Friday, 29 May 2015

Hops yesterday, today and tomorrow (part two)

We’re back with hops in the 1950’s. I thought you’d be pleased. We’ll be finishing this article today. But luckily I’ve others. Ones about new hop varieties being tried out in the 1950’s. It’s really fun stuff.

But the first the future of hops as envisaged 60 years ago.

“To summarize then, for the future, progressive growers will plant gardens with disease-free stocks, tolerant of Verticillium wilt, true to type, of New Variety hops, high cropping, high in a acids, possibly triploid, with a range of ripening times, good for machine picking and acceptable to brewers as substitutes for Fuggles or Goldings. They will grow them with high wirework, to give crops easy to pick by machine, use modern machinery for cultivation, soil systemic insecticides and low volume sprays for fungicide control, will pick by machine and dry on continuous or high-efficiency batch driers, and will finally pack into high density ballots.”
Journal of the Institute of Brewing, Vol. 65, 1959, page 470.

Has all that come about? Pretty sure there are still lots of Goldings and Fuggles grown. And rather than growing hops taller, the recent trend has been for dwarf varieties. And, of course, the area where hops are grown has shrunk dramatically.

Now here’s the problem with growing hops – they’ve only really one use:

These two are so bound up that they must be considered together. The tragedy of the hop is that it has but one application—Beer. There appears to be no other substantial use for hops (there are small outlets for bakery, and pharmaceutical purposes and for insomnia), and the vast bulk of all hops in the world is used for beer. There is no use for the stripped bine except as fertilizer, which is also the fate, with the deep-litter hen house, of surplus or low-quality unmarketable hops. It is this lack of alternative uses which has always made the hop market so very sensitive. If there is only a slight shortage, as in 1956 and 1957, world prices soar, while with heavy crops, as in 1958, prices slump. Usage is, therefore, governed partly by availability and price and partly by public taste.”
Journal of the Institute of Brewing, Vol. 65, 1959, page 470.

Though if you look at British hop production and prices after 1934 they show a remarkable stability. Presumably because of the action of the Joint Brewers-Growers Committee, which fixed prices.

Throughout the first half of the 20th century there was a steady fall in average hopping rates:

Fig. 3.—Hop rates in U.S.A., United Kingdom and the World, 1902-1958.

“The graph. (Fig. 3) shows the steady downward trend in hop rates, conditioned by taxation and public taste. The United Kingdom hop rate is still well in the lead, and it seems to have steadied at around 1 lb. per brl. American rates are low and falling steadily by about 4% per annum. Fluctuations within the general trend have been caused by real shortages—as in the war—or by a desire to conserve stocks as in 1956-57. Traditionally, most brewers like to hold 6 months' stock or more - before the war some held up to 2 years! - and would reduce their hopping if there appeared any likelihood of having to use new hops before Christmas. It is probable with the present cost of money and storage we should all aim to carry lower stocks down to 2-3 months at the end of September. The hops will suffer much less deterioration of resins or oils, and any fears of rank flavour should be overcome by adjusting the hop rate to take account of the humulone content.”
Journal of the Institute of Brewing, Vol. 65, 1959, pages 470 - 471.

British brewers had this thing about not using the season’s hops immediately. Not sure why that was. They were a funny bunch brewers. They had their own ideas about how to do stuff. Two years’ worth of hops is a lot. Understandable when the price of hops could vary so much from year to year. But that was no longer the case after 1934, when prices were fixed.

My guess is that US hopping levels continued to fall at a similar rate until very recently. Hang on, I’ve no reason to guess, as I have the numbers.

Here you go:

Hopping rate in the USA 1945 - 2012
1945 86,604,080 37,085,950 0.43 0.60
1946 84,977,700 37,555,031 0.44 0.61
1947 87,856,902 40,506,913 0.46 0.64
1948 91,291,219 41,576,128 0.46 0.64
1949 89,735,647 39,629,621 0.44 0.61
1950 88,807,075 37,889,576 0.43 0.60
1951 88,976,226 36,231,622 0.41 0.57
1952 89,600,916 35,233,507 0.39 0.54
1953 90,433,832 34,944,509 0.39 0.54
1954 92,561,067 35,127,350 0.38 0.53
1955 89,791,154 33,736,717 0.38 0.53
1956 90,697,911 32,938,442 0.36 0.50
1957 89,881,935 31,732,968 0.35 0.49
1958 89,010,812 30,419,008 0.34 0.47
1959 90,973,768 29,642,566 0.33 0.46
1960 94,547,867 30,825,243 0.33 0.46
1961 93,496,452 29,473,204 0.32 0.45
1962 96,417,543 29,896,445 0.31 0.43
1963 97,961,421 30,343,524 0.31 0.43
1964 103,017,915 30,446,822 0.3 0.42
1965 108,015,217 31,562,258 0.29 0.40
1966 109,736,341 31,054,401 0.28 0.39
1967 116,564,350 30,744,728 0.26 0.36
1968 117,523,511 29,231,847 0.25 0.35
1969 122,657,497 28,719,722 0.23 0.32
1970 134,653,881 38,195,191 0.23 0.32
1971 134,091,661 32,135,040 0.24 0.33
1972 140,326,680 33,467,886 0.24 0.33
1973 143,013,573 34,523,123 0.24 0.33
1974 153,053,027 36,777,733 0.24 0.33
1975 157,870,017 35,532,533 0.21 0.29
1976 160,663,276 33,033,645 0.21 0.29
1977 172,228,595 34,554,633 0.20 0.28
1978 171,639,479 36,208,645 0.21 0.29
1979 183,515,187 39,453,588 0.21 0.29
1980 188,373,657 42,212,542 0.22 0.31
1981 194,542,022 43,648,980 0.22 0.31
1982 193,984,371 41,952,844 0.22 0.31
1983 195,664,107 40,534,178 0.21 0.29
1984 193,416,051 44,053,897 0.23 0.32
1985 193,794,790 41,256,105 0.21 0.29
1986 193,988,955 40,313,730 0.21 0.29
1987 196,168,815 44,500,607 0.23 0.32
1988 197,381,834 46,328,359 0.23 0.32
1989 197,480,115 42,751,104 0.22 0.31
1990 201,690,728 44,215,816 0.22 0.31
1991 203,706,789 46,098,849 0.23 0.32
1992 201,394,757 44,347,197 0.22 0.31
1993r 202,276,650 43,323,569 0.21 0.29
1994 202,803,972 43,378,074 0.21 0.29
1995 199,215,197 33,962,792 0.17 0.24
1996 201,050,049 37,997,546 0.19 0.26
1997 198,904,373 31,570,175 0.16 0.22
1998 198,130,339 25,760,469 0.13 0.18
1999 198,251,742 29,226,416 0.15 0.21
2000 199,173,709 25,688,783 0.13 0.18
2001 199,332,251 26,009,711 0.13 0.18
2002 198,089,983 27,670,437 0.14 0.19
2003 194,812,010 23,996,000 0.12 0.17
2004 198,114,650 24,429,671 0.12 0.17
2005 197,252,016 26,634,298 0.14 0.19
2006 197,696,158 37,935,414 0.19 0.27
2007 198,464,270 53,708,315 0.27 0.38
2008 196,538,396 54,977,994 0.28 0.39
2009 196,810,099 61,836,364 0.31 0.44
2010 195,143,831 90,902,672 0.47 0.65
2011 192,718,037 107,726,628 0.56 0.78
2012 195,739,089 119,240,171 0.61 0.85
Various editions of the "The Brewers Almanac"

I’d expected hopping rates to have bounced back a bit in recent years, but not by that much. Between 2006 and 2012 the rate trebled. If that trend continues there could be a real shortage of hops in a few years.

There’s still a fair bit more of this to come.

Thursday, 28 May 2015

Beer, scientifically and socially considered (part five)

We’re still looking at the muck put into beer in the 1870’s.

Not just that: we’ll also be finding out why beer was so full of crap and why the British were drunkards.

The author seems to be a big fan of Allsopp. I suspect he would have been enraged by the way Watney used returned beer in the 1950’s:

“The necessity for all this doctoring has already been touched upon, but it may well explain its cause more fully. At Allsopps’ and other large Burton breweries (and no doubt in many smaller respectable country breweries) the capital embarked in the trade is large enough to admit of the beer being perfectly fermented and freed from impurities or substances likely to cause acetification ; the beautiful system employed by Messrs. Allsopp for that purpose has been described. But many brewers really sell their beer, not at the brewery, but in their own public-houses, and they have not sufficient capital (or it may be they are too anxious to make money) to give their products sufficient time become fit for consumption. The beer is sometimes drawn off from the fermenting vats into the barrels in which it is to be sent out, with the bung holes open for the escape of superfluous yeast; as little time as possible is given for it to “fine,” and it is sent out to the public-house with orders to return any that is unconsumed when it begins to turn sour. I do not pretend to be initiated into the mysteries of “brewers’ druggists' laboratories,” nor the secrets of those who employ their fraudulent compounds ; but certain it is, that carbonate of soda is used to neutralise the acidity of the spoiled beer, and various drugs and chemicals are then added to impart to it artificial flavour and counteract the alkaline taste, until, Mr. Tate remarks, it is “difficult to imagine how any persons can be found to drink such vile stuff.” But when we remember that three-fourths of the persons who do drink it are drunk already, the mystery is solved. Not only are the lower kinds of beer thus doctored, but they are often mixed with Allsopps’, Bass's, and other fine ales, so that it is in the interest of those firms not only to suppress adulteration, but to do their best to assist in providing the humbler classes with a cheap pure beverage, which it will not pay the vendors to sophisticate. So far, repressive legislation has been a dead letter; we hear now and then of the Act of Victoria 23 and 24 c. 84, being put in force to prevent the sale of grossly adulterated food, or tea; but although brewers will tell us that the Excise would punish adulteration severely, I do not recollect ever having noticed a prosecution. Public analysts may be appointed under this Act and it is to hoped that the time is not far distant when this course will be adopted, and the doctoring of what is really the staple beverage of our people may be reduced to a minimum, if not entirely prevented.”
Liverpool Daily Post - Tuesday 05 July 1870, page 6.

Sounds like breweries were sending out beer without properly cleansing it. Did that really go on? And if it did, how common was it? The author implies breweries like Allsopp were the exception rather than the rule. Though what I’ve seen in London brewing records tells me the large brewers in the capital were finishing their fermentations properly.

Taking back beer that was going off, then doctoring up for sale again – isn’t that exactly what Watney did with all the returns they used in their bottled beer? Seems like they were continuing a long and ignoble tradition.

That’s a great explanation of why people would drink vile doctored beer: they were already drunk. Does that mean that they started off on decent beer and switched to crap after a gallon or so?

I’ve seen details of prosecutions for adulteration from earlier in the century, so prosecutions did occur. Though admittedly the prosecutions were motivated by the excise worrying about brewers and publicans dodging tax rather than poisoning their customers. I believe public analysts were eventually appointed who working wonders in cleaning up food in the last couple of decades of the 19th century.

There’s a very simple explanation for why the British were pissheads: their beer was stronger than elsewhere:

“But we have another question consider in connection with the effects of beer upon our population, and that is its real or reputed strength. For this purpose I have compiled the following table, partly from the Dictionary articles referred to, and partly from analyses made for me by chemical friends ;

percentage of
Name of Beer Alcohol. Malt Extract Carbonic Acid. Water.
Strong Scotch Ale 8.5 10.9 0.15 80.45
Burton Ale 5.9 14.5 .. 79.6
Barclay's London Porter 5.4 6 0.16 88.44
Dreher’s Vienna Beer*** 4.62 ..  ..  .. 
Low Brussels Beer (Faro) 4.9 2.9 0.2 92.9
Bavarian Draught Beer 3.8 5.8 0.14 90.26
Sweet Bohemian Beer (Prague) 3.9 10.9 .. 85.2
Liverpool Doctored Beer (Mr. Tate’s test) 2.2 .. .. ..
Berlin White Beer  1.9 5.7 0.6 91.8
Sweet Brunswick Beer (Mum) 1.9 45 ..  53.1

A glance this table and moment's reflection will show why English beer-drinkers are often drunkards, whilst Germans, who indulge in a similar beverage to the same extent, are comparatively sober. It may be safely said that the percentage of alcohol in German beer is on the average half as great as in the English, so that where an Englishman drinks a pint, a German may partake of a quart; but when we look at the character of the beer drunk by the intemperate classes in England, and compare it with that of the poorer people abroad, we may unhesitatingly assert that less injury would arise from drinking half a-gallon of German beer than from a pint of English ale. And again, when we compare the Berlin “Weissbier,” which contains 1.9 per cent. of alcohol, with the lowest Liverpool beer, which Mr. Tate found to contain only 2.2 per cent., and consider that whilst the Prussian artisan may imbibe his beverage all day long from quart tankards with impunity, an English labourer will succumb to a few glasses of the public-house trash ; what other inference can be drawn than that it is not the beer but the drugs it contains which affect the brain? I have been told that English labourers will not take kindly to German beer; it is not strong enough for them. This is quite true of the present generation ; how should it be otherwise, when their taste has been corrupted by cocculus indicus, tobacco, and salt? But unless the advocates of temperance strenuously support the introduction of mild, pure, cheap drink (for the Englishman not alone buys bad beer, but pays three or four, aye some cases five or six times as much for it as the German does for his unadulterated beverage), unless, I say, vigorous effort is made to change the taste of the next generation as it grows up, the same difficulty will still remain to be overcome by posterity.
*** For this test I am indebted, through the kindness of Dr. Frankland, to Mr. W. Valentin, of the Royal College of Chemistry. ”
Liverpool Daily Post - Tuesday 05 July 1870, page 6.

My big question is this: is that ABW or ABV? From the Continental beers I’d guess ABW. But I have Barclay Perkins brewing records from the late 1860’s and they show their Porter as being around 5.4% ABV. What the author forgets to mention is that the Weissbier drinker of Berlin may well have been knocking back spirits along with his beer.

But the main point is certainly true: British beer was on average a good bit stronger than that brewed elsewhere.

The author’s answer to Britain’s drunkenness? Drink Mild! (Sort of.)

“Couple this experience with the fact that the Germans drink certainly as much, if not more beer than we do, and are sober, whilst we are, perhaps, the most drunken nation on the earth, and I conceive no one will dispute the proposition so often advanced by me, that claret and light Continental wines are slowly reforming our middle classes, so will it be necessary to introduce mild, pure beer as staple drink, in order to attain the same end amongst the labouring population. Until that is done, I am convinced that not all the efforts of temperance advocates (whose self-denial every one must admire and respect), neither lectures, tea-meetings, denunciation, nor repressive legislation, will avail anything beyond saving here and there a drowning wretch from the flood poisoned liquor with which our large towns are deluged ; but such change as I have suggested being accomplished, I believe that, with the spread of education, and the introduction of more rational amusements than those now offered to the humbler classes, repressive legislation will be no longer needed ; the ranks of our criminals, paupers, and lunatics will be thinned, and is to be hoped the foulest blot will in time be removed from our national escutcheon.”
Liverpool Daily Post - Tuesday 05 July 1870, page 6.

Rational amusements. What would they be? Footie? Criminals, paupers, and lunatics – which of those groups is the most aspirational, do you think? I’d go for criminal, I reckon. Lunacy and poverty don’t look that attractive.

And with that we’re finally done. Now there’s a relief.

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Me in Brussels

Yes, I've got yet another gig. This time in Brussels. This Saturday (30th May) in Elzenhof at 9 PM.

I'll be talking about the history of British beer styles and, of course, be signing my wonderful book.

The Home Brewer's Guide to Vintage Beer 

Let's Brew Wednesday - 1952 Strong XXX Mild

The final Mild recipe for May is one of mine. From one of the many breweries gobbled up and spat out by Whitbread. Good news for me, because Whitbread were very good at preserving the brewing records of the breweries they bought.

I could have drunk Strong’s beers as they didn’t close until 1981. Except I’ve never been to that bit of the country (Hampshire) and Strong’s beers never travelled far. Whitbread had bought them in 1965, along with 950 pubs.*  They were still brewing a cask Mild at time of closure. It was probably the descendant of this beer, though the gravity was a little lower.

Speaking of which, 1033.5 is a little high for a 1950’s Mild gravity. I’ve just averaged the OG for the hundred Milds I have from the period and it came to 1032.5. What does that tell us? What I already knew. That British beer strength haven’t changed much in the last 60 years. At least not the established, traditional styles.

The recipe itself is unspectacular: base malt and sugar. No maize and no slops in this one.  Note the complete lack of dark malts despite the reasonably dark shade of the finished beer. The colour all comes from the No. 3 invert and caramel colouring.

I realise that back in my home brewing days I got Mild recipes totally wrong, using black or chocolate malt for the colour. I now realise few Milds were ever brewed that way. Had Dark Mild developed a couple of decades earlier, that might not have been the case. Then again, it’s probably only because simple ways of obtaining were available after 1880 when the use of sugar exploded. It had been legal in beer since 1847, but the Free Mash Tun Act of 1880 seems to have boosted sugar use. Especially specialist brewing sugars.

The hops are a total guess. But, knowing as I now do that 75% of the British crop was Fuggles in the early 1950’s, it seems a reasonable assumption. Especially as most of the other 25% consisted of Golding types. And you wouldn’t usually throw Goldings into Mild. You’d save those for classier, more hop-focused beers like Bitter.

I like the fact that there’s a full fermentation record in Strong’s logs. Which means that not only am I pretty confident about the FG, I also know that Strong used the dropping system. The fermenting beer was dropped 2 days into a 7 day primary.

Right that’s me done. I need to write a stack of posts to cover my California trip.

1952 Strong XXX Mild
MA malt 3.75 lb 57.69%
PA malt 1.25 lb 19.23%
no. 3 sugar 0.50 lb 7.69%
candy sugar 0.75 lb 11.54%
malt extract 0.25 lb 3.85%
Fuggles 90 min 0.75 oz
Fuggles 30 min 0.75 oz
OG 1033.5
FG 1007
ABV 3.51
Apparent attenuation 79.10%
IBU 21
SRM 23
Mash at 151º F
Sparge at 160º F
Boil time 90 minutes
pitching temp 61º F
Yeast WLP007 Dry English Ale

*“The Brewing Industry a Guide to Historical Records” by Lesley Richmond and Alison Turton, 1990, page 317.

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Beer, scientifically and socially considered (part four)

I’ll admit it. I’d forgotten about this. Blame my travelling. This series started as some of the posts I queued up to cover my last trip to the USA. And I got distracted by other topics on my return. No matter. I’ll finish it off now if it kills me.
Which is probably what much of the beer sold in Liverpool 150 years ago would have done. Here a list of some of the crap unscrupulous characters threw in it:

“This report, it will be seen, affords experimental confirmation of what was said by Mr. Glover at the Liverpool Workhouse meeting, and it will therefore be interesting to inquire a little further into the matter. Our authorities tell us that the following substances are employed to adulterate beer. "Cocculus indicus multum (an extract of cocculus indicus), colouring, honey, hartshorn-shavings, Spanish juice, orange-powder, ginger, grains of paradise, quassia, liquorice, carraway seeds, copperas, capsicum, mixed drugs.” These, we are told, were seized at different breweries in London, and brewers’ druggists’ laboratories"* in addition, sulphuric acid, alum, salt, Datura stramonium, picric acid, and other substances, are mentioned by different writers.
* Report of Committee of the House of Commons. See Watts’s 'Dictionary of Chemistry.’ vol. i, p. 537.”
Liverpool Daily Post - Tuesday 05 July 1870, page 6.

To be honest, not all of those are dangerous or even unpleasant. Honey, liquorice, carraway seeds and ginger weren’t going to do you any harm. The reason these are listed as adulterants is the strict law on what could be used in beer. A decade later, after the introduction of the Free Mash Tun Act, all of those would have been legal.

Hartshorn shavings turn up in a lot of recipes from the early 19th century aimed at private brewers, i.e. those brewing for their own household rather than for sale. In the early 1800’s these brewers produced a high percentage of the beer in some parts of the country. Being able to use ingredients commercial brewers couldn’t was one of the advantages they had and probably helped keep the tradition going.

Cocculus indicus was a bittering agent used as a hop substitute. But it’s also a stimulant sop presumably could also disguise watering down. Its active ingredient is picrotoxin, which doesn’t sound like something I’d like to ingest. Cocculus indicus is still used for medicinal purposes in Asia, but is no longer used in the USA and Europe because of fears about its safety. Though it is still used in quack, sorry homeopathic, medicine.

Pretty sure I don’t want sulphuric acid in my beer. Nor alum, which is used in pickling and tanning leather. I’ll let the article describe Datura stramonium:

“Of Datura stramonium Mr. Prescott says,** “It has been frequently used by desperate characters for hocussing or stupefying of the intended victim of a robbery by surreptitiously adding it to his beer in the public-house bar. It is the seed of the thorn-apple, a native of Greece, and belongs to the same family as the tobacco-plant.” The same author also describes very minutely the microscopical structure of the various seeds which ought, and which ought not, to be used in the preparation of beer, including barley, hops, cocculus indicus, grains of paradise, and Datura stramonium, his object being to facilitate the detection of fraud and crime ; and I would recommend my microscopical readers, who take interest in the question, to examine these various substances with the aid of a microscope and Mr. Prescott’s beautiful diagrams.”
** 'Strong Drink and Tobacco Smoke,’ p. 37.”
Liverpool Daily Post - Tuesday 05 July 1870, page 6.

Datura stramonium sounds really, really dangerous. It has medicinal uses as an analgesic, but is also a hallucinogen. The dangerous part, is that a fatal dose isn’t much higher than an effective one. Plus there’s huge variation in the amount of the active ingredients present from plant to plant, or even in different parts of the same plant. Unless you really know what you’re doing, you’re likely to kill yourself. Or in the case of a beer adulterer, your customers.

Here are the used of some of the other muck:

"Of the various adulterants named, sulphate of iron, alum, and salt are employed to give beer "head" or froth (salt stimulate the thirst as  well); sulphuric acid is used to bring it forward,” or harden it, and impart to new beer the character of old ; carbonate of soda to neutralise acidity whilst cocculus indicus, quassia, wormwood, grains of paradise, and similar substances, are mixed with beer either to impart bitterness or pungency, and to disguise the true character of the drink."
Liverpool Daily Post - Tuesday 05 July 1870, page 6.

Sulphate of iron is one of the adulterants people were most often prosecuted for. Nowadays its only use seems to be as a herbicide for killing moss in lawns. Would you really want that in your beer? I think not. Quassia and wormwood are also drugs and ones you wouldn’t want to ingest too much of.

It sounds like some beer was awash with drugs, more like a chemical soup.

We’ve still quite a way to go with this article. More about the how and why of adulteration next time.

Monday, 25 May 2015

Hops yesterday, today and tomorrow

I’ve found some good articles about hops in the Journal of the Institute of Brewing. And I’ve only been looking in the 1950’s.

The one I’m looking at this time has a nice overview of long term trends in English hop cultivation.

“Hops have always been quick to react to demand and supply, and, until recently, to attacks of pests and diseases. This is shown well in Fig. 1, representing acreage and yields from 1870-1958. In the old days, favourable years with a bumper crop would often cause a fall in price with a sharp cut in acreage, e.g. 1886-1888, till a disastrous year would give a hop famine, a recovery in price and a gradual build-up in acreage, e.g. 1890-1894, though the general trend has been steadily down since the peak of 1878. Recently, however, and particularly since 1946, we have had much more stable conditions, thanks on the one hand to the Hops Marketing Scheme and the Board which administer it, and on the other to improvements over the last thirty years in the control of disease and in husbandry generally.”
Journal of the Institute of Brewing, Vol. 65, 1959, page 467.

I’d noticed that myself looking at the numbers for hop production and prices. There were crazy fluctuations from year to year. It can’t have made life easy for hop growers. But in the 20th century the trade become controlled and that seemed to have a stabilising effect. Though the graphs show a clear long term downward trend in the amount of hops grown. There’s a simple explanation: British brewing required far fewer hops due to the fall in both beer output and hopping rates.

There’s an interesting point here:

“The main factors at work to-day in influencing the acreage, the varieties grown and the methods of growing and the distribution of acreage are Quota, Verticillium wilt and the development of mechanical picking. If we compare (Fig. 2) the trends in barley and hop yields over the past 70 years, it is noticeable how the yields of barley have increased lately — particularly with the advent of the combine harvester and Proctor—while yields of hops have fallen under the artificial influence of Quota and the effects of wilt and of machine picking.”
Journal of the Institute of Brewing, Vol. 65, 1959, page 467.

I understood that disease had an effect on the varieties of hops grown, but not mechanical picking. Though it makes sense. And there had been a real surge in machine picking after WW II. In the US the move away from hand picking had occurred a few decades earlier.

“Picking machines which tend to lower yields  have increased from about 10 in 1948 to 256 in 1956, and the quantity picked by machine from 2% to 48% of the crop, while the importance of disease is shown by the distribution of acreage and the spread of Verticillium wilt.”
Journal of the Institute of Brewing, Vol. 65, 1959, pages 467 - 468.

I’m surprised that mechanical picking had a negative impact on the yield. It’s fascinating to see how quickly the industry was moving to machines. I wonder what was spurring the change. Was it shortages of labour or purely a matter of cost?

I’m not sure that I understand what this is saying:

“In the last 10 years the class of person coming hop picking has improved visibly, and while in 1946 the 3,000 London pickers at the Bodiam Farms of Guinness Hop Farms, Ltd., arrived in 4 or 5 trains, now there is one train and a fleet of lorries and cars.  Opinions vary on the changes in the standard of hand picking today, though the best is good.”
Journal of the Institute of Brewing, Vol. 65, 1959, page 469.

It seems to imply that fewer but better off pickers were coming to Kent.

Here’s something more about the problems with picking machines:

“Picking machines have come on with a rush since 1950: good samples can be obtained but this is usually at the expense of up to 10% to 20% of the crop which is too often replaced by leaf and stem. There is also a substantial loss of soft resin which nothing can replace, and the hops are often so bruised that they tend to ferment and heat before drying, with ill effects on the colour and brightness. On a broader view, machine picking is stimulating a requirement for firm hops with a habit of growth suitable for mechanical picking and for hops of a wide range of ripening times. For hand picking, hops are normally fit for 2-3 weeks, but for machine picking the optimum period is shorter and a range of several varieties is desirable.”
Journal of the Institute of Brewing, Vol. 65, 1959, page 469.

That’s quite a large loss of the crop. Not only that, there was extra rubbish in with the hops and the hops could be damaged and resin lost. With all those disadvantages there must have been some other big incentive to move to machines.

What I really liked about the article was the table of hop varieties grown. I can’t recall ever seeing numbers for the different types before.

“Wilt has also begun to have a real effect on the varieties of hops grown, illustrated (Table I) by the change between 1912 and 1952 and the rapid build-up of tolerant varieties since 1952.”
Journal of the Institute of Brewing, Vol. 65, 1959, page 468.

Here’s the table. You know what this tells me? That I got it right by mostly sticking to Fuggles and Goldings for the recipes in The Home Brewer’s Guide to Vintage Beer.

1912: 1952: 1957:
Varieties Varieties % of crop Varieties % of crop
Goldings (Canterbury or Old Goldings) Old Golding } Old Golding }
Canterbury Goldings } Canterbury Goldings }
Bramlings Bramlings } Bramlings }
Mathons Mathons } Mathons }
Hobb's Early Goldings Early Bird Bramlings } Early Bird Bramlings }
Searle's Early Goldings Eastwell Goldings 24% Eastwell Goldings 25%
White's Early Goldings Rodmersham or Mercer Golding } Rodmersham or }
Buss's Late Goldings Petham Golding } Mercer Golding }
Late or Wild Goldings Cobbs } Petham Golding }
Bate's Brewers Tutshams } Cobbs }
Cooper Whites Whitebines } Tutshams }
Whitebines }
Green Bines
Red Bines
Fuggles Fuggles 72% Fuggles 67%
Jones Brewer's Gold } Brewer's Gold }
Grapes Bullion } Bullion }
Meophams Northern Brewer } NorthFronrdrewer }
Henhams John Ford 4% John }
Mayfield Grapes Pride of Kent } Pride of Kent 8%
Colegates Early Promise } Early Promise }
Prolifics Keyworth's Midscason }
Whitbread Golding }
Variety }
Bramling Cross }

I’d never have guessed that almost as three quarters of the hops grown in England were Fuggles. Even by 1957 newer varieties were still making up a pretty small percentage of the crop.

Given their unsuitability for machine picking, it’s a surprise so many Fuggles were still grown:

“Picking machines have also had an influence in popularizing New Varieties in place of the older varieties—especially Fuggles—which shatter very easily, resulting in loss of crop and a broken sample, always with reduced brewing value, usually with excessive leaf and stem, and frequently overvalued. New Varieties are denser in the cone and so shatter less easily, and can be picked to a cleaner sample with less loss. Picking machines are here to stay and now pick over 50% of the crop, so it is important that growers should be told which New Varieties are most acceptable and learn to grow and pick them properly, while brewers should become more willing to accept them and to learn to brew with them.”
Journal of the Institute of Brewing, Vol. 65, 1959, pages 468 - 469.

I’d be really interested to see what the percentages are for the different varieties today. I wonder if the figures are available anywhere? My guess would be that the first group – what could loosely be called Golding varieties – would still account for about a quarter of the crop.

Lots more to come on hops when I can get my arse in gear.

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Brewing in the 1950’s – North American Hops

I’m finally getting to the end of Jeffery’s discussion of hop varieties. Sorry it’s taken so long.

This time we’re looking at North American hops. Starting with Canada.

British Columbians. Unfortunately, we have only had the pleasure of seeing a very few of these hops, but we were greatly impressed by them. They combine brightness of appearance with a fair size of cone, and, above all, a flavour which could well equal that of the best Kent Fuggles. It is a pity that more are not available. Their preservative value is high, and they could be used with advantage even in the best beers.”
"Brewing Theory and Practice" by E. J. Jeffery, 1956, page 176.

I’ve seen these turn up occasionally in brewing records. Though I’m damned if I can find any examples at the moment. Was Canada much of a hop producer? I feel like a table coming on. I knew all that crap I collected about hops would come in useful sometime. Actually, I didn’t think that, but collected it anyway. Because the crazy obsessive type of thing I do.

As you can see, Canada wasn’t exactly a player on the world stage:

World Production of hops 1951 - 1957
Country 1951 1952 1953 average 1950-54 1955 1956 1957
cwts. cwts. cwts. cwts. cwts. cwts. cwts.
Northern Hemisphere
USA 564,634 546,991 372,786 478,812 329,233 342,705 358,349
Canada 17,339 17,920 15,179§ 17,214 12,554 12,902 10,563
United Kingdom 321,821 282,348 266,000 298,216 256,821 184,170 267,670
Czechoslovakia 98,420§ 80,705§ 98,420§ 98,000 120,428 96,304 73,813
Germany 252,795 206,187 280,500 256,688 253,358 277,027 283,473
France 41,330 34,446 48,223 39,660 41,214 33,071 33,696
Belgium 19,366 17,062 19,179 20,750 26,571 16,027 23,821
Spain t 2,607 3,661 t 5,732 5,812 6,893
Poland t t t t 24,992 12,580 24,598
Yugoslavia 24,652 23,652 25,589 25,661 36,616 45,866 52,848
Other European t t t t 875 1,134 982
USSR t t t t 78,812 57,723 65,196
Japan 9,054 16,241 13,286 11,026 15,187 15,795 16,205
Total 1,349,411 1,228,159 1,142,823 1,246,027 1,202,393 1,101,116 1,218,107
Southern Hemisphere*
Australia 18,384 31,920 28,000§ 27,376 34,376 25,902 31,429
New Zealand 7,795 8,036 7,589§ 8,946 11,062 8,964 8,929
Union of South Africa 2,482 3,384 3,125§ 3,071 2,098 1,625 1,376
Argentina 1,179 1,179 1,116§ 1,330 1,571 1,714 2,411
Total 29,840 44,519 39,830§ 40,723 49,107 38,205 44,143
World Total 1,379,251 1,272,678 1,182,653§ 1,286,750 1,251,500 1,139,321 1,262,250
* crops harvested early in the following year
t not available
§ estimate
1951, 1952, 1953: 1955 Brewers' Almanack, page 65.
average 1950-54, 1955, 1956, 1957: 1962 Brewers' Almanack, page 63.

If I show Canada’s share in percentage terms, it’s clear how insignificant the country was as a hop producer:

Canada's share of hop production
Year Canada World Total Canada's %
1951 17,339 1,379,251 1.26%
1952 17,920 1,272,678 1.41%
1953 15,179 1,182,653 1.28%
average 1950-54 17,214 1,286,750 1.34%
1955 12,554 1,251,500 1.00%
1956 12,902 1,139,321 1.13%
1957 10,563 1,262,250 0.84%

This originally Canadian variety is still with us:

“A cross between a wild Manitoba hop and an English hop, called Brewer's Gold is remarkable for its very high preservative value (120-140 on the dry hop). It has a rather strong aroma, but if blended it can be used as a copper hop. It has even been used as a dry hop.”
"Brewing Theory and Practice" by E. J. Jeffery, 1956, page 176.

Now on to the USA:

“United States. Hops from the New York district are usually ranked first in value, on account of their greater delicacy in flavour. Next in order is placed those grown in and marketed as Sonomas, Oregons, and Sacramentos. These hops all have a very distinctive colour, being pale primrose without a trace of a green tinge. This feature is probably due to the climatic conditions under which they are grown and harvested. In wealth of resins they have no equal, the amount being in some cases remarkable. For this reason they have a very high preservative value. Unfortunately, they have some rather noticeable and serious defects, one of which is the large amount of stick and leaf present, which weighs up to a considerable amount. This defect is due to the introduction of machinery for picking, and we fail to see how the defect is to be obviated. In our opinion, it detracts greatly from the brewing value. Furthermore, American hops are prone to attacks from blight and vermin. In some instances the infection is so intense that the insides of a large proportion of cones is rendered black and foul. Even the strigs are sometimes affected. The vastness of the gardens makes the situation even more difficult to handle than is the case when dealing with a scourge in England. Sonomas are supposed to enjoy a certain amount of freedom from attacks by blight. All the same, we have seen specimens of them in a most undesirable condition.”
"Brewing Theory and Practice" by E. J. Jeffery, 1956, pages 176 - 177.

I thought New York’s hop industry was long gone by the 1950’s. Didn’t they have terrible problems with pests and disease?

Sonoma and Sacramento, of course, are in California. We’ll be hearing later about the effect of machine picking on yields and hop quality. All I can say is that it must have saved a stack of money on labour, because it had all sorts of disadvantages. The US industry had abandoned hand picking before WW II.

A recurring theme when British brewers discuss American hops is the horrible blackcurrant flavour. They were saying the same back in the 19th century.

“In flavour, Sonomas are certainly entitled to pride of position because they are much milder than Oregons, and free from that intense and objectionable black-currant flavour. Great efforts have been made in recent years to eradicate or lessen this by planting hills of delicate flavoured Kent and Worcester hops nearby. In some cases a degree of success has been met with, but, whether it is due to the nature of the soil or to the climate, there is always a gradual tendency to hark back to the strong flavour.”
"Brewing Theory and Practice" by E. J. Jeffery, 1956, page 177.

Not sure why planting British hops close by would make the others taste better.

Before WW II US hops were as common as muck in Britain. But, with UK-grown supplies being sufficient after the war, they seem to have disappeared pretty much completely. Whitbread look like they were using up some old Oregons they had during the war, but when they ran out in 1945, they disappear from their records.

It’s one of the biggest changes in ingredients I’ve seen, wartime excepted. American hops had been a mainstay for British brewers for around 100 years. Then suddenly they were discarded, like a lover who’s become fat or bald. Or both.

“The cones of some of the Oregon hops are of immense size, and we have seen some 3 in. or more in length. The bracts are long and pointed, and come away from the strig easily, displaying much resin. Unfortunately, the resins quickly change from soft to hard when stored under ordinary conditions. They emit, in a hard state, a pungent and uninviting aroma. Sacramentos are the coarsest of the series, and compare unfavourably both in resinous content and preservative properties.
"Brewing Theory and Practice" by E. J. Jeffery, 1956, page 177.

Don’t think I’ve ever come across anything specifically called Sacramento. Though they could just have been described as American or Californian. They sound pretty crap – bad flavour and with lesser preservative power.

Unbelievably, there’s loads, loads more about hops in the 1950’s to come. Unless I get distracted, obviously.