Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Scotland vs England - the kick off

I've just had my first quick glance. Of how Scottish beers stack up against the English. Fascinating.

I've got a table of 500 beers brewed between 1880 and 1914. Three Scottish breweries: William Younger, Maclay, Thomas Usher. Three English breweries: Barclay Perkins, Whitbread and Truman (Burton). I did the stupidest possible sort: pounds of hops per barrel. Bet you're wondering what the result was, aren't you? Be patient.

One thing I didn't need a sort to see. Who had the longest boil times. There was a very clear winner: Truman. There's no great difference in pitching temperatures. All are 57º - 61º F. In general, the stronger the beer, the lower the pitching heat.

William Younger brewed beers with the largest range of gravities: 1030 to 1110. The English breweries didn't brew hardly anything below 1050. Younger brewed several very sweet Stouts that were unlike anything brewed in England. And were still brewing Table Beer a couple of decades after London brewers had dropped it.

Younger brewed a bit of everything. Shilling Ales, X Ales, Pale Ales, Sweet Stout, Stout, Dinner Ale. And loads of other things I can only guess at. SLE, SE, MM, LDE. They also had a range of numbered Ales:, 1, 2 and 3. Very like Burton Ales brewed by Bass or Truman.

I bet you're still wondering about the winners and losers in the hopping race.

The ten most heavily hopped beers were all brewed by either Barclay Perkins or William Younger. Surprisingly beating Truman (at least for me).

The least heavily-hopped beers were all Scottish. No surprise, as some Scottish beers much weaker than any of the English ones. And those Younger Stouts with second-hand hops.

Younger's No. 1 Ale contained more hops than Truman's No. 1 Ale. They were similar beers, of a similar gravity.

One thing is clear. The blanket statement "Scottish beers were less hoppy than English beers" is not true. At least not 1880 to 1914. But I'm sure it's a lot more complicated. Things always are.


Zythophile said...

Well, you've confirmed one thing commentators in the 1950s and earlier said, that the "Scotch Ale" or "Edinburgh Ale" category, which covers Younger's no 3 and its siblings, was very similar to Burton Ale. Ooh, ooh, give us some more!

Roso Loni said...

Have you heard about pliny the younger?

Ron Pattinson said...

Roso Loni, yes, but what the hell has that got to do with Scottish and English beers?

Ron Pattinson said...

Zythophile, don't worry, there will be lots more. Lots, lots more.

Gary Gillman said...

Ron, as these current results show and as I have gleaned earlier, beer was becoming more similar in England and Scotland. Scotland was still brewing what I regard as its original types (strong ale and the descendants of twopenny, in different gravities) but also increasingly English-type beers such as, pale ale, IPA, porter, stout.

Technology, especially in the larger concerns, would have become more uniform. Thus, the many statements some decades earlier that Scotch ales were fermented at lower temperatures and for longer periods than English ales would by the 1880's need modification. We are seeing an early version of the internationalization of beer.

Whether flavour was affected apace is hard to say. Did the Scotch beers in whatever class taste like the English ones or not? That is the question that really interests me, the one of palate. And it is difficult to pin down from a study of methods and materials although the latter can be an aid to figuring out what the beers tasted like (via especially recreations).

In the 1840's, some 40 years before the time of your current survey, Booth, a Scots practical brewer whose book is full of facts and figures (thus he was not simply an aesthete-taster) stated that Burton and Scotch ales tasted completed different:

I believe this may partly have been due to the sulphurous taste of Burton spring water (a taste still evident in some of its beers that I have never warmed - maybe that is why early Burton was so strong and sweet, to cover that taste). But whatever the reason, Booth makes a clear insistence of the great differences, not just between (to his readers) such ostensibly similar styles as Scotch, Burton and strong London, but between the beers as brewed by each brewery.

In this earlier period, he notes too that production processes varied widely and amongst particular brewers. This still would have been true of the 1880's but probably less so for the larger breweries anywhere in Britain.

Beers may look similar in degree of sweetness or hopping but in fact represent different styles because they tasted completely different. And if they tasted different I doubt they had similar degrees of perception of hop bitterness and flavour, whose variants are in any case innumerable.

Market share is important too. If the beer of good quality commonly sold in Edinburgh in, say, the 1840's was strong Scotch ale - if it was, I don't know - a casual traveller might think, gosh, these people like strong beer, and not think or even know that there was a small sale of a similar gravity beer in his corner of West London, say. Think of the Eisbock example you cited to me recently.


Ron Pattinson said...

Gary, Younger's Strong Scottish Ales - No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 - only appeared after 1850. They look awfully similar to numbered Burton Ales, as brewed by Bass and Truman. They also brewed another set of strong Ales - 100/-, 120/-, 140/- and 160/-. These were also reasonably heavily hopped.

The type of beers brewed by Younger, even in 1880, was quite different to London brewers. The Stouts in particular are mostly very different.

I've never seen any evidence of twopenny in the logs. What were the "original" Scottish Ales? Not greatly different to the X Ales brewed in England.

Yes, there's plenty of variation between individual brewers. But at the moment it's the Burton brewers that are standing out by being different, not the Scottish ones.

Gary Gillman said...

Well, I think the name twopenny died out or was never used by brewers themselves, but the medium gravity beers available in Scotland in the mid-1800's were its descendants, I believe. The shilling range as you showed earlier were hopped to be sure but less than a similar "English" range emerging.

Why sweet stout in Scotland? (One or two are still made, Belhaven's for example which is great and I had in New York last year). Maybe the Scots penchant for lower-hopped beers!


Zythophile said...

Gary - I may be wrong, but my impression was that Scottish sweet stouts were for "the laydeez", hence Tennents' "Sweetheart Stout", as a cheaper (?) substitute for Babycham and the like.

Gary Gillman said...

Ron, after all the talk about the strong beers of yesteryear, it is time to tip my hat to one of the best today: Fuller's Vintage Ale, the 2008 edition in this case. Warm-conditioned for circa 18 months (most chez moi), it emerges with a lovely nose of ripe toffee apple with notes of orange, pear and other estery fermentation flavours. Not a hint of oxidation! How do they do that? I regularly encounter microbrews, bottle-conditioned or otherwise, that reek of damp paper after only a month or two, but the (unfiltered) Vintage Ale is mature yet pristine in this sense. It has a rounded taste of smooth malt and nuts but is well-bittered throughout, not so much in the finish but in the taste. Classy stuff. If London XXX was like this in 1880 they were lucky.


Gary Gillman said...

Zythophile, actually I should have called the Belhaven's I was referring to a double or foreign extra stout. It was 7% ABV and is I believe sold only outside the U.K. Still, I think it is probably similar to one of the stouts in the range Ron was referring to brewed in Scotland at this time.

On the lower gravity end, a sweet stout, such as Tennent's still makes, or the venerable Mackeson, may well have been intended for the female market, perhaps too the milk stouts that came a little later. It is my understanding that indeed sweet stout was often consumed by the distaff side, an analogue to port perhaps. And as you know the two were often combined in the winter, in this case often by the elderly (in general) I think.

There is a line in a Who song, "my mom got drunk on stout, my dad couldn't stand on two feet, as he lectured a-bout, mo-ral-i-ty, and now I guess the family's complete, with me hanging round, out here on the street".

Of course, mild porter, "balmy from a crack brewery" as we have read before, and porter sweetened with sugar as such, have a venerable history. I must look again at your book on this. I do recall that Jackson wrote in 1978 that an English actor of the 1700's (I think it was) liked his stout sweetened with lots of sugar. Was his name Macklin?

When it comes to stout, I like mine on the strong side, well-hopped, but with a full body. I won't turn down a sweet medium gravity one but will want to mix it with a dry lager or pale ale.


Ron Pattinson said...

Gary, Younger's Sweet Stouts wre pretty weak for the period, being 4 - 5% ABV. The one stronger Stout, about 6% ABV, was more like an English Stout.

Fuller's make some excellent beers. Vintage Ale and 1845 being my favourites.