Thursday, 18 October 2007

Fredrick Accum

I'm a sucker for tables. What I always look for in brewing manuals or academic books are tables of data. Of particular interest (to me, at least) are tables of analyses of beers.

It's surprising how long ago the first chemical analyses of beer were made. Fredrick Accum detailed in his 1820 work "A Treatise on Adulterations of Food" a method for discovering the alcohol content of beer. The first thing he noticed was the difference in strength between examples of the same beer sampled at the brewery and in a pub.

Brown Stout: brewery 7.25% ABV, pub 6.5% ABV
Porter: brewery 5.25% ABV, pub 4.5% ABV

Looks a bit dodgy, doesn't it. This is what Accum says:

"Whence can this difference between the beer furnished by the brewer, and that retailed by the publican, arise? We shall not be at a loss to answer this question, when we find that so many retailers of porter have been prosecuted and convicted for mixing table beer with their strong beer;"

These are the results of his (and others) analyses:

Ale, home-brewed 8.30% ABV
Ale, Burton, three samples 6.25% ABV

*Repository of Arts, No. 2, p. 74.—1816. p222

Ale, Burton* 8.88% ABV
Ale, Edinburgh* 6.20% ABV
Ale, Dorchester* 5.50% ABV
Ale, common London-brewed, six samples 5.82% ABV
Ale, Scotch, three samples 5.75% ABV
Porter, London, eight samples 4.00% ABV
Ditto, Ditto† 4.20% ABV
Ditto, Ditto† 4.45% ABV
Ditto, Ditto, bottled 4.75% ABV
Brown Stout, 4 samples 5% ABV
Ditto, Ditto† 6.80% ABV
Small Beer, six samples 0.75% ABV
Ditto, Ditto‡ 1.28% ABV

* Copied from Professor Brande’s Paper in the Philosophical Transactions, 1811, p.345.
† Result of our own Experiments, see p.174.
‡ Professor Brande’s Experiments.

Accum also has some interesting things to say about Porter and Entire and the difference between the two:

It is necessary to state, that every publican has two sorts of beer sent to him from the brewer; the one is called mild, which is beer sent out fresh as it is brewed; the other is called old; that is, such as is brewed on purpose for keeping, and which has been kept in store a twelve-month or eighteen months.

. . . . porter is very generally compounded of two kinds, or rather the same liquor in two different states, the due admixture of which is palatable, though neither is good alone. One is mild porter, and the other stale porter; the former is that which has a slightly bitter flavour; the latter has been kept longer. This mixture the publican adapts to the palates of his several customers, and effects the mixture very readily, by means of a machine, containing small pumps worked by handles. In these are four pumps, but only three spouts, because two of the pumps throw out at the same spout: one of these two pumps draws the mild, and the other the stale porter, from the casks down in the cellar; and the publican, by dexterously changing his hold works either pump, and draws both kinds of beer at the same spout. An indifferent observer supposes, that since it all comes from one spout, it is entire butt beer, as the publican professes over his door, and which has been decided by vulgar prejudice to be only good porter, though the difference is not easily distinguished. I have been informed by several eminent brewers, that, of late, a far greater quantity is consumed of mild than of stale beer.

The entire beer of the modern brewer, according to the statement of C. Barclay, Esq. 'consists of some beer brewed expressly for the purpose of keeping: it likewise contains a portion of returns from publicans; a portion of beer from the bottoms of vats; the beer that is drawn off from the pipes, which convey the beer from one vat to another, and from one part of the premises to another. This beer is collected and put into vats. Mr. Barclay also states that it contains a certain portion of brown stout, which is twenty shillings a barrel dearer than common beer; and some bottling beer, which is ten shillings a barrel dearer; and that all these beers, united, are put into vats, and that it depends upon various circumstances, how long they may remain in those vats before they become perfectly bright. When bright, this beer is sent out to the publicans, for their entire beer, and there is sometimes a small quantity of mild beer mixed with it.'

The present entire beer, therefore, is a very heterogeneous mixture, composed of all the waste and spoiled beer of the publicans—the bottoms of butts—the leavings of the pots—the drippings of the machines for drawing the beer—the remnants of beer that lay in the leaden pipes of the brewery, with a portion of brown stout, bottling beer, and mild beer."

Source: Fredrick Accum "A Treatise on Adulterations of Food", pages 197 - 202

Entire sounds delighful, doesn't it? Mmm slops, lead-laden beer and a bit of Brown Stout. "Quart of Entire please, barman, and make it good and leady." I liked the imaginative use of beer engines to mix stale and mild Porter whilst pouring. I wonder if anyone still has a set with four handles but only three spouts?

It's reading passages like this that makes me realise how difficult it would be to truly recreate early 19th-century Porter. Reading the brewing logs is one thing, but as the beer never seems to have been consumed in its pristine state, they don't tell you the whole story. Sadly, I think health inspectors might prevent a faithful recreation.


The Beer Nut said...

The story goes that this process of pouring two-thirds of a pint of fizzy fresh stout, waiting for the head to subside, and topping up with stale, came to an end in Ireland the late 1950s when Guinness replaced it with nitrogenation. The company insisted that the new nitrogenated Guinness be poured in two parts for no reason other than because customers were used to this and wouldn't trust a poured-in-one pint. And so it continues to today.

Zythophile said...

Accum's quotes are taken in part from Charles Barclay's evidence to a House of Commons committee in 1818/19 on the alleged adulteration of beer in London - see Jeffrey Patton's excellent Additives, Adulterants and Contaminnts in Beer pp49-50 for a fuller version, which reveals that Barclay told the MPs "entire" formed only one tenth of the porter sent out to publicans at that time, the rest being mild porter ... people would order a pint and ask the barperson to "pull it mild" or "pull it stale" depending on their preference ...

Beer nut, you're partly right, about the "high cask" (fresh, carbonated) and "low cask" (old, flat) methods of serving stout (not just Guinness) in Ireland, but I believe the "two part pour" was a technical necessity with the nitrogenated casks to get a proper head, rather than a hark-back to earlier methods of serving ...

Stephen Lacey said...

Fascinating. I think I would have written that last sentence, "Happily, I think health inspectors might prevent a faithful recreation."

Ron Pattinson said...

zythophile, once again you've come up with more information than I had. It's interesting to hear that Entire was just 10% of the Porter they sold. I'm just going from memory here, but I'm sure that Keeping Porter was more than one brew in 10 in the period 1830 - 1860. Certainly in the Truman and Whitbread logs. It's difficult to tell with Barclay Perkins because all the beers have weird brewhouse names - what hell are Hhd, EI and FSt? All have about the same OG as the Porter.

Unfortunately, keeping track of how much of each beer was brewed when browsing the logs is quite time-consuming. Unless, like Whitbread logs, they have totals for each week, month and year at the back.

Getting back to the subject, from memory I would say that the ratio of mild to stale in the pre-1860 Truman logs is about two or three to one.

Ron Pattinson said...

Stephen, purely for research purposes, it would be interesting to recreate such an Entire to see how it tasted. Just so I could drink a mouthful or two. I'm not sure that I would swallow, though.

firkinhophead said...

I wanted to write a bit on the history of porter for my modest little online column. Then i found your posts and now I have a headache.

You say that Obadiah doesn't mention "three threads" or publicans mixing from different casks, yet he does say that some customers drank old and new mixed and that some drank a mixture of 3 varieties. so that doesn't seem to rule out the three threads story at all. He may not mention the term, but he does mention the practice. Even if he was involved in the trade, he was writing some 40-60 years after the events in question. As to what TT means, your explanation is as good as any.

i'm still confused about how porter was prepared. Obadiah seems to suggest that a new beer was created that by ageing for a moderate amount of time had the characteristics of old mixed with new, but Accum, writing 60 years later, says that porter is generally made by mixing old and new ("the same liquor in 2 different states"). St Peters says that their porter is made the traditional way by blending old and new. But obviously some porters, even in the 18th century were made as a single beer. Then there is the whole entire butt issue, which i don't understand. Were the breweries not selling these as blends of different beers? It seems that they were, in fact, blends. So again, this is evidence that at least those porters sold as "entire butt" were not simply pre-aged beers, but blends.

The driving force, it seems, was the public demand for beers with different qualities (and different price points) like they could get at the pub from mixing at the taps (call it the Quick Trip beverage center phenomenon). The breweries were trying to recreate that, either by making a single beer with those qualities or actually mixing them at the brewery.

Forgive me if my ignorance shows; i have only scratched the surface of all the material on the topic, and I am just going on the original records that you and others have presented. Keep up the good work.