It's fairly typical in terms of gravity and ABV. Let's take a look at the details:

Barclay Perkins Porter quality 1922 - 1923
Year Beer FG OG ABV App. Atten-uation Flavour score Price
1922 Porter 1013.2 1040.2 3.49 67.16% Poor & thin -2 6d
1922 Porter 1011.5 1035.5 3.10 67.61% v fair 2 6d
1922 Porter 1010.5 1034.5 3.11 69.57% v poor -3 6d
1923 Porter 1012 1037.5 3.30 68.00% fair 1 6d
1923 Porter 1010.8 1035.8 3.24 69.83% fair 1 5d
1923 Porter 1012.5 1038 3.30 67.11% going off -2 6d
1923 Porter 1012.8 1039.8 3.49 67.84% moderate 1 6d
1923 Porter 1009.8 1038.8 3.76 74.74% v poor -3 6d
Average  1011.6 1037.5 3.35 68.98% -0.63
Whitbread Gravity book held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number LMA/4453/D/02/001

One thing I forgot to mention. For Porter and Stout there's no mention of clarity, presumably because of their dark colour. As you can see, the quality wasn't great. Only half get a positive score and only one of those scores higher than 1.

I can see why drinkers shunned Porter in the 1920's. It was often pretty crap. The lowered gravity wouldn't have helped. If only I had some similar information from before the war to confirm that its quality had declined. Oh well, you can't have everything.

Monday, 21 July 2014

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Barclay Perkins Bookstore

Lille (part three)

We're in search of food. Which is often the case. I've this terrible eating habit. I eat every single day. Without fail.

The best thing about having Dolores  as a travelling companion is that it reduces the planning and preparation work I have to do. Less work for me is always a good thing. She's very much the organised type. She's taken out a guide book to Lille from the library. It has some handy hints. Including where the estaminets are.

An estaminet is a type of traditional boozer found in this region. They've a reputation for a cosy old-fashioned atmosphere, good local food and lots of beer.

"Do you fancy eating in an estaminet, Ronald?"

"You can twist my arm."

There are a few estaminets clustered around Avenue du Peuple Belge. Getting there from the citadel is a piece of piss - just follow the Rue Négrier. Which we do. It's an unusual street, with some old houses so large that they're small palaces. That's the sort of thing you sometimes see in France. It's a sign of how loaded they were a couple of centuries back.

I was surprised by the look of Avenue du Peuple Belge on the map. It seems far too wide for a street in the old part of town. A hint was given by the change in the street name ro Rue du Pont Neuf (New Bridge Street). Sure enough, it became a bridge crossing over Avenue du Peuple Belge. Obviously it was some sort of filled in waterway.

I tried looking up the history of it on the web. But all I could find out was that Avenue du Peuple Belge had a problem with the nuisance caused by street prostitution in 2011.

The guide book marked our destination estaminet, Le Petit Barbue d'Anvers, as being of the corner of Pont Neuf and Avenue du Peuple Belge. Annoyingly, it didn't give a precise street address. We weren't even sure which of the two streets it was on. After a while of fruitlessly wandering around, we gave up and headed for Rue de Gand which is home to two estaminets.

We had more luck here. I'd had enough of walking and we rushed into the first estaminet we passed, L'Estaminet 't Rijsel. Now there's an odd name, mixing French and Dutch. Risel being the Dutch name for Lille. It's everything I've hoped for.

I've been in a few pubs over the years. And I can recognise the difference between old junk bought in a job lot and thrown around apparently randomly and a pub where suff has been just hung on walls an put on shelves over decades. This is the real deal. I spend a stupid amount of time looking at this crap.

It's only noon, but it's about half full. Everyone is speaking French, which is another good sign. We get ourselves half litres while we work out what we want to eat. Ch'ti Blonde for Dolores, their Tripel for me. I always opt fore the option with more alcoholic goodness. Here are our beers:

The menu is a school exercsie book. Pretty funky. The food, once again, is pure Belgian. I go for a Carbonade Famande, which is a type of beer casserole. It's rather nice.

As I'm nibbling at my food, something strikes me. Every single customer is drinking beer. And not the same beer, but all sorts of different ones. That wouldn't be so surprising if they were 20-something hipsters, but they aren't. Most are older than me.

Almost forgot. They also have hops hanging from the ceiling:

On the way back to our hotel, I drag Dolores into a giant FNAC. She's had enough walking for today and sits down while I go off and rummage through the books. Almost immediately, I find this: "Le Guide des Brasseurs et Bieres de France" by Robert Dutin. What a handy book. It lists all the breweries in France, which now number a surprising 590.Last time I counted - maybe 5 years ago - there were about half that.

I also pick up a book about WW I.Nice to get a French perspective on the conflict. I've already got one in German.

When I'm all booked up, we go back to our hotel for a rest. I need it. God knows how far we've walked today.

L'Estaminet 't Rijsel
25 Rue de Gand,
59800 Lille.
Tel: +33 3 20 15 01 59

20, rue Saint-Nicolas,
59000 Lille.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

League table of London Pale Ales in the 1920's

I may have processed the final individual Pale Ale, but I'm not quite done. A review of results is in order.

I'll warn you now: it's going to be table overload. I can't help playing around with the numbers and presenting them in different ways. I think we can learn much from them, especially the overall numbers for each type of beer.

The good news is that the majority of average scores per brewery were positive. The two negative average score - for Cannon and Charrington - were only very slightly below zero. I'm not sure how significant it is that both are Ordinary Bitters.

This first table demonstrates one point very clearly: that the beers of each type were very similar in their specifications across the different breweries. The Best Bitters in particular have virtually identical gravities. I think this is partly as a result of the price/gravity controls which were in place in the years after WW I. And also just commercial reality. Because so much of the price was solely the tax, there was little room for flexibility. Tax made up about 40% of the retail price in the 1920s.

Let's start with the league table based on average score. Once again, Whitbread are the champions:

League table of 1920s London Pale Ales by score
Brewery FG OG ABV App. Atten-uation score
Whitbread 1011.3 1046.0 4.51 75.55% 2.25
Truman 1008.0 1047.5 5.14 83.09% 1.62
City of London 1008.7 1045.5 4.79 80.82% 1.00
Huggins 1008.7 1046.0 4.86 81.10% 0.36
Meux 1007.4 1044.8 4.87 83.36% 0.33
Barclay Perkins 1008.7 1045.6 4.81 80.88% 0.25
Wenlock 1006.9 1044.5 4.90 84.56% 0.09
Hoare 1012.1 1046.3 4.44 73.83% 0.00
Lion Brewery 1010.7 1046.5 4.65 77.05% 0.00
Cannon 1009.0 1045.2 4.72 80.06% -0.09
Charrington 1008.7 1048.2 5.14 81.91% -0.09
Average 8d 1009.1 1046.0 4.80 80.20% 0.52
Watney 1011.4 1053.8 5.54 78.90% 2.21
Courage 1012.0 1053.8 5.46 77.93% 1.25
Mann 1008.3 1053.4 5.88 84.44% 0.07
Benskin 1010.1 1053.6 5.68 81.23% 0.00
Average 9d 1010.4 1053.7 5.64 80.63% 0.88
Whitbread Gravity book held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number LMA/4453/D/02/001

I'm struck by the high degree of attenuation. For both Ordinary and Best Bitter it's over 80%.
Overall the standard is pretty high, at least in terms of score. let's see how they do for clarity:

League table of 1920s London Pale Ales by clarity
 Brewery No. examples no. bright % bright no. good flavour % good flavour
Truman 13 11 84.62% 12 92.31%
Whitbread 4 3 75.00% 4 100.00%
Watney 14 9 64.29% 14 100.00%
Wenlock 11 7 63.64% 6 54.55%
Cannon 11 6 54.55% 6 54.55%
Huggins 11 6 54.55% 7 63.64%
Barclay Perkins 12 6 50.00% 7 58.33%
Courage 12 6 50.00% 8 66.67%
Hoare 10 5 50.00% 4 40.00%
Lion Brewery 10 5 50.00% 6 60.00%
Meux 12 5 41.67% 9 75.00%
City of London 13 5 38.46% 10 76.92%
Mann 14 5 35.71% 7 50.00%
Benskin 9 3 33.33% 4 44.44%
Charrington 11 3 27.27% 5 45.45%
Average 167 85 50.90% 109 65.27%
Whitbread Gravity book held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number LMA/4453/D/02/001

Just ever so slightly over half being fully bright is poor. Only Whitbread and Truman scored really well on this point. And as for Charrington - pathetic. Barely a quarter of their samples were clear. You can see that there's not a direct relationship between clarity and flavour quality. City of London is a good example. Not much more than a third clear, but three-quarters with a good flavour. Whoever would have thought I'd be able to check something like this almost 100 years later?

There are some impressive performances in terms of flavour:

League table of 1920s London Pale Ales by % good flavour
 Brewery No. examples no. bright % bright no. good flavour % good flavour
Whitbread 4 3 75.00% 4 100.00%
Watney 14 9 64.29% 14 100.00%
Truman 13 11 84.62% 12 92.31%
City of London 13 5 38.46% 10 76.92%
Meux 12 5 41.67% 9 75.00%
Courage 12 6 50.00% 8 66.67%
Huggins 11 6 54.55% 7 63.64%
Lion Brewery 10 5 50.00% 6 60.00%
Barclay Perkins 12 6 50.00% 7 58.33%
Wenlock 11 7 63.64% 6 54.55%
Cannon 11 6 54.55% 6 54.55%
Mann 14 5 35.71% 7 50.00%
Charrington 11 3 27.27% 5 45.45%
Benskin 9 3 33.33% 4 44.44%
Hoare 10 5 50.00% 4 40.00%
Average 167 85 50.90% 109 65.27%
Whitbread Gravity book held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number LMA/4453/D/02/001

Whitbread, Watney and Truman all do very well, the first two with perfect scores, the other pretty close. I must admit surprise at Charrington's piss poor performance. They're a brewery that had a good reputation, yet they're stumbling along at the bottom end of the tables.

Now it's time to compare the statistics of the beer types we've looked at so far. In all, there are almost 500 samples:

Averages per beer type
beer type No. examples no. bright % bright no. good flavour % good flavour average score
Burton Average 138 61 44.20% 92 66.67% 0.72
Mild Average 188 112 59.57% 112 59.57% 0.16
X Average 170 104 61.18% 106 62.35% 0.23
MA Average 18 8 44.44% 6 33.33% -0.18
PA Average 167 85 50.90% 109 65.27% 0.62
8d PA Average 118 62 52.54% 76 64.41% 0.52
9d PA Average 49 23 46.94% 33 67.35% 0.88
Average 493 258 52.33% 313 63.49% 0.57
Whitbread Gravity book held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number LMA/4453/D/02/001

Burton Ale comes out on top for score. As long as we lump all the Pale Ales together. Split out Best and Ordinary Bitter and Best Bitter wins. Surprisingly, Burton scores worst for clarity. Elsewhere, Mild is bottom for everything. Splitting out X Ale and MA improves things a bit for the former. Other than for clarity, a general rule seems to be the higher the gravity, the better chance of a good pint.

Finally a ranking by brewery. The number is the position in the relevant league table.

Ranking by brewery
Brewery Burton Mild PA Total
Whitbread 1 4 1 6
Watney 8 2 2 12
Courage 2 8 4 14
Mann 3 1 10 14
Truman 9 6 3 18
Wenlock 6 3 9 18
Meux 4 11 7 22
Lion 7 7 12 26
Huggins 11 10 6 27
Hoare 10 9 11 30
Cannon 14 5 14 33
City of London 12 17 5 34
Barclay Perkins 13 15 8 36
Charrington 5 16 15 36

You know what's really spooky about that result? The top five - Whitbread, Watney, Courage, Mann and Truman - were, if I remember correctly, the last five large breweries in London. Most of the bottom half are breweries that disappeared before WW II. With the exception of the two relegation positions. I'm very surprised - and disappointed - to see Barclay Perkins and Charrington propping up the table.

It looks as if, in general, the better the quality of your beer, the better your chances of long-term survival. Either that or the larger the brewery, the better the beer quality.

Finally done with Pale Ale. Next it's the turn of Porter.

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Lille (part two)

We've already got stuff in for breakfast. Cheese, ham, that sort of thing. Bread, too.

It's an aparthotel and we've a pretty complete kitchen. Not that  we're using it for anything more than brewing tea. The hotel offers breakfast for 10 euros but all the reviews say it's crap. It's the internet so it must be true. That's right, isn't it?

We've a plan for the day. A very simple one. This is a low-key holiday, after all. Wander through town up towards the citadel at the north end of the old town.

The weather is cool and very grey, punctuated by occasional drizzle. Perfect, really. Have I mentioned before my hatred of sunshine. It depresses the hell out of me. Unlike a cheering duvet of low cloud.

On our way through the Grand' Place, we glue on noses on the window of bakery Paul. Alongside a pair of Asin tourists who gaze in fascination at the weird forms and textures. Dolores is tempted by the German-looking rye bread and goes inside. But the queue is too long for her and we continue on our way.

I notice that there are several Paul bakeries in town. They seem to be the local equivalent of Greggs*. But ever so slightly more upmarket. Just ever so slightly.

Talking of upmarket, we wander past several dead posh shops on our way through town. Here's a selection of them:

But the further we get towards the back end of town, the more houses like this we come across:

In need of some external work, I'd say.

It's about here where we need to consult a map. We're all disorientated by the crazy street pattern.

"Which way is north, Ronald?"

"We should be able to navigate from the sun."

"Very funny."

My legs are aching by the time we get up to the citadel. It's further than we anticipated.

"Look at the bright side. All this walking should have burned off breakfast." I'm the optimistic type.

You may have noticed from a previous post that I have a thing about WW I memorials. I've found some crackers in small Franconian towns and villages. But I've never come across one like this before. Probably because it's unique:

See what it is? A meomoral to carrier pigeons. Appropriately enough, a pair of the birds are perched atop it.

I can see from the map that the citadel is a typical 17th-century fortification. Low, star-shaped earthworks faced in brick. Dolores is expecting something more visible. It's quite difficult to see any of it for the trees until you get pretty close.

The gullies between the bastions aren't somewhere you'd want to be if the defenders had taken a dislike to you. All sorts of horrible crossfire possibilities.

Louis XIV had this and a series of other forts built across this region after it had been captured by France in the second half of the 17th century. The thing is huge - the circumference is more than 2 kilometres - and is an idication of how important Lille was for the French.

Once we've dodged the zoo we spot the entrance and head for it. Irritatingly, cars keep coming out. Bit strange, that. Once through the first gate, we realise why: this is still an active milatary base. We can get no closer and have to content ourselves with long-distance photos.

It's 11:30. Time to find somewhere for lunch.

* In a British city you're never out of sight of a Greggs. Sometimes you can see two or three.

Boulangerie Paul-Vieille Bourse
8 Rue de Paris
59800 Lille

Friday, 18 July 2014

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Barclay Perkins Bookstore

Whitbread Pale Ale quality 1922

We're finally there. After months of slog across the tundra we've finally arrived at Novosibirsk. Before you know it we'll be in Vladivostok.

Fittingly enough, the last in the list is the brewery responsible for it all, Whitbread. For whose obsessive observation of their rivals' beers I'm eternally grateful. It's given me so much priceless data.

So far Whitbread has been doing pretty well. Did they deliberately seek out pubs where they knew the beer quality was good? Who knows. For that matter, why were they analysing their own beers at all? Were they checking up on their landlords? If that were the case, you'd expect hundreds of samples and that's not the case.

Let's summarise their results so far. Whitbread's Mild came fourth from seventeen with and average score of 0.67. While their Burton Ale came top of fourteen with an average score of 1.33. But there's one huge caveat. There were only three samples of each. Far fewer than for all the other breweries.

On with this beer. It's a 8d/7d Ordinary Bitter and is scarily bang on the average specs of this type. Having access to Whitbread's brewing records, I know a fair bit about it. The recipe is pretty simple: pale malt, PA malt, No. 1 invert sugar, Kent and Oregon hops. Note the lack of crystal malt.

Also worth noting is that Whitbread, unlike many of their London rivals, didn't brew a Best Bitter. This was their strongest Pale Ale. They did have a weaker (1036) bottled beer called IPA, but only one draught Bitter. In fact, their beer range was noticeably narrower than Barclay Perkins'.

Whitbread Pale Ale quality 1922
Year Beer FG OG ABV App. Atten-uation Appearance Flavour score Price
1922 PA 1010.6 1046.1 4.61 77.01% v. grey good 2 8d
1922 PA 1012.3 1046.3 4.41 73.43% bright v. good 3 8d
1922 PA 1012.3 1045.8 4.35 73.14% bright fair 1 8d
1922 PA 1009.8 1045.8 4.68 78.60% bright v good 3 8d
Average  1011.3 1046.0 4.51 75.55% 2.25
Whitbread Gravity book held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number LMA/4453/D/02/001

Whitbread have scored pretty well again, albeit with a dangerous small sample size. Three of four were bright and all had a positive flavour score. See how once again there's no correlation between quality and clarity. A very cloudy beer got a good score. The average score of 2.25 puts them top of the eleven Ordinary Bitters. And also top of the fifteen Bitters of both types, Ordinary and Best.

I'll definitely be seeking out Whitbread houses on my next long weekend in 1920s London.