Sunday, 18 October 2009

Brewers' notes

I mentioned about the scribbled notes in the inside cover of brewing logs. Here's your chance to look at some.

These appear in the front of a Barclay Perkins covering 1899 and 1900:

It gives an indication of how recipes were tweaked to cope with changes in the raw materials. For example, you'll see that it notes when the latest season's malt and hops were first used. You can also see how the hopping rate for X was changed several times: increased to 10 lbs per quarter, reduced to 9, reduced to 8, then increased to 9 again.

But my personal favourite is: "our freezing machine broke down". Then three weeks later "men finished & fixed refrigerator". I know. I'm weird.


rod said...

"the hopping rate for X was changed several times"

Brewers still do this, of course. Each new batch of hops (potentially) has a different alpha content, so a little calculation is done every time to work out the correct weight of each charge of hops to be used. The weight of hops changes, but the alpha acid content remains the same.

Gary Gillman said...

I found the reference to a change of yeast to Whitbread's of interest. I believe today a major brewery would not do this and would be able always to generate sufficient of its yeast via a pure culture kept on a slant or stored with an outside laboratory.

Perhaps consistency to the degree felt important today did not characterize brewing then, which seems evident too from some of other tweaks described.


Ron Pattinson said...

Gary, the logs are full of references to other brewers' yeast. They didn't seem that fussy.

The Professor said...

The practice of using whatever yeast was available and viable is most fascinating to me. I find it especially amusing given the current obsession among homebrewers about yeast. I've been homebrewing for close to four decades and while I do have a 'house' yeast that I have cultivated and favored for more than 20 years, I am of the opinion that many ale yeast varieties are at least a little bit more interchangeable than many brewers want to believe. There are subtleties, to be sure, but these subtle characteristics would be nearly invisible in some beers.

I have heard stories about British brewers using each other's yeasts quite interchangeably when necessary as recently as 20 years ago. With fewer regional brewers it may be happening less now, if at all...but I wonder?

In any case, the analysis of the many logs you've studies has been great reading. I'm hooked!