Sunday, 30 September 2007

Biting the carpet

Numbers, numbers, numbers. There have been more than enough of those this week. I like to think that I'm multifaceted. Schizophrenia is a more accurate diagnosis.

Deathly dull statistics, foaming at the mouth. Those are supposed to be the twin themes of this blog. One or the other is bound to piss off just about anyone. Guess which I have planned for today?

There's no real challenge in finding something that to give me that fashionable rabid dog look. A browse of any beer forum will provide a surfeit of stimuli.

Made up beer styles. That was the theme I'd chosen. Used to be a definite Soviet flag to the bull of my anger. But I've mellowed. My relationship with beer forums has traversed several phases: anger, disbelief, despair and, finally, amusement.

But it's a shame to let a theme go. So here is a selection of made up beer styles. What's a made up beer style? I would tell you, but I've already explained it in a response to a comment. You're just getting a list here:

Robust Porter
Dry Stout
Bohemian Pilsner
Flemish Red
Imperial anything (except Stout)

Feel free to contribute suggestions of your own.

Saturday, 29 September 2007

Danish brewing statistics 1899 - 1959

Variety is the price of life, they say. So today I'm giving the Whitbread gravity book a rest. I'm sure the snappy title of this post will have ensnared many of you. How do I think them up?

Until the recent moratorium on book-buying imposed by my wife, I'd been building up a good collection of Swedish titles (mostly by Samuel E. Bring). My Abebook searches for "bryggeri" also popped out a couple of Danish books. Already getting warnings from Dolores, I bought only one: "Bryggerne og de tre store udforgringer" ("Brewers and the three great challenges", if I remember my Danish correctly), an oddly-titled history of the Danish brewers' association.

Brewers' associations are very good at compiling statistics. (Much better than they are a protecting their smaller members' interests.) They're some of my best sources. The Brewers' Almanack, issued annually by the Brewers' Society in Britain is brimming with essential facts. The Deutscher Brauer Bund website is my main reference for modern German statistics. I've already admitted my numbers dependency. These provide my fix.

When I ordered the book, I was hoping that it would have a few numbers in it. It sort of does. Unfortunately in the form of graphs. The numbers below I had to work out with a ruler. The ones for the number of breweries I could get spot on. The hectolitre figures are more imprecise. They could be 50,000 hl out. Or so.

Friday, 28 September 2007

Ballantine's bottled beers 1939

Only a short post today. The Whitbread gravity book has sections dedicated to most of the larger London brewers. But there's also a part lumping together those without pages of their own entitled "Sundry Brewers". It features an odd collection of brewers, not only from Britain but from abroad, too. I was susprised to find analyses of five of American brewer Ballantine's ales. I thought you might like to see them.

I'm not sure how Whitbread got hold of them. I can't imagine Ballantine were exporting to the UK at the time. It's especially surprising as the analyses were carried out in October 1939 - just after the outbreak of WW II.

Compared to British ales they look quite old-fashioned. Their specs are more like those of pre-WW I British beers. The weakest has a gravity of 1056. They ales are much paler than their British counterparts, and almost as pale as a Pilsener. (Carlsberg and Tuborg Pilseners on the same page have colours of 9 and 8 respectively. The two samples of Ballantine XXX Ale have colours of 9 and 11.)

Thursday, 27 September 2007

Worthington bottled beers 1944 - 1967

Just for variety, today it's Worthington's turn. But don't worry: I'll get back to Whitbread soon.

For a change, one of the beers listed here is still avaialble - White Shield. Like Bass with their Red and Green Triangle, Worthington had a filtered (Green Shield) and unfiltered (White Shield) version of the IPA. In the book there's a comment saying that the Export Stout was naturally-conditioned. Perhaps the Imperial Stout, also called White Shield, was bottle-conditioned, too.

Bass and Worthington were widely available in the pubs of other breweries, who often bottled them. They seem to have been about the only companies still producing much over 4% ABV. That could explain the wider distribution of their beers.

Note the extremely high degree of attenuation of some of the IPAs - over 90% in some cases.

Wednesday, 26 September 2007

More Whitbread 1933

The Whitbread fun just won't end. That's a promise. It won't end. I'll be keeping this up for weeks. The material is there. My butterfly brain will doubtless flutter off to another flower before it's exhausted. Expect exhaustion yourself sooner.

Start with the most unfashionable years possible was my first idea, but I forgot to photograph early 1970's logs. The thirties are a good second choice. Weak beers, lots of sugar, three year old hops. Perfect for the extreme beer crowd.

I like the look of the Whitbread beers. What I'm about to say feels like disloyalty. But it needs to be said. Whitbread's seem honest beers. They may use sugar, but they aren't full of rice or maize like some others brewed in London. You know who I'm talking about . . . but I'm not going to spell it out . . . . my fingers won't type the words.

Any of you homebrewers? A couple of the beers described below I would love to try. Not brew, just drink. My attempts at brewing clearly demonstrated which aspect of beer suited me best. It wasn't production. Filling kegs is the highest I can aspire to.

Should you brew one of these beers, I would be delighted. Even more so if you gave me a bottle. I hope there's another Lachlan out there. (Lachlan brewed a killer version of Barclay Perkins 1856 Imperial Brown Stout. I'm lucky enough to still have one bottle.)

Whitbread bottled beers 1940 - 1965

I seem to be posting an awful lot about Whitbread. Tell me when you start to get bored.

Today it's a table of their bottled beers. You'll notice that many are the same as those brewed in 1933. A couple of words of explanation. What's listed as PA is in fact their IPA. EMS I'm pretty sure stands for "Export Mackeson Stout". Noteworthy is the presence of two very dfferent Brown Ales: Forest Brown and the much stronger and more highly-attenuated Double Brown.

You can see how popular Mackeson Stout was in the 1950's by the fact that there are analyses from four different Whitbread breweries: Hythe (the original Mackeson brewery), Chiswell Street (Whitbread's original home in London), Kirkstall (Leeds) and Stockport. All have been closed for a couple of decades at, least.

Tuesday, 25 September 2007

Whitbread beers in 1933

It's always worth looking at the inside covers of brewing logs. They often contain some dead handy bits of additional information.

The Ale log for the years 1932-1936 is a good example. Glued to the inside front cover are two price lists. One from before the lowering of beer duty in April 1933, the other after. They are an absolute goldmine of information, especially as they relate directly to the beers in the logs.

Take a look for yourself:

I've combined the information in the price list with details from the logs to come up with this table:

You'll notice how slim the publican's profit was - just 25% to 30%. That's much less than today.

Something that is only apparent by looking at both the price list and the logs together is the nature of Whitbread's Light Ale. Just looking at the price list I would have assumed it was a pale beer. Having seen the log, I know that not only was it dark but that it was party-gyled with the X. It's not what is usually known at Light Ale (bottled ordinary Bitter), but is in fact a low-gravity bottled Mild. Only looking at the log, I would have assumed it was a draught beer.

It has been argued that Pale Ale and Bitter are not synonyms but two distinct styles. This price list shows that, for Whitbread at least, they were exactly the same thing. The name Pale Ale was used within the brewery, Bitter in the pub.

As a special bonus, I've produced a detailed breakdown of the ingredients and brewing process (as much as I can understand it). It may be of interest to homebrewers. Sorry about the lack of final gravities - they aren't in the log. The ones quoted in the table above come from 1940 (courtesy of the Whitbread gravity book). If there's any interest, I may do some more. It takes lots of my valuable time (I could be watching Hollyoaks). Tell me if I should continue. Oh yes, you may need to scale down the quantities a bit.

Monday, 24 September 2007

Guinness 1896 - 1982

I used to enjoy the occasional bottle of Guinness, when it was still bottle-conditioned. A cracking beer, though I never realised how short a time it had been brewed to that strength, 1042.

This may be starting to sound like a broken record, but before WW I Guinness was a very different beer. At least the Extra Stout was. Foreign Extra Stout is still brewed to much the same gravity as 150 years ago. Few today realise that Extra Stout and Foreign Extra Stout used to be basically the same beer. The only difference was that the Foreign version was more heavily hopped and matured for longer, which meant that it was more attenuated and slightly stronger.

Two world wars have transformed the standard Stout into a totally different beer, while, in many respects, time has stood still for Foreign Extra Stout.

Modern style-obsessives classify standard Guinness as a "Dry Stout". But how long has Guinness fitted that profile? I suggest not very long. If you look at the table below, you'll see that there was a significant change in the degree of attenuation in 1950. Before that date it was in the range 72-75%. After 1950, it increased to between 81% and 86%. That must have had an impact on the character of the finished beer.

The normal story goes that English breweries made Sweet Stouts while Guinness and other Irish breweries brewed the stylistically different Dry Stout. Yet, if we look at English examples from the 1940's, some have a similar degree of attenuation to pre-1950 Guinness.

So is Dry Stout just another invented style? Probably.

Sunday, 23 September 2007

Whitbread output 1911 and 1933

Hi there. Here's a quick update on my table of Whitbread output. I've added 1933. There's a reason I picked 1933 - I have the figures for both the Porter and Ale breweries.

It's a lot harder than you might imagine getting figures for the same years. The Porter logs don't have the same numbers as given in the catalogue. It makes getting the logs for any particular year a mtter of trial and error.

Let's explain the beers a little. LA was Light Ale, DB a Double Brown Ale, LS London Stout, ES Extras Stout and 33 a sort of Strong Ale. If you're lucky, I may fish out some more details about the composition of the beers today. Though I usually fall asleep in front of the television around this time on a Sunday.

It's your lucky day. I didn't drop off during Tatort tonight, as I normally do. Perhaps because the episode was about the Oktoberfest. Here are the basic specs of the beers in the table.


FA 1048º, 2.28 lbs hops/barrel
X 1057º, 1.29 lb hops/barrel
IPA 1050º, 2.36 lbs hops/barrel
2PA 1054º, 2.12 lbs hops/barrel
PA 1061º, 2.17 lbs hops/barrel
KK 1071º, 3.8 lbs hops/barrel, 2% brown malt
2KKK 1077º, 3.8 lbs hops/barrel, 2% brown malt

LA 1028.5º, 1 lb hops/barrel, colour 8 + 40, 14% crystal malt
X 1036.1º, 1.12 lbs hops/barrel, colour 17 + 40, 14% crystal malt
PA 1048.8º, 1.62 lbs hops/barrel, colour 26-28, 4.5% crystal malt
XXX 1048º, 1.57 lbs hops/barrel, colour 18 + 40, 9% chocolate malt
DB 1055.2º, 2.3 lbs hops/barrel, colour 17 + 40, 2% chocolate malt
IPA 1037.7º, 1.75 lbs hops/barrel, colour 22-24, 6% crystal malt
P 1027.4º, 1 lb hops/barrel, 5% chocolate malt, 5% brown malt
LS 1044.2º, 1.26 lbs hops/barrel, 5% chocolate malt, 5% brown malt
ES 1055.5º, 1.26 lbs hops/barrel, 5% chocolate malt, 5% brown malt

All other malt, other than that specified, was pale. All beers contained a proprtion of sugar.

Saturday, 22 September 2007

Watney Draught Beers 1939 - 1968

More Whitbread gravity book madness today. This time it's the turn of ale-lovers' arch-enemy Watney.

After 1943, Watney's Mild doesn't really count as an intoxicating drink. At only around 2.5% ABV, you would have needed to be a very determined man to get even slightly pissed.

This is the start of Watney's keg romance. Notice what crap value Red Barrel was - weaker yet more 2d a pint more expensive than Special Bitter. No wonder they advertised it like crazy. Of course, in those days no-one knew how strong beers were. Apart from the breweries, but they were keeping it to themselves.

Nice to see the Watney's Party Four get a mention. No susrpise that the beer in it was piss weak.

Friday, 21 September 2007

Bass bottled beers 1956 - 1967

I've started going through the Whitbread gravity book I photgraphed on Tuesday. For no particular reason, I've started with the entries for Bass bottled beers.

Oddly enough, the 1960's were the one decade of the 20th century for which I had no real hard facts. Brewing logs and the Truman Gravity book have provided information on all the earlier decades. From the 1970's onwards, the CAMRA Good Beer Guide provides gravities. Now, thanks to Whitbread's industrial espionage, I can fill in the missing decade.

What can we learn from these figures? That Bass No 1 barley Wine has always had a massive OG, for one thing. They also blow one of my pet theories out of the water - that Barley Wine had a Bitter-like colour. The gravity book gives its colour as 100 and 110 - about the same as their Brown Ale. It's far darker than the Pale Ales, which are around 20.

Talking of Pale Ales, Blue Triangle was a filtered and pasteurised beer, Red Label was bottle-conditioned. Red Triangle was later just relabelled Worthington White Shield and was eventually dropped. An sad fate for the beer that had been the most famous Pale Ale in the world (as painted by Monet on the Folies Bergeres bar). You'll notice that the FG of some samples of Red Triangle is very low - 1003 to 1004. I think we can assume it was pretty dry.

I was surpised at the strength of the beers; the weakest are just a tad under 5% ABV. Remember that at this time the average OG was about 1037 equivalent to an average ABV of 3.7%.

I've never heard of Gold Triangle or Gold Label (thet appears to be the same beer). If anyone can remember it, please let me know.

Thursday, 20 September 2007

Whitbread Ale Output Year ending July 1911

Remember the handy weekly summaries at the back of the Whitbread brewing logs I was telling you about yesterday? Here's what I found at the back of the 1911 edition.

The table below shows the amounts produced of all the Whitbread Ales in the brewing year ending July 1911.

X is Mild: FA, I guess,stands for Family Ale: PA and IPA are pretty self-explanatory; KK and KKK are strong Ales. Give me a few days and I'll dig out the logs and tell you exactly how strong they all were. And hopefully be able to give you some idea of their colour.


Document LMA/4453/D/01/076 in the London Metropolitan Archive

Inspiration and punctuation

We all have our influences. Some of us wear them on our sleeves. Others in our hats. A few crazies try to use them as shoes - pffff! What a mad bunch people are, eh?

One step further. I sound like some self-improvement guru. How can I put that better? Dissimulation. I want to avoid it.

(I've just spent several valuable minutes of my life fiddling with the punctuation in the preceding paragraph. Was it worth it? You'll be able to voice your opinion in my next quiz.)

One step beyond. I did have a point when I started this. Making loads of crap jokes? No, that wasn't it. . . . . . I remember. Telling you who I copy . . . . . whom I copy.

(Punctuation is much neglected. Mine may be eccentric, but it serves its purpose: to refelect the finer emotional nuances that, in the spoken language, would be conveyed by inflection of the voice.)

Two authors are to blame for how I write. Here's a clue to the names of my "inspirations": both are in the format name-initial-name.

I'm not a patch on either. But I try.

If anyone can guess both names, I may award a prize. Or maybe not. It depends on my mood. What about "S:t Eriks bryggeri på Åsögatan" by Samuel E. Bring as a prize? I have two copies because a Swedish bookshop mistakenly sent me it rather than the "S:t Eriks bryggeri på Kungsholmen" by Samuel E. Bring that I had ordered. How could they confuse the two?

Wednesday, 19 September 2007

Back from the archive

What a succesful harvest at the archive, yesterday. This time I concentrated on Whitbread, specifically Porter logs for the years 1914-1915, 1917-1919, 1928, 1932-34. and 1952-54.

I only glanced at the material, but a couple of things stood out. Whitbread brewed Porter right through WW I, using large amounts of brown malt and chocolate malt, to a very reasonable gravity of 1036-38º. But by the 1930's it was down to 1029º - I wonder what happened? Most styles had their nadir - strengthwise - in 1918.

Also under my scrutiny were Whitbread's Ale logs for 1880-1911 and 1922-1940. There's lots of stuff to digest. I took 350 photos in 3 hours - that's a shot every 30 seconds.

Not forgetting the Whitbread gravity book, which lists the OG, FG and colour for their competitors beers in the period 1939-1968. Fascinating stuff. You'll be hearing more, oh so much more, on this topic,

Monday, 17 September 2007

Swedish beers 1868-1892

I bet you haven't been able to sleep, have you, waiting for the next installment on late 19th century Swedish brewing? Today's your lucky day.

Wiener Bryggeriet
First we'll take a look at Wiener Bryggeriet of Skockholm in the period 1868-1882. In 1868, output was 65% Svensköl and 33% Bayerskt öl. By the next year Svensköl had dropped to just 7.5% and Bayerskt öl risen to 90%. In 1882, it was 2% Svensköl and 96% Bayerskt öl. The brewery also produced four other beer types: Svagdricka, Iskällerdricka, Skänköl and Farsköl. Together, these never accounted for more than 2% of total production. In 1868 the brewery experimented with Kulmbacher and Viener style beer, but never put them into production. Brewing of Pilsner on a very small scale began in 1881.

Their Bayerskt öl had an OG varying between 15.3º and 18º Balling, with a final gravity of 7 to 9º Balling, though was sometimes as low as 5º Balling. The finished beer was approximately 5.5% ABW (6.9% ABV) and was lagered for 2 to 3 months.

Their Svensköl had an OG of 12º Balling, was dark, top-fermenting, brewed using an infusion mash and stored for 2 to 3 weeks before sale.

Their Iskällerdricka was a bottom-fermenting beer with an OG of 9º Balling. It was only brewed 2 to 5 times a year.

Until 1875 their Svagdricka was top-fermented using and infusion mash. After that date, a decoction mash and a bottom-fermenting yeast were used. It was only brewed 3 to 8 times a year.

Hopping rates:
Bayerskt öl - 600 g hops per 100 kg malt
Pilsner - 1 kg hops per 100 kg malt
Svensköl - 700-850 g hops per 100 kg malt
Svagdricka - 600 g hops per 100 kg malt

Hops from Bavaria and Brunswick were used for the Bayerskt öl, Swedish hops for the Svensköl and Svagdricka.

(Source: "Grönwalls bryggeri, Nürnbergs bryggeri och Wienerbryggeri" by Samuel E. Bring, pages 252 - 260)

Swedish beer strengths in 1892
Analyses of beer from different breweries, performed in 1892.

Beer type - average OG - max OG - min OG
Porter 18.5º - 23º - 14.8º
Bayerst öl 13.9º - 18.4º - 10.5º
Pilsner-öl 11.9º - 14.3º - 7.4º
Iskallerdricka 8.5º - 11.4º - 5.3º
Svensk-öl 12.3º - 18.4º - 6.7º
early 6.3º - 8.8º - 4.2º
later 5º - 7.4º - 3º

As you can see, there was considerable variation between different samples.

(Source: "Svenska Bryggareföreningen 75 år", by Bertil Nordenfelt)

Sunday, 16 September 2007

CAMRA, lights, action

Rather belatedly, I've booked a hotel in London for 18th September. And I've borrowed Mikey's mega-pixel, mega-sharp camera. I reckon I should get at least 4 hours in the archive.

Here's my problem: what should I go for? I wouldn't mind checking the Barclay Perkins Porter/Stout logs for 1885. Or the Whitbread and Truman's Ale logs. It's hard to know where to start.

Anyone out there? I thought not. Should you have any preferences for which filthy books I consult, respond with a vote. These are your choices:

- Barclay Perkins Porter 1880-1920
- Whitbread Ales 1900 - 1930
- Truman's Porter/Stout 1910-1940
- Barclay Perkins Ales 1945 - 1955

Any other suggestions will be taken into consideration. (As long as they relate to Truman's , Whitbread or Barclay Perkins records.) And probably ignored.

Saturday, 15 September 2007

Swedish beer laws 1919 - 2007

I understand your disappoinment yesterday when I interrupted my series of posts on the history of brewing in Sweden. Today I have a special treat for you - an overview of the most important Swedish beer laws over the last century.

Beer split into three classes:
- Class I max. 2.25% ABV
- Class II max 3.6% ABV (pilsnerdricka)
- Class III above 3.6% ABV

Referendum on total prohibition of all alcoholic drinks stronger than 2.25% ABV- 51% against, 19% for, 55% turnout.
Class III provisionally abolished, then restored but only available at a chemists on prescription.

Class II raised to max 4% ABV

Malt tax abolished and beer taxed instead

Shortages of raw materials caused by the war lead to a drop in strength:
1941 - class II max 3.1% ABV
1942 - class II max 2.6% ABV
1945 - class II max 3.3% ABV
1946 - class II max 3.6% ABV

Starköl (Class III) allowed to be sold in Systembolaget. Motbok abolished.
Class I: 0.0 - 2.2%
Class IIA: 2.3 - 3.6%
Class III: 4.6 - 5.6%

1965 - 1977
In 1965, in a rare outbreak of liberalism, a new class of beer, mellanöl, with a maximum alcohol content of 4.5% was allowed to be sold in ordinary shops. Previously, the strongest beer sold in food shops had been 3.6%, all more alcoholic drinks being only available in the Sytembolaget (state alcohol shop). The temperance movement reacted with a fierce attack on mellanöl, seeing it as the main cause of drunkenness and a corruptor of the young. After years of vigorous campaigning, they managed to get it banned in 1977. The effect on the brewing industry was catastrophic - output plumetted, and there was a round of consolidation that left State-owned Pripps in control of most of the industry. A cynic might think that was what the introduction of mellanöl had been designed to do.

Beer classes 1965 - 1977
Class I: 0.0 - 2.2% ABV
Class II: 2.3 - 3.6% ABV
Class IIB: 3.7 - 4.5% ABV
Class III: 4.6 - 5.6% ABV

Beer classes 1977 - 1997
Class I: 0.0 - 2.2% ABV
Class II: 2.3 - 3.6% ABV
Class III: 3.7 - 5.6% ABV

On 1st January 1997 the bands for the classes were modified to bring the Swedish tax regime more into line with EU norms. The main changes were a raising of the tax-free class I upper limit from 2.25% to 2.8% alcohol and an increase in the duty on class II to the same rate as that for class III. Simultaneously there was, for the first time ever, a reduction in the duty on class III (from SEK 2.38 per % alcohol per litre to SEK 1.45).

Beer classes 1997 - today
Class I: 0.0 - 2.2% ABV
Class II 2.8: 2.3 - 2.8% ABV
Special 3.5: 2.9 - 3.5% ABV
Class III: 3.6% ABV >

Jan 1st Systembolaget shops open on Saturday. Whoppee.

The fun just won't stop. Tomorrow beer strengths in Stockholm in 1892.

Friday, 14 September 2007

Lager in the UK

Here are couple of apparently contradictory stories from The Publican about bottled lager in the UK. Whilst imported Czech lager is prospering, wonderful beers like Budweiser (the shitty US version) and Beck's are struggling. In the year to March 2007, Budweiser sales were down 10% , Beck's 6%.

Bottled Lager: Keep the faith

"Last month, Mintel research concluded that the downward trend in lager sales is
not just a summer blip but that the market will fall by eight per cent before 2012 to reach a point where 3.65 billion litres would be consumed that year – some 307 million litres down on this year’s sales."

"Nielsen’s research on the market in the 12 months to March 2007 concludes that “premium (‘premium’ is defined as lager above 4.3 per cent ABV, covering almost all bottled lager brands in the on-trade) bottled lager is now declining ahead of premium draught lager at minus seven per cent in the three months to March 2007”."

Market shares of bottled lagers in the UK:
Budweiser 33.7%
Beck's 15.2%
Corona 14.5%
Stella Artois 6.8%
Peroni 5.8%
Miller 4.7%
Others 20.3%

Bottled Lager: Czech invasion

"The story of Czech lager on these shores is an example of how to conquer a market – send in an advance guard of bottles and then follow up with draught."
You can't imagine how upset I am to hear about any fall in lager sales. Poor SABMiller and Inbev. How will they feed their children?

Samuel E. Bring

Samuel E. Bring is my hero. Such dedication and perspicacity. I take my hat off to him. Determined, eccentric individuals drive the quest for knowledge. Mankind generates so much stuff that there aren't enough fully-qualified stuffists to do whatever they do with stuff . . . stuff it, I suppose.

Let's get back to Samuel E. Bring. I discovered archives 20 months ago (or maybe 19, I should have made up an odd number - so much more convincing). My trousers still have the stains from 150 years of filth. (Tasteless joke removed by editor.) Those Whitbread logs are soo dirty.

Huguenots. Proof of the positive effects of immigration. The 5,000 Huguenot emigrés that settled in Berlin had an enormous effect on Prussia's artistic and intellectual life. In Britain, two of the infamous Big Six breweries took their names from Huguenot families: Courage and Whitbread. I'm not sure if that's a good or a bad thing.

Samuel E. Bring. He went through the records. Thirty four years (1930-1964) he spent documenting Stockholm breweries. My efforts are pathetic in comparison. He must have done it for love - how much money could there have been in it?

I had planned to harvest some of the fruits of his research today. But I was too knackered. You'll have to wait. Wienerbryggeriet (most of the breweries Bring writes about have Germanic names - Hamburger Bryggeriet, Nürnbergs Bryggeriet, Neumüllers Bryggeriet) was the subject. And their Bayerskt öl. Intriguing stuff. Challenging stuff. Stuffy stuff. Stuff.

But you'll have to wait until tomorrow. Or the day after. By Monday at the latetst - I promise.


Almost forgot - I promised more about books. Today I ordered the three last three volumes of Samuel E. Bring's oevre. Unless there's a part VIII.

Thursday, 13 September 2007


Sic transit and all that. Forty years ago Dortmund was Germany's top brewing city. It brewed more beer than anywhere else, had the largest single brewery and was home to the most popular beer style. How did it all go so wrong?

Tell me if this sounds familiar. Ill-advised takeovers, panic mergers, jumping on the pils bandwagon and long-term decline in the region's heavy industry all played their part in dethroning Dortmund.

Dortmunder Union, Germany's largest brewery in 1965, was one of the forces behind Brau and Brunnen, a kack-handed - and ultimately disastrous - attempt to create a national brewery. Their beers have disappeared and the brewery has been renamed Brinkhoff's.

The Dortmund beer style - Export - has done a good imitation of mild, going from dominance to obscurity in a generation. It's now easier to find a Dortmunder in Holland

The Dortmund Brewing Industry
When Michael Jackson wrote his "World Guide to Beer" in 1977 Dortmund's breweries were still an impressive sight. "It is barely possible to leave the railway station without encountering a cluster of Dortmund breweries: Dortmunder Actien and Dortmunder Union in Rheinische Street, the Thier, Hansa, Ritter and Wenker Kronen breweries." he wrote. His walk would be very different today.

At the beginning of the 19th century Dortmund was an insignificant town of around 5,000 inhabitants. The breweries it possessed were pub-based brewhouses producing small quantities of top-fermenting beer. But all that was soon to change. As Germany began to industrialise Dortmund became a major centre for the coal and steel industries. The population boomed and with it breweries to slake the workers' thirst.

In 1842 Kronen was the first Dortmund brewery to swap to bottom fermentation. The lager they brewed was, as was usual at that time in Germany, a dark beer in the Münchner style. Throughout the the following 50 years a series of new, industrial lager breweries were established in the city. Organised on a similar basis to the city's other industries, they operated on a far larger scale than had ever been seen in North Germany. The small, alt-producing brewhouses were swept away.

Dortmund's industrial brewers continued to expand in the 20th century (though with some interruption from two world wars), peaking in the 1960's. In 1965 the city's DUB and DAB breweries were the largest in Germany.

As the popularity of Pils soared at the expense of Export, growth slowed, stagnated or even went into reverse. When, in the 1990's, the German economy plummetted into recession, the heavy industry of the Rhine/Ruhr was particularly badly hit. As output fell, Dortmund's breweries looked to mergers for salvation.

Seven breweries became two. But that wasn't the end of matters, oh no. The new millenium was no kinder to German brewing than the previous decade. As beer consumption falls and over-capacity is rife, even more drastic consolidation is taking place. The purchase of Brau & Brunnen (DUB) and Radeberger-Gruppe (DAB) by Oetker has left both Dortmund's remaining brewers with the same owner. Which one do you think they'll leave open? The answer is DAB - it has a greater capacity and a larger site.

The History of Dortmunder Beer
The classic Dortmund beer style Dortmunder Export has its origins in the 1880's. Before 1842, when Kronen brewed their first dark lager, the local style had been a variety of Alt.

Dortmunder Adambier was a strong, sourish top-fermenting beer. Wahl & Henius ("American Handy Book of the Brewing, Malting and Auxiliary Trades", 1902) has an analysis of the beer performed in 1889. It was around 18º Balling, 7.38% alc. by weight (9.4% ABV) and a lactic acid content about half that of a contemporary lambiek. In contrast to sour beers such as Gose and Berliner Weisse, Adambier, also called Dortmunder Altbier, was heavily hopped. It acquired its sourness much like Porter - through a long secondary fermentation. Bacteria in the lagering vessels slowly changed the beer's character. It needed to be stored for at least a year for this process to take place. At the end of the primary fermentation the beer it was not sour at all. Another beer of this type was Münsterländer Altbier - stilll brewed by Pinkus Müller in Münster today. (Source: "Jahrbuch der Versuchs- und Lehranstalt für Brauerei in Berlin, 1911", p.522)

The new bottom-fermenting beer quickly gained popularity and was the main product of the industrial breweries founded in the second half of the 19th century.

The first pale lager was brewed by Dortmunder Union (DUB) in 1887. Initially, the beer was brewed at two strengths Lagerbier and Export. The greater popularity of the latter led to the dropping of the weaker beer and Dortmunder Export was born.

It's great to see the classic "brewing mistake" story used to explain the origin of DUB's first pale lager in 1887. According to their website, the brewer "accidentally" used pils malt. Total load of bollocks, if you ask me. What was the malt doing in the brewery if they weren't going to use it to brew a pale beer? In the 19th century dark lagers were made from 100% dark malt. As pils malt was quite a bit more expensive, they must have deliberately bought it to brew a pale lager. Anyway, only a total idiot wouldn't be able to spot the difference between pils and münchner malt at a glance.

After WW II, Export dominated the German beer market, accounting for as much as two thirds of sales. But this dominance was not to last. The meteoric rise of Pils in the 1970's quickly eroded Export's market share:

1968 Export 57%, Pils 19%
1970 Export 50%, Pils 25%
1976 Export 32%, Pils 41%
1992 Export 10%, Pils 64%
2000 Export 9%, Pils 67%
2006 Export 12.5%, Pils 60%

Since 2000 Export has made a little bit of a comeback and his clawed its way back over 10%. Whether this will continue remains to be seen. There's usually no return for dominant beer styles once they lose favour.

Dortmunder Export is a malty, full-bodied beer, hopped a little less than a Pils and with some residual sweetness. A bit like a strong West Country bitter (say Arkell's BBB), but fizzier. In the 1950's, a gravity of 13º Plato would have been the minimum, with an an alcohol content of 5.5% upwards. Gravities have fallen, especially in the last 30 years as the style's popularity has plummeted, and most Exports now barely reach 12º and 5% ABV.

Wednesday, 12 September 2007

Obligatory Barclay Perkins post

I try to post at least once a week about Barclay Perkins. I wouldn't want the blog's title to become an irrelevance. Here's this week's.

Last night I got hold of a bottle of 1862 Barclay Perkin's TT (Porter) and one of 1856 Imperial Brown Stout. No, I don't have my own private time machine (you know what to get me for christmas now). They were brewed from recipes I've trawled up from the archives by Lachlan, a very nice Australian chap.

I've already tried the Imperial Brown Stout. It was the winning entry in my Homebrew Challenge. In fact, it's one of the best 10 beers I've drunk this year. And it's mine, all mine. But the TT . . . It's a beer that holds a very special place in my heart. I dream of one day being able to order it in a London pub, preferably the Anchor Tavern, but any old Barclay's house would do. Can't wait to try the bottle.

Where the most exciting beer is brewed

Where is the most exciting beer in the world brewed?
Well, the results of my quiz are now in. It's official: the most exciting beer in the world is brewed in Germany. No surprise there.

Let's see how many of you got the answer right:

Germany 30%
Canada 22%
Argentina 12%
Switzerland 9%
Wales 9%
New Zealand 6%
Lithuania 6%
Austria 2%

Only 30% correct answers - not very good really, is it? You must try harder next time. What were the other 70% of you thinking?

But I now have the proof I need. Next time someone goes on about The Country With The Most Exciting Brewing Scene In The Universe I'll be able to argue with numbers to back me up. Thank you.

Where is the most exciting beer in the world brewed? (North American version)
The results were much closer for the North American version of the question. I was heartened to see that my favourite, USB, was a narrow winner ahead of The United States of America.

USB 37%
The United States of America 32%
America 14%
USA 11%
The States 4%

What this tells us, I'm not sure exactly . Something. You tell me. I'm fed up with having to provide all the answers. It's making my head hurt. I'm leaving this one to you.

Tuesday, 11 September 2007

Early Swedish lagers

Did I tell you a pile of Swedish brewery histories arrived last week? I'm sure I've already mentioned it somewhere. A bloke called Samuel E. Bring seems to have single-handedly tried to document Stockholm's brewing industry. I have three volumes (out of at least six, as one is numbered VI). They are providing fascinating insights into the early days of lager brewing in Sweden.

Bayerskt öl
The most popular style in Sweden in the period 1870 to 1920 was, by a street, Bayerskt öl. I had been assuming that this was a dark lager in the Munich style. As so often is the case, it's actually a little more complicated than that. According to the Svenska Bryggareföreningen's magazine of January 1887, there were many differences between the Swedish version and the original. Bayerskt öl:

  1. had a higher OG
  2. used lower quality hops so wasn't as bitter
  3. was paler - between pale yellow and pale brown, whereaas the original was closer in colour to Porter
  4. had a higher alcohol content because of the higher OG and because the paler malts used meant it was more highly attenuated
  5. had a higher CO2 content because:
    1. it was served directly from the barrel and not bottled
    2. Swedes liked highly-carbonated drinks

You may (or more likely not) be interested to know that one Swedish brewery, Falkenberg, still brews a Bayerskt. It's pretty pale, and is only just about dark enough to count as amber.

In 1884, the Bayerskt öl of Nürnbergs Bryggeriet in Sweden had a gravity of 13.8° Balling and was 3.84% ABW (5.3% ABV). In the same period, Pripps Bayerskt öl was 16° Balling and 6.7% ABV. By way of comparison, Löwenbräu (Munich) Lagerbier in 1887 was only 4.25% ABV, despite having a gravity of 14.75° Balling.

Pilsner öl
The first Swedish Pilsner was brewed in 1877 by Hamburgerbryggeriet in Stockholm. Paler and much bitterer than the better selling Bayerskt öl, it immediately found a market, though quite a small one. For both Pripps and Nürnbergs Bryggeriet it only made up around 5% of output in the period 1880-1920. Though, unlike some other styles, its popularity was relatively stable.

The Pripps version was around 15° Balling and 6.4% ABV. Just as with Bayerskt, this is considerably stronger than the original. Even the export beers brewed in Pilsen were only 5.25% ABV.

In the 188o's Grönwallska Bryggeriet introduced a new style of pale lager, Pilsnerdricka. It was a realtively weak beer, intended to offer a cheaper alternative to Pilsner. Many breweries introduced their own versions under a variety of names (Nürnbergs Bryggeriet's was called Iskällerdricka - "Ice cellar drink").

These are the details of a few beers of this type:

S:t Eriks Bryggeriet 7.4° Balling 2.8% ABV
Nürnbergs Bryggeriet 10.8° Balling 4.5% ABV
F.R. Neumüllers Bryggeriet 8.6° Balling 3.2% ABV
Erlangens Filial 8.2° Balling 3.2% ABV
Münchens Bryggeriet 8.8° Balling 3.4% ABV

Monday, 10 September 2007

I am a tart

I'm a tart. No point trying to hide it. I have a family (and book habit) to feed.

That's why I'll be happy to accept any sponsorship of freebies you can offer me. Within reason, of course. I do have some principles. So no Inbev or arms manufacturers. Not that I would expect either to give money to a loudmouth like me.

Get in touch if you can help. Perhaps my children will then have shoes this winter.


I'm gradually getting around most of the significant beer festivals. Reports of Bruxellensis being very favourable, I thought I'd give it a try this year.

It wasn't a totally a voluntary decision. The plan had been to combine the RateBeer meeting in Antwerp and Bruxellensis. I enjoyed the Ratebeer meeting last year tremendously, especially finally getting to drink Zoigl (thanks Sebastian). But it wasn't to be. Dolores was away in Germany and I had to look after the kids. I suppose I could have taken them to Antwerp, but I doubt it would have gone down too well with everyone else. Whilst sitting around trying weird and wonderful beers might be fascinating for me, I can't see it occupying the kids' attention for long. A beer festival is another matter.

Andrew has an impressive array of beer festivals under his belt: ZBF (twice), Hasselt, Essen, Annafest, Peterborough to name just a few. And still he won't drink beer. I suppose, being just 11, he still has time to acquire the taste. We have a wager about beer drinking. I bet him 50 euros that he would drink a beer by the time he's 18. Andrew thinks that's easy money. I do, too. I wonder which of us has got it right?

I only have one criticism of Bruxellensis. The instructions on how to get there by train say to take the 81 or 82 tram from Gare du Midi. We jumped on the latter. It was soon obvious that it wasn't going in the direction of the festival. Andrew usually manages all the navigation on public transport. I assume he'll need to know the way back, as I won't be aware of which town I'm in, let alone which direction to go after a day's boozing. It's a good system. But this time I had to take control. As luck would have it, we got off at just the right stop to change to a 97 tram, which does go the right way. Thank you god. I owe you one.

The festival is held in a building called Ijskelders van St. Gillis (Ice Cellars of St. Gillis). It looks like an old bus garage inside, but I think the name gives away it's original purpose. Rather Spartan and industrial but not without a certain charm. I would provide you with photos so you could judge for yourselves, but Dolores had the camera in Germany. Hopefully I can borrow some of Andy's.

The organisers have strict criteria for selecting participants. This is how they put it:

"There will thus be present brewers producing beers, the majority of which, if not all, have well-defined characteristics. The aim is to support and defend those who have made the decision to turn their back on easy commercial gain but rather have adopted a fighting stance against beers with little flavour. They are thus brewers who wander off the well-trodden path. They work in breweries on a human, rather than an industrial scale, using traditional and natural methods, and are guided by higher motives than an unbridled pursuit of profit. They are small in size, but their contribution to our brewing heritage is enormous: they are the ultimate guarantors of the preservation of centuries old tradition and produce beers with a genuine diversity of flavours."

An admirable viewpoint. It means that, whilst quite small, the festival offers an impressive number of distinctive and exciting beers. Certainly more than I could manage in three hours. Though I did have three pints of Mild. And a couple of pints of Alt. With so many beers of 5% ABV and under, I was delighted to get my hands on a pint glass. I would have gone crazy drinking Mild from the tiny festival tasting glass.

It's also an international festival. Two brewers from Finland, two from England, half dozen from the Rhineland, several from Franconia, and one each from Spain and France were represented. Plus 10 Belgian breweries, mostly very small and traditional. A unique mix.

It must say something about me (probably not very complimentary) that I always bump into loads of people I know at festivals. Bruxellensis was no exception. Jeremy from the Babblebelt, Fred Waltman, Andy and Evi, Mike Kavanagh, Marlies and Hugh of Bierlijn. Quite impresive, especially considering many were at the RateBeer meeting. (Apologies to those of you - probably the majority - who don't have the faintest idea who all these people are.)

I only have one concern: that it might get too popular. It was just about right on Saturday afternoon. It was possible to get a seat and get served. But there wouldn't need to be that many more attendees to bugger all that up. I hope it doesn't become a victim of its own success.

Those of you able to read Dutch can find Andrew's account of the day here.

Saturday, 8 September 2007

A pint of Mild, please

"What do I have to say?" I ask myself this question often. This is my usual response:

"Where do I want to be?" I do know the answer to that one: the Brassmoulders Arms in 1979. Drinking Tetley's Mild served through an economiser.

I've been all over, drunk all kinds of fancy beer, but a pub crawl around Cross Green or Hunslet; that was something else. There was only one beer involved. For me there was only one beer in those years. A beer as unfashionable as you could get. A cloth cap beer brewed by a big brewery. Drunk in pubs as magnificent as the ale.

"What do you want?" "A pint of mild, please." I still say that. Even when I'm not being asked what I want to drink. Nostalgia? Bad joke? Unfulfilled longing? Who knows. That it still falls so easily from my lips after all these years must mean something.

Today I could have said "a pint of Mild, please" seriously. They had Rutland Panther straight from the barrel at Bruxellensis. But no-one asked me what I wanted. Bloody typical.

Friday, 7 September 2007

Obadiah Poundage's letter of 1760


I have a plan. It may not appear so, but I do. Purpose, perhaps, is more accurate. I want to improve the quality of debate about the history of beer styles. Because, let's be honest, the standard is mostly pretty crap.

It isn't laziness that prompts me to post big chunks of my source material (though that is a happy side effect). I want you to be able to weigh the evidence and come to your own conclusions. It's boring debating with yourself. If a few of you can be arsed to read this stuff, maybe I won't have to any more.

One of the few contemporary sources that discuss the origin of Porter, Obadiah Poundage's letter has unfortunately been much misinterpreted. Yet analysed correctly, it's a goldmine of invaluable information. As an insider in the brewing trade, he certainly knew what he was talking about.

Here's how I interpret the letter:

  • many drinkers liked the taste of aged beer, to get this they drank either all old beer or old beer mixed with young
  • before Porter, breweries sent out all their beer young and to get old beer publicans either had to age beer themselves ("start butts") or buy it from middlemen
  • brewers had the idea of a partially-aged beer themsleves to:
    • generate greater profit
    • make life easier for landlords
  • the first Porter was Brown Beer aged for 4 or 5 months
  • by 1760 customers and publicans expected Porter to be clear
Note that there is no mention of "three threads" anywhere in the letter. That story appears to be a 19th century invention.

Here's the text. See what you think.

Obadiah Poundage's letter


I believe I may say I am the oldest acting outdoor Clerk at present in the brewery. I served in the trade when Tom Tryon (a student in physick) whom I new very well, occasioned no small bustle among us by advising the not boiling of our worts for fear that our ales should taste raw. This, as near as I can recollect, was about the time of the Revolution as proves in how much need the trade stood of further improvement.

[missing section]

...In the beginning of King William's reign [1689-1702], whose memory be ever blessed, the duty on strong beer and ale was 2/6 per barrel and small beer was made from the same grains and sold for 6/- per barrel. Both the ale and beer was fetched from the brew-house by the customers themselves or at their charge, and paid for with ready money; so we entertained but few servants, fewer horses; we had no stocks of ales and beers in store, of casks but a trifling quantity and money in the Compting House before either duty or malt was become due. The Victuallers then sold this ale for twopence the quart.

But soon after our wars with France occasioned Further duties on this commodity -- I set them down from memory alone -- ninepence per barrel more in 1693 was laid on strong ale, an additional threepence per barrel in 1694. The whole duty amounted to four shillings per barrel on ale and one shilling per barrel on small beer at this period. Ale rose in price to 18/- and 19/- per barrel and the victualler sold it for twopence halfpenny per quart.

Now we come to the Queen's time [Anne 1702-1714], when France disturbing us again, the Malt Tax, the Duty on Hops and that on coals took place, besides one shilling per barrel more on strong beer and ale and fourpence per barrel more on small beer, owing to old Lewis's ambition. Our duties on strong beer and ale amounted to 5/- per barrel and on small beer 1/4 per barrel. May he receive his reward, say I, for about the year 1710 his machinations embarrassed us much. However, at last, it was realised that the duty on malt surpassed by much the duty on hops, from whence the Brewers endeavoured at a liquor wherein more of these last should be used. Thus the drinking of beer came to be encouraged in preference to ale. This beer, when new, was sold for £1/2/- per barrel, but the people not easily weaned from their wonted sweet heavy drink, in general used ale mixed with beer, which they purchased from the Ale draper at twopence halfpenny, and twopence three farthings per quart.

About this time the Gentry residing in London more than they had in former times, for them was introduced the pale ales and pale small beers they were habituated to in the country and many of the Brewers took to making drinks of this sort. Affluence and cleanliness promoted the delivery of them in the brewer's own casks and at his charge. Pale malt being dearer than brown malt, the brewer being loaded with more and greater taxes, the price of such small beer was fixed at 8/- and 10/- per barrel and that of the ale at £1/10/- per barrel; the latter was retailed by the victuallers at twopence per pint or fourpence per quart under the name of twopenny.

This incroachment on the consumption of the drinks which London had always been habituated to, excited the brown beer[1] brewers to produce if possible a better sort of commodity in their own way, than heretofore had been made. To their honour I say it, my old Masters were foremost in this attempt and thus much let me add, I approved of the undertaking. They began to hop their mild beer more and the Publican started[2] three, four, sometimes six butts at once, but so little idea had the brewer or his customers incurring the charge of great stocks of beer, that some moneyed people made a trade of purchasing their hopped beers at the first hand, keeping them sometime and when stale to dispose of the same to Publicans for £1/5/- per barrel and £1/6/- per barrel. Our tastes but slowly alter or reform. Some drank mild beer[3] and stale mixed, others ale, mild beer and stale blended together at threepence per quart, but many used all stale a fourpence per pot.

On this footing stood the trade until about the year 1722 when the Brewers conceived there was a method to be found preferable to any of these extremes; that beer well brewed, kept its proper time, became racy and mellow, that is, neither new nor stale, such would recommend itself to the public. This they ventured to sell at £1/5/- per barrel that the victualler might retail at threepence per quart. At first it was slow in making its way, but in the end the experiment succeeded beyond all expectation. The labouring people, porters etc. experienced its wholesomeness and utility, they assumed to themselves the use thereof, from whence it was called Porter or Entire Butt. As yet, however, it was far from being in the perfection which since we have had it. I well remember for many years it was not expected, nor was it thought possible to be made fine and bright[4], and four or five months was deemed to be sufficient age for it to be drunk at.

The improvement of transparency has since been added to it by means of more and better workmanship, better malt, better hops and the use of isinglass; but this more perfection has brought with it numberless charges, greater stocks, long credit, more casks, more cellarage, more servants etc. and if at this time Porter is not fine, it has brought also this casualty of being returned on the Brewers' hands as being unfit for use.

[missing section]

...For a last objection, the Gazeteer has said, by a rise of 3/- per barrel a certain great brewhouse will be benefitted by £11,000 per annum. Perhaps is the Brewhouse I have the honour to belong to, and perhaps it may be so much advantaged. Sir, I desire to be allowed to know somewhat of this matter, if such be the profits they make, it will be the first profits they have seen these five years. Their capital stock is not less than £120,000 and this sum in the public funds would make £6,000 per annum; remains £5,000 out of which at least one half must be taken for so much as under the circumstances of a rise on beer, it will be made of better quality; the result then is that 2 per cent would be paid by the victualler for carrying on the most laborious manufacture in England.

There is then a necessity for a rise on this commodity and if it did not take place when the late additional duty on malt was imposed and when liberty was granted to the Distiller to go on in his profession, the reason was this: The London brewers willing to try what could be done in support of this charge by weakening their commodity, acted in consequence thereof and how did the event prove? Why, their beers were small and bad to such a degree that it became a fashion with the people to drink one half twopenny and one half porter at threepence halfpenny the pot.


your very humble servant,

Obadiah Poundage.

  1. "Brown beer" was the direct ancestor of Porter.
  2. "Start" meant something very specific in 18th century brewing. "Starting a butt" has usually been interpreted in this letter to mean "tapping a barrel". It really means laying down a barrel of beer to mature. This section is talking about publicans having to mature multiple barrels in their own cellars to meet the public's taste for aged beer.
  3. "Mild beer" means something completely different from "Mild Ale". In the period when the letter was written Beer and Ale were still two very different drinks. Beer was hopped at about four times the rate of Ale. In this context "mild" simply means "unaged". You can read more about the difference between Ale and Beer here.
  4. In this context "fine" means "clear". From the use of the word "once" in this sentence, it's obvious that by 1760 (despite what some claim) Porter must have been clear. In fact, the way the sentence is phrased implies that Porter had been clear for many years at that point.

2 pints = 1 quart, 8 pints = 1 gallon, 36 gallons = 1 barrel (for beer) 32 gallons = 1 barrel (ale)

1/- = 1 shilling = 12 pence, 20/- = £1

Thursday, 6 September 2007

Pripps beers 1863-1923 (part two)

I've had such an overwhelming response to yesterday's post about Pripps that I've decided to expand upon it. "Yes, yes" I hear you say "tell us more about beer styles in late 19th century Sweden." OK then. If you insist.

Here are a few important dates:

  • 1844 first bottom-fermenting beer (Munich-style dark lager) brewed by Åkershult in Stockholm
  • 1846 first bottom-fermenting beer (Munich-style dark lager) brewed by Jacobsen (Carlsberg) in Copenhagen
  • 1846 first bottom-fermenting beer (Munich-style dark lager) brewed by Schous in Kristiania (Norway)
  • 1862 Pripps first brew bottom-fermenting beer (Munich-style dark lager)
  • 1876 Pripps stop brewing Engelskt (English-style) beer
  • 1877 first Pils in Sweden brewed by Hamburgerbryggeriet in Stockholm
  • 1884 Pripps first brew Pils
  • 1892 Pripps stop brewing Svenskt (Swedish-style) beer
You'll see that Sweden (and Denmark and Norway) were very early to start bottom-fermenting. Before most of northern Germany, in fact. The availability of natural ice, very important before the development of artificial refrigeration, must have helped. You may be surprised to see how long only dark lager was brewed. This pattern was repeated across Europe. Pale lagers, inspired by those of Pilsen, weren't really brewed outside Bohemia before 1880.

Hopping rates
On page 104 of "Pripps Bryggeri 1828-1928" there's information about hopping levels in the 1860's and 1870's. I want to share it with you. (I don't really. I want to make sure I don't lose the information and here seems a good place to put it. I've told you about my desk; any sheet of paper I put there soon gets swallowed up in the ocean of other crap.)

Svenskt öl 0.3 kg (later 0.6 kg) hops per 100 kg malt
Engelskt öl 0.8 - 0.9 kg hops per 100 kg malt
Bayerskt öl 1.8 kg hops per 100 kg malt

To provide a comparison, these are the hopping rates for Barclay Perkins ales in 1869:

X (the weakest Mild) 2 kg hops per 100 kg malt
XX 3.25 kg hops per 100 kg malt
XXX 3.75 kg hops per 100 kg malt
KK 4.5 kg hops per 100 kg malt

It makes you wonder exactly what the Pripps "English-style" beers were with such woefully low hopping rates. The Barclay Perkins Ales quoted are the most lightly-hopped they were making. Even the bottom of the range Mild was twice as heavily-hopped as the Swedish Engelskt öl.

If you're thinking "how can he compare the hopping rates beers that may be of different strengths?" I have an answer. Because the amount of hops is specified per 100 kg of grain and not per 100 litres of wort, the strength of the beer is irrelevant.

Here's a joke before I go. What do you call a man with a bird on his head? . . . . Duck.

I think that was it. I'm not very good at remembering jokes. Or making them up. There is a joke with duck as its punchline, I'm sure. Let me know if you can recall it.

Wednesday, 5 September 2007

Pripps beers 1863-1923


The other day I searched Abebooks for "bryggeri". I'd never tried that one before. The results were very pleasing. I had dozens of hits and not all just for the same handfull of titles. (Why did someone have to write a book entitled "The Birds of Brewery Creek" and why are there so many copies of it for sale on the web? It really buggers up my searches.)

Let's get back to my bryggeri search. I found quite a few brewery histories: "Münchens bryggeri 1855-1910", "Grönwalls bryggeri", "S:t Eriks bryggeri på Åsögatan" and the book that inspired today's post "Pripps Bryggeri 1828-1928". The first two arrived yesterday. I was so happy when I came home from work and saw them sitting on my desk. I say sitting on my desk. I should really say sitting on top of the pile of crap that's on my desk. Notes, books, magazines, clippings and god knows what else form a layer about a foot deep.

I have dozens of brewery histories. They are rather hit-and-miss in terms of useful (for me) information. If you're lucky, the author has used brewery documents as the major source and you get details of OG's and output. Other times all you get is gossip about the owners and reports of all their good works or public offices. What they rarely do is go into any detail on the types of beer brewed. It's very frustrating.

The Pripps book is an exception. OK, there's the usual guff about how Mr. Pripps was a farsighted businessman and how well his heirs built up the company. But there's a whole chapter dedicated to what beer they were churning out. There's even a series of graphs detailing the output of each of the different types. Interesting stuff. It demonstrates a development that I imagine was typical for Scandinavia:

  • <1840: local styles (Svenskt ol) only
  • 1840 - 1870: local styles plus English styles (Engelskt ol)
  • 1860 - 1870: Munich-style lager (Bayerskt ol) appears and quickly drives out English styles
  • 1870 -1900: Munich lager drives out local styles
  • 1880 - 1920: Pilsner lager appears but remains very much a minority product (the split is about 90% Munich to 10% Pilsner)
Pripps were a little late starting to bottom ferment. Åkershult in Stockholm brewed the first Swedish Munich-style lager in 1844 and many other breweries soon followed their lead.

Below you can see how much they were producing of each beer type.

Tuesday, 4 September 2007


I caught the end of University Challenge last night. I was gobsmacked when Jeremy Paxman asked a series of questions on beer styles. Unbelievably, the swotty students had no bloody idea in which German city the wheat called Weisse and "the champagne of the North" was brewed. What is the education system coming to?

I've been inspired to ask a beer-related question myself. You should see it in the sidebar to the left. What do you think? Where is the most exciting beer in the world brewed?

After a comment from a reader, I realised that I had missed the USA off the original list. As some votes were already in, it wouldn't be fair to just add it on the end. Instead I've added a second question.

It's too early to see any pattern to the voting yet, but this is my prediction:

  1. Lithuania
  2. Wales
  3. Slovenia

I think the voting will be much closer on the North American version. This is just a wild guess:

  1. The States
  2. Puerto Rico
  3. USB

Pleaase vote. But you have to promise to only vote once. Otherwise the whole scientific basis will be destroyed.

Monday, 3 September 2007

Brewery Manual 1971

I don't need to tell you again of my passion for beer books. As long as the kids are getting a meal every day or two, everything else I earn is spent at Abebooks. You wouldn't believe how many books there are out there that I want to buy. Just call me Imelda.

Brewery Manual 1971 is quite a dry tome. 99% of it just lists breweries, with handy details about their share structure, directors and head brewer. Sure, it's 35 years out of date. That just adds to its charm.

Pages 50 and 51, which discuss the prospects for the brewing trade in 1971, constitute the only proper article in the whole book. But you won't need to buy it yourself. Oh, no. I've picked out the highlights for you. Aren't I kind?

Why am I happy with a book with only two pages of text? Ah, well. You may have noticed me enquiring on a couple of beer forums about the number of breweries in Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Explaining precisely why I need this information is beyond my current boundaries of being arsed. For something I'm wrting, let's leave it at that. The Brewery Manual doesn't limit itself to the UK. One section covers everywhere else in the world, but with a particular emphasis on the British Commonwealth. Now I know how many breweries there were in Australia in 1970. (Not very many, if you're interested.) Loads more lovely stats for my spreadsheets. I'm so excited.


This is my second mention of Watney's. The early 1970's had a deep impact on me, as you can see. They epitomised all that was bad about big breweries and no-one has mourned their passing. The following paragraph may explain why.

"Early this year it was announced that Watney Mann are making a revolutionary
change by scrapping their 20 year old keg beer "Red Barrel"and replacing it with
a new one "Watney's Red" a premium bitter at the same price and strength as Red
Barrel but which tastes sweeter and which has a creamier head. Watney's decided
on this because they believe customers' tastes have changed. The new beer is to
backed by Watney's biggest advertising estimated to cost 500,000 pounds
." p. 50

It's typical of the "innovation" breweries come up with when marketing men and accountants have taken over from the brewers. What has happened? They've made a minor change to the name and made the beer blander. Making a product sweeter is the policy of the clueless and desperate. Oh, but it's because customers' want a sweeter beer. In which case, why did they need to spend half a million quid persuading them to drink it?

The inability of large breweries to come up with new ideas remains the same today. Look at Guinness Red or Beck's Gold. (Why do marketers love colours so?) Let's hope the current bunch of shallow and unimaginative megabrewers share Watney's fate.

Licensing law reform

During the late 1960's and early 1970's psychics would predict the end of Vietnam War every year. True enough, eventually they were right. Reform of the archaic British licensing laws was similarly expected to change at any minute by optimists in the industry. How naive to think it might happen in 1971. Only three decades out.

"Big changes in the licensing laws may be in prospect which could have a
profound influence in determining the shape of things to come for the brewery
industry. A committee under the chairmanship of Lord Erroll will "review
the liquor licensing laws, taking into acccount the changes recommended by the
Monopolies Commission and any other changes that may be proposed and make

Basically, the Monopolies Commission suggested that retailers satisfying
certain standards should get a liquor licence and compete with pubs ownedby
breweries. The assumption is that the Erroll Commission may favour aless rigid
system than that now ruling under the licensing laws, so that public houses
could open at times when demand is greatest in a particular district, and they
may also take the line that drinks should be available with meals whenever
." p. 51

Let pubs open when people want a drink? What sort of crazy idea is that? Give anyone competent a pub licence? Anarchists!


Many of you probably don't realise that the terms "naturally-conditioned" and "cask-conditioned" weren't invented by CAMRA, but come from the brewing industry itself. This is the entry for my favourite Australian brewery.

"Cooper & Sons Ltd.
Produces ales (naturally conditioned top fermentation brews), beers and


I grew up in the brewing town of Newark-upon-Trent. When I was a boy, there were two decent-sized breweries: Hole's and Warwick's and Richardson's. Both fell under the control of Courage and by the 1970's just one remained. And it didn't brew any cask beer, just bright beer (AK, IPA, Old Tom).

What am I burbling on about? Have I run out of ideas? No. There is a point, that I will eventually get to. Just bear with me.

One of the main results of Courage getting hold of both the local breweries was that they owned almost every pub in town. Of the 35 pubs, 30 were Courage houses, 4 Home Ales and one Watneys. Which meant that the only cask beers available were Home Bitter and Home Mild. This was the situation when I came of drinking age in 1974. Sorry, I tell a lie. The Wing Tavern (owned by Courage) was still selling the legendary Barnsley Bitter, the first cask beer I ever tasted.

What's happened since is indicative of the drastic changes that have taken place in British brewing. A couple of cask beer freehouses opened up in the late 1970's, the first new pubs in the town centre in the 20th century, though both were in buildings that had once been pubs. That added a couple more cask beers: Ruddles in Kirrages and Hardy and Hanson's in the Old King's Arms.

Pub swaps between the Big Six brewers (Bass Charrington, Courage, Allied Breweries, Watney Mann, Whitbread and Scottish and Newcastle) in the early 1980's gave Newark a couple of Bass pubs, selling their eponymous cask ale. But the last industrial brewery, Hole's, closed in the same decade and most pubs sold John Smith's, sometimes in cask form.

I was back in Newark at the weekend. The last two unspoilt pubs - the Woolpack and the Wing Tavern - were both boarded up (as were three others). There are still about 35 pubs. But only about half a dozen are still open and trading under the same name. A Weatherspoon's has appeared in a former shop. A similar chain circuit pub occupies what was once the post office.

In the space of thirty years the pub scene has been changed beyond recognition. None of the beers on sale in 1974 is still available: the Hole's beers, Home Ales, Watney's Red - all gone. Not only have the beers disappeared, all the breweries that supplied them have closed, too. And the ownership of every pub has changed. All had been brewery-owned. Now they all belong to pub chains.

The choice of cask ales today is far greater than the slender three available in 1974. I would guess between 20 and 30. That's an improvement, I guess. But there isn't a single pub that hasn't had its interior (quite literally) knocked about.

Are things better or worse than they were 30 years ago? I can't really say. Just totally different.

Here are photos of some of the pubs I mentioned: