Thursday, 24 September 2009

Understanding Truman's brewing records

We've been taking a very close look at some of Truman's records this week. (I hope it's we. This stuff is a niche of a niche of nothing.) It's only fair for me to explain them. Then we can discuss on equal terms. Tutorial time.

[Jeff and other non-historical-minutiae-inclined readers should look away now. Keep your eyes averted for approximately 8 days. Then I'll be back from Oktoberfest. With photos of my food and a grey DDR bagful of travel tales. ]

Imagine me standing in front of you, wearing a suit and tie. When you've stopped laughing, we can begin.

Truman. Their records. And why I curse their brewers.

Understanding Truman's brewing records

[slide 1]

This is a brewing log from Truman's Burton brewery. Can anyone guess from which date? . . . .No, not the 20th of October . . . Any other guesses? . . . . not the sixteenth of Seventeentember either . . 12th of July, that's right. Thursday, 12th of July, 1917.

Lots of numbers and a few squiggles. What could it all mean? Quite a lot. If we know how to read it. It's a record of a single brew. And two beers. But let's begin at the start of all beer, with the ingredients:

[slide 2]

These are the malts. Given in quarters*.
2 own Indian
3 own Oregon
9 own Eng.
7 ?art Eng.
5 Th???? Eng. H.D.
5 own Eng. H.D.
31 [total number of quarters]

"Own" means malted by Truman themselves. Indian from, well, India. Oregon, I think you can guess. Eng. Not that difficult. English.

?art and Th???? are maltsters. Maybe you can read their names?

All that's given for most entries is the maltster and the country where the grain was grown. H.D. stands for High Dried. I think. Not exactly sure what they mean by that. Possibly something like mild malt.

Hops next.

[slide 3]

These are measured in pounds.

90 Best CS/16 Wor
90 White CS/15
90 ????????? CS/16
270 [total hops]

CS = cold store, so stored refrigerated.
15 = harvest year 1915
16 = harvest year 1916

1lb 2oz per Brl.


[slide 4]

Not very detailed here. No times. The leftmost column gives water volumes in barrels. The next the temperature of the water in Fahrenheit. The last column is probably the tap temperature. With 155 1/2 being the initial mash temperature. I could be wrong.

What do I think it says?

An initial mash with 72 barrels at 162º F. Drawn off at 150º F.

70 more barrels of water at 170º F. No tap temperature. Draw your own conclusions from that.

69 barrels sparge at 160º F. Drawn off at 157º F.

104 barrels of cold water.

315 barrels of water used in total.

[slide 5]


The heading U = Underback. Three worts in the underback, each of 95 barrels, of 19, 9.2 and 4.6 lbs per barrel gravity.

The heading C = copper. Three worts of 95 barrels each. Second column - post boil volume, I think. Last column - number of hours boiled.

[slide 6]


Here's the fun bit.

The first gyle is for XX.

40 barrels @ 21 lbs barrel (1058.2)
40 barrels @ 12 lbs barrel (1033.2)
37 barrels @ 6.5 lbs barrel (1018)
117 barrels @ 13.33 lbs barrel (1036.94)

19 barrels @ 21 lbs barrel (1058.2)
40 barrels @ 12 lbs barrel (1033.2) [the log gets the multiplication wrong]
64 barrels @ 8.2 lbs barrel (1022.7)
123 barrels @ 11.41 lbs barrel (1031.61) [given incorrectly in the log as 10.8 lbs barrel (1029.9)

These two gyles have been blended again post-fermentation:

123 barrels @ 10.8 lbs barrel (1031.61) (X gyle)
37 barrels @ 13.33 lbs barrel (1036.94) (XX gyle)
Giving 160 barrels @ 11.37 lbs barrel (1031.5)

Except it was really:

123 barrels @ 11.41 lbs barrel (1036.94) (X gyle)
37 barrels @ 13.33 lbs barrel (1036.94) (XX gyle)
Giving 160 barrels @ 11.83 lbs barrel (1032.8)

The next line is the yield calculation:

240 barrels of a total of 2891 gravity points. Divided by the number of quarter (31) this gives the yield of 93.25 (rounded to 93.3) pounds per quarter. Except there were really 2964 gravity points and the tield should have been 95.6.

The 59.5 and 60 at the bottom left of this image are the pitching temperatures in Fahrenheit. 68 and 68 to their right and below are the cleansing temperatures.

The heading Sq. and U show where the fermentation took place. In this case in squares 10, 11, 12, 16, 17, 18. There is nothing filled in for U so these beers did not go into union sets.

The last column in this image shows the attenuation for both worts.

For XX:
8.8 cleansing gravity (I think. Could also be skimming) (1024.4)
13 e 12.0 date/time of cleansing or skimming (13th evening 12 o' clock)
3.2 racking gravity (1008.9)

For X:
6.4 cleansing gravity (1017.7)
14 m 1.30 date/time of cleansing or skimming (14th morning one thirty)
2.6 racking gravity (1007.2)

* a unit of volume, for pale malt about 336 pounds.


Gary Gillman said...

Ron, HW actually means (I'm pretty sure) highly modified.

Not sure about the rest except Wor surely means Worcester.

Regarding square fermenters (this is more the earlier thread) I would like to know more how they work(ed. If the hole through which the yeast would escape was too high from the level of the wort how could the yeast get out? I looked but can't find a detailed description other than that they were made of stone starting in the earlier 1800's and later of stainless steel. And even if only 6 feet was necessary as Graham suggests, might that be too much for some small brewings? I come back too to yeast characteristics, that should not be ruled out yet IMO.

Graham's points about the documents perhaps being either more or less than they seem might well be true.



Graham Wheeler said...

Well, I did not realise that the images shown earlier were a window into the brewer's log. That opens up a new can of worms. Now, for the first time, we are seeing gravity points being lost. This indicates that they had some wort left over after mixing the copper charges to produce the two gyles. I wonder where that went. We are seeing XXX creep into the picture at the bottom left-hand corner. Lots of other things too. Generates more questions than answers.

At least we know the weather was good. 30.21 inches barometric pressure was good weather, and if the temperature of 52° (11°C) was external temperature at 6am, then it would have been a bloody scorcher by lunchtime. Might be their fermentation room temperature though.

They are not talking Yorkshire Squares, just ordinary squares. Square wooden boxes without a lid. There is a picture of some here, about half-way down the page.

The (rubber lined?) cast-iron vessels are collection and dipping vessels for excise purposes. Below that you will see some rounds and squares. Don't be misled by the depth of them - they protrude through the false floor.

Davenports used the dropping system, and it was common with users of the dropping system (for reasons lost in time) for fermentation to be started in rounds and then dropped into squares on the floor below. You can see both in the two pictures, but in the wrong order.

6-foot minimum was a Victorian thing that still continues to this day; the Brewing Research Institute and the National Collection of Yeast Cultures still conduct fermentation tests in 6' glass tubes called "Tall Tubes". They resemble a 6-foot-high yard glass. Actually a 2-yard glass come to think of it.

The reason being that when a yeast produces a bubble of carbon dioxide it increases its buoyancy and the gas carries the cell up through the wort. When it releases its bubble it falls back down through the wort picking up nutrients along the way, until it produces its next bubble. This movement was reckoned to be 6-foot. Too shallow a fermenter and the yeast spends some of its time sitting on the bottom of the vessel. It probably does reduce fermentation efficiency because the yeast is sat down there in all the settled trub, getting its cell walls all clogged up, and probably getting firmly stuck also.

Home brewers manage okay though.

Ron Pattinson said...

Graham, there's a mistake in the arithmetic in the X gyle blend. That's why it appears that gravity points were lost.

Thee XXX in the bottom left-hand corner is indicating the source of the yeast used: from XXX gyle number 12.

Truman didn't use a dropping system in their Burton brewery. The whole primary fermentation took place in squares, in which they were skimmed after about a day and a half. About four days into the fermentation the temperature was dropped back down to around 60º F.

The squares varied quite a bit in capacity. The fermenters used the most - 19, 20, 21, 22, 44, 45 - had a capacity of around 210 barrels. 33, 34 and 35 held about 175 barrels; 36, 37, 38, 39 and 40 about 150 barrels; 24 and 25 about 75 barrels; 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 only about 50 barrels.

Graham Wheeler said...

There are 3116 gravity points going into the coppers, but only 2964 of um ended up in the beer.

I was not suggesting that Truman at Burton were dropping; it was an explanation as to why rounds and squares were shown in the 1930s Davenport's pictures I linked to. Mind you, if Truman ever used their unions then they did drop.

I recently read elsewhere that the Truman Burton brewery only ever achieved a fraction of its full capacity and only made a modest profit in one year of its existence. The board were split and argued for years over shutting it down, but the conservative members of the board always won. Strange that they were still struggling on in 1917. Most "London" Burton brewers buggered off back to London with their tails between their legs before the turn of the century.

Graham Wheeler said...

I seems that interest in this post has worn off. It is a shame that a "Why" has not been arrived at. I suppose that it has to be put down to an old tradition that had not died out in Truman's at the time. There are good traditional reasons for both operations; that is the blending of worts prior to fermentation and the blending of gyle-worts (the beers) at the end of fermentation, but not both at the same time and not for the reasons that Truman were doing it; in fact there is no obvious reason for Truman doing it. It would be nice to have come up with an answer.

The blending of copper-worts is a hangover from the old days of triple mashing, and deriving a separate beer from each mash. Triple mashing would give them three copper-worts of successively lower gravities. These could go out "as is" to produce a strong ale, a common ale and a table beer. Alternatively the three worts could be combined in various combinations to produce a range of seven beers in varying volumes. Anyway, it can be seen that one mash produced three copper charges. When sparging came along the brewers were presented with a dilemma because their expensive mash tun and copper were not usually replaced, so their mash tun still produced three times their copper-length (or more, sparging being more efficient), and the wort came off the mash tun in a continuous stream of continually reducing gravity. This had to be split into three copper-worts and if the brewery was producing more than one beer from the mash, as was almost always the case, it was an exceptionally complicated mathematical exercise to blend these worts to appropriate gravities for the beers in question. Truman seem to have copped out by blending the way they did, but then Babbage never did finish his calculating engine.

Truman still produced three copper-charges from the one mash, but this is no surprise, even in 1917; the mash and sparge was the bottle-neck in brewing because mashing and sparging took a minimum of six hours and often double or even treble that in some breweries, whereas a wort boil took about two hours. A large mash tun gave better vessel utilisation because coppers were not lying idle waiting for sparging to complete. Once the first 95 barrels was collected, the copper can get on with boiling while the rest is being collected. It is quite common even today for regional brewers to have large mash tuns and underbacks compared to their copper-length. Some breweries had more than one mash tun feeding a copper; Truman seemingly didn't and were boiling successively weaker worts, going through the inefficient exercise of boiling a 1.013 wort, and blending after the boil rather than before it.

It is far from clear whether Truman collected the complete mash and sparge as one big wort, and split it afterwards into three copper lengths, or collected three intermediate worts, each of which went straight into the copper after collection. It is worrying that they managed to collect exactly three 95-barrel copper lengths; that would surely take a computer to calculate if there were three separate collections. 1053 is a very low gravity for a first wort too. But then why boil a weak wort if it was all collected at once? I suppose they blended after the boil because 117 barrels and 123 barrels would not fit into the copper, but it is better to boil after blending. There are still idiosyncrasies remaining despite all the analysis.

Graham Wheeler said...

Going back to the mash, after some clues as to what was going on from Ron, my interpretation is this:

The first row, 72 - 162 - 150: The 162 is the strike heat; the temperature of the liquor going into the Steele's pre-masher. 150 is the initial heat of the mash. This is in the middle of the range of the typical mash temperature used for the technique of starting the mash at a relatively low temperature to avoid accidentally buggering the enzymes by getting the mash too hot, and gently raising the temperature later by underlet. A typical technique of the time.

The second row: 70 - 170, looks like an underlet at 170°F to raise the temperature. It is a bit worrying that a resulting temperature is not specified. Coincidentally it would typically be 155-156 (155.5?).

The third row looks like yet another underlet to raise the temperature to 157; for what reason I am not sure, perhaps the temperature sagged during the mash, perhaps they did a three stage mash, perhaps the temperature was raised in readiness for sparging. 157 is at the top limit of the temperature range used in the traditional British dual-temperature underlet mash. If they were raising the temperature in readiness for sparging I would expect it to be a bit hotter than that.

The bottom row I read as sparging with 104 barrels at 160°F, because the brewer has the habit of using a dash to represent "ditto". 160° is low for sparging, I would expect 170, but what the heck - quite feasible.

The 155.5° is a bit of a poser. It could be the temperature of the foundation liquor put into the mash tun to cover the plates of the false-bottom prior to starting the mashing machine, but it looks as if the number was entered in pencil after the mash, whereas the foundation liquor would have been the first thing the brewer did. It could be an average mash temperature; the average is the important factor, not the actual temperatures of the stands. But to calculate this would require the times that the mash stood at the various temperatures, but, most bizarrely, this information is not recorded.

The blending of the gyle-worts towards the end of fermentation is the biggest poser, because it seems unnecessary. Everything that is done there could easily have been done further upstream.

Gyle-wort blending was sometimes done by those brewers who's beers were all made from one standard grist. They produced just two beers, one strong and one weak. All their intermediate beers were produced by blending the two in different proportions. A form of high-gravity brewing. Today they would just water them down using deoxygenated water. The beers were never blended from the same physical mash, that would be pointless, the strong beer and the weak beer were completely independent brews. It is also an easy way of producing a small volume of a slow-moving beer, like a barley wine, whereby the rest of the batch is turned into a weaker, more briskly-selling beer, but Truman did not do that; sometimes they produced more of the stronger beer from the blend. Bizarre.

In fact their whole brewing process is bizarre. Their arse-about-face way of doing things; namely, boiling the underback worts before blending, rather than blending for the two component beers and then boiling, gave them total loss of flexibility. No flexibility over hop rate or variety for their different beers. All their beers must have had identical hop rate. No flexibility over colour either.

Perhaps, rather than the Board of Directors arguing for years over whether to close their Burton brewery, they should simply have sacked the brewer.

Mind you, he could have been an old-fashioned brewer dragged out of retirement. Their real brewer was probably busy getting shot.

Ron Pattinson said...


all the party-gyling I've seen was done post-boil. And seeing any of the worts used straight to make a beer is extremely rare. Usually all the beers produced from a brew used some of every wort.

What points to Truman having collected three worts is:

- there's an entry for each wort in the underback

- there is more than one tap temperature given, i.e the temperature when the wort was drawn off.

I doubt Truman were underlet mashing. From the examples I've seen from breweries that did (Whitbread, Fullers and Barclay Perkins) the underlet volume was much smaller than for the initial mash.