Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Let's Brew Wednesday - 1950 Adnams PA

The 1950’s – what a wonderful decade. I sort of feel at home there, seeing it’s the era when I was born. Odd thought that.

But the usual images – teddy boys, rock and roll, rising living standards – all come from much later in the decade. The early years were much tougher. Rationing and shortages of almost everything were the order of the day.  Beer output was falling and gravities were only just starting to creep back up a little.

Yet this beer from that time is very recognisable. It looks much like the Ordinary Bitters I remember from my youth. OG of 1036, 3.6% ABV. Glancing at the 1977 Good Beer Guide there are dozens of Bitters with similar gravities. Including Adnams. Their Bitter is listed with exactly the same gravity as this version.

It would be difficult to have a much simpler beer than this: pale malt, No. 1 invert and English hops. It looks to me like a classic drinking Bitter. Especially as it has fairly robust hopping. In short, a beer built for a session. The eight pints in two hours kind of session.

It’s so simple, I'm struggling to think of anything more to say. Other than brew this beer. I’m sure you won’t regret it.

Now over to me . . . . .

1950 Adnams PA
pale malt 7.50 lb 93.75%
no. 1 sugar 0.50 lb 6.25%
Fuggles 90 min 0.75 oz
Goldings 60 min 0.75 oz
Goldings 30 min 0.75 oz
OG 1036
FG 1008.9
ABV 3.59
Apparent attenuation 75.28%
IBU 34
Mash at 149º F
Sparge at 170º F
Boil time 120 minutes
pitching temp 61º F
Yeast WLP025 Southwold

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Georges still

More from the chairman of Georges, speaking at the company’s annual meeting.

Let’s start with an obligatory part of every brewery chairman’s speech: a moan about the level of taxation on beer.

Price of Beer
Successive Chancellors of the Exchequer again and again turned to taxation beer as an easy source revenue. In less than one year, an additional 1d per pint was imposed twice, and there has been only one reduction of 1d per pint in recent years.

In our opinion, not nearly enough, it has proved, to make any real difference. Four and a quarter millions of this reduction had to be found by the wholesale trade. The price of beer to-day is consequently much too high owing to excessive taxation. Materials have also increased in price.”
Western Daily Press - Friday 27 January 1950, page 4.

As we’ve already seen, the tax on beer rose sharply during the war, but continued to rise after its end. It fell a little in 1950 and again in 1951, but remained at the high level of 321s per standard barrel for the rest of the 1950’s. In 1939 it had been 100s (with a 20s rebate per bulk barrel).* And brewers had complained then that it was ridiculously high.

More about the post-war boom in bottled beer:

“Extensions are also being carried out to enlarge the cold rooms in the bottling stores, and also new bottling units are being installed to cope with the ever increasing demand for bottled beer.

The output of bottled beer last month was a record for the brewery, and our weekly sales of bottle beer now exceed the cask.

I should like to emphasise again this year that the duty on beer is much too high, representing as it does nearly 7d on each pint of bitter ale. In the last ten years the duty has increased from 104s to 343s per standard barrel.”
Western Daily Press - Friday 27 January 1950, page 4.

Georges appear to have been doing better than average with their bottled beer. Or worse than average with their cask. Because despite a big increase in the proportion of bottled beer, cask still formed the majority of sales.  Bottled sales had risen from less than 5% of the total in 1900 to 25% in 1939 and 35% in 1954**.

7d of tax a pint is a lot when you consider that the retail price of Georges draught IPA in 1949 was 1s 5d or 17d***. I think he’s underestimating the tax. At 343s 4.5d per standard barrel****, the tax on a beer of the average gravity for 1949 (1033.43) comes to 8.7d*****. Close to 50% of the retail price.

All the shortages and restrictions must have been at best frustrating, at worst quite depressing. Here are some more:

Country Hotels Suffer
Messrs Crockers and our managed houses, of which only have 14, have not done well in recent years. Possibly the Catering and Wages Act, certain clauses of which one reads in the Press, from time to time, may be altered, is largely responsible for this.

The shortage of petrol may also partly responsible, especially in country hotels where there have been in many cases serious decreases in the number of visitors.”
Western Daily Press - Friday 27 January 1950, page 4.

The Catering and Wages Act comes in for a lot of criticism from brewers. It seems to have set some sort of minimum wages. Obviously breweries, who owned lots of pubs, employed, albeit indirectly, lots of people in the catering trade.

I wonder if it was just a shortage of petrol that damaged the trade of country hotels. Or was it because no-one had any spare cash?

This next passage is dead handy. Because it allows me to calculate something.

“The company's licensees are again to heartily congratulated on the efficient way in which they have conducted their houses, during the past 12 months, in spite of many restrictions and difficulties, which seem to increase rather than diminish. It is even more difficult than usual to forecast the future prospects of the company, as in these days of uncertainty much depends on taxation, the cost of living etc. Your directors do not consider that the output can be maintained, much less Increased, unless there is a really substantial reduction in the beer duty, already referred to; last year over £2.5 millions was paid this company in this tax alone

Brewers should allowed produce a beer which is at least 3d per pint cheaper and at the same time be allowed sufficient materials to increase the average gravity.”
Western Daily Press - Friday 27 January 1950, page 4.

That’s quite a depressing message: expect sales to go down, not up. Though the impact would probably also depend on the margins on beer in different types of packaging. If they had a better margin on bottled than cask, overall revenues might have been stable. Unfortunately, I’ve no idea if that was the case.

You can tell he was really unhappy about the high beer tax. That’s the third or fourth time he’s mentioned it. I’m really glad he mentioned how much tax they’d paid in 1949. It allows me to calculate how many barrels they brewed. The calculation is slightly complicated by the fact that the tax rose halfway through Georges financial year, in April 1949. Assuming half at each rate and that their average OG was the same as the national one, I make it 232,664 bulk barrels. To put that into context, it’s 0.86% of the 26,990,144 barrels brewed in the UK in 1949******.

That's me done with Georges. I'll have to look for some more annual meeting reports. I love me a whingeing chairman.

* Brewers' Almanack 1955, p. 50 and Brewers' Almanack 1962, p. 48.
** "Brewing Theory and Practice" by E. J. Jeffery, 1956, page 330.
*** Whitbread Gravity book held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number LMA/4453/D/02/001.
**** Finance Act 1949.
***** Brewers' Almanack 1955, p. 50.
****** Brewers' Almanack 1955, p. 50.

Monday, 27 July 2015

Adnams LA and LBA 1947 - 1959

Yes, I am doing Adnams Pally Allies. I know I promised them. Sort of. And I almost occasionally come through with my promises.

Throughout most of this period Adnams only brewed one Pale Ale, with the imaginative brew house name of PA. Wonder how they came up with that one? In 1947 they briefly brewed something called LA (presumably standing for Light Ale). Though as it looks much like the PA, I don’t really think it was a different beer.

In the last four years we’re covering there was something called LBA (Light Bitter Ale) which had a gravity a few points lower than PA. There’s such a small difference it hardly seems worth it. Though British brewers are still wont to brew multiple Bitters with tiny differences in gravity.

It would be nice to know in which form LBA was sold. It could have been a draught beer but my money would be on it being a bottled-only beer sold as Light Ale. For a beer of such modest gravity, a pound of hops per barrel is quite a lot. The attenuation isn’t great for most examples of LBA: under 70%. Which leaves it under 3% ABV. You weren’t going to get very pissed in a session on that.

Moving on to the grist, it’s pretty simple: pale malt and sugar. Except for in 1947 when there’s a little flaked barley. That’s a hangover from the war years when brewers were forced to use some flaked barley by the government. The reason was a very basic one. Flaking required less energy than malting. I’m not sure what Hydrol is. It could possibly be a form of glucose.

There’s very little to say about the hops, other than that they’re almost all English. The logs give no indication of the variety, or even the region in which they were grown.

Adnams LA/LBA 1945 - 1959
Date Year OG FG ABV App. Atten-uation lbs hops/ qtr hops lb/brl boil time (hours) boil time (hours)
3rd Jun 1947 1034.0 1008.3 3.40 75.56% 7.58 1.00 2
7th Sep 1956 1031.0 1010.5 2.71 66.05% 8.00 1.02 2
1st Aug 1957 1032.0 1010.0 2.91 68.84% 8.00 1.00 2
10th Jan 1958 1032.0 1008.3 3.13 74.03% 7.47 0.98 2
2nd Dec 1959 1031.0 1009.4 2.86 69.62% 7.82 1.01 1.58 1.5
Adnams brewing records held at the brewery.

Adnams LA/LBA grists 1945 - 1959
Date Year OG pale malt PA malt flaked barley no. 1 sugar Hydrol hops
3rd Jun 1947 1034.0 87.27% 5.45% 7.27% English
7th Sep 1956 1031.0 89.19% 10.81% English
1st Aug 1957 1032.0 89.19% 5.41% 5.41% English
10th Jan 1958 1032.0 85.71% 9.52% 4.76% English
2nd Dec 1959 1031.0 85.07% 8.96% 5.97% English, Styrian
Adnams brewing records held at the brewery.

PA next. I had intended including it here but ran into arsing issues.

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Dutch Lager Styles 1870 - 1960 (part six)

Heineken’s wholesale prices  1904 – 1911
That wasn’t Heineken’s complete range of beers. It looks as if there were some beers which were only produced in Amsterdam: Gerste, Münchener and Export.

Heineken wholesale prices 1904 - 1914
beer type cents per litre
Gerstebier 8
Lager 8
Rotterdamsche Gerste 11
Münchener 14
Export 14
Beiersch (donker) 13
Pilsner (licht) 13
Bock 15
1904-1914 - "Korte Geschiedenis der Heineken's Bierbouwerij Maatschappij N.V. 1873 - 1948" (p.218)

My guess would be that the Gerste was a lower gravity version of the Gerste brewed in Rotterdam, that is a dark, bottom-fermenting beer which wasn’t lagered. Export must be a type of Dortmunder, with a gravity of around 14º Plato. Münchener I suppose was a stronger version of Beiersch, again with a gravity of around 14º Plato.

Comparative prices in 1911

In this 1911 pricelist, you can see the relative prices of different types of Lager:

Price relative to ABV
Beer ABV price per bottle cents per 1% ABV % cheaper than Pils
Gerste 3.7 11 2.97 26.14%
Lager 3.4 9 2.65 41.67%
Pils 4.8 18 3.75
Advert in Rotterdamsch Nieuwsblad, 16th September 1911, page 4.

Rotterdamsch Nieuwsblad, 16th September 1911, page 4.

Pilsener was, relative to its alcoholic strength, the worst value for money, as this table demonstrates:

Pils was 26% more expensive per unit of alcohol.

Saturday, 25 July 2015

Thuringia in the DDR

I came across a dozen printed pages yesterday. One of the first thing I wrote about beer. Way back in 1990.

Never been published before. Not much point publishing it now, as it's a guide to beer in Thuringia in 1990. I suppose it has some historic value, as it records an odd time. When the wall was down, but the DDR was still an independent country.

And it's a few easy blog posts. No need to think up lorts of new words. I've regretted my commitment to post daily since, er, just about since I made it. I'll be able to spin at least half a dozen posts out of this old crap. Sorry, classic, rediscovered early writings.

Let me know what you think of it.

"Thuringia in the DDR
Thuringia, which now forms the southwestern corner of the DDR, consists, approximately, of the 'bezirk' of Suhl, Erfurt and Gera. Its landscape is dominated by rolling hills and forests, still containing much wildlife, which contrast sharply with the grim, industrial image of the DDR. The Thuringer Wald in the south is an area of particular natural beauty. Only the northeast, in the region of Jena and Gera, is spoilt by the more obtrusive presence of industry. The countryside is dotted with villages of ancient half-timbered houses, seemingly almost untouched by the 20th century. For the most part these are still real living communities rather than groups of city commuters trying to rediscover rural life. Consequently most villages still have a baker's, butcher's and, of course, a pub.

From 1920 to 1952 Thuringia was a 'land' or state (and should be again as of late 1990 when the DDR becomes a federal state) with its capital in Weimar, then later in Erfurt. There are many other attractive towns, some unfortunately wearing their age badly, and most of any reasonable size have a brewery.

Thuringia has a long history as a brewing centre and still boasts one of the largest concentrations of the country's 250 or so breweries. Unsurprising, given that Franconia, with the greatest density of breweries in the world, is just over the border in the Federal Republic. The beers from any given brewery beers are usually only sold in the local area. This admirably decentralised approach does however have the disadvantage that, in any given town, 90% of the pubs seH the same beer. An exception to this are the 'spezial' or 'delikat' beers from certain breweries (such as Apolda or Braugold), which are sold as premium products and tend to be found in posher outlets all over Thuringia. An interesting development as a result of the border being opened, is the appearance, albeit at treble the price of the local stuff, of West German beer in both shops and pubs. A disadvantage of the open border is that you may be competing for pub space with crowds of W. Germans attracted by the, for them, laughably low prices in the DDR."

As I said earlier, there's a lot more of this.

Bottled Stout in the 1950’s – Strong Stout

This is the first of many posts about bottled Stout in the 1950’s. I hope you can contain your excitement.

To make things more manageable, I’ve created my own categories based on gravity and degree of attenuation. Pretty arbitrary, I’ll admit. But this is my party and I can do what I like. Including crying. And making up styles when I feel like it.

The biggest surprise is how many strong Stouts were still knocking around after WW II. There are six different brands with gravities over 1070. Kicking off with the granddaddy of them all, Barclay’s Russian Stout. Which had returned to its classic 1100 OG. In the early 1950’s it’s the only beer I can think of which still retained its 19th-century strength. Hang on. That 1958 Guinness FES is another.

The Bass and Worthington examples are obviously the same beer: P2. Just as Bass Red Triangle and Worthington White Shield were the same beer. I’m not sure why they insisted on keeping both brands long after the beers had become the same. Something similar was going on at Watney, where they were still branding Stouts as Reid when the brewery had been closed for half a century.

Royal Jubilee Stout played a key role in the merger mania of the 1950’s. Hope & Anchor of Sheffield wanted to sell it in Canada and struck a deal whereby they brewed Canadian Black Label Lager under licence in return. This drew the UK market to the attention of Eddie Taylor, owner of the Black Label brand. He’d been successful in merging brewing operations in Canada and saw an opportunity to do the same in Britain.

During the 1950’s Taylor built the UK’s largest brewing group, United Breweries, which eventually became Bass Charrington. Other large brewers didn’t want to get left behind and went on a takeover spree, too. By 1970, British brewing was dominated by 7 large groups: Allied breweries, Bass Charrington. Courage, Scottish & Newcastle, Watney and Whitbread. And Guinness, of course.

You’ll note that most of the stronger examples in the table have pretty decent attenuation.  I suppose you could say, in the case of Russian Stout, by cheating. With a secondary Brettanomyces fermentation measured in years, it was always going to be a dry beer. The same is probably true of Guinness FES, which I still believe was at least partially aged in vats.

I struck by how good value Russian Stout was. It’s the same price – 45d per pint – as the Bass, Murray and Castletown Stouts which are all much weaker. If you think that it took more than two years from mash tun to glass, that’s impressive.

Considering that I used attenuation as a criterion for selection, I’m surprised that there’s a Milk Stout and  a Sweet Stout in this set. The names allocated to Stouts in the 1950’s do show a trend towards sweetness. Things like Glucose Stout or – a real favourite this one – Nourishing Stout.

One last point. None of these even vaguely resembles the very sweet, low ABV beers British Stouts were supposed to have become around 1900, if you’d believe many beer historians.

Bottled Stout in the 1950's - Strong Stouts >65% attenuation
Year Brewer Beer Price size Acidity OG FG ABV App. Atten-uation colour
1953 Barclay Perkins Russian Stout 22.5d half pint 0.08 1101 1018 10.97 82.18% 1 + 25
1950 Barclay Perkins Russian Imperial Stout 22.5d half pint 0.11 1100.1 1021.1 10.41 78.92% 1 + 19
1955 Bass Imperial Stout 0.34 1078.8 1018.4 7.90 76.65% 375
1955 Worthington Imperial Stout 0.17 1078.2 1017.3 7.97 77.88% 325
1953 Bass Imperial Stout 15d nip 0.08 1078.2 1025.1 6.90 67.90% 1 + 20
1953 Samuel Smith Sam's Extra Stout 1/2d half pint 0.06 1077.8 1020 7.54 74.29% 1 + 13
1958 Guinness Foreign Extra Stout half pint 0.12 1074.4 1015.9 7.65 78.63% 250
1950 Watney Reids Stout 0.10 1072.9 1021 6.75 71.19% 1 + 14.5
1955 Watney Reids Stout 0.05 1072.1 1018 7.06 75.03% 325
1955 Guinness Export Stout half pint 0.04 1071.4 1013.3 7.61 81.37% 175
1950 Unknown Imperial Stout 0.16 1066.8 1017 6.49 74.55% 1 + 19
1955 Murray W Export Stout 1/3d nip 0.05 1064.6 1015.8 6.36 75.54% 350
1953 Castletown Manx Maid Stout 1/3d nip 0.06 1064.1 1022.3 5.41 65.21% 1 + 18
1950 Tennent Milk Stout (Export) half pint 0.16 1063.2 1020 5.60 68.35% 1 + 17
1955 Castletown Manx Oyster Stout 0.05 1063 1013 6.53 79.37% 250
1955 Hope & Anchor Royal Jubilee Stout half pint 0.06 1059.5 1019.9 5.13 66.55% 325
1953 Brickwoods Black Bricky 1/- nip 0.06 1054.8 1015.5 5.10 71.72% 1 + 11
1953 Young & Co No. 1 Stout 11d nip 0.07 1052.1 1016.3 4.64 68.71% 1 + 69
1956 Hammonds Senior Sovereign Sweet Stout 1/3.5d half pint 0.06 1050.4 1016.2 4.43 67.86% 300
Whitbread Gravity book held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number LMA/4453/D/02/001.

Let’s move on to the second set. More than half of the examples are only just below my arbitrary ceiling for this group. One, Bass Imperial Stout, also appears in the other table. Of the five examples with attenuation below 60%, it’s significant that two are Scottish. Scottish Stout genuinely seems to have gone mostly sweet quite early. From what I’ve seen in brewing records the trend started in the 19th century.

Archangel Stout must have been an interesting drink. With an FG of over 1040º - that’s higher than the OG of many Stouts – it must have been quite treacly. Which is just how an Arctic Ale is supposed to be.

Would you be allowed to call a beer Export Vitamin Stout today? I doubt it. They probably wouldn’t even let Nourishing or Invalid Stout pass, the miserable bastards.

Notice how few beers there are in this group. You could argue there are only really five. Which is all there would be left if I shifted the boundary from 65% to 63% attenuation.

Bottled Stout in the 1950's - Strong Stouts <65% attenuation
Year Brewer Beer Price size Acidity OG FG ABV App. Atten-uation colour
1953 Simonds Archangel Stout 16.5d nip 0.05 1084.6 1041.2 5.57 51.30% 1 + 10
1956 Bass Imperial Stout 18d nip 0.06 1077.5 1027.9 6.43 64.00% 350
1950 Calder Alloa Milk Stout 0.07 1069.3 1029.7 5.10 57.14% 1 + 14 B
1958 Hope Brewery Export Vitamin Stout 15d nip 0.06 1066.2 1024.2 5.25 63.44% 300
1956 Steward & Patteson Stout 1/3d nip 0.05 1064.6 1027.4 4.79 57.59% 350
1953 Steward & Patteson Double Stout 1/2d nip 0.08 1063.8 1031.4 4.16 50.78% 1 + 31.5
1955 Truman Stout 0.06 1062 1022 5.18 64.52% 225
1957 Tennent ???? Brand Stout half pint 0.06 1059.4 1020.8 4.99 64.98% 300
1953 Bellhaven Heavy Stout 1/3d nip 0.05 1059 1029.6 3.77 49.83% 1 + 16
1956 Whitbread EMS half pint 0.06 1056.7 1020.3 4.71 64.20% 325
1956 Atkinsons Double Punch Stout 1/3.5d half pint 0.05 1051.8 1018.9 4.25 63.51% 500
Whitbread Gravity book held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number LMA/4453/D/02/001.

We’ll be looking at some weaker Stouts next time.

Friday, 24 July 2015

Georges again

Time to return to Georges of Bristol to hear some more from their chairman.

First a little about the brewery’s history. Founded in 1730, it was registered as a limited company in 1888. Courage bought it up in 1961 with 1,459 tied houses. That number of pubs means it must have been one of the largest regional breweries. It closed in 1999, more than a decade and a half after Horsleydown, the original Courage brewery*.

I drank their beer many times when I lived in London. After the closure of Horsleydown it was the source of Courage Best and Directors. They were OK, if nothing special, I recall. I had a few pints of Best a couple of years ago in Folkestone. Presumably brewed by Charles Wells. It was much the same: alright, but unspectacular.

The war years saw breweries starved of investment. Meaning considerable sums needed to be invested after war’s end, if a company wanted to have their brewery up to scratch:

“During the past two years over £261,000 has been expended on additions to fixed assets.

Of this sum £132,000 represents purchases of valuable licensed houses when opportunities arose. The balance consists of expenditure incurred additions to and modernisation of the brewery and plant particularly to deal economically with the very large increase in output of bottled beers.

Substantial further outlay will be necessary over the next few years to complete this programme in respect of which contracts had been placed September 30, 1949, amounting to £90,000 approximately. “
Western Daily Press - Friday 27 January 1950, page 4.

£132,000 would have been a decent number of pubs – several dozen. You need to remember that for most breweries the only realistic way of boosting output was to control more pubs. The vast majority of beer was drunk in pubs and there were very limited free trade opportunities.

And here’s the recurring theme of a surge in bottled beer sales. Bottling requires far more machinery than merely racking into barrels. Investment in new plant would have been needed to keep up with demand.

Progress in Repairs
Capital expenditure will also be required to meet the cost of building licensed premises on the Corporation new housing estates. We are pleased to report that negotiations with the planning authorities connection with this matter are proceeding on a satisfactory basis, as stockholders will no doubt have noticed In the Press.

Considerable progress has been made in carrying out repairs which had been deferred on account of war conditions. A survey of outstanding repairs of this nature has been made. In the absence of a further rise in costs it is estimated that the provision made in this year's accounts will be sufficient to cover work still to done.”
Western Daily Press - Friday 27 January 1950, page 4.

In an attempt to fill the housing shortage whole new suburbs, or even complete new towns were built after the war. These were a great opportunity for brewers, offering them the chance to build a large, modern pub in an area with little competition.

Civilian building work came to pretty much a complete stop during the war. Ad in addition to routine maintenance work that had been delayed, many pubs were affected by bombing. George, based in a major port would have had more than their share of pubs damage or even destroyed by German bombs.

I’ll finish with some of Georges beers from the 1950’s:

Georges beers 1949 - 1960
Year Beer Style Price per pint d package OG FG ABV App. Atten-uation colour
1949 IPA IPA 17 draught 1037.1 1008.9 3.66 76.01% 29 B
1952 Home Brew Home Brewed 22 bottled 1043.3 1009.9 4.34 77.14% 1.5 + 40
1953 Glucose Stout Stout 28 bottled 1045.5 1017.6 3.60 61.32% 1 + 11
1954 Barley Wine Barley Wine 40 bottled 1078.2 1026 6.78 66.75% 95
1956 Brown Ale Brown Ale 24 bottled 1035.2 1010.8 3.16 69.32% 90
1958 Glucose Stout Stout 30 bottled 1045.3 1019.3 3.25 57.40% 225
1959 Glucose Stout Stout 28 bottled 1045 1018.7 3.39 58.44% 225
1959 Light Ale Light Ale 24 bottled 1033 1008.7 3.15 73.64% 18
1960 Export Port Ale Pale Ale 30 bottled 1043.4 1012.8 3.83 70.51% 18
Whitbread Gravity book held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number LMA/4453/D/02/001.

The chairman hasn't finished speaking yet.

* “Century of British Brewers plus” by Norman Barber, 2005, page 118.