Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Who drank Pale Ale?

I love the insider views given by these, er, insiders. Which is why I keep quoting them.

Today's passage is the drinkers of Bass's Pale Ales. Guess what? It wasn't navvies and foundrymen knocking it back. Oh no. It was the poshoes.

"2871. (Sir J. H. Gilbert.) I do not wish to ask any  question bearing upon your own special firm, but may I put this question—do not answer it if you do not wish to do so—is it not the case that the higher classes of Burton beer, pale ales, bitters, and so on, are in a larger Bass & Co. proportion brewed from malt and hops than the other beers ?—As far as we are concerned that is the fact absolutely, and in every brewery in Burton, as far as I know, that is the fact.

2872. But when you come to the beers which are used in larger quantity by the working population, does Burton supply much of that ?—No, I think not. The working population in large towns drink a fairly high gravity beer, and they have to get it.

2873. Do they consume the pale bitter beers ? —As far as I can see, the working population prefer a fairly strong, sweet beer, with less hop and more malt ; that is my experience. The bitter beer is more consumed by the higher classes.

2874. Those beers will have small proportion of adjunct? —No; those beers which we send into the public-houses have no adjunct.

2875. The bitter beers ? —Even those mild ales we send into the public-houses, for instance, to Newcastle, Wolverhampton, and Birmingham, we send a considerable quantity of beer with a gravity of 75 and 67, and so on; we use no adjunct in these beers, and they are the beers that, as far as I can make out, the bulk of working men prefer. They prefer to have some body for their money.

2876. You are speaking, not of bitter beers, but what they call mild, or sweet ? —Yes, we never touch the bitter beers with the adjuncts; in fact, as I say, we ourselves only use adjuncts under the conditions which I have described, and in connexion with the beer which we sell at the brewery for a shilling a gallon, chiefly to private customers."
"Minutes of evidence taken before the Departmental committee on beer materials", 1899, pages 91 - 92.
Evidence given by Mr. C. O'Sullivan, brewer and chemist at Bass.

Those gravities he quotes for Mild Ales, 1075º and 1067º, are impressive. Especially if you bear in mind Bass's Pale Ale was weaker. It was just 1060º. Those two Milds. They look suspiciously like Bass No.3 and No.4 Burton Ale.

1 comment:

Gary Gillman said...

The higher status accorded Burton pale ale in my view goes back to the status of country pale ale in London in the early 1700's. October beer was similar in this respect. While there was brown October too (and brown country ale), pale always had the highest status.

Pale October beer would have been perfect for the Indian market - officers, Company men, second squires - since it was light-coloured and could stand the journey. But it was too strong. Therefore, I infer that George Hodgson primarily, came up with a lower gravity version to send to this market. It is interesting that a 5-6% ABV pale beer seems not to have been in commerce in London in the mid-1700's. Peter Mathias in his book lists numerous beers of London breweries in this time, not one (that I saw) was a pale beer except for pale stout and pale small beer. This is consistent with another account I just read from 1737 regarding beers typically available in Dublin.