Sunday, 16 August 2009

Ice versus hop

More from Lager pioneer Charles Graham. This time, his reasoning for why Lager could be made more cheaply than Ale. It's all to do with preservation.

"Hitherto, the great cost of ice has seemed an insuperable difficulty in regard to brewing lager beers in England. As to the quantity of ice required for the cooling of the wort, keeping the primary fermentation at the right temperature, and providing for several month s of subsequent lagering, this necessarily varies with the nature of the cellars; we may, however, take the total amount of ice needed on an average for a hectolitre of beer as 200lb., or 3cwt. for one barrel of 36 gallons. The ice-making machine of Professor Linde, of Wiesbaden, of which there is a drawing on the screen, is an improved form of the ammonia machines. This apparatus has successfully established its value in several of the largest breweries in Germany, Austria, and elsewhere. Thus Dreher, of Vienna, Sedlmayer, of Munich, Jacobsen, of Copenhagen, and many others are now using this machine. In Munich. Stuttgart, Frankfort, Amsterdam, and Paris, works have been established for making crystal ice for sale to brewers and others. The manufactory at Munich turns out 50 tons of ice daily. We see, therefore, that ice thus made can compete with natural ice. and that in Munich and Stuttgart, Frankfort and Mayence, where the cold in winter is far greater than here, and where coal is dearer, yet it pays brewers there to use this method. The cost of ice in London, including wear and tear, interest and renewal charges, would be under 6s. per ton, and therefore the cost in London for the 3cwt. of ice required for 36 gallons of lager beer would be about l0d.; I will however take Is. as the maximum cost. In doing so I am exceeding the estimate made by Professor Linde and Herr Rhens, who are members pi this Society, and who have supplied me with the information in question. The ice cost, then, of a barrel of Bavarian beer would be 1s. Let us see, however, whether there be no compensating advantages. First, then, in regard to the hops. A quarter of malt yields 4 barrels of 1057 gravity, or what would be a more useful conversation beer, 5 barrels of 1045 gravity. If this were a bitter ale the hops used would be some 16lb. in the copper, and 2lb. in the cask in dry hopping, together 18lb. The German system substitutes ice in place of so much hop as a means of preserving the beer, and .only employs for the same weight of malt—

For Schenck (Anglice running) ales, 4lb.
For Bavarian Lager beers, 3.75 lb. to 5 lb.
For Pilsen ales, 6 lb. to 7.5 lb.; in rare cases 9 lb.

Taking 6lb. of hops as the amount in extra hopped Bavarian beer arising from a quarter of malt, we see that there would be a saving of 12lb. of hops. If, on the other hand, we take Pilsen beer, or a Vienna beer, we would still save some 9lb. of hops, in the least. I have taken bitter ale of 1045 gravity as a standard in comparing the relative cost of hops and ice as preserving agents ; because a mild ale of 1045 cannot be a store beer, it will not keep long. Even if we take a mild beer of 1057 gravity we must yet employ in the copper and cask some 8lb. to l0lb. of hops, if we desire to keep the beer for some months. Hops vary in price from one season to another, and hence it is rather difficult to obtain an average price; but I think I am not far wrong if I take Is. per Ib. as the average price of new hops of the best quality, taking one year with another. Thus the cost of the ice method of preserving compared with hops will become : 5 barrels of English bitter ale of 1045 require 18lb. of hops, and a similar quantity and gravity of Bavarian would require 6lb., a saving here of 12s.; from this must be deducted 1s. per barrel for the ice, we have a balance of 7s. left in favour of the ice process over hops as a preserving medium. This is not all Owing to the low initial heat, and repeated boiling of the goods, more albuminous matters are left in the beer, and therefore a greater fulness on the palate is produced. Such a source of fulness is carefully avoided in the English process which uses hard water, high initial heat, heavy hopping, and low attenuation, in order to lessen the albuminoids in the beer. Not only are these precautions taken. We find English brewers competing with each other for the finest barleys, that is, those with the least yield of soluble albuminoids, in the Saale, Saumur, and other districts. They thus raise the price of these high-class barleys to an extent which astonishes the German brewer, who is at the same time buying his barleys at a much lower figure. The introduction of the ice method for the preservation of beer, if it were to become at all general, would be of benefit to our second class barleys grown on heavy land and to our Scotch barleys generally. The ice process, therefore, gives the brewer a considerable advantage in regard to the cost of malt; this, of course, means that by competition the public would reap the benefit.

What are the consumers' interests in this ice versus hop method of preserving beer ? Hops contain narcotic substances ; indeed, formerly, and now sometimes, hops were used in place of opium to produce sleep, and not only do we use far too much in our ales, especially the bitter ales, but we also gather our hops too late. In Bohemia and Bavaria the hops are gathered before the strobiles open and before the seed forms, and this is done in order to avoid too much of the narcotic substances, which increase with the formation and ripening of the seed. Professor Sell, of Berlin, has recently pointed out the great increase in the narcotic substance, which takes place if the seeds are allowed to ripen. In England we wait until the seeds are ripe, and thus secure more of these narcotic substances in our ales. Again, the Bavarian or Austrian brewer never employs hops in the cask ; Germans, indeed, object strongly to dry hopping, as making the beer narcotic. The ice process is therefore, from an hygienic point of view, better than the hop process.

To sum up the chief characteristics of the Bavarian store or lager beer, we find it less attenuated and therefore less alcoholic, richer in dextrine and albuminoids and carbonic acid, and that little or none of the narcotic action of the hop arises from its use. Thus it follows that a German can drink much more of his beer than we can of ours. We cannot use ours for conversational purposes, and in hot weather it is not a safe beverage to quench thirst. In fact. I do not suppose that there are many gentlemen in this room who would venture to drink more than a pint of ale in the middle of the day if he had head work to do in the afternoon. Many persons cannot even take half a pint at luncheon if work is to follow. Now it would require much more Bavarian beer to have the same soporific effect.

. . . . .

In conclusion, I must add that the unpleasant pitch flavour, which some people take for garlic, is not essential to the lager beer process, since we have other means of preserving the wood of the cask without using pitch for the purpose. The Germans have become accustomed to the flavour, but lager beer brewed for Englishmen should omit this flavour. English ales will hold their position for a long time to come, since we have become accustomed to the alcohol and hops, and a change in the public taste must ever be a slow process; and, in addition, there are many who in winter time would much prefer English ale at dinner or luncheon to Bavarian or Bohemian; for conversation purposes, and for a summer beverage, I think the ice-cold, delicate flavoured lager beer is sure to come into favour in England as it has elsewhere; and I shall be glad to find that my explanation of the German process and the character of the beer produced may lead some among us to consider the question of lager beer brewing in some of the large towns in this country. "
"Journal of the Society of Chemical Industry" 1882, pages 23 - 25

I've never seen it argued before that ice could replace hops. It's a fascinating argument. Of course, British beer no longer has anything like the alcohol or hop content of the Ales Graham describes. Nor is ice used to preserve it. Sort of undermines his argument a bit.

It's ironic that, by the time Lager became dominant in Britain that it was actually stronger than most Ales. Lager as a healthy, more responsible option. Not many in the media would claim that now.




If the Continentals casks had an "unpleasant pitch flavour, which some people take for garlic", with what were the British lining their beer casks to avoid that characteristic?

Gary Gillman said...

Ron, can you explain his argument about albuminoids? I don't follow that part. Is he talking about clarity in the beer? (If so, was the lager of the day cloudy??).

His Pilsen beer contains 9 lbs hops for 5 barrels - almost 2 lbs per barrel. The German lager except for Vienna, 9 lbs again, takes only 6 lbs, which is over a l.2 lbs per barrel.

This is from Fuller's current site:

"The four major ingredients of beer are water, malt, hops and yeast. An average daily brew of Fuller's flagship brand London Pride uses 750 barrels of water, 13 tonnes of malt, 110 kilograms of hops and 320 kilograms of yeast. All of this produces 640 barrels or 184,320 pints of London Pride - that's enough to give every spectator at a Wembley Cup Final three pints each - possibly not a very good idea, but it does give you some idea of the scale the brewery works on!"

This produces approximately 1.5 lbs hops per barrel for London Pride, lower than the norm for Graham's German lager, but possibly (accounting for greater alpha acids and use only of fresh or refrigerated hops) about the same as for the regular German (not the Pilsen of Vienna) beer of 1882.

London Pride would run surely under 1045 ABV today I would think or does not exceed that at any rate.

So this indeed suggests a top-fermented solution to the lager advantage Graham claimed. In fact, under his reasoning, the lager would cost more to produce.

In this regard though, is no cooling at all used to produce Fuller's real beers? I would have thought the casks are kept refrigerated before dispatch to the pub cellars. Also, there is cooling surely for the heat exchangers - a critical stage where things can go wrong without it.

Assuming no cooling is used however, or not enough to make a difference from 1882 production methods, what accounts for Graham's view on this?

I think the clue is at the end of the quote you used, Ron. He is concerned really about stock beers and summer drinking. Lager could be drunk year-round. Stock beers as he notes were too strong and bitter for summer use (although I question this too for the generally not very warm English summer especially the evenings). I think he is really saying, running beer quality is variable in summer and therefore an alternative is needed for the stable but too strong and too bitter English store ales that were the only alternative in the summer where a local source of good running beer was not available. While today`s Fuller's Pride, which surely by his definition is a mild beer made year-round, finding it in good condition in 1882 was probably a challenge except in Chiswick in all likelihood. Today trucks bring cask beer all over the London area and beyond but then surely the distribution was much more restricted. What if you lived in an area where there was no reliable mild beer in the summer? You either had to suck up the bitter stock beer (yet they did in India - but not today it must be noted), or make a shandy of it.


Barm said...

The fascinating thing about the argument is that there is no reference at all to the difference of flavour created by using more or less hops. You get the impression that hops were only valued to counteract the sweetness of the malt.

Tim said...

Ron, an excellent read. Do you think that having to compete with lager contributed to the gravity drop of ale (war and taxes being the main factors, of course)?

Ron Pattinson said...

Tim, no. Barclay Perkins early Lagers were 1050 plus - stronger than their standard Bitter and Mild.

Gary Gillman said...

Sorry, clearly modern Fuller's London Pride, which appears to use 1.5 lbs hops per barrel, is more hoppy than regular German lager of the late 1800's (1.2 lbs hops per barrel).

Nonetheless they are close enough to ask why a lighter beer, both in hops and alcohol and akin to Graham's vaunted lager, was not evolved to meet the lager challenge.

Well, maybe this did happen, since by the early 1900's as I recall from one of Martyn Cornell's works, average hops in English beers was around 2 lbs per barrel. This is close enough to modern Fuller if we account for use of yearlings (and more) in the old days.

Nonetheless, I come back to the issue of running beer availability and condition. Not all brewers would hazard brewing in summer. Those who did made sure the beer was sold fast locally - they had to to avoid sourness.

Graham's lager was the answer to this problem, as his concluding remarks suggest. Could running beer quality have improved after 1882? I believe this would have been so as increased refrigeration and just better brewing techniques (yeast control) were developed.

Or could it be that the English drinker was conservative and just didn't take well - until some 100 years passed - to newfangled lager?

As to why Barclay's lager was 5%, there could be a number of reasons. Conservative brewers may have felt the low hopping needed a store-level (in English terms) OG and attenuation rate. Or maybe they viewed the Continental beer as a premium type, which by definition it was really.