In preparation for my posts on Scottish beers, I've been looking at how others describe them. The T-word pops up quite a bit. Which is why I've been contemplating its true meaning. Let's take a look at how the word is used.
When "traditional" describes a brewing practice, the implication is that it's the way something has been done since humans were still living in caves rubbing sticks together. Or almost that long. But hat's not how things worked. The past wasn't a static, mummified place. It was dynamic. Change was constant. By denying that, we devalue the efforts of past generations and oversimplify their world.
Here's a good example: IPA and Mild. IPA is often described as being "traditionally" a strong beer. Mild as "traditionally" low-gravity. So exactly when is this "traditional" period? In the 1850's IPA was 1060 - 1070 and Mild 1055 - 1100. So "traditional" can't be then. What about 1900 then? Then the scores were IPA 1060, Mild 1050 -1070. Not 1900 either, then. Let's try 1950. IPA 1035 - 1040, Mild 1030 - 1038.
It's clear that, for Mild, "traditional" is post-WW II. For IPA, it's 1850. That's the problem with the word in a nutshell: it's incredibly vague. British beer has changed so completely, so radically and so often over the last 200 years that such a word is worse than useless. It conceals the truth. It hides complexities and subtleties of the past.
My search is for the truth. Or at least as close as I can get to it. I could pluck out a year or two from the William Younger logs and "prove" all sorts of things about Scottish beer. Demonstrate what shit the claims of others are. But that would be doing the past a disservice.
Boil times. That's what prompted me to write this. And what BeerAdvocate says about them:
"Scotch Ales traditionally go through a long boil in the kettle for a caramelization of the wort"Is that statement right or wrong? It's both and it's neither. It all depends which period in time "traditionally" covers.
But I'll explain that more fully tomorrow.
Boil times, eh? When I dreamed of being a writer as I kid, I never imagined I'd tackle subjects like this.