Thursday, 28 August 2008

Oh what a lovely war!

I warned you I was starting on the WW I chapter of my book. I'd been looking forward to it so much. Then I noticed the holes in my notes. I'd forgotten to photograph the Whitbread Ale logs for 1914-18. Bum. I need another archive visit soon. Very soon.

Strange as it may seem, and in direct contrast to malt, there was a glut of hops in 1917 and 1918. It was so serious that the government had to step in and buy the surplus crop to prevent hop farmers from going bankrupt.

Why was this? In 1917 the government limited beer production to half the number of standard barrels brewed in 1914. Gravity cuts meant that the reduction in bulk barrels wasn't so large, but breweries had effectively halved the amount of malt they used. It's no wonder that they required far fewer hops. As there is no other use for hops, suddenly there were far more available than there was need for.

This explains why, although gravities fell during WW I, hopping rates didn't. Postwar the hopping rate of Whitbread beers, in terms of pounds of hops per quarter of malt used - a good method of eliminating differences in the gravity - was higher than it had been in 1914.

You can see the changes in gravity and hopping rates of Whitbread beers pre- and post-WW I:

You'll see that the quantity of hops in Whitbread X Ale remained constant, even though the gravity had dropped a significant amount.

Beers on sale in a London pub in 1917
A price fixing agreement by publicans gives an insight into the types of beer on sale in a London pub in 1917.

The new scale of prices as fixed by the Licensed Victuallers' Central Protection Society of London is:

Beer________half pint__Glass
Mild ale______3.5d______-
Burton _______6d_______5d.
Mild and Bitter__4.5d_____3.5d.
Stout and Mild__5d_______4d.
Mild and Burton_5d_______4d.

Other prices: Small Bass 7d.; Guinness 8d.; London stout (screws) 5d.; pale ale (screws) 5d.; barley wine nips 6d.; lager, light or dark, 8d.

"The Price of Beer Yesterday" Weekly Dispatch, April 8th 1917

The decline in Porter is apparent by its exclusion from the agreement. It could no longer have been a standard draught beer. Mild, Bitter and Burton would maintain there place on the bar for another forty years. Draught Stout disappeared soon after WW II, but remained important in bottled form.


Bill in Oregon said...

What strikes me as interesting is that the Burton is by far the hoppiest beer in the range pre-war, and it's still the highest hops/brl post-war, although I guess the post war IPA may have tasted the most bitter because of the lower OG. Additonally the Burton is considerably higher in strength than the other pale beers PA, IPA and X) as well.

Well that blows the homebrewer myth about IPA being the strongest and most heavily hopped offering historically, doesn't it? Another story ruined by the facts.

The bit about Porter not being draft is also interesting. Nice obeservation. Thanks for throwing the table in this time. I just love looking at these things.

Ron Pattinson said...

bill, relieved to discover I'm not the only one fascinated by this stuff.

If only I could drop by a 1917 pub. Draught Mild, Bitter, Stout and Burton. Yum.

The Burton was dark. Young's Winter Warmer is a renamed Burton.

London IPA. Another style? Low gravity, but hoppy. Sounds like a challenge to me.

Pleased to find a fellow table fan.

Bill in Oreogn said...

Didn't realize that Burton's were dark. I just kind of assumed that they were pale since Burton is so famous for pales (and least in the fact challenged homebrewer literature). Thanks for pointing that out.

So on a diffferent but related note, are the real historical attributes of IPA higher attenuation and higher hopping rate but lower strength as compared to pale ales? That's what this chart and some others seem to indicate, but I've never seen it laid out completely.

Yes, we need more tables. I can look at those things for hours.....

Boak said...

I've a question I've been wondering for a while.

What measures were used to serve beer, especially pre WW1? Your table indicates a half pint, and a (presumably smaller) "glass".

I've been reading a fair bit of Dickens recently, and although he mentions a half-pint and a glass, I don't think I've ever seen him refer to a pint.

So: would it have been more common to drink smaller measures? Did the Brits compensate for the gravity drop by starting to drink bigger measures? Or am I just drawing way too much from some limited sources?

Ron Pattinson said...

boak, in Victorian times a quart was the standard measure. By WW I, it was a pint.

Ron Pattinson said...

bill, there seem to have been two varieties of IPA. The one brewed in Burton appears to have been closer to how people usually imagine an IPA. The London version was as you describe, lower in alcohol, but hoppier. I unfortunately only have patchy details of the Burton version.

Bailey said...

On the subject of porter out of bottles, I noticed that an advert for a coaching inn from the mid 18th century specified porter "bottled and fit to drink". I wonder how common it was to see porter in bottles back then?

Ron Pattinson said...

Bailey, there was some bottling in the 18th century. Though only a tiny percentage of beer was packaged this way, the vast majority, even for home use, being draught. There are a few reference to bottling in 18th century brewing manuals, too.

Boak said...

How do you know a quart was the standard measure?

I'm not doubting you, just interested in your sources...

Ron Pattinson said...

boak, mainly because when giving the retail price, it's for a quart, not a pint.

But they sold beer in a range of different sizes. In the 19th century, many used a pub as their office. It was important for pubs to have something that cost a penny for clients of the "office" to drink. Which is why pubs and breweries were terrified of the prospect of beer going over 4d a quart.

I'm not really sure when pints became more popular than quarts. There not really much about such matters that I've found.

Quarts were a reality until not that long ago. "Saturday Night and Sunday Morning", written in the 1950's, mentions people drinking quarts in pubs.

"Whitbread big head Trophy Bitter, the pint that thinks it's a quart." That's a Whitbread slogan I remember from my pre-drinking days (late 60's, I guess). Would your average drinker even know what the flip a quatr was today?