Thursday, 27 May 2010

Indian Pale Ale

Ever wondered what old-time American IPA was like? Go on. You must have. Your wish has been granted. Sort of.

In Bill Schwarz's papers there were a couple of other recipes. Most notably, one for something called Indian Pale Ale. There's no indication of a date or even of the brewery. My guess is that it's from around the same period as the dated items. So 1940's.

Take a look:

Nice detailed mashing instructions. But unfortunately there's one piece of information missing: the hopping.

The gravity is given: 17 Balling. Which is around 1068º. Quite a bit stronger than the Lager. Could explain why Americans think IPA is a strong beer.


Jeff Renner said...

The most famous American IPA (actually, the only one I know of from the pre-microbrewing time) is Ballantine's IPA. It was moderately popular, but when the brand was sold repeatedly, it declined in quality and sales.

More than ten years ago I communicated with a retired Ballantine brewer (whose name might actually have been Bill Schwartz - sounds familiar). I was attempting to recreate that beer. I had some luck, but missed that distinctive taste, which I believe came from the inhouse-produced Bullion hop extract.

The gravity was about 17P as I recall and 45-50 IBU. I've just done a quick search of my computer for these communications, but without luck. There may be something on an old hard drive.

Here is a HomeBrew Digest post from another homebrewer who brewed my recipe with his modifications. He sent me a few bottles, and it was different from the original (as was my attempt), it was good.

Oblivious said...

Last months Brew Your Own: Magazine had an interesting article on Ballantine's with recipe for their IPA and pale ale.

Their Burton sounded fantastic, aged n oak lined tank!

Gary Gillman said...

In Toronto, the Granite Brewpub brews a Best Bitter that reminds me of Ballantine IPA, with which I was quite familiar. It was Bullion indeed that provided the signature for Ballantine IPA. The beer was quite hoppy but not massively so. I think the brewery distilled its own hop oils, but probably that was dropped with the repeated sales of the brand. I did not like the palate at the end, not so much because of lowered ABV or the taste as such, but because it had a caramelized, sometimes burnt, taste that might have resulted from the way it was pasteurized in later years, or so it seemed to me. The colour was a decided amber. It was a good product and should be revived, but of course many similar beers are now made by small and larger breweries. Greene King IPA (export version) reminds me too of the old Ballantine IPA.


Gary Gillman said...

I'm pretty sure Jeff has seen this link but it may interest others as well:

This gives some good history on Ballantine and its IPA and recounts an attempted recreation a few years ago in Oregon. The hop oils for the recreation were made with Brewers Gold, not Bullion, so perhaps Brewers Gold was the main hop although Bullion rings a bell too. I think the varieties are connected anyway.

The recreation looked really interesting, I am not sure if it is still sold.


Jeff Renner said...

Ron - You wrote earlier, "I'm sure large quantities of American brewing records survive. It would be nice is someone went through them methodically. I've seen a lot of speculation about what American beers used to be like, but virtually no real information."

This eBay offer of a brewer's notes may be part of the reason - they're in private hands.

I'm not aware of any central repository of records from closed breweries as you have in UK. I suspect that MBAA may have some.

An interesting page from the above offering is the analysis of "6% beer." You'll note that it is actually about 4.7% abv. This is because in post 1933 US, there were two categories of beer, low strength, "non-intoxicating" beer with a maximum of 3.2% by weight, universally called "three-two" beer, and maximum of 6% abw.

When I was growing up in Ohio in the 50's and 60's, three-two beer could be sold to 18-20 year olds, on Sundays, and in some localities such as Oxford, Ohio, home of Miami University, where every Friday and Saturday night proved the inaccuracy of the definition of non-intoxicating.

We thought that three-two beer was barely more than half strength, when in fact, it was more than 80% as strong as most so-called 6% beer.

Ron Pattinson said...


there are brewing records in public archives in the USA. I know because I did a search and found some.

There isn't a central repository for brewing records in the UK. They're spread all over the country. The only exception is the Scottish Brewing Archive. The London Metropolitan Archives only has records from a couple of London brewers.

Kristen England said...

The vast majority of brewing archives in the US have nothing to do with the brewing of the beer. Its nearly all stock holders things, records of beer types, contracts, etc etc.

The Professor said...

Gary...just wondering what iteration of the Ballantine IPA you are familiar with...perhaps a later version not brewed at Newark....because I've had the Greene King IPA and it really is not nearly so hoppy and aromatic as the Ballantine product was.
In any case, it's nice that the Ballantine product is well remembered since it was indeed in a class by itself certainly by the standards of the day but I think even by today's standards. It was hands down my favorite 40 years ago.

It STILL boggles my mind that the most recent custodians of a formerly great brand watered down and ultimately managed to kill altogether a product that could have stood quite nicely alongside anything of it's type brewed today. However, given the TLC it received at the Newark NJ brewery and the extended aging it was afforded prior to packaging, I suppose it would be a fairly expensive brew to make to it's original specs today .

As a side note, as part of ongoing research into the Ballantine story, I recently had occasion to sample some well kept bottles of both the IPA and the Burton that Ballantine made. While they were both clearly well past prime, the wood and hop character that remained, as well as the utter lack of any oxidative flavors in these beers after 45 years in bottle, was nothing short of remarkable. They were obviously a shadow of what they once were, but still, the shadow they cast was formidable.

I still have several bottles of each and will probably sacrifice one set for lab analysis in the near will be interesting to see what turns up in such an analysis after all these years.

JessKidden said...

There were at least a dozen (probably more) US brewed IPA's in the post Repeal era. Ballantine's local Newark competition, Krueger and Feigenspan, both brewed one, as did a number of upstate NY breweries- mostly now long forgotten brands but even Utica Club brewed one (in addition to a Sparkling Ale, Old Stock Ale and their Cream Ale). In addition, a number of New England brewers had IPA. Most, I'd guess, died out post-WWII, tho' Nueweiler's in Allentown, PA was pretty long-lived - into the 1950's (they, too, had a number of ales in their line up).

Contrary to some info on the 'net, the Ballantine brands were not really "sold repeatedly"- they were sold only once, in 1972, to Falstaff. A few years later, Falstaff was bought by the S&P Corp., which bought Pabst in 1984 and took on that more famous name as it's brewing identity - their other brands (from General, Falstaff and Pearl) folded into Pabst.

After Newark, the IPA was brewed in Cranston RI (Narragansett), then Ft. Wayne (Falstaff) and finally in Pabst's Milwaukee brewery before being dropped in the mid-1990's.

Ballantine XXX Ale famously used "Brewer's Gold" hops (which were first grown widely in the US in NY State in the late '30's, as that state hopped to revive it's hop industry.)For years in the 1950's, "Brewer's Gold" was a major ad campaign for Ballantine Ale and they were even mentioned promenently on the neck label. Falstaff would even come out with a Ballantine Brewer's Gold Premium Ale for a couple of years in the late 1970's.

I've never come across any specific reference to particular hop strains used in the IPA when it was a Newark brew, tho’ as Gary mentioned, articles long after the fact usually say bullions.

From what I've seen, the 3.2% and 6% ABW beer designations were not US national labeling laws, but primarily an Ohio and the other "3.2" states phenomenon after the first few year of Repeal. Interestingly, there apparently was an early Federal Alcohol Administration rule in the immediate post-Repeal era that states "ale" had to contain *at least* 5% ABV.

Nor was there a national "maximum" 6%- a number of labels and ads from that era sometimes state 7% (rather than 6%) as well- for one, the label of Ballantine IPA said "maximum of 7%" - since that beer was in the 6.5%-7.5% ABV range (Ron's own NUMBERS book has Whitbread listing the BIPA at 7.08% ABV).

I've READ articles suggesting that some US post-Repeal brewers released much higher ABV beers, but have never seen the actual labels. Some brewers, before the laws were adjusted, used to use "proof" numbers in ads, thus nearly doubling the number.

Contrary to the current beer myth that it was the Feds and state regulators who wanted to prohibit alcohol content being listed on the labels, from what I read, in the immediate Repeal era, it was the *brewers* who did not want the public concentrating on beer's alcohol content. I've got many such quotes from the era and, I suppose, it was a way to continue to distant the industry from liquor, along with the long running "Beer is the beverage of moderation" campaign, etc.

Ron Pattinson said...

Kristen, the same is true of UK archives. Most of the documents are not directly related to brewing. However I have found documents in US archives that, from their description in the catalogue, looked like brewing records to me.

Ron Pattinson said...

JessKidden, I hoped you would chime in on this.

Do you know who currently owns the name Ballantine IPA?

Gary Gillman said...

In referring to sales of the Ballantine brand, I was speaking loosely and was referring to the re-establishment of the Ballantine brewery in the 1930's (Ballantine IPA was produced by the pre-Prohibition Ballantine), the sale to Falstaff Jess mentioned and all the corporate and production locale changes that followed. Probably all this had some effect on the palate of the beer. I must say though that over the 20 years I drank it (circa 1975-1995) it tasted basically the same, it had a "profile". Earthy and English in character.

It is hard to rationalize these Proustian-like moments, but all I can say is, last year when drinking a cold Greene King IPA it brought back the memory of Ballantine IPA. Charles Wells IPA is another similar beer, IMO. Ballantine IPA was more English than American, it did not resemble at all the typical modern American Pale Ale.


JessKidden said...

Ron, the Ballantine labels are still owned by the Pabst's owner- the Kalmanovitz Charitable Trust (which S&P Corp's owner set up, sort of as a tax dodge, to kick in after his and his wife's deaths). The US IRS has been ordering the Trust to sell the company since it violates US tax law to have a non-profit own a profit-making corporation for about a decade and it looks as if that's about to happen.

Early reports suggest that the new owner, C. Dean Metropoulos (described as a food brand "investor"), is willing to sell some brand names Pabst controls (they own over 70) and already "Ballantine" has been mentioned as a desirable purchase in some of the many stories in the beer corner of the internet. Put it's purely speculation at this point, I'd say.

At this point, the only Ballantine brand still marketed is the XXX Ale, which most find an insult to Newark and even Falstaff's Cranston, RI versions.

A previous Pabst CEO discussed possibly "reviving" the brand, including the IPA, a few years ago- as they've done with other brands they own like Schlitz, Old Style, Primo and McSorley's.