Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Government Ale joke (8)

From Punch, June 1921

"The present draught in Switzerland is the worst for 90 years." Provincial Paper.
Worse than our Government Ale ?

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.

Monday, 29 November 2010

I wish I'd said that

My blog writer of the year, just for this post:

down with craft beer

The scale of Bass in the 1880's

By the 1880's, Bass had grown to be the largest brewery in the UK. Ginormous by the standards of the day.

"The firm of Bass & Co. alone contribute to the National Revenue upwards of £780 per day, and its breweries at Burton-upon-Trent are the largest of their kind in the world, the business premises extending, as we have said, over 145 acres of land. Locomotives have to a large extent superseded brewers' drays at Burton, and this firm has connection with the outer railway systems by twelve miles of rails on the premises, and use as many as 60,000 railway trucks in the course of six months. The casks required to carry on the business number 600,000, of which 46,901 are butts, and 159,608 are hogsheads. Some ingenious calculations have been made with regard to these casks. Piled one above another they would make 3,300 pillars, each reaching to the top of St. Paul's. The great Egyptian Pyramid is 763 ft. square at the base ; the butts, standing on end and placed bulge to bulge, would furnish bases for five such pyramids, and the other casks would be more than sufficient for the superstructure 460 ft. high.

Though labour-saving machinery is used as much as possible, Bass & Co. employ at Burton alone 2,250 men and boys. In 1821 only 867 men and 61 boys were engaged in all the Burton breweries. In thecourse of a season the firm now sends out over 800,000 barrels, and manufacture raw material weighing 85,000 tons. In the year ending June 30th, 1883, 250,000 quarters of malt were used and 31,000 cwt. of hops. The amount of business now done by the firm in one year cannot be less than £2,400,000, figures which will give some idea of the capital employed.

A detailed description of the three brewhouses would fill the whole of the space devoted to this chapter ; suffice it, therefore, to say that the racking rooms on the ground floor of the new brewery cover more than one and a half acre ; the tunning rooms of the same area contain 2,548 tunning casks of 160 gallons each ; and the copper house contains three water coppers that will boil 12,000 gallons each ; and eleven wort coppers that will each boil 2,200 gallons of wort.

On the cooperage great demands are made, for about 40,000 casks, which are made in part by machinery, are annually exported. The firm has thirty-two maltings at Burton, and others elsewhere, which, during the malting season, make 7,600 qrs. per week.

The annual issue of Bass and Co.'s labels amounts to over one hundred millions. Some idea of this quantity may be gathered from the fact that if they were put end to end in one long line they would reach to New York and back again, a distance of five thousand miles."
"The curiosities of ale & beer" by John Bickerdyke, 1886 , pages 345 - 346.

I hope that was enough numbers for you. I don't like to disappoint on that front.

Christmas colouring competition (3)

Only some days (or weeks) to go in my colouring contest.

Colour in the scenes below and win one of my books or something. You could have a T-shirt and Hole's Strong Ale mug instead. Or some other bits of my self-promoting cack. It's up to you.

Lexie will decide the winner. Entries to be sent to the email address at the bottom of my website.

How much did an Edwardian pub turn over?

Following on from yesterday's post about the ridiculous prices paid for pubs around 1900, here are the sales figures for some of Barclay Perkins London boozers.

Barclay Perkins sales by pub 1901 - 1910 (in pounds)
Albert House
Anchor & Hope
document ACC/2305/1/517 of the Courage Archive helsd at the London Metropolitan Archives

I assume the figures are what the tenant paid to the brewery for beer as for later years there's a barrelage figures, too. At between a thousand and two thousand pounds a year in beer sales, it would have taken decades for a brewery to recoup an investment of  20 or 30 thousand quid. Doesn't seem to make economic sense to me.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

A dream

come true

Priest in a pub

Another image from the Cornishman, sometime in the 1950's. Do you think He pulled any pints while he was stood there?

The Market Porter in Borough, noon today

I've a free day in London. Yippee! I don't want to waste it so I plan staying in the pub all day.

Not sure of my full itinarary, but I'll be in the Market Porter at about noon. I'll prorbaly be there an hour or two. If you fancy coming along and wondering at my lithe body and witty conversation, please do. The password is: "Can I buy you a double Lagavullin Ron?"

A Bass brewer speaks

I was so pleased about finding this. Where a Bass brewer of long standing tells us about how they brewed. Straight from the horse's mouth.

Let's dive straight in:

"2802. {Chairman.) I believe you have been nearly 30 years in the employ of Messrs. Bass, Ratcliffe, and Gretton as a chemist and brewer ?—Yes.

2801. And you consider yourself, and most people would consider you, second to none in knowledge on the subject of brewing ?—I may say so, both practically and scientifically.

2804. We have had the Burton brewers referred to on many occasions by different witnesses we have had before us, and we are very anxious to have some evidence from Burton as to the general system of brewing there, and some other information besides. Speaking generally, do the Burton brewers brew solely from barley-malt and hops, or do they use adjuncts to any great extent?—To some extent they use adjuncts ; that is to say, speaking of the brewers of Burton generally. I will not say that all of them use them, but taking them generally they do.

2805. Does that refer to the higher class ales, principally, or to the working-man's beer—ordinary public-house beer—or to both ?—With some of them, I should say, it applies chiefly to beer that is sold to the private customer, but in the higher class of Burton pale ale, and such beers, no adjuncts are used.

2806. And they are brewed entirely of barley-malt and hops ?—That is so.

2807. I suppose there is some sugar used for priming ? —As a general rule, that is employed at the present day.

2808. You would not consider that it would be advisable to prevent by any law the use of adjuncts in brewing—so long as they were not deleterious ?—I do not think it would be advisable in any view.
2809. You think it would not be advisable for the sake of the consumer?—Nor. I believe, even for the sake of the farmers; taking every thing into consideration, I do not think it would be advisable.

2810. You consider that, even in the case of the Burton brewers, it would be a hampering and restriction of their trade if such a law were passed ?—I believe it would.

2811. I suppose you buy very largely of English barley, and also of foreign barley ?—Yes.

2812. And you have agents all over the country for purchasing your barley ? —That is the fact.

2813. Do you buy mostly in the English markets, or do you send abroad also for barley ?—I believe we have buying agents abroad, but I will not say definitely. We know where the variety that suits our purpose can be found, and we send there, either by agent or otherwise ; I think that is the fact, but I am not absolutely conversant with the buying of the barley.

2814. Do you find in your experience that it is more necessary to use these malt substitutes when yon are brewing with English barley, than when you are brewing with foreign barley ? — Taking the English barley as a whole, I should say so decidedly.

2815. Will you explain that a little more ?—I should like to point out that in really good years, when we have sufficient ripening powers, and when we can get a good crop of well ripened English barley, we can no doubt use a much larger quantity of it than we can at other times. I daresay a very large quantity of that barley could fairly well be used without any adjunct, but taking it as a whole even if there was sufficient of it, at the present time brewers would have to seek a portion of their material elsewhere than from even the highest class of English barley. There would not be sufficient of it to fulfil their requirements.

2816. You mean you would have to get other barley, or to get other adjuncts ?—I beg your pardon; we would either have to get foreign barley, or to use adjuncts.

2817. As a matter of fact you use both ? —As a matter of fact we use both, but as far as we are concerned the adjuncts are only used to a very small extent, and that in low-priced beers. I do not think these beers are sold to public-houses; they are simply sold to private consumers, generally farmers in the neighbourhood; they are beers we would not send over the country.

2818. In what particulars do you find it necessary to use these adjuncts ?—The reason is very definite. I am now speaking of Bass and Company alone. We brew a large quantity of strong high-priced beers of a high gravity, and it is absolutely impossible to get the whole of the extract out of the malt and keep the strength to the proper gravity. Therefore, we have a certain amount of washing, rich in albuminoids and ash, which by itself would scarcely ferment at all, and would yield no satisfactory result. The addition of malt would only modify that to a certain extent, but if we have clean starch transformation products, and if we select these and add them to an extent sufficient to bring up the proportion of albuminoids to the normal of malt extract, then we have a product which is really satisfactory and gives good results.

2819. {Professor Odling.) When you say bring up, do you mean bring up or bring down?—It lowers the proportionate quantity of the albuminoids and brings up the composition to the normal; the other constituents besides the albuminoids and ash are brought up to the normal.

2820. The carbo-hydrates are brought up to the normal ?—That is so. I may say definitely that we find such beer keeps excellently.

2821. {Chairman.) How long does it keep?—I have seen it keep for two years.

2822. Have you altered your system of brewing, or altered the sort of beer which you brew, much during the last 10 years ?—Certainly not.

2823. You brew exactly the same beer now as you used to brew from 10 to 20 years ago ?—Yes, practically, 30 years ago; taking it altogether 1 should say that gravity for gravity—I have not the exact figures, but looking at it broadly—the proportionate number of barrels of beer produced by us per quarter of malt, is practically the same now as it was 30 years ago— that is to say, the strength is practically the same as it was then. The strength may not be exactly the same, but I believe that with careful manipulation, and a better knowledge of the condition of things, we now get better results.

2824. So far as colour is concerned, Bass has always brewed a bright light-coloured beer?—Yes, pale ale being the principal ale brewed by us, it is always of a light colour.
2825. You do use a certain proportion of sugar, or sugar solution, for priming ?—Yes.

2826. Is that invariably used ?—Invariably, except for in the export beer and the higher class keeping beers, in which it is unnecessary to use it. Priming is used in order to mature the beer in a moderately short time. When we have to deal with the higher priced beers, such as the export and strong ale, No. 1 as we call it, and other varieties of strong beer that have to be kept some time, there is no necessity to use the priming. The system of Burton brewing is such that the whole of the fermentable matter is reduced down to almost the smallest possible point by the time the yeast is separated from the beer. When the beer is put into the casks, it has a tendency to remain flat, and in that condition it is practically unconsumable. This small quantity of sugar revives the yeast and sets up a fresh fermentation, bringing the beer thereby into condition, and, further, it helps to carry on the fermentation afterwards, according to the well-known scientific fact that one sugar which is fermenting will carry another sugar with it, which is not easily fermentable by itself. For instance, as Professor Odling will understand, lactose and some others of the higher sugars will scarcely ferment by themselves; they do so, however, in the presence of a more fermentable sugar fermenting. If fermentation is carried on so that the sugar that is left in the beer after the chief fermentation is finished, is no longer capable with any degree of rapidity of further fermentation, and, therefore, of supplying the carbonic acid gas which is necessary to keep the beer in condition, the beer would remain flat and unsaleable for a longer time if this small quantity of priming, which consists of an easily fermentable sugar, were not added. That sugar carries on the fermentation, or helps the yeast to carry on the fermentation in the sugar that was previously only slowly fermentable.

2827. In the case of export beer, when you do not want the beer to ferment soon, you leave out the priming ?—Yes.

2828. Does the beer after a certain time get all right by itself?—Oh yes; in two or three months or so; it goes through a series of changes, which put it into a condition in which it is fit for consumption. There are certain conditions which render it necessary to allow the beer to mature in casks.

2829. Do you export beer in the cask to places like India ?—Yes.

2830. Which do you do most of, exporting in cask or in bottle ?—We sell no beer in bottle. We export a considerable quantity of bulk beer in cask to India, and also to Australia and America, not so much to Australia now, but still what we send we export in cask. A large quantity of our beer is bottled by exporters and exported ; we sell them the beer, and they bottle it and export it.

2831. Your beer goes out to India in casks?—Yes.

2832. But in addition to that the exporters bottle it before sending it out ?—Yes, and we send some out to India which is bottled there."
"Minutes of evidence taken before the Departmental committee on beer materials", 1899, pages 89 - 90.
Evidence given by Mr. C. O'Sullivan, brewer and chemist at Bass.

Let's summarise that, shall we?

  • Bass's Pale Ales were 100% malt
  • some of their cheaper beers used adjuncts
  • other Burton brewers used adjuncts in all their beers
  • they did prime their weaker domestic beers with sugar
  • strong keeping beers like No. 1 Ale and export beers were not primed but allowed to mature naturally
  • the naturally-matured beers were aged for two months in cask
  • Bass's beers were so highly-attenuated that without priming they would be flat
  • Bass's beer could be kept for as much as two years without spoiling
  • Bass sold no beer in bottles themselves
  • Bass exported beer in casks to India
  • Bottlers exported Bass beer in bottles
  • Bass's beers were much the same as they had been 30 years previously
  • Bass's Australian trade had declined

I think you'll agree that Mr. O'Sullivan's interview was most informative.

The scramble for tied houses

At the end of the 19th century breweries rushed to buy as many pubs as they could. They were prompted by increased competition for trade as government legislation began to reduce the number of licences.

It caused a surge in the price of pubs. In London they changed hands for ridiculous prices:

"During the last 35 years houses have gone up enormously in value. It began by the loan of one million made to the Cannon Brewery by Mr. McCalmont. With this money the brewery set to tie houses. The brewers looked on without minding until they found that their trade was being touched and affected irrecoverably. Then they set to work to buy also. Prices went up with a run. Then came the Death Duties act and increased difficulties about the subdivision of property held by partners jointly for the purposes of taxation. So that brewers found themselves at the same time wanting more money and a simpler method of recognizing their own personal property.

They turned their businesses into Companies in consequence.

Mr. Bramham gave as an example a public house in the parish of St. John´s Hackney.
In 1892 this house with a lease of 49 years at a rental of £105 per annum was bought for £9500.

In 1895 £8,700 was stated to Mr. Bramham as the price that had been paid for it.

This year 1897. It has been resold for £23,000.

Another house he mentioned as being sold in 1895 for £20,000 and resold this year for £32,000 in addition to which the buyer paid £4,000 in its redecoration and internal alteration. These are only two out of many instances Mr Bramham could give."
Interview with Mr. Bramham. Surveyor and Valuer to the Assessment Committee of the Hackney Union. 115 Bow Road on 5th October 1897
Let's put that 20 or 30 thousand quid into perspective. Mild cost 2d a pint. You got 120 pints to the pound. You were going to have to sell a huge amount of beer to ever get your money back.

Here's Mr.s Lovibond on the same subject:

5146. (Mr. Clare Sewell Read.) Could you give us any idea of the percentage of beer that is consumed in public-houses and that is consumed by families ?—No, not the least.

5147. Would you be surprised to hear the statement that at least three-fourths of the beer is consumed in public-houses ?—I am not at all surprised.

5148. The great brewers, 1 believe, have been buying up all the small breweries that they can in the country ?— Yes, and amalgamating them.

5149. And especially those that have the public-houses ? —Yes ; it is becoming virtually a monopoly, of course.

5150. And even in those houses that are not bought up, is it a common practice for brewers to take mortgages on them ?—Yes, everywhere. Now they have not only bought up the fully licensed houses, but there are certain brewers who have given instructions to buy up every off-licence that can be had at a reasonable price.

5151. They have not bought you up at present?—No, but they have tried.

5152. Rut there has been an enormous increase in the price of tied houses within the last few years ?—An enormous increase.
"Minutes of evidence taken before the Departmental committee on beer materials", 1899, page 189.
Evidence given by Mr.s O.A. Frederica Lovibond, Managing Director of Henry Lovibond & Son.

She's describing the beginning of the process which eventually gave rise to the Big Six. The first mega-merger, between Watney, Combe and Reid, three large London breweries, took place in 1898.

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.

A pure beer brewery in Sheffield (3)

Yet more from Mr. Harston of the Anchor Brewery.

This time he's talking about primings.

5975. {Chairman.) Then you say that priming is in no form used in your brewery ?—That is so.

5976. But you are inclined to think that a small quantity of sugar or malt extract, used as priming, would be an improvement in that respect ?—I am.

5977- What improvement would be derived in your opinion from that ?—It would retain the head longer. When a man asks for a glass of beer and they bring it on to the bar counter, he likes to see a head on it—a foam on it. I do not know that it is much the better for it; but it pleases the eye, and we feel bound to try and suit that particular requirement.

5978. Do you think that the priming would be necessary in consequence of your brewing your beer only from malt and hops, and that it would not be necessary if you used more sugar substitute, or something of that sort, in the manufacture of your beer ?—I think the substitute beers carry the head better.

5979. How long is required before you are able to send your beer out ?—Do you mean from brewing or from the beer. racking of it ?

5980. After the brewing, how long have you to keep it on the premises before you send it out to your customers ? —We have no particular time, but we unfortunately have been very much behind our trade. Our brewing capacity has not been sufficient to keep time with the business until just lately. We really like to keep it in the summer about a fortnight.

5981. For clearing purposes ?- Yes.

59S2. (Sir J. H. Gilbert.) From what date does your 10 or 14 days run ?—From the racking.

5983. (Dr. Bell.) That is after the fermentation is completed ?—Yes."
"Minutes of evidence taken before the Departmental committee on beer materials", 1899, page 228.
Evidence given by George Harston, Managing Director of the Anchor Brewery, Sheffield.

The punters liked a head on their beer, purely for aethetic reasons and priming the casks was a good way of ensuring this.

Families prefer Pale Ale

Mrs. Lovibond with some more revelations about the family trade. See if you can spot all the points of interest.

5157. I think you said that the pale ale was the most popular drink in families ?—Yes.

5158. Does that mean bitter beer ?—Yes ; the largest quantity that we brew is about 18 lbs. gravity brewed from very good malt which we sell at 19s. for 18 gallons.

5159. (Chairman.) How many different sorts of beer do you brew—you told us about the ordinary 1s. and the 10d.? —We brew a strong bitter beer at 2s. a gallon.

5160. Do you get much sale for that ?—No, not a large sale.

5161. It is entirely in private houses, I suppose?— Entirely.

5162. (Sir J. H. Gilbert.) Not for export? —No, it is not an export beer. Then we brew at various prices from that, 2s. down to 1s. a gallon in bitter beers, but we also brew mild ales and stouts and porter. I think there are 13 sorts altogether.

5163. (Chairman.) Varying from 2s a gallon, which is your highest, down to 10d.? - Yes.

5164. You have nothing below 10d.? - No.

5165. Not even the porters? - No.

5166. (Professor Odling.) Two shillings a gallon for family ale is a rather high price? - It is a high price.
"Minutes of evidence taken before the Departmental committee on beer materials", 1899, pages 189 - 190.
Evidence given by Mr.s O.A. Frederica Lovibond, Managing Director of Henry Lovibond & Son.

Want to know what gems of information were? OK, here's what I learned:

  • Pale Ale and Bitter Beer were synonyms
  • the most popular beer for home use was Pale Ale
  • their biggest seller was a Pale Ale with a gravity of 18 lbs a barrel (1050º)
  • their cheapest Pale Ale cost 1s per gallon and the most expensive almost double, 2s
  • Lovibond brewed a wide range of beers including Mild Ale, Porte, Stout and Pale Ale
  • Porter was seen as a cheap beer

I'm beginning to understand why bottled Pale Ales became so popular. That's the type of beer people preferred to drink at home. When home drinkers switched from draught to bottled beer, they stuck with Pale Ale.

Friday, 26 November 2010

Government Ale joke (10)

From Punch, August 8th, 1917:

A man charged at a London Police Court with being drunk stated that he had been drinking "Government ale." It appears now that the fellow was an impostor.

Barnstaple Pale Ale

Time to look at one of the many long-disappeared regional beers of Britain: Barnstaple Pale Ale.

It's also a good lesson in not making assumptions. Look carefully at this recipe and you'll see that they weren't brewing what we know as Pale Ale.


Here they draw off a hogshead of very fine pleasant straw-coloured ale from twelve bushels of malt, in the following manner, namely: They boil the water, then throw two parts of cold into the mash-tun, and the boiling hot water on that. They then put in the malt, half a bushel at a time. After stirring it till all is soaked, they cap it with malt or bran, and cover it close to stand three hours. They then look if the mash has sunk in the middle, which it sometimes does, and when this is the case, it shows the strength of the goods, and must be filled up level with boiling water, to stand afterwards for half an hour, when it is to be run off in a goose-quill stream, and returned upon the. goods again, by a bowl or pailful at a time, as fast as you can, from the cock; for then the liquor strains through the body of the goods, and at length comes very fine; otherwise you force the thick part down to the cock: this is called doubling, which is continued for half an hour; they then stop and let it stand for half an hour longer in winter, but not in summer. Four pounds of hops are rubbed very fine into the tun for the wort to run on. They take care not to draw it off too near, before they lade off more boiling water out of the copper, which is continued till they have their quantity of ale-wort; which, with all their hops, is boiled till the liquor breaks or curdles; they then empty all into large earthen long pans or coolers, which they work, when cold, with the same hops, altogether, in the following manner: They put a little bit of young yeast (that is, not above a day old) to a parcel of the liquor, and mix that with all the rest to work twelve or fourteen hours; and then directly strain it into the barrel, where they keep fitting it up with fresh wort, till it at length becomes full. When the fermentation is finished, they paste a piece of brown paper over the bunghole for a fortnight, which very much conduces to its fining, and then they bung for good with a wooden stopple. In this manner they draw their ale perfectly fine in three weeks or a month at most.

They never mash here above once in their strong drink, and seldom make small, on account of its cheapness; they, therefore, think that it turns to better account to leave a strength in the grains for feeding the swine.
"The town and country brewery book" by W. Brande, 1830, pages 196-198.
See why I said it isn't like Pale Ale as we know it? No. OK, I suppose I'll have to tell you.

First off, the strength. A hogshead is 54 gallons and they're using 12 bushels of malt. Which is about 500 pounds. Even allowing for the fact that they were leaving plenty of goodness in the grains, that's a stack of malt for just a barrel and a half of beer.

A quarter of pale malt yield around 70 to 80 brewers pounds in this period. They couldn't have actually got anything like that because, well, you can't get a wort that strong. It would be somewhere around 1190º. More likely is a wort of around the maximum strength, around 1120º. Not sounding much like a classic Pale Ale, is it?

Then there's the hopping. Four pounds of hops for a barrel and a half of beer. That's 2.67 pounds per barrel. It may sound like a lot, but this is massively strong. Let's compare it with a couple of real Pale Ales. Reid IPA and BPA from 1839. They were hopped at 5.88 and 5.61 lbs per barrel. With gravities of just 1056º and 1057º. Or more than 20 lbs of hops per quarter of malt.

Whitbread's XXXX Ale of 1837 was a similar strength to this Barnstaple Pale Ale, at 1114º. That had 3.64 lbs of hops per barrel.

What's my conclusion? This beer is an Pale Ale in the 18th-century meaning of the term. A relatively lightly-hopped beer brewed from pale malt.

Christmas colouring competition

Picking a winner is going to be tricky. Deciding which of the trickle of entries will win a copy "Porter!" (or something else possibly).

Just colour in Lexie's drawing of something or other and "Porter!" (or something else possibly) could be yours

Lexie will decide the winner. Entries to be sent to the email address at the bottom of my website.

Brewing in 19th-century India

As I've said many times before, I'm easily distracted. The chance find of a reference to Indian-brewed Porter prompted me to dig further. Trying to find out more about Meakin & Co. Here's one of the results.

History Of European Brewing In India.

The history of the manufacture of malt liquors in India, is, to some extent, the history of a series of unsuccessful efforts at establishing an exotic industry, in a country then unfavourably placed for its prosperity as a remunerative enterprise It is only within recent years, as a consequence of the growth of large European communities and the existence of army contracts, given out by Government to the Indian brewers, that the industry has at last been able to firmly establish itself in this country.

The pioneer brewer in India appears, says Mr. Whymper, to have been a Mr. Henry Bohle, who commenced business at Meerut and Mussoorie in 1825. His attempts were, however, very disappointing, and in 1852 his business passed into the hands of his partner, Mr. John Mackinnon, the founder of the firm of that name now in Mussoorie. It was not, however, till about the year 1870 that success dawned upon the enterprise. In the meantime, between the years 1850 and i860, several small breweries were opened in hill stations, most of which operated but for a short time and then failed. In fact, it may be said that one only, of the early breweries of Northern India has survived. It was started at Kussowlie by Captain Bevan, who, in 1854, finding it a fruitless enterprise, disposed of his interest to Mr. Dyer. The concern thereafter passed into the hands of a Company, and subsequently was bought by Mr. Meakin, who still retains an interest in it and has made it a success.

In i860, a brewery on a more pretentious scale was started by Messrs. Conill & Hay in Simla. The lines on which it proposed to work may be said to have foreshadowed its failure. Even the bricks, which were employed in the construction of the buildings, were imported from England at an enormous cost. Expenditure on other branches of the concern were equally reckless, and the business closed and finally passed into the hands of Mr. Meakin. Balfour (Cyclopedia of India) says that in Southern India Captain Ouchterlony initiated the industry about 1850. He failed, and was followed by Mr. Honeywell, who may be said to have carried on the business ever since. A curious experiment, Mr Whymper tells us, was made at Bangalore not long after, vie., to manufacture beer from imported concentrated wort, but it is probably needless to add that this venture also proved a failure. It would be beside the purpose of the present article to refer to the establishment of each and every brewery in India. Suffice it to say that there are now 25 breweries at work, of which 20 have been established since 1870, and of these 12 have sprang into existence within the past ten years (1879-89). This progress may be still further exemplified by the figures of outturn. In 1881 some 21 breweries were working and these produced 2,448,711 gallons, of which the Commissariat Departments purchased 1,764,927 gallons During the succeeding eight years (1882-89) the production and Government purchases rose steadily until, in 1889, the figures stood at 5,165,138 [143,476 barrels] made in India and 3,778,295 [104,593 barrels] gallons purchased by Government. In the previous year the Government purchases of Indian beer amounted to 4,628,175 gallons.

Of the 25 breweries at work during 1889 the following were the more important:—

The Murree Brewery Co., Limited, at Murree (1,148,949 gallons), at Rawalpindi, 205,632 gallons, at Ootacamund (336,558 gallons), at Bangalore (267,408 gallons), with smaller concerns at Quetta and Ceylon: Meakin & Co. at Poona (501,816 gallons), at KasauTi (450,000 gallons), with smaller breweries at Chakrata, Darjiling, Dalhousie, and Ranikhet. Dyer & Co. at Lucknow (340,038 gallons), at Mandalay (232,804 gallons), at Solon (133,272 gallons): Mackinnon & Co. at Mussoorie (183,591 gallons); also the Orown Brewery Co. carrying on business at Mussoorie (411,183 gallons) and the Naini Tal Brewery Co., at Naini Tal. The total outturn for the year was returned at 5,165,138 gallons.

Mr. Whymper, in concluding his historic sketch of Indian breweries, remarks : —

" There are few Indian, or Native, breweries in the Mysore State. They are of slight consequence. About 1875 a brewery was started at Bandora near Bombay. The peculiar feature of this establishment was that tidal water was used in brewing. This water was frequently quite salt and the beer was very nauseous; it however kept sound in a most remarkable manner. The beer was sold for some time in Bombay.

" The brewery, which works most satisfactorily, under the most trying conditions to be met with in India, is said to be that at Dapooree, near Bombay. This belongs to Messrs. Meakin & Co. The writer visited this brewery on the 22nd April 1886 The temperature of a well-shaded verandah at 8 that morning was 93º; at noon it was 106° F the brewery office at the same time was 100°. By using a five-ton ice machine as much as possible, the average pitch heats had been about 75º in that month. Nothing had been pitched under 72°. One gyle had to be pitched at 88°, it rose to 101º, at which the attemperators were able to hold it. Beers, brewed under nearly the same unfavourable conditions three months before, were examined and were perfectly sound to the palate. The writer is fully aware this will not receive ready credence in England. The owner, Mr. H. G. Meakin, is an elder brother of the Burton maltsters, and possesses an unusually venturesome spirit which has so far carried with it well-merited success.

" It must not be supposed that all brewers have anything like such unfavourable conditions to contend with as Mr. Meakin has had. The majority of Indian breweries are situated in the mountains of Northern India, or of the Madras Presidency. There is one brewery at Lucknow which has only' a very short winter, but still it does have some cold weather, whereas the Dapooree one has none. The breweries in the Northern Hills (as the mountains are always called) have cold winters, some have as much as six months' good brewing weather, and Messrs Mackinnon are so well situated that they can brew sound beers all the year round. The breweries in the Neilgherry Hills in Madras, and the brewery in the Ceylon Mountains, both being at an elevation of over 6,000 feet, can also brew every day in the year for export trade. The trade of the latter is principally with Lower Burma. Sir Samuel Baker was the pioneer brewer in Ceylon, but it is doubtful if he ever foresaw that Ceylon would eventually have an export beer business. The Murree Brewery Co. purchased the present brewery site from a German firm which did not succeed in brewing to meet the public taste.

" The brewery at Quetta has, perhaps, the most extraordinary climate of all Indian positions, the sun being so intensely hot, even in the winter months, that a brewer has to wear a sun helmet whilst at the same time he has to clothe himself in a fur-lined coat to protect himself from the biting cold which there is in the shade. Whilst prospecting for a brewery site, the servants of the Company suffered from both sun and from frost-bites. The cold which is occasionally experienced is too great to make it safe to employ much steam power, and although the Company, in the first instance, erected a steam plant, it had to be replaced by the open boiling system ; pipes, pumps, and injectors, steam pressure gauges, and blow-off cocks were all frozen up, and burst in the most impartial manner."
"A dictionary of the economic products of India, Volume 5" by Sir George Watt, 1891, pages 126-128.

Brewing in that heat without refrigeration sounds like great fun.

This section is slightly more specific about how and what was being brewed:

The following information furnished by Mr. H. Whymper will, however, be read with special interest as giving facts of an Indian nature:—"The brewing season for nearly all Indian breweries is restricted by the short Winter. In Ootacamund the temperature allows brewing to be carried on all the year round, but elsewhere the season is from October to March. The worts are cooled in the ordinary manners first by exposure on shallow vessels termed coolers and thereafter by flowing over ordinary refrigerators through which cold water flows. Cellars are cooled by being left open in the coldest weather. No artificial means of cooling has yet been adopted, but the largest brewery (that recently erected at Rawalpindi) is now constructing powerful ice machinery for cellar cooling.

" The class of beers, &c, made in India is practically the same as in England, more light gravity beer is consumed, however, than in England. Wood is almost invariably employed as fuel except for drying malt on kilns when charcoal is used.
"A dictionary of the economic products of India, Volume 5" by Sir George Watt, 1891, page 138.

Same types of beer being brewed as in Britain, except more of the weaker stuff. Not really a surprise that, given the climate. Though wasn't IPA supposed to have been brewed especially strong to survive the journey to India? I remember, that story is complete bolllocks.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Government Ale joke (9)

From Punch, October 24, 1917:

Those who think that people in high positions live a life of ease comfort received a rude shock last week. It is said that, while visiting the Royal Enfield Works canteen, the Duke of CONNAUGHT drank two glasses of Government ale.

A pure beer brewery in Sheffield (2)

More from Mr. Harston of the Anchor Brewery.

In this passage he tells us something about the beers being brewed in Sheffield in the late 19th century. I'm amazed that 80% of the brewery's output was XXXX.

"5969. You say that 80 per cent, of the beers sold to public-houses are of the best quality, and then you qualify that by saying medium quality ?—What we should call the strongest beers are not sold so largely, but it is the medium quality—what we call XXXX. beer in Sheffield. Our output is 80 per cent, of that quality.

5970. (Mr. Clure Sewell Read.) What do you call the very best ?—We have a name of our own for the best beer; we call it "Anchor Special" ; of course, some people call it one thing and other people another. The running beers in the neighbourhood of Sheffield are called X., XX., XXX., and XXXX., and the special beers are called any name they fancy.

5971. (Chairman.) At what price do you sell your "Anchor Special" beer ?—At 1s. 8d. a gallon.

5972. (Dr. Bell.) What gravity would that be ?—About 85 [1085º], or something like that.

5973. (Chairman.) That is considerably above the gravity of the ordinary beer, which you give at from 65 to 67 [1065-1067º]?  - That is so.

5974. (Sir J. H. Gilbert.) And that is not matured within 10 or 14 days?—No, it takes longer, it will take a month or six weeks—well, it will take six weeks."

. . . .

979. How long is required before you are able to send beer out ?—Do you mean from brewing or from the beer. racking of it ?

5980. After the brewing, how long have you to keep it on the premises before you send it out to your customers ? —We have no particular time, but we unfortunately have been very much behind our trade. Our brewing capacity has not been sufficient to keep time with the business until just lately. We really like to keep it in the summer about a fortnight.

5981. For clearing purposes ?- Yes.

59S2. (Sir J. H. Gilbert.) From what date does your 10 or 14 days run ?—From the racking.

5983. (Dr. Bell.) That is after the fermentation is completed ?—Yes."
"Minutes of evidence taken before the Departmental committee on beer materials", 1899, pages 227 - 228.
Evidence given by George Harston, Managing Director of the Anchor Brewery, Sheffield.

Picking the bones out of that, I get the following:

  • standard X Ales in Sheffield were around 1065º
  • XXXX Ale was about 1085º
  • lower -gravity X Ales were matured for 10 to 14 days after racking
  • XXXX Ale was matured for four to 6 weeks after racking.

Another learning experience. I'll sleep more soundly in my bed tonight.

Free Bread and Government Ale

Many temperance campaigners were delighted by the outbreak of WW I. They saw it as a great opportunity to impose prohibition as beeing in the "national interest". Ultimately they were to be disappointed. Thankfully.

This piece demonstrates quite well what a bunch of tunnel-visioned killjoys they were. Just like the their equivalents today. Some things never change. The capacity to twist any facts to suit their own warped world view is breathtaking.

"Free Bread and Government Ale

It is sometimes said that the Government has done great things in dealing with Drink. The truth is that not only does the British Government stand almost alone in the English-speaking race as the patron of Drink in war-time, but no other British Government even in time of peace has subsidised Drink as our war Governments have. It has done it in many ways, but most shameful of all is the subsidy of Drink at the cost of food. Less bread and more beer is becoming a watchword of Downing Street for winning the war.

It would be the aim of any sane man in power in days like these to keep down the price of bread and to put up the price of beer; but the policy of the British Government does the opposite. While Drink puts up the price of bread, the Government keeps down the price of beer.

It has been our policy for generations to keep up the price of Drink. We have sacrificed the development of cheap industrial alcohol, with all the blessings it would bring to industry, in order to keep up the price of Drink. To reduce the temptation of Drink we have taxed it so highly that alcohol became too dear as a source of power, and no man can say how great has been the financial loss to the nation in consequence.

But will it be believed that just now, when for the first time in our history we are giving people bread, the British Government has departed from our traditional policy and deliberately kept down the price of Drink? By order of the Government the price of beer is kept low for a people who cannot afford to pay for bread.

And what, in the meantime, is the Government doing with bread? The price is too high for our people, and the War Savings Committee gives us one of the reasons why. It says that the price of bread is increased by the immense destruction of food for Drink. It is obviously so,, seeing that Drink destroys about one-eighth of our bread supplies. We give this trade our food, allow it to put up the price Of bread, and when the price is too high for our people the Government pays the difference from the taxes. We are to pay this year £40,000,000 towards flour, and £5,000,000 for potatoes: how many millions of this huge sum are actually due to Drink?

Who has not been humiliated in these days, walking through the streets of our towns, to see in the windows of our taprooms the flaring announcement of Government Ale? When before did any British Government lend its name to stuff like this, the stuff that sends a girl out reeling in the street or tempts some Anzac lad until he falls as if dead on a crowded London pavement? Free Bread and Government Ale— we are getting on!

It would seem to ordinary people that by this time the patronage of Drink at the cost of bread had gone quite far enough. But go into the market and try to buy corn. There is not enough wheat, and so we mix barley for our bread: there is not enough barley, and so we mix potatoes. What is it that happens now in any corn market in the United Kingdom? The miller is there and the maltster is there, both under Government Orders not to pay more than a fixed price for corn. But will it be believed that the maltster is allowed to go round the market to buy up all the best barley at 5s. 3d, a quarter more than the miller is allowed to pay? It is done every day, and mills that have never closed before since war began have been closed down because the brewer took the corn they should have had for making bread. Worse than that, however, are the actual facts, for millers, unable to buy home-grown barley at 68s. a quarter, are compelled to buy from our costly reserves of Californian wheat at 88s. a quarter. The miller, that is to say, pays an excess of 20s. a quarter, and the Government subsidises him accordingly. The Government's policy of obliging the brewer compels the miller to pay a price which will compel the Government to subsidise him. We may leave it to legal minds to say how near this comes to unconstitutional finance; but plain men have other ways of conducting honest business.

The policy of the Government, moreover, puts the best barley into beer and the worst into bread. It is not surprising that War Agricultural Committees and other county authorities have protested strongly against this abuse of Government authority, which works so gravely against the national interest and so richly for the profit of the brewers. We read on another page of the danger of reducing the nourishing power of bread, but the policy is deliberately continued by the Government, which even issues an Order for barley screenings—left by the brewer for cattle and pigs—to be turned into bread.

Well may we ask what grain is grown for. It is true that the Government was compelled to interfere to stop brewers from using wheat for beer, but the brewer has got the best barley, and got it with a Government guarantee. He can take the barley from a farmer who would rather keep it for his cattle, for the farmer who keeps cattle and poultry is not allowed to give them barley. He must sell it to the miller or the maltster, and give the maltster the best chance.

The Prime Minister, in his heroic mood, calls upon the nation to clothe itself in the spirit of our fathers, who swept away a military despotism a hundred years ago, but he forgets that when our fathers beat Napoleon they stopped spirits to do it. They made it a crime for a distiller to use a grain of barley; we have made it a crime for a farmer to use it. The farmer must sell the best barley for beer and the rest for bread; and if the barley will not go round the baker must make up with potatoes. Barley leavings and potatoes in their skins—anything will do for the people and the pigs so long as the brewer gets the golden corn.

With its tenderness towards beer and those who make it, the Government must cherish great solicitude for those who drink it. Having kept up the supply of Drink and kept down its price, the Government must be careful lest the people, believing in the honesty of the King, follow his Proclamation and give up using grain in anything but bread. For what, then, would become of all the beer?

So we are rationing grain for bread only; we may eat only so much, but we can drink as much as we like in beer. You may sit in a restaurant and ask in vain for another piece of bread—you have had your ration; but the next man may have had his ration and may drink the rations of as many other people as he likes. We have seen already that drinkers may double their rations of grain while those who follow the King are likely soon to be put in the dock for doing it. Give the crumbs to the birds and you are fined £5; give a loaf to the brewer and you are patriotic. It is the way the Government chooses to go while Germany sinks our food-ships and our Allies are short of bread.

There will still be those who maintain that beer is needed by hard workers. It is one of the false coins to which the policy of the Government has given new currency in these days. But even such critics will find it difficult to defend that policy of the Government which destroys the bread rations of 200,000 people every week merely to improve the colour and taste of beer. Our people are not quite fond enough of beer, so the Government sets aside 500 tons of barley every week to make it tempting for them.

The Government goes out crying "Wolf!" and nobody will believe. Of course they will not believe. If we have bread enough to make beer with, bread enough to make beer a pretty colour with, so much bread that we can afford to penalise the miller against the brewer, we have bread enough to eat. The nation has not so lost its senses as to believe that, while we have grain to drink we have not enough to eat. Of course our people will not believe. If the Government wants to be believed, let it act as if it believed itself.
"The parasite" by Arthur Mee, 1917, pages 37-40.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Indian-brewed Porter and Ale

Funny what you stumble across when looking for something else. Searching for "government ale" produced this result: evidence of Indian-brewed Porter and Ale from the 1880's.


Mr. CALNE (Barrow) asked the Under Secretary of State for India (1), if it was true that there is a large brewery established at Poona by Messrs. Meakin and Co., and that under a Government Resolution, No. 34, 5th January, 1886, the malt liquor brewed in this firm is exempted from the payment of any Excise Duty, and that, under Government Resolution, No. 1,652, 2nd March 1886, a wholesale licence was granted to Messrs. Meakin and Co. for the sale of their malt liquors in Bombay for a fee of 50 rupees; (2), if it was true that there are in all 68 other wholesale licences in the town and island of Bombay charged sums varying from 100 to 1,000 rupees ; (S), why was it that Messrs. Meakin and Co. pay no Excise Duty, and obtain a wholesale licence on exceptionally favourable terms; (4), were the malt liquors brewed by Messrs. Meakin and Co. the same as those described as "Government porter, of 11 per cent strength [6.3% ABV], and Government ale, 11.7 per cent strength, of proof spirit [6.97% ABV]," on page 12 of the Report of the Bombay Abkari Commission, 1885; if not, can he state what is the alcoholio strength of Meakin's beer and porter; (5), was any other firm of brewers in India exempted from the payment of Excise Duty; (6), whether his attention had been called to the statement on the same page of the Report, that the tax on toddy was 6 rupees on 40 gallons in 1885, and that its alcoholic strength increases 5 per cent in 24 hours, and is he aware that large quantities of toddy are consumed freshly drawn from the tree, in which state it is entirely free from alcohol ; (7), was he aware that the Duty on imported malt liquors is only one anna per gallon, while that on toddy, whether alcoholic or not, is an average of two annas per gallon; (8), was he aware that there is a widespread feeling of discontent all over the Bombay Presidency with regard to these inequalities of taxation, which found expression in the evidence given before the above-mentioned Commission, and that the Report of the Commission recommends an assimilation of the Duties on malt liquors and toddy ; and (9), was it the intention of the Bombay Government to carry out this recommendation by raising the Duty on imported, and the Excise on malt liquors manufactured within their jurisdiction ?
"Hansard's parliamentary debates, Volume 334", 1889, pages 138-379.

It's not just the date that surprised me, but that they were brewing Porter. Then again, there's still that Stout brewed in Sri Lanka, isn't there?