Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Brewing IPA in the 1840's

This is the earlist description of brewing IPA I've found so far. It's taken from "Scottish Ale Brewer", by WH Roberts, published in Edinburgh in 1847.

Brewing IPA
Roberts was convinced that the problems some brewers had with overattenuation of their IPA's were the result of mashing at too high a temperature. When the air temperature was 40º to 45º F, he recommended a striking heat of 168º to 170º F. For an air temperature of 35º to 40º F, the striking heat was 170º to 172º F. (Source: "Scottish Ale Brewer", WH Roberts, Edinburgh, 1847, pages 161-162.) When run down into the underback, the temperature of the wort should be 145º to 150º F. (Source: "Scottish Ale Brewer", WH Roberts, Edinburgh, 1847, page 161.)

The idea was to mash as quickly as possible, about 20 to 25 minutes if using a mashing machine. The temperature was immediately taken at various points in the mash and if the temperature was much below 145º F, hot water was added until the temperature was raised to 150º F. The mash was left to stand for between 100 and 120 minutes. (Source: "Scottish Ale Brewer", WH Roberts, Edinburgh, 1847, pages 162-163.)

Sparging should begin, according to Roberts, a minute or two before the taps were opened to draw off the wort. The water for sparging was at between 185º to 190º F. When all of the first wort had been run off, the taps were closed, but sparging continued until the surface of grains were covered "it being highly detrimental to let the surface of the goods to be dry. (Source: "Scottish Ale Brewer", WH Roberts, Edinburgh, 1847, page 163.)

Burton brewers hopped at a rate of 20 to 22 pounds of East Kent hops per quarter of malt. Brewers elsewhere used rather fewer hops, 16 to 18 pounds per quarter. (Source: "Scottish Ale Brewer", WH Roberts, Edinburgh, 1847, page 164.) That's considerably more than for other styles of the period - the weaker Ales had around 8 pounds per quarter, Porter about 12 pounds.

If 22 pounds per quarter were being used, 6 pounds of hops were added to the first wort at the beginning of the boil. After 20 minutes, another 8 pounds were added and the boil continued for another 50 minutes. The first wort was transferred to the hop back and the second wort boiled with the remaining 8 pounds of hops for two hours. The hops from the first wort were left in the hop back and the second wort drained through them to drive out the first wort that had been soaked up by the them. (Source: "Scottish Ale Brewer", WH Roberts, Edinburgh, 1847, pages 164-165.)

Roberts reckoned 22 pounds per quarter was too much. He claimed to have brewed beers with far fewer hops that were still good after 5 years. He even heated them up to 90º F to see how well they withstood hight temperatures.(Source: "Scottish Ale Brewer", WH Roberts, Edinburgh, 1847, page 165.)

"Reducing the temperature of worts in the coolers is now generally accomplished by artificial means, and with great rapidity, it being important that they should be reduced to the pitching temperature, with as little delay as possible." (Source: "Scottish Ale Brewer", WH Roberts, Edinburgh, 1847, pages 165-166.)

Yeast was pitched at when the wort was between 58º and 60º F, depending on the air temperature. The fermentation was swift and vigorous, with the wort remaining in the tuns just 24 to 30 hours before being cleansed. During this time the temperature of the wort rose about 7º F. (Source: "Scottish Ale Brewer", WH Roberts, Edinburgh, 1847, pages 166-167.)

Cleansing took place in puncheons, which were filled up with ejected wort every two or three hours. Roberts warns of the dangers of filling up with wort that is cloudy, as it will just extend the cleansing period and create more work. Fermentation in the puncheons continued for 14 to 20 days, after which time the beer, which was already quite clear, was racked into hogsheads. When any head had subsided, a pound of hops was put into each hogshead which was then bunged down. (Source: "Scottish Ale Brewer", WH Roberts, Edinburgh, 1847, pages 167-168.)

Roberts mixed the hops with a little boiling strong Ale wort, which was left to cool and then added to the hogsheads. (Source: "Scottish Ale Brewer", WH Roberts, Edinburgh, 1847, page 168.)

While Roberts preferred racking when the beer was relatively clear, some other brewers deliberately racked some of the dregs with the beer. They argued that this helped the preserve the beer during the long voyage to India. (Source: "Scottish Ale Brewer", WH Roberts, Edinburgh, 1847, pages 168-169.)

Monday, 29 September 2008

IPA 1815 - 1850

Back to a topic that always arouses a great deal of interest: IPA. Before we go any further, I'll admit that my information is still patchy on IPA. Don't expect any grand theories of definitive conclusions. Early days, early days.

There was probably more diversity amongst IPA's that is generally reckoned today. A look at the IPA's analysed in the 1840's, shows that they had a wide range of gravities, both for the home and export markets. The beers tested were brewed in London, Scotland, Burton and other English towns.

The weakest had a gravity of just 1045º, not that much different from some modern British IPA's. That's the same strength as a Table Beer of the time. One India export version had a gravity of just 1054º, much lower than you would expect. Just to be very clear about this point: IPA was not strong compared to other Beers and Ales of the period. The strongest one analysed had a gravity of 1070º, lower than the Griffin Brewery X Ale, which was 1073º. Roberts actually stated "As the worts for the production of India beer are of low gravity . . ." (Source: "Scottish Ale Brewer", WH Roberts, Edinburgh, 1847, page 161.)

Not all the beer exported to India arrived in a good state. Some was just poured into the harbour on arrival. Roberts remarks of "miserably low" gravities of some of the export IPA's he analysed: "Even keeping beers for home consumption, were they made from such low gravities as some to be found in this table, would certainly not stand over the summer." (Source: "Scottish Ale Brewer", WH Roberts, Edinburgh, 1847, page 157.)

The average gravity of export IPA's from noted breweries Roberts analysed was 1068º, those for home consumption from the same breweries 1062º. There were cheaper, weaker beers from other breweries which averaged just 1055º. Surprisingly, some of these survived not just the trip to India, but back to Britain again and were, at 18 months old, still prefectly sound. (Source: "Scottish Ale Brewer", WH Roberts, Edinburgh, 1847, pages 169-170.)

The demand for this type of beer had increased enormously. Tizard mentioned "the great demand for bitter ale, particularly for the Indian possessions" (Source: "The Theory and Practice of Brewing" by W.L. Tizard, London, 1846, page 104.) The big Burton brewers, Bass and Allsopp, placed advertisements in newspapers boasting of the size of their India trade.

This is Allsopp's:

From Oct 1, 1842 to Oct 1843
Allsopp____9,499 hogsheads
Bass______4,800 hogsheads

This is Bass's:

From Oct 1843 to Feb 1 1844
Allsopp____6,868 hogsheads
Bass______5,786 hogsheads
Hodgson ___606 hogsheads

(Source: "Scottish Ale Brewer", WH Roberts, Edinburgh, 1847, pages 156-157.)

To put these figures into perspective, 9,499 hogsheads is 14,248.5 barrels. In 1843, Barclay Perkins brewed 389,835 barrels and Truman 344,342, put another way, around 1,000 barrels a day. The India trade was pretty modest compared to the business to be had in London. Allsopp and Bass's annual sales in India combined were less than a week's production of the 5 largest London Porter breweries. (Source: "The British Brewing Industry, 1830-1980" T. R. Gourvish & R.G. Wilson, pages 610-611.)

But IPA wasn't just exported to India. "What is called India beer is now very generally used in Great Britain. (Source: "Scottish Ale Brewer", WH Roberts, Edinburgh, 1847, page 158.) Roberts believed that it was demand from expats returning from India that prompted brewers to make IPA available in Britain. (Source: "Scottish Ale Brewer", WH Roberts, Edinburgh, 1847, page 158.)

IPA was recommended by doctors for its tonic properties: "As a strengthening, exhilirating and wholesome beverage." (Source: "Scottish Ale Brewer", WH Roberts, Edinburgh, 1847, page 158.)

Sunday, 28 September 2008

Spontaneous fermentation the English way

This was a surprise. Finding a method of spontaneous fermentation in ione of the old English manuals. I'm not sure how common it was. It sounds more like a technique for private brewers than for commercial operations.

Levesque details a method of spontaneously fermenting Ale. After the boiling wort had broken "discharge the whole together, hops and all, into the cask in which the liquor is intended to be kept, and bung down, for the present, the cask then being quite full: at your leisure fix the safetly-valve, and there let the liquor remain untouched, to ferment and depurate, without any addition of yeast, which will require 12 months for ordinary ale. The vacuum caused in cooling, will furnish room for the expansion occasioned by this mode of spontaneous fermentation. The time required for fermentation and depuration will be from eighteen months to two years, for the strongets ales; or of a gravity of 45º, in a temperate cellar." (Source: "The Art of Brewing and Fermenting" by John Levesque, 1836, pages 46-47.)

More malt 1815 - 1850

Not quite finished with malt yet. Here's something about malt made from something other than barley. At least one thing has become clearer: why oatmeal Stout appeared at the end of the 19th century.

As a bonus, there's a little about sugar. Essentia bina, or caramel, had been used to colour Porter until it was outlawed in 1816. As you'll see, the fines for brewing from other than malt and hops were severe. If you reckon a barrel of beer sold for around two quid, a 100 pound fine is the equivalent of 50 barrels of beer.

Other grains
"Malting is not confined to barley, but oats, peas, beans, maize, buck-wheat, and common wheat, which are all capable of being malted, and have been experimented upon, but barley is the most prized grain." (Source: "The Art of Brewing and Fermenting" by John Levesque, 1836, page 20.)

"Wheat, on account of its weight, has had many trials, to bring it into more general use among brewers; but, from many communications the author has had with those who have brewed with wheat malt, either alone, or mixed, complain of a heaviness of flavour, and not altogether so pleasant as the liquor brewed from barley malt." (Source: "The Art of Brewing and Fermenting" by John Levesque, 1836, page 20.)

Let me explain. Malt was taxed per bushel, a measure of volume. A bushel of wheat weighed on average 67 pounds, a bushel 56 pounds, at most. So you got about 20% more weight of grain for the same amount of tax when using wheat.

Wheat, being heavier, took longer to malt than barley. Oats, being lighter, took less time. (Source: "The Art of Brewing and Fermenting" by John Levesque, 1836, page 26.) 13 bushels of barley malt were the equivalent of 9 bushels of wheat, 10 of rye or 19 of oats, in terms of extract. (Source: "The Theory and Practice of Brewing" by W.L. Tizard, London, 1846, page 46.)

At times when barley was expensive, considerable amounts of wheat were malted and used in brewing. Tizard recommended malting wheat mixed with barley, to protect the tender skin of the wheat grains. Likewise in the mash, wheat malt was best mixed with coarser barley grains to avoid wheat flour clogging the mash tun. Wheat malt also required less crushing the barley malt as it was more inclined to turn into flour. (Source: "The Theory and Practice of Brewing" by W.L. Tizard, London, 1846, page 47.)

Oats were not much used in this period. Oat malt incurred the same duty as barley, but produced not much more than half the extract. Only after 1880, when the malt tax was repealed, were oats an economic proposition and started being used again. Hence the appearance of oatmeal Stout at the end of the 19th century. (Source: "The Theory and Practice of Brewing" by W.L. Tizard, London, 1846, page 51.)

Big, a type of primitive barley, was malted and used for brewing in Scotland and Ireland. The quantities used were quite modest, about 10% of the amount of barley malted. Big malt was taxed at a lower rate than barley malt - 2 shillings, as opposed to 2 shillings and seven pence for barley. (Source: "Brewing and Distillation" by Thomas Thomson and William Stewart, Edinburgh, 1849, page 109.)

In 1811 brewing with unmalted grain and sugar was outlawed by act of parliament in response to falling revenue from the malt tax. Sugar, in the form of caramel, was still permitted for colouring Porter. The following year, 1812, sugar was allowed to be used for brewing again. As the amount received through the malt tax was still disappointing, a full Reinheitsgebot was introduced in 1816. Malt and hops were the only ingredients permitted. (Source: "The Theory and Practice of Brewing" by W.L. Tizard, London, 1846, pages 490-491.)

Some claimed sugar could not only be used in conjunction with malt, but to completely repalce it. Professor Donovan wrote of ale made entirely from sugar "To persons who have acquired an inveterate prediliction for the abominable and varied flavours which the skill of the brewer enables him to communicate, this pure and simple drink may be less pleasing; but it is singular how quickly the consumer acquires a high relish for it, and prefers it to every other. There is a purity of taste belonging to it quite different from the indescribable jumble of tastes so perceptible in common ales; and a light sharpness, combined with tenuity, which is more agreeable than the glutinous, mucilaginous softness of even the best ales. But it has one advantage which places it above all competition, and that is, its lightness on the stomach; this, when compared with the sickly heaviness of malt ales, is really remarkable." (Source: "The British Wine-Maker and Domestic Brewer" by WH Roberts, Edinburgh, 1835 page 278.)

The penalties for those caught using illegal ingredients were severe. Using sugar, molasses or honey - 100 pound fine. Using hop substitutes - 20 pound fine. Using drugs - one hundred pound fine and confiscation of utensils. (Source: "The Spirit, Wine Dealer's and Publican's Guide", by Edward Palmer, London, 1824 page 17.)

Saturday, 27 September 2008

Water 1815-1850

I've a wealth of material for the early 19th century. As you may have noticed, over the past week. So much, that the section I posted yesterday about Porter has already been expanded. But you'll have to wait for the book to see it all.

This is the period when the properties of different types of water came to be analysed more closely. I was particularly pleased to find an analysis of Bass water.

There were quite diverses opinions on the subject of the best brewing water, or liquor as it was called within breweries. "Brewers differ most widely in their opinions of the necessary qualities of water, some preferring hard, others soft, and others again treating the choice indifferently;" (Source: "The Theory and Practice of Brewing" by W.L. Tizard, London, 1846, page 105.) Brewing authors were likewise divided, but with a majority having no preference. (Source: "The Theory and Practice of Brewing" by W.L. Tizard, London, 1846, page 106.)

Tizard was a hard water man. "Water that is free from saline matter, or that holds it in scarcity, is not fit for the brewery, being impotent." The softest water came from snow, followed by rain water. The latter picked up some "sulphate of lime" from the mortar betwween roof tiles. (Source: "The Theory and Practice of Brewing" by W.L. Tizard, London, 1846, pages 107-108.) Next came spring water, which was rain water that had passed through the ground. Its composition varied according to the nature of the ground. In the purest spring water there was a quantity of "carbonate of lime and common salt" as well as air and carbon dioxide. (Source: "The Theory and Practice of Brewing" by W.L. Tizard, London, 1846, page 108.)

Well water was basically the same as spring water, but could become hard due to accumulated deposits. (Source: "The Theory and Practice of Brewing" by W.L. Tizard, London, 1846, page 108.) River water was a combination of rain and spring water. The addition of rain water made it, in general, softer that spring water. It contained air and CO2, but little salt or carbonate of lime. The composition varied, depending on the amount rainfall. (Source: "The Theory and Practice of Brewing" by W.L. Tizard, London, 1846, pages 108-109.)

According to Tizard, hard water had a restraining effect on fermentation. Worts brewed from hard water needed to be pitched at a higher temperature - between 10º and 15º F higher than worts from very soft water. (Source: "The Theory and Practice of Brewing" by W.L. Tizard, London, 1846, page 114.) Attenuation was also lower in hard water worts, leaving a fuller-bodied beer with less tendency to turn sour. (Source: "The Theory and Practice of Brewing" by W.L. Tizard, London, 1846, page 114.)

The effect of the local water on Burton-brewed beers was already understood. "The Burton ales principally owe their superior quality and uniform permanency to the nature of the water there used, and which, according to the best evidence, is strongly impregnated with this hardener or water, gypsum or sulphate of lime;" (Source: "The Theory and Practice of Brewing" by W.L. Tizard, London, 1846, page 114.)

In 1830 a group of Burton brewers took the Society for the Diffusing Useful Knowledge to court for libel over allegations in a book they had published, "A Treatise on the Art of Brewing". The author, Booth, claimed that he could duplicate Burton beer by adding a saline solution, mostly gypsum, to a wort. He accused Burton brewers of doing exactly that, whigh would have been illegal. What Booth hadn't known, was that Burton water naturally contained a large concentration of gypsum. This came out in court and the Society lost. They were forced to print an apology in the next edition of the book. The judge presiding, Lord Tenterden, summed up saying: "the lovers of Burton ale may now drink it without fear." (Source: "The Theory and Practice of Brewing" by W.L. Tizard, London, 1846, pages 114-115.)

Bass, Ratcliffe and Gretton revealed that analysis had shown their well water had the following characteristics:

specific gravity: 1.0013
CO2: 7.5 cubic inches per imperial gallon
Solids: 79 grains per imperial gallon, consisting of:
___carbonate of lime (chalk) _________9.93 grains
___sulphate of lime (gypsum)_________54.4 grains
___muriate of lime (calcium chloride) ___13.28 grains
___sulphate of magnesia____________0.83 grains
___total________________________78.44 grains

(Source: "The Theory and Practice of Brewing" by W.L. Tizard, London, 1846, page 116.)

Water-treatment was recommended for those with water that was too soft. "When waters run off moors and fens, and the brewers in certain districts are compelled to use them for want of better, it will be found desirable to impregnate them second hand with gypsum, or with such limestones as are easily procurable." (Source: "The Theory and Practice of Brewing" by W.L. Tizard, London, 1846, page 118.)

Water was filtered before use to remove any suspended particles. Beds of porous material, such as sand, charcoal and limestone, were laid in layers, the coarsest on top, the finest underneath. Water was passed through these beds. The disadvantage of this system was that over time dirt would get stuck in the beds and clog them up. There were various alternative patented machines, with filters which could be more easily cleaned or replaced. (Source: "The Theory and Practice of Brewing" by W.L. Tizard, London, 1846, pages 118-120.)

Tizard maintained that hard water was best for brewing, particularly that containing gypsum. He disagreed that the extract was worse than with soft water, as some other authors claimed. His main reason for preferring hard water was the greater stability of beer brewed from it, especially in the summer. (Source: "The Theory and Practice of Brewing" by W.L. Tizard, London, 1846, pages 122-123.)

Friday, 26 September 2008


I've been having great fun reading "The Theory and Practice of Brewing" by W.L. Tizard, London, 1846. It's full of both useful information and amusement.

It's fun reading him attack the theories of others and pimp his own patented bits of brewing equipment, like the Mashing Attemperator and Hystricon. He certainly had a way with names, if nothing else. It's the sort of thing you don't find much in more modern books.

But inbetween the self-promotion and denigration of others, there's much useful stuff, even if (a bit like me) he does tend to go on a bit and repeat himself. He's taught me a lot about sparging. Mostly that it had spread to England earlier than I had expected.

It's slightly scary when he starts quoting books I've already read, Levesque's "The Art of Brewing and Fermenting", for example. Especially when he says they're bollocks (or words to that effect).

Still, he's not a crazy as William Black ("A practical Treatise on Brewing", 1839). He has a whole chapter on electricity. "It has long been the opinion of many eminent chemists, both English and French, that electricity is a powerful agent in fermentation, as well as in preserving or destroying beer." What? That's news to me. Love the way hes says "both English and French". Must be true, then, if the French agree.

It gets even weirder: "In the summer of 1828, I was called to a town in Surry to superintend some brewings. On going there, I found the squares or gyle tuns imbedded in a ground floor. I at once expressed my disapprobation of this mode of placing them; having previously found a difficulty in summer brewing with squares so placed. I, however, got on pretty well for two or three brewings; but on the nmorning of the 3rd July, (I had berwed on the 2nd,) I found the fermentation to be quite stationary, both with regard to heat and attenuation, and could not forward it by any means I had then in my power to apply. I felt satisfied in my mind that these extraordinary appearances and effects were owing to the action of electricity; and this I stated to the proprietor of the brewery, at the same time predicting to him that we should very soon have a thunder storm."

"Of this, however, we are pretty sure - that the preservation or destruction of beer depends upon electricity; and the most certain mode of preservation is to insulate, as much as possible, both the squares and all other utensils or vessels connected with the brewing or storing of beer." "I'm afraid that there is too much of iron, and other metals, in some of the large establishments." "I have already said that tainting, or unsoundness in worts, is often produced by the action of electricity, between mash tun and copper."

Now is that crazy, or what? Throughout the book he keeps banging on about "galvanic action" and the evil of having any metal equipment. It sort of makes me a bit reluctant to believe anything else he says.

Oh, yes. My $175 book arrived yesterday. "A practical Treatise on Brewing" by William Black. The 1875 edition. I quickly looked in the index. Sure enough, there's still a chapter on electricity. Oh dear. I've had to selotape the front board back on. It was completely detached. That's the only way I can afford books that old, by getting copies that are knacked.

The image is of a sticker in the back cover. Seems it was a library book in New York. Old books are such fun. You often find stuff like this in them.

Thursday, 25 September 2008

Patent malt in the early 19th century

Back to malt again. It's fun this, isn't it? This time it's turn of the controversial black or patent malt.

Not all brewers were convinced about black malt. Nor everyone keen in the change it made to the colour and flavour of Porter. I love the description of "nappy brown stout". Doesn't that make it sound yummy? (For my American readers nappy = diaper.)

Patent malt
When all forms of colouring were made illegal in 1816, Porter brewers had a big problem. How could they brew a beer of the right colour when using mostly pale malt? The answer was provided by Daniel Wheeler, who, by roasting malt in a way similar to coffee beans, created a malt capable of colouring a large quantity of wort. Pale malt was roasted at 360 to 400º F in metal cylinders, which revolved over a furnace. (Source: "The Theory and Practice of Brewing" by W.L. Tizard, London, 1846, page 90.) Wheeler acquired a patent for the process, hence the name patent malt. It was also known as black malt, porter malt or roast malt.

Not everyone was a fan of black malt. Tizard wrote "Allusion has been made in former pages to the improvement which has of late years been made in the metropolitan ales, while on the other hand their beers have, in too many instances, declined in virtue and beauty, which circumstance is not wholly, as we have seen, though in part attributable to the introduction of Wheeler's patent malt, or such as is roasted in imitation of it; the "nappy brown stout" produced from amber malt, having fallen off, and in many houses a black sulky beverage being substituted in its stead, on the taste of which the stranger experiences a shake, as sudden and electrical as that which seizes a spaniel when quitting water." (Source: "The Theory and Practice of Brewing" by W.L. Tizard, London, 1846, page 495.)

Because of problems it could cause in the mash tun, black malt was sometimes added in the copper, though that wasn't trouble-free, either. Insoluble parts of the malt could stick to the bottom of the copper and burn or even cause the metal to overheat and crack. (Source: "The Theory and Practice of Brewing" by W.L. Tizard, London, 1846, pages 495-496.) As late as 1933, Barclay Perkins were still boiling some black malt in the copper when brewing their IBSt (Russian Stout).

Black malt varied greatly in quality and colour. Cheaper versions were made from poor-quality barley or had not been properly malted before roasting. (Source: "The Theory and Practice of Brewing" by W.L. Tizard, London, 1846, page 496.) "The colour is often so black that it resembles merer cinders, and the whole corn is puffed up to an enormous size . . . and it adheres together in bunches, through the bursting of the shells and the exudation and fixation of the gummy matter when in the roasting cylinders." (Source: "The Theory and Practice of Brewing" by W.L. Tizard, London, 1846, pages 496-497.) Such malt, beacause it was charred into insolubility, yielded poor colour and flavour. Porter brewed from it would lose much of its colour after a couple of months as the colouring matter precipitated out. (Source: "The Theory and Practice of Brewing" by W.L. Tizard, London, 1846, page 497.)

Properly made black malt had an even chocolate brown colour and its grains did not clump together. Because it had been properly malted, it contained myuch more sugar than the cheap kind. "it contains a much larger quantity of colouring matter of a superior kind, consisting chiefly of caromel, similar to the colouring matter of former times: being burnt saccharum and mucilage, which impart an agreeable odour to the beer, and maintains its colour with tenacity. (Source: "The Theory and Practice of Brewing" by W.L. Tizard, London, 1846, page 497.) Tizard went on to add that all the major London and Dublin breweries used good quality black malt in moderate quantities. (Source: "The Theory and Practice of Brewing" by W.L. Tizard, London, 1846, page 498.)

Due to the problems it could cause in the mash tun, Tizard advised mashing black malt by itself in a special vessel. It could then be mixed with the rest of the wort in the underback. It was mashed repeatedly until all the colour had been extracted. (Source: "The Theory and Practice of Brewing" by W.L. Tizard, London, 1846, page 498.)

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Porter 1815 - 1850

I haven't posted much about Porter recently. I was going to say "haven't written much about Porter". But that wouldn't be true. I've been writing about it a lot. Just not making any of it public.

I've just noticed that Tizard lists "tasting of empyreum" as a fault in one of the quotes below. Whereas Hitchcock says "a fine empyreumatic flavour" is a necessary characteristic. Great having sources that agree so precisely. I really need to dive into "Malts and Malting" to see if that has any answers. It only has 600 or so pages.

Thanks for all the comments about empyreumatic. I guess "burnt" is closer than "smoky".

The nature of Porter was still very dynamic and diverse. The move away from brown malt had changed its character. "This liquor is different both in colour and flavour from all other extracts of malt and hops, yet, like them, has been subject to a variety of changes, owing to the capriciousness of the public taste;" (Source: "A Practical Treatise on Brewing" by Thomas Hitchcock, London, 1842, page 46.)

Hitchcock gives one of the few precise descriptions of Porter found in old brewing texts:

"The qualities of the porter at present admired are, perfect brilliancy, a dark brown colour approaching to black, considerable bitterness, with a fine empyreumatic flavour, and a close creamy head. Without these requisites, porter is little valued." (Source: "A Practical Treatise on Brewing" by Thomas Hitchcock, London, 1842, page 46.)

It seems some Porter was even deliberately oaked:

"One brewer (Thrale), imagining it [Porter] had the smell of oak, in which he was not mistaken, and knowing that newly manufactured oak timber imparted a brown tinge from the tannin which it contained, had his store vats made of this material" (Source: "The Theory and Practice of Brewing" by W.L. Tizard, London, 1846, page 484.)

Early London Porters were strong beers by modern standards. Early trials with the hydrometer in the 1770's recorded Porter as having an OG of 1071° and 6.6% ABV. Increased taxation during the Napoleonic War pushed its gravity down to around 1050-55°. For the rest of the 19th century it remained in the range 1055-60º.

The huge popularity of the style prompted brewers to produce Porters in a wide variety of strengths. These started with Single Stout Porter at around 1070°, Double Stout Porter at 1085°, Triple Stout Porter at 1095° and Imperial Stout Porter at 1100° and more. As the 19th century progressed the Porter suffix was gradually dropped. British brewers, however, continued to use Porter as the generic term for both Porters and Stouts.

The move from brown to pale malt continued. London Porter grists of this period contained between 70 and 85% pale malt and just 10 or 15% brown malt. The small proportion of brown malt was possible because of the introduction of black patent malt. Though the speed of its adoption had varied from brewery to brewery, by the second half of the 19th century all large Porter brewers in London were using it. Some also used a portion of amber malt, especially in stronger Stouts.

Tizard espoused on the diverse nature of Porter:

"even in London a practised connoisseur can truly discover, without hesitation and by mere taste, the characterisctic flavour that distinguishes the management of each of the principal or neighbouring breweries; and a more striking difference is still discernible amont some of the Dublin houses, none of which yield a flavour like country-brewed porters, many of which are shockingly bad, being sometimes blinked, oftem tasting of empyreum, some black, some musty, some muddy, some barmy, and some having the predominant taste of Spanish juice, which is a not uncommon ingredient, and generally speaks for itself when taken upon a delicate stomach. This diversity is caused by a variety of circumstances, known and unknown, as some of them are profoundly veiled in secrecy; but at present as much from the colours and proportions of the grists brewed, as from any other cause." (Source: "The Theory and Practice of Brewing" by W.L. Tizard, London, 1846, page 484.)

Here are some example grists provided by Tizard:

Porter grists according to Tizard 1846 :

grist 1____9_____0______0___91___100
grist 2____6____34______0___60___100
grist 3____2____30_____10___58___100
grist 4____3____25 _____15___57___100
grist 5____4____24_____24___48___100
grist 6____5_____0_____95____0___100
"The Theory and Practice of Brewing" by W.L. Tizard, London, 1846, page 499.

Variations in colour of, in particular, amber and black malt meant that brewers often had to adjust the proportions of each used to maintain a constant colour and flavour in the finished beer. (Source: "The Theory and Practice of Brewing" by W.L. Tizard, London, 1846, page 499.)

Grist 1 was the cheapskate's favourite and produced a beer with the taste of liquorice. Grist 2 made an ordinary Porter, though better in quality than from grist 1. Grist 3, with a portion of amber, was better. Grist 4 was better still and in common use outside London. Grist 5 was excellent, but best of all was grist 6. (Source: "The Theory and Practice of Brewing" by W.L. Tizard, London, 1846, pages 499-501.) By when Tizard was writing in the 1840's, London Porter breweries were mostly using around 80% pale malt in their grists.

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Brown malt revisited

Just finished a research session on BeerAdvocate. Everything you need to know about beer, you can find there. What would I do without it?

I've had very positive responses to an earlier post about 18th century brown malt. But, as usual, the story is much more complicated than it at first appeared. I'm now going to say much that directly contradicts the other post. Like I've said many times before, there's always lots more to learn.

I'd already noticed that 19th century sources gave a very different account of the production of coloured malts. In particular, the addition of wood to the furnace at the end of the kilning process. I think I've found an explanation for the difference: malting techniques changed in response to demand from brewers.

Brewers could get any colour malt they wanted, not just pale, amber or brown, but any shade between. Either by malting themselves or by instructing the maltster exactly what colour they wanted. (Source: "The Art of Brewing and Fermenting" by John Levesque, 1836, pages 21-22.)

The kiln was heated slowly, the temperature slowly increasing over the first 12 hours. The intensity of the final temperature was determined by the type of malt being made. The malt went through each shade, starting at and ending up as high-dried brown, if the process was carried that far. "The drying is finished by a clear sweet fire, increasing the strength according to the colour required." "Coloured malt will require, towards the finish of the drying, some dry billet wood, of beech or birch" (Source: "The Art of Brewing and Fermenting" by John Levesque, 1836, pages 25-26.)

The use of wood in the final stages of kilning gave malt a deeper colour, something which became to be highly-valued with the advent of Porter. Maltsters adapted their methods to produce this type of highly coloured malt. In the early 18th century maltsters in Hertfordshire and Berkshire (the main suppliers of malt to London) had used almost exclusively straw as fuel for their kilns. They began to use beech or birch wood in the final stages of kilning. Some even used more expensive oak for this purpose as it gave an even stronger colour and flavour. (Source: "The Theory and Practice of Brewing" by W.L. Tizard, London, 1846, pages 484-485.) London brewers, who had scorned smoked brown malt in the 18th century, were, by the 19th century, demanding it.

Early 19th century is described thus: "The qualities of the porter at present admired are, perfect brilliancy, a dark brown colour approaching to black, considerable bitterness, with a fine empyreumatic flavour, and a close creamy head. Without these requisites, porter is little valued." (Source: "A Practical Treatise on Brewing" by Thomas Hitchcock, London, 1842, page 46.)

Tell me if I'm wrong, but doesn't empyreumatic mean "smoky"?

Monday, 22 September 2008

Ale Brewing in the 1830's (part three)

Let's continue with 1830's Ale brewing. Taken from "A Practical Treatise on Brewing" by William Chadwick, published in 1835.

Mike will be thrilled. He loves all this technical stuff. "Why do you keep posting that homebrewing crap?" he says. He's just trying to hide his excitement. My book should be right down his street. Full of homebrewing crap.

Did I mention my book will have a bjcp connection, too? No? More of that later. Just enjoy the last installment of Chadwick's Ale brewing description.

As soon as the second mash was completed, the first two worts were transferred to the copper to be boiled. The quantity of hops used depended upon a number of factors: the season (more hops were required in summer), the length of time the beer was to be kept before consumption and the taste of the brewer.

The usual way for indicating hopping rates in the 18th and 19th centuries was pounds of hops per quarter of malt. It's a system that allows recipes to be easily scaled for different gravity beers. Chadwick recommended 6 pounds per quarter in cold weather, 8 to 10 pounds in warm.

The hops were first infused with boiling water before being added to the wort. Water was thought to extract the flavour components from hops better than wort. A gently rolling boil was preferred to prevent too many volatile hop oils evaporating. To stop caramelisation or burning, the wort was stirred during the boil using a mashing oar.

Worts were boiled until they broke, that is when sediment they contained precipitated out. It was essential that this occurred if the finished beer were to be of good quality. As the time before this happened varied, it was impossible to give a fixed length for the boil. Continuing after the wort had broken was inadvisable as further boiling would only damage the wort.

The first two (strong) worts were boiled for 30 to 45 minutes. The later, weak runnings two to two and a half hours in order to concentrate the wort.

Chadwick had some unusual ideas about hop additions. His system was add a little more than half the hops at the beginning of the boil. The remainder was used to dry-hop when the beer was filled into casks after cleansing. The hops helped to prevent too rigorous a secondary fermentation and to clear the beer. It also helped the flavour: "the spirit already generated by the fermentation, extracts from the hop the volatile and aromatic oils which are often lost in boiling."

When boiling was complete, the wort was moved to the coolers. To hold back the hops, a birch broom was fixed in front of the tap opening in the copper. A bag of horsehair placed just before the cooler trapped any remaining hops.

Coolers were large and very shallow, the wort being no more than two or three inches deep. In large breweries, pipes, through which cold spring water was pumped, were placed inside the coolers. These helped cool the wort more quickly. Brewers were only too aware that the longer the wort took to cool, the greater the risk of infection. The maximum safe length of time for cooling was about 12 hours.

As private brewers lacked the equipment to cool worts quickly, they were advised not to brew in the summer. Commercial brewers, with coolers capable of operating in warmer weather, were able to brew all year.

In temperate weather, when the air temperature was aroung 50º F, worts were cooled to 68º-70º F. The final temperature could be lower in warm weather.

After cooling, the wort was moved to the gyle tuns, where fermentation took place. The gyle tuns were not filled to the top to leave plenty of room for the head of yeast that would be formed.

The pitching temperature depended on the volume being fermented. The aim was to prevent the temperature of the wort rising above 80º F and ideally keep it below 74º F. As a larger volume would heat up more, the larger the gyle-tun, the lower the pitching temperature. For a brew of three to four barrels, yeast could be pitched at up to 70º F. If the temperature rose above 80º F there was a chance of vinegar forming. On the other hand, if the temperature was too low, the wort would not properly attenuate.

Though worts would ferment without the addition of yeast, adding sufficient, good quality yeast was preferred. A yeast which left no nasty flavours in the beer should be selected.

"Worts when left at these temperatures will soon begin to ferment without the addition of yeast;" ("A Practical Treatise on Brewing" by William Chadwick, 1835, page 45.)

For strong worts, 1.75 to 2 pounds of yeast per barrel was recommended. Slightly less, 1.5 to 1.75 pounds per barrel was enough for weaker worts.

Between 7 and 10 hours after pitching, a head began to form around the edges of the tun, gradually expanding towards the middle until the whole surface of the wort was covered. As fermentation continued a uneven, rocky head developed. The yeast was skimmed off when the head began to collapse. This was repeated every 8 to 10 hours.

Chadwick recommended feeding the yeast after the first skimming with a combination of wheat flour and salt. For every four barrels of wort, two pounds of flour and half a pound of salt were mixed with a little wort and then added to the gyle-tun. The flour helped the fermentation and the salt clarification. It's worth noting that this preparation would have been illegal in a commercial brewery.

During fermentation the gravity and temperature of the wort was checked every 12 hours. You can see these noted down in many brewing logs. Depending on the air temperature, primary fermentation could take between 3 and 12 days.

The degree of attenuation depended on the gravity and the length of time I beer was intended to be kept. A wort of 1055 meant to be drunk young could be fermented down to between 1008 and 1011. The correct degree of attenuation was imporatant if the beer were to taste neither too thin nor too heavy. Chadwick recommended a finishing gravity of between a third and a quarter of the starting gravity. That is, an apparent degree of attenuation of between 67% and 75%. The former being for keeping beers, the latter for ones to be drunk immediately.

Sunday, 21 September 2008

More books

Lloyd Hind's "Brewing: Science and Practice" arrived yesterday. Both volumes. Once, I wouldn't have been so fussed about volume I, which covers brewing materials. But I needed a good 20th-century source on malt. Writing my book is proving a real education. (Before any HBT with a chip on their shoulder chips in: only a true twat sees no need to further educate themselves.)

"175 dollars, dad! You paid 175 dollars for a book!" I shouldn't let Andrew look over my shoulder when I'm on Abebooks. The book in question was a particularly useful brewing manual from the 1870's, one of the gaps I needed to fill. He should see how much the ones I daren't buy would cost. Dolores keeps a close eye on our credit card statements. "Ronald, you've been buying books again. We could have gone on holiday with that money." She exaggerates a bit. Not much, but a bit.

While I'm on the topic of filling holes, does anyone know a good British brewing manual published between 1880 and 1895? Not Sykes, I've got a later edition of that. Preferably something I can pick up for less than 175 dollars. I don't want to face Andrew's disapproval again.

The book pile next to my desk has returned. Time to buy another bookcase. If the kids moved into the shed, I could use their room as a library. But, for some reason, they aren't keen. "It would be fun. Like camping." "Daaaad, the shed is smelly and cold." "That's all part of the fun." "Why can't we put your books in the shed?" "Because the cold and damp would damage them." "But it's OK for us?" "Yes."

Friday, 19 September 2008

Ale Brewing in the 1830's (part two)

Here's a little extra for you. Example logs taken from "A Practical Treatise on Brewing" by William Chadwick, published in 1835.

Very revealing they are, too. Quite a handy guide to the world of British brewing logs. Most of the professional ones have the headings abbreviated, often to a single letter. These ones are nice and clear.

The method of noting temperatures is typical. They give the temperature of the water, but not of the mash after it had been mixed with the grains. There is sometimes a second temperature, but this is "Taps". The temperature of the wort when drained from the mash tun. It took me a while to work that one out.

The whole mashing process took a long time, 378 minutes for the Table Beer and 398 minutes for the Table Ale.

I was quite surprised to see sparges in both. Especially the way Chadwick described sparging as some funny foreign process from Scotland. I think the difference is that in the Scottish method there was a single mash before the sparging started. These English logs show three mashes followed by sparges with quite modest volumes of water. For the Table Beer 25 out of the 367 gallons of water used, for the Table Ale 62 out of 425 gallons.

From the small quantities involved, it's clear that these were private brewings. Both were also entire-gyle, that is all the worts were used for a single beer. You'll also note that just one type of malt and one type of hops were used. That's pretty typical for the period. Only Porter grists usually had more than one malt.

IPA - a strong beer?

I'm back on one of my favourite topics: the exact nature of early IPA.

Just to recap, the normal line of reasoning is that, as 19th century IPA was a strong beer, modern British IPA's of under 1040 aren't true to style. Let's take a look at the facts.

Here are the gravities of British beers, as listed in an early 19th-century brewing manual:

beer type____________OG
London Porter_________1060,94
Brown Stout__________ 1066,48
Family Table Beer______ 1049,86
London Table Beer______1041,55
Workhouse Small Beer___1016,62
"A Practical Treatise on Brewing" by William Chadwick, 1835, pages 38-39.

The weakest full-strength beer is Porter, with an OG of 1061º. What about IPA? I hear you ask.

“Scottish Ale Brewer” (by W.H. Roberts, Edinburgh, 1847, pages 171 and 173) has analyses of forty Edinburgh-brewed IPA's brewed in the years 1844 to 1846. They're a mix of beers for home consumption and export, some specifically to India.

The average gravity of these Scottish-brewed IPA's was 1059º. The weakest was just 1046º, the strongest 1070º. One India export version had a gravity of only 1054º, much lower than you would expect.

The weaker IPA's had a gravity similar to Table Beer. That's the stuff they let the kids drink. Even the strongest, at 1070º, is way short of what was considered strong at the time.

IPA was not originally a strong beer. IPA was not originally a strong beer. IPA was not originally a strong beer. If I say it often enough, maybe people will start believing me.

Thursday, 18 September 2008

Ale Brewing in the 1830's (part one)

Now I've finished with the light relief of my Copenhagen trip, we can return to the daily drudge. It's back to the 1830's today for a look at Ale brewing. As described by William Chadwick in "A Practical Treatise on Brewing", published in 1835.

The method described used three mashes, which implies that it's aimed at private brewers. Commercial breweries usually mashed four times, the final wort being a "return" used as brewing water in a later brew. Private brewers normally didn't bother with a fourth mash, preferring to use what goodness that was left in the grains as animal fodder.

It's interesting that he describes sparging, which was a peculiarly Scottish technique at the time. Pinning down when it spread to England is another of my outstanding tasks. I wonder if anyone still brews with multiple mashes?

The amount water required to obtain a specific quantity of beer was carefully calculated. Each quarter of malt absorbed 48 gallons of water. Another 20% was lost through evaporation during boiling, cooling and fermentation. So to brew 2 hogsheads (108 gallons) from 1 quarter of malt:

absorbed by malt ___48 gallons
beer ____________108 gallons
evaporation _______ 20% of 108 = 22 gallons
total water required__178 gallons

The mash tun was filled with water at 174º F and the malt then added and stirred until all the grains are wet. Any remaining hot water was then poured in and the mixture mashed, or stirred, for 20 to 30 minutes. The tun was then covered with empty sacks to retain the heat and left to stand for 90 minutes. About half the total amount of water was used for the first mash.

The tap was opened and the first runnings returned to the mash until they run clear. The wort was between 145º and 150º when run off. There followed a second mash with a striking heat of 184º F and a third at 194º F.

To help prevent the wort spoiling, hops, sealed in a bag, were put into the underback. These hops were later re-used during the boil.

A third mash was performed while the first two worts were boiling with the hops.

The hydrometer (or saccharometer as it was then usually called in breweries) was an essential tool for this process. "The saccharometer will thus inform you what strength beer you may expect from your malt, and will enable you in brewing to make two sorts of beer, of different strengths, by mixing the worts of different gravities according to taste or fancy." (Source: "A Practical Treatise on Brewing" by William Chadwick, 1835, page 30.) This method of party-gyling was common amongst London breweries. Whitbread almost never made just one beer from a brew. They usually made either a Porter and a Stout or two different strength Stouts.

This was quite different from the 18th century method of party-gyling, where the wort from each mash was used to make a different beer. The first wort was used for a Strong Ale, the second for a Common Ale and the third for Small Beer. In the 19th century system, each of the beers contained a portion of each strength wort, blended together to obtain the target gravity.

Whitbread were still using this method for most of their brews in the 1950's. It's not uncommon amongst traditional British breweries today. A good example is Fuller's, where Chiswick Bitter, London Pride and ESB are part-gyled in this way.

Chadwick describes the method employed by brewers in Edinburgh. They made just one mash and, once the first wort had been run off, sprinkled water carefully over the grains whilst the tap was still open. This sparge was performed by pouring water onto a board suspended above the mash tun. The board was perforated with holes which spread the water evenly over the surface of the mash, much like the rose of a watering can.

According to the brewing logs Chadwick provides, they were sparging in England, but only after they had already performed three mashes.

New policeman

Andrew did so well while I was away, that I've given him a permanent job policing comments on this blog. I've told him the normal rules of civility don't apply to idiots trying to be annoying. He seems to relish the idea of being allowed to insult adults. You have been warned.

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Copenhagen (part three)

I awoke Sunday hangover-free. I suppose those tiny beer festival measures did have some advantages. Early, too. Just as well. Mike knocked on my door at 08:30.

He'd been drooling over the smørrebrød shop since we arrived. But he hadn't caught it open. I must admit, the open-topped sandwiches in the window did look very appealing. Which is why I'd checked the opening times, very conveniently posted on the door. They opened at 10:00 on Sunday. Until then we had to make do with a litre of coffee from the Seven Eleven.

Lack of Danish language skills meant Mike had missed out on the meal he'd set his heart on. The big lump of meat with boiled spuds everyone in the Mad Telt had been eating. He ended up with goulash instead. He was determined to avoid smørrebrød disappointment.

The low-budget Fakta just around the corner opened at 10:00, too. At 09:58 we joined the group of change-janglers with their noses pressed against the door. It was a surprisingly large group. At 10:04 they still hadn't opened. I sensed Mike's unease. He might have to wait until 10:15 for his smorrebrod.

As usual, I headed straight for the beer section. Fakta is like Aldi or Lidl, with the stock still in boxes. My hopes weren't high. What did I find? Only Fuller's 1845. In Amsterdam only the two specialist beers shops, Bierkoning and Cracked Kettle, sell it. And this pretty basic, suburban, small supermarket had it. The eye-watering price made me feel a bit better, but I still had a nagging feeling I'd chosen the wrong country to live in.

Mike was on the look out for a present for his wife. A food-themed present. Unfortunately all the possibilities were jars with liquid in them. A no-no when you're travelling with just hand baggage, due to those stupid security rules about liquids. That's why I hadn't brought any of my beer with me. And why I wasn't taking any beer home.

So what was I doing in the beer section, if I wasn't looking for souvenirs? On the look out for something to accompany breakfast. Nothing too heavy. More a toothbrushing sort of beer. You know, something that won't strip the enamel off your teeth or leave your tongue feeling like it's been shaved. Refsvindinge Ale No. 16 fitted the bill perfectly. And it came in a bottle larger than 33 cl. Result.

I bought some Danish cheese for Andrew. He's so easy to buy presents for. You should see the way he looks at a supermarket cheese counter.

The girl serving in the sandwich shop was very friendly. I'd already spotted what I wanted. A schnitzel. 35 crowns, according to the price list. Except they were out of schnitzel. What I'd seen was breadcrumbed fish. Close enough, and two crowns cheaper.

As usual, it took Mike a good deal longer to decide. That's why I always go first. Not because I'm an impatient bastard. Though, come to think of it, I am an impatient bastard. I hate waiting to get served in a pub. That's why I'm always so nice to the barstaff. Mike bought two sandwiches. More proof that he eats double what I do. One he ate in the shop. The other was for the plane. As was mine.

There's an upside to having to pay for food on flights. The stuff they offer is usually pretty crap. If it's free, I feel obliged to eat it anyway. If it isn't free, bringing along your own doesn't seem so financially irresponsible. And it's bound to taste better.

Beer breakfast
I had my breakfast back in the hotel. The leftovers from Saturday's supper. Washed down with Refsvindinge. Mike looked disapprovingly at me. "Are you going to drink beer for breakfast?" I thought he knew me. Of course I was. Ale No. 16 is only 5 point something ABV. Barely alcoholic, really. I explained how in 1839 Reid's weakest beer, IPA, was stronger. "Everyone used to drink beer in the morning." He didn't look convinced. "Winston Churchill started every day with half a bottle of champagne." He still didn't look convinced.

I couldn't really use the table beer argument to rationalise the second beer I cracked open, a Carlsberg Elefant. Mike didn't say anything, but gave me A Look. The Elefant was left over from Friday night. I couldn't take it on the plane and I certainly wasn't going to throw it away. It was sugary, alcoholic goodness. Well, sugary, alcoholic mediocrity. But that was good enough.

We'd been saving plan-b until our last day. We wanted time to enjoy it properly. Mike had been looking forward to it for weeks. I hoped it did really open at 12:00 on Sunday. Mike's disappointment would ruin the day if it turned out to be shut. I'd already discovered that the opening times listed in The Copenhagen Pub Guide for two other pubs were wrong. Must mention the errors to the idiot who writes it.

Now masters of the routes, we took one of the jauntily orange-painted buses to Hovedbanegård. I repeated the pronunciation of Hovedbanegård in my head all the way there. Still not enough glottal stops in my version. The real Danish way of saying it has little else.

We dumped our luggage in a locker at the station. Then got an S-Tog to Nørreport. We'd really got the hang of Copenhagen's transport system. Just in time to go home. They could definitely do with improving the bus maps in the bus shelters, if you want my opinion. Which you probably don't.

It was a little after noon. Not having eaten for two hours, Mike was hungry again. "What about a sausage?" he suggested, "Isn't that a sausage wagon over there?" Right on cue, a pølser vøgn had appeared. Medister. That's the name of the one like a bratwurst. "One medister with no gunk, please. With bread." I was soon full of greasy, meaty goodness. It was to be our last sausage of the weekend.

"We need to go this way" I said confidently, dragging Mike across a busy road. I had a Google map to guide me. We strolled along a pedestrianised street. "Any of these streets will do." I sounded convincing. I was convinced. Though the streets didn't seem to match my map. It was hard to be sure, as most of the streets on the map were unnamed. "Why don't we use my map that has the names marked." Mike said. OK smartarse, we'll use your map.

Fair enough. I had taken us in 100% the wrong direction. It's an easy enough mistake to make when you've been hypnotised by a distant pølser vøgn. That's my explanation. "You always have an excuse for everything." Dolores constantly tells me. I don't understand what she means. Explanations. That's what I give. Excuses are for when you've done something wrong.

"The next across street is Gothersgade" I was still confident, despite my slight error earlier "We need to go down here." Something didn't look quite right. Couldn't recall there being a park. Time to check the address. Frederiksborggade 48. "Sorry, we need to go back to the street we just came from." I was only one street out. Come on, it wasn't any biggie. Mike didn't say anything. No need. I could see the look in his eyes.

Seeing people sitting outside plan-b was a great relief. It was open. Had it not been, I'd never had heard the last of it.

Inside, I was slightly disappointed to see that the deli-style display cabinet had gone. I'd quite liked its inappropriateness. And the way the owner had dived into the bottles piled in it and plucked out plums. I love the idea of a pub where even the owner isn't quite sure what's in stock.

The new counter and serving area looked more professional and actually designed for a pub. Like I said, not quite as charming. But undoubtedly far more practical. You have to temper sentiment with practicality. The rest looked unchanged. It's easy to imagine that the furnishings have been recycled, snatched from the street minutes before the binmen arrive. No two chairs are the same.

The tiny front room was filled with diners. About half a dozen people. So we went to the tiny back room, where there was a table free. The other two were occupied by beer geeks. "I know that guy. He's at every festival I go to." said Mike pointing at a bloke in a green T-shirt. At the other table someone was reading ØLentusiasteN.

We had the table next to the decks. Record decks. Very handy for checking what's being played. "I bet you like this" I said to Mike. An old soul album was playing. I was right. The owner's approach to music seems very similar to his approach to beer. Disturbingly eclectic and determinedly quirky.

"My god, they've got beer from Chýně." I told Mike. How the hell did they get that? The brewery is in a village with about three houses. I exaggerate. There may be as many as six. If you include the brewery.

I ordered a large Chýně 17º Polotmavé. "It's not as fresh as it was." The lanky, bearded owner very honestly told me. "Make it a small one, then." When we'd been here last - two or three years ago - Mike had been very impressed by the Slottskällans christmas beer he'd tried. He was disappointed to learn they no longer had it. I left him in discussion with the owner. I guessed he would, as usual, not be rushing into a decision on what to drink.

Mike's long Q & A session with the owner taught him that they no longer had anything Norwegian or Swedish on the menu. He'd had to settle for something else. Can't remember what. Just that it cost 100 crowns. "I had been going to say you could buy me my first beer, but this was too expensive." I was puzzled. Why should I buy him a beer? "It's my birthday." He'd kept that one quiet.

"I bet you can't guess who the singer is." I'd just checked the label. A version of Shakin' All Over, sung by a old female voice, was coming out of the speakers. The backing was pretty shit hot. Almost as good as the original. I knew the singer, but who was the band? "You'll never guess the singer in a million years." "Connie Francis?" "No." "Nancy Sinatra" "Miles out" We continued in this vein for a while. I gave Mike a clue. "She's better known as an actress." Mike named most of the female stars from the forties and fifties. "Older than that."

This was fun. No way he was going to get it. He started on thirties film stars. "Did she make a couple of films with W.C. Fields?" Bastard. He'd guessed it. Mae West. I knew that she'd had a strange singing career towards the end of her life. Hadn't expected any of her recordings to be much cop, though. Or Mike to work it out.

The owner came by to change the record. I complimented him on his choice choice of music. He showed me the cover. The band clustured around Mae looked familiar. Then again, all those moptops look the same. "Who's the band?" I asked him. "The Standells." No wonder it sounded shit hot. I thought I owned all their recordings. Evidently not.

The new record started. Plaintive, primitive, electric guitar and a whiskey-raddled voice. Proper Capstan Full Strength blues. Howlin' Wolf. What good taste. In pubs, I prefer silence to music I dislike. The owner was welcome to keep spinning disks all day, as far as I was concerned. Great stuff so far and good drinking music.

As the afternoon passed, I began to worry if I had enough crowns to pay the bill. I was sticking with draught beer. That was just 45 crowns for 40cl. The bottles started around 60 crowns for 33cl and spiralled up to more than I had in my wallet. Some almost matched my mortgage.

I asked for a Great Divide Barley Wine. The strongest beer on tap. My hands had been getting a bit twitchy. "You might want to try it first. Yesterday a customer told me it was their Double IPA, not the Barley Wine. Though it says Barley Wine on the keg." He poured a little into a glass. I gave it a sniff. C hops. That told me nothing. I checked the colour. In that beige area between dark amber and pale brown. Is a DIPA dark? Are American Barley Wines pale? As I couldn't decide if the beer was pale or dark, it was academic anyway. I took a sip. Bitter and alcoholic. No help there, either.

"What is the difference between a DIPA and a Barley Wine?" I asked. I wasn't being a clever pants. I really did want to know. The owner didn't seem any more able to pin down the distinction than me. "Yesterday I thought it was the DIPA, but now I'm not so sure." Hang on. Valuable drinking time was being lost. What did I care which it was? "Give me a big one."

It wasn't that bad. A bit more grapefruity than I would like. But I could put up with that for the alcohol burn. That and the malty goodness. I'm a right tart when it comes to beer. My head can easily be turned.

Mike went to the bar and came back with an unopened bottle of Nøgne Ø Dark Horizon that the owner had fished out of the cellar. It was one of only two Norwegian beers he had. "It costs 295 crowns, but the owner said we can have a discount if we let him try it." There's an offer I've never had before. Having recently read a discussion about whether Dark Horizon was an RIS or a Barley Wine, I suspected Mike wouldn't like it. "You won't like it." I told him. We declined the kind offer.

I'd decided what I was going to get Mike as a birthday beer. I hoped he'd like it. As I've already said, he's very picky. It was pretty expensive, 100 crowns, but not unreasonable for what it was. 2005 Hardy Ale. Should be safe with that. Aged and not American. He took a gulp. "That's really nice." Phew. Got something right at last. I knew he wasn't just being polite. Mike doesn't do just being polite.

At 15:30 it was time for us to leave. At the bar to pay, we noticed that the owner hadn't been able to resist the Dark Horizon. "Do you want to try it?" When have I ever refused a beer? He poured us a small glass each. Powerful stuff, but pretty nice. Smooth, despite the roast and alcohol. To my surprise Mike liked it to. Maybe it being free helped. The landlord had confirmed himself as a top man in my eyes.

My fears of insufficient funds to cover the bill proved unfounded. I left with 280 crowns in my pocket. Brilliant. Maybe even enough to get pissed in the airport.

The check-in hall is right above the station in Copenhagen airport. There's convenience for you. We checked which desk we needed. Terminal 2. We were in terminal 1. Not quite so convenient. To get to Terminal 2, we had to walk through several shops, dodging between the shelves. "It's like Singapore. They're always making you walk through shops there, too." I told Mike.

Once we were checked in, I looked for somewhere to dump my crowns. I spotted a food shop. Or rather food and drink shop. A bottle of aquavit seemed a sensible choice. And a miniature of Famous Grouse for the plane. Mike came up with a packet of salmon. "Can you get this for me? I'll give you the money." (When I got home yesterday Dolores was clutching my receipt from the shop. "What's this salmon? I can't see any salmon in the fridge." "That was Mike's." I hope she doesn't always keep such a close eye on my purchases.)

I still had 180 crowns. "I'm going to have a drink" I told Mike. "I'll see you at the gate." he replied. It wasn't far. No problem. I went to a cafeteria cum bar. I got myself a tuna sandwich from the food bit. You have to maintain a balanced diet. "How much is Famous Grouse?" "28 crowns for a single, 55 for a double and 79 for a triple." "I'll have a triple then." A perfect accompaniment for my sandwich. I counted my change. 69.25. "A double Famous Grouse, please." It was an Eight Ace sort of moment.

Good job I'd had that sandwich. The whisky made me feel a bit queasy, even with a protective covering of food. I hoped Mike wasn't getting impatient at the gate. I'd taken a good 6 minutes.

We were jammed like anchovies in a barrel on the plane. Not a free space. And I had a middle seat. After 15 minutes waiting on the tarmac with inadequate air-conditioning, sweat was starting to drip from my forehead onto my book. It looked like I was finally going to finish it, after just 6 months. If I didn't wash the print off with my perspiration first. In Amsterdam, I have no time for novels. I average one every two years. Getting to the end of this one would be cause for celebration.

The padded schedule meant that, despite leaving 20 minutes late, we arrived in Amsterdam just about on time. I'd decided I was going to save money and take the train and bus back this time. No taxi. We got to Schiphol station just in time to see the Lelylaan train disappear from the board. The next one was in 15 minutes. "I'm getting a taxi. I can't be arsed to wait." No way I could wait until 20:00 for a train. I'd miss the start of Tatort.

I don't know what it says about my normal lifestyle, but over a weekend of beer drinking, I lost 3 kilos in weight.

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