Saturday, 27 November 2010

The difference between Pale Ale and X Ales

That committee again. This time it's a female brewer doing the talking.

She gives us a glimpse of a neglected part of the brewing trade: supplying draught beer to households and institutions. It's well worth reading.

4952. When you say, " We have no difficulty in suiting the various tastes of our customers," how do you ascertain what the tastes of your customers are ? —Well, they have a right to grumble, and they write us to say, "This tastes thin." We had a list at one time of 40 different causes of complaint; one was that it was too thick, another too thin, another too sour, another too sweet, another too bitter, and all that kind of thing.

4953. Do those complaints come from public-houses ?— No, we have no public-houses whatever.

4954. All the beer you brew is consumed in private families ?—Yes, and hospitals, or clubs, or public institutions.

4955. And those are the people who write to you in that way ?—Yes ; it is too dark, or too light, or it is so pale that we are sure there is nothing in it, or it is so dark that we are sure it cannot be malt and hops. We had a list made out of 40 different sorts of complaints.

4956. Do you brew afresh to meet those different complaints ?—Oh, dear, no, we should never get to the end of our work if we did that.

4957. You write a sufficient explanation back of the reason ?—Sometimes we do, and sometimes we send them something different. For instance, if we send our XX beer, and they say it is too high-coloured, the next time we send them a pale ale, perhaps a little lighter in gravity, but with a different flavour.

4958. There is a good deal of fancy, I suppose, from the consumers' point of view ?—I daresay there is. They do not think so, probably. There are plenty of other people who will supply them if we do not.

4959. But you are only too ready to meet their objections so far as you are able to do so ?—Exactly.

4960. And you meet them by sending pale ale to the persons who complain that the beer is too dark ?—Exactly.

4961. Are there any marked differences between the price of production in those two classes?—Yes, the pale ale must be brewed from very choice malt. It must be brewed from a choice pale malt, and it has to be attenuated very low so as to be a clean drinking beer, and fermentation probably is carried on at a very much lower temperature, and the mashing is also at a different temperature.

4962. It is a distinct process almost—the difference between pale ale and the ordinary beer?—Yes, it is a different thing. Of course, it is modified very much.

4963. Which do you find the most popular in the market ?—Pale ale.

4964. That is a more costly drink to produce ?—Yes, but we can send it out for 1s. a gallon, or at 1s. 2d. we send a very good pale ale out.

4965. Whatever the demand is, whether it is for a weaker or a lighter beer, or pale ale, you are able to produce that from barley-malt and hops alone ?— Decidedly.

4966. Without the use of any substitute or adjunct at all ?—Without the use of any substitute or adjunct, except, of course, I do not say that we use no preservative. I do not think there is a brewer in England anywhere who does not use a certain amount of bi-sulphite.

4967- May I ask. also—but do not answer if you think it contrary to the interest of the trade—do you go through any process of hardening the water which you use ?— Certainly.

4968. I think that is the case in almost all the breweries in the south of England ?—It is quite necessary for good pale ale brewing but not for mild ale brewing.
"Minutes of evidence taken before the Departmental committee on beer materials", 1899, page 184.
Evidence given by Mr.s O.A. Frederica Lovibond, Managing Director of Henry Lovibond & Son.

Those whingy customers. What bastards. No pleasing some people.

I wonder how many hospitals buy draught beer today? Slightly fewer than one, I would guess.

Let's summarise what Mrs. Lovibond has revealed:

  • XX Ale was darker than Pale Ale
  • Pale Ale was lower gravity than XX
  • Pale Ale was more expensive to brew
  • Pale Ale was brewed from the best pale malt
  • Pale Ale was highly attenuated
  • Pale Ale tasted different to XX
  • Pale Ale had a lower fermentation temperature
  • Pale Ale used a different mashing temperature
  • the water was hardened for Pale Ale, but not for X Ales

It's been very informative, I'm sure you'll agree.

1 comment:

Gary Gillman said...

Excellent! The last historical frontier where only modest progress has been made is subjective taste descriptions. This posting and other things discussed on the blog in recent years have helped palliate this. It shows too that consumers had decided opinions on beer then, it just wasn't an alcohol/price ratio to them.

I like Mrs. L's dry wit, but she is perhaps a bit condescending to her customers. (And what beers would she have deemed meet to be sour?).

The speech of the commercial and ordinary people of England since the 1800's has changed much less than the "official" tone, e.g. of the media, Academe, etc. Same thing for the 1819 hearings, most of the brewers spoke in a plain, straightforward way that is very recognizable today, whereas contrast, say Hansard in 1819 or 1890 - much harder to read by today's standards.