Friday, 31 December 2010


Done. Done. Done.

You may be down the pub rubbing shoulders with the rich and stupid. Just before the clock ticks to the top, I've done it. Achieved my goal for this year:

You may think this blog is the random ramblings of a deranged obsessive. You wouldn't be far wrong. Yet there has been a point to 2010 for me. A goal I've been punting towards all year. And, after kneeing the goalie in the bollocks and stamping on the fingers of the fullbacks, I've scored.

The Whitbread Porter set. 1804 to 1940. Sad, I know. World peace, educating my children, weeding the lawn, hoying the old Metros in the recycling bin.  All way more important. Scratching my grillocks probably, too.

A full set. A hundred and thirty six years of Porter.

Reason to celebrate.

Grinding,mashing and boiling at Allsopp's in the 1880's

I really have a way with titles. This might just be one of my best yet. Where are we today? Back inside Allsopp's brewery with Alfred Barnard. Looking at all the shiny things they brew beer in.

"Passing through an archway, we came to the mill-room, another good sized apartment, 60 feet by 33 feet, where are placed two malt-mills capable of grinding fifty quarters every two hours, and more if necessary. On its arrival, the malt is lifted by machinery to the floor above the mill, called the receiving room, where it is carefully screened, after which it falls into a large hopper. From this receptacle it travels over another and finer screen to be further cleansed; then it is shot into a blower, a machine enclosing a series of revolving fans, which free the malt from dust and prepare it for the mill where it is crushed at the rate of 200 bushels per hour per mill ; and, falling into a semi-circular trough, it is conveyed direct to the respective hoppers over the tuns. The mill is made of two stout cast-iron rollers, with smooth surfaces, revolving in opposite directions, and capable of grinding 200 bushels per hour. As we retraced our steps to the landing to see the bath rooms and offices for the use of the acting brewers, our guide raised a trap door, shewing us the inside of the hoppers, each with two divisions of great depth, like yawning gulfs below, containing the crushed malt ready for brewing.

At the north end of this floor, placed in a high part of the roof, there are two large tanks, each holding nearly 30,000 gallons, one for brewing-water, and the other for hot water for washing purposes. Passing down a circular iron staircase (with as many as thirty-six steps) we  found ourselves on the floor of the mash-tun stage, a chamber of great height, depth, and width. The floor is constructed of cast-iron tablets, 30 inches square, grooved in circles of 3/8-inch with the same thickness of metal. This formation of sunken circles is to prevent the possibility of slipping. Before making observations on this department we followed our guide through an archway, leading to the water-copper stage, 120 feet by 40 feet.

It contains four copper vessels encased with bricks, which are heated with Jucke's furnaces. Each is capable of holding 300 barrels of hot water, to be used in the mashing process, and, of supplying altogether, close upon one million gallons of boiling water per week. There is an iron balcony erected on a level with the heads of the coppers to enable the men to regulate the supply, and the coals are lifted to the furnaces underneath by powerful hydraulic lifts. Returning to the mashing room, the eight mash-tuns ranged along the Moor first claimed our attention. They are constructed of English oak, and each contains a double set of stirring gear like those elsewhere, also a sparging apparatus and set of draining plates or false bottoms. Each run mashes sixty quarters of malt every eight hours, and posses a Steel's mashing machine fed from the hoppers before referred to. The working capacity of the eight mash-tuns is about 4,000 quarters per week, whilst at the Old Brewery, which we afterwards visited, an additional 2,500 quarters per week can be mashed during the brewing season. Descending to the half-landing, we  came  to an iron gallery, constructed for the use of those men who attend to the taps and grains discharge, under the mash-tuns. Here we were shown an ingenious apparatus, depending from the tuns, which automatically measures the quantity of grains that pass through to the trucks or farmers' carts below. It is on the same principle as the old-fashioned gunpowder flask, where the charge for the gun is shut off at the neck. Standing on this gallery, with our heads near the lofty ceiling, we get an idea of the solid construction of the building. Over us are massive iron joists supported by metal columns over a foot thick, and 40 feet high ; while the walls are at least 3 feet thick.

The underback, connected with the mash-tuns, is a timber vessel holding about forty barrels, placed on a gallery in the next department. It is merely a temporary receiver from which the wort runs by gravitation to the worts-copper house, whither we followed it. The copper hearth, which we next visited, is a lofty gallery upwards of a hundred feet long; it possesses a metal plate floor, raised to such a level that the men can see into the coppers and easily drop in the hops, when required, during the process of boiling. Here, there are placed as many as ten wort-coppers, each of a hundred barrels content, fed by long mains alongside the building, with openings to each vessel. The coppers are all heated by Jucke's patent furnaces, and their boiling capacity is 90 barrels per copper, or a total of half a million gallons per week. Naturally, this is a very hot place in summer, and would be warm at any time of the year ; but by the use of two of Blackman's air propellers or ventilating fans, 6 feet in diameter, the place is kept cool and entirely free from steam. The coppers have, near the bottom, a brass cock for delivering their contents, both worts and hops, into a semi-circular duct that runs the whole length of the building, and which communicates directly with the hop-back at the southern end of the floor. To view this we ascended the gallery which projects over it.

This hop-back, which is an intermediate handsome copper vessel, 40 feet long and 18 feet wide, possesses a false bottom constructed of gun metal. The wort here gradually drains itself from the hops with which it has been mixed in the coppers, and is pumped to the coolers. In this department, each man has a cabin, wherein he exchanges his ordinary costume for a suit of white flannels, supplied by the firm, and which are washed out at the end of every days work (so particular are they as to cleanliness, etc.) On leaving this gallery or stage we descended to the ground floor, underneath the copper hearth, where there are four large hop-presses, and several smaller ones for extracting the wort from the spent hops, and two sets of three-throw brass pumps, which deliver the wort direct on to the coolers, fixed on the top of the next building. Also, under the mashing room, there are two engines for driving machinery, three sets of three-throw pumps, four ice engines and a set of three-throw pumps for hot water, all to be described hereafter.
"Noted breweries of Great Britain and Ireland, Vol. I" by Alfred Barnard, 1889, pages 134 - 138.

I suppose you're expecting me to pick that lot apart, aren't you? Reveal the fascinating facts you might have overlooked. But it's just after christmas and I'm feeling lazy.

Oh, OK then. Allsopp had two hot liquor tanks. One brewing water, the other for washing water. This wasn't unusual. Especially in a Burton brewery, where the very hard water wasn't necessarily perfect for other uses.

A 60 quarter mash tun isn't huge. That's enough for around 250 barrels of standard-strength (for the day) beer. The big London brewers had larger tuns than that. The weekly capacity of 4,000 plus 2,500 quarters is the equivalent of about 25,000 barrels per week. Or 750,000 barrels annually.

Good to learn that they used both an external Steel's masher and internal rakes. Not that it's particularly unusual, but still good to know.

A forty barrel underback? Seems a bit small for a 60 quarter copper. How many chains to the hogshead is that?

The coppers. They look open to me. Now isn't that fascinating?

Hop presses. They were so economic, those Victorians. Extracting every bit of worty goodness the hops had soaked up

Thursday, 30 December 2010

17% of you are idiots

The results of my end-of-year poll are in. And the surprising news is, 17% of you are idiots. Another 17% are twats.

Here are the full results to the question 'Should German top-fermenting beers be called "Ales"?'

No, it's confusing and insulting    50%
Yes, I'm a brainwashed idiot     17%
Perhaps. I'm an indecisive twat    17%
What's top-fermenting?    15%

Being positive, half of you aren't either idiots, twats or just generally ignorant. A victory for common sense, I'd call it.

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Horst Dornbusch's Ultimate Almanac

Lachlan from Australia has submitted a couple of pieces of fantasy beer history that would shame even Roger Protz.

They are taken from 'The Ultimate Almanac of World Beer Recipes" by Horst Dornbusch.

Barley Wine: Its modern name, however, evolved only in the early 20th century,when the large commercial breweries in Britain started to move into big-ale brewing.

Best Bitter: Perhaps the first truly hop-bitter English ale was the India Pale Ale (IPA), first brewed in the 1790s in London and later in Burton-on-Trent... In the1830s, the large English breweries adopted the IPA style also for the domestic market, for which they reduced its hop loading, renamed it "Bitter", and offered it in three strengths: "Bitter" at roughly 9°P... "Best Bitter" a roughly 11°P..."Extra Special Bitter" (ESB), a strong Bitter at roughly 13°P - 14°P... Starting in the 1860s, bottled Bitters entered the British market, and they came to be called"Pale Ales" (without the prefix "India"), while only Bitters served in casks in pubs kept their traditional name.

Brown Ale, Northern English: ...the hallowed, but now mass-produced Newcastle Brown Ale and the craft-brewed Samuel Smith's Nut Brown Ale.

Brown Ale, Southern English: The lower-gravity Browns eventually evolved into Milds; the darker ones, into Stouts and Porters; and the hoppier ones, into IPAs, Bitters and Pale Ales.

Brown Ale evolved into Bitter? I want some of whatever Horst has been taking. This stuff goes beyond fantasy history and enters the truly surreal.

Yes, this is the same Horst Dornbusch who's often quoted as an expert. Yeah, right.

It's shame Lachlan was a little late for the competition. All the quotes above would have been certain winners.

I've just done a little search and found this enthusiastic blurb about the book:

"The Ultimate Almanac is a unique collection of 101 of the world’s classic, most important, and most interesting beer recipes, and an authoritative repository of the world’s beer culture. It is a surrogate of mankind’s brewing past, expertly adapted for use by modern brewers in the present. It is a product of the synergistic collaboration of four parties, the author and the three sponsors, each world experts in their fields. To the best of our knowledge there has never been a work like this, in any language! We hope this book will become the practical reference guide and an indispensable source of information for serious brewers all over the world – a tome to be kept handy in any brew house anywhere!"

"authoritative repository of the world’s beer culture" - you have to laugh, don't you? The book is a snip at just $129.00 + $20.00 shipping. I've already ordered my copy.

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Brewing IPA in the 1850's

Want to know how they used to brew IPA? Yeah, sure you do.

Old brewing manuals can be frustrating. For what they miss out. Often it's assumed that you already know how to brew standard stuff like Ales. So they don't bother describing the recipe or process. Where detailed instructions do appear, it's usually for new-fangled things. Like Pale Ale.

That's what we'll be looking at today. Instructions on how to brew the latest fad: India Pale Bitter Ale.


This beverage, so highly recommended by the Faculty for its digestive and invigorating properties, has become, from its extensive demand, a profitable branch of business.

Bitter Ale differs from other ale only in the quantity and proportion of material employed in its production; that prepared for the home market is, however, less bitter and spirituous than that which is prepared for exportation to India. The spirit of hop, which enters largely as a constituent in this beer, has ascribed to it several valuable qualities,—the following among others:—that it is cordial and warm, aperitive, digestive, diuretic, stomachic, and sudorific. It certainly acts as a tonic and anti-spasmodic; and its aromatic bitter restores the depraved appetite, corrects unwholesome nutriment, promotes digestion, and increases the nutritive virtue of all food united with it.

The malt employed should be of first-rate quality, of the lightest possible colour, and thoroughly dried. The hops of the palest growth; those known as the Farnhams, Golding's, or the very best East Kents, are to be preferred; about 18 lbs. per quarter of malt are needed for the home, and 23 lbs. for the foreign, market. Mash as for other ales, drawing a length of about three barrels per quarter for the home, and full that for the export, trade. It would be advantageous to steep the hops for nine hours in water of any temperature between 142° and 172°, when such a heat can be conveniently sustained, as the extract would be much improved thereby. Hops absorb a considerable quantity of raw wort, averaging a barrel to every 60 lbs. used. This wort they retain after the operation of mashing is closed, together with much of their original bitter: they may, therefore, be employed profitably in brewing porter next day, as the absence of aroma in the half-spent hops will not be so much missed in that beverage as in any other; and, in such a case, half or a third only of the usual quantity of new hops will suffice for the brewing. You should guard against leaving these partially-spent hops in the hop-back all night, or even more than four hours, before their bitter is extracted for future use; because within that period a partial decomposition sets in, by which the quality of the bitter is deteriorated in proportion to the time they are exposed to the air. It is best to boil them moderately in each of the after worts. The fermentation should be slow and gradual; and to secure this, the gyle must be pitched at a low heat—say, when the brewing waters are soft, at from 55° to 62° ; when hard, some degrees higher: but here is ample scope for judgment and experience, as temperature and season will severally call for their exercise. A portion of the yeast may be mixed with the wort as it flows into the tun, and other portions occasionally added afterwards. The heat of the gyle should not be suffered to increase more than 3° or 4°, during the first fifty hours, by which time the saccharometer should indicate a diminished gravity, of some 8 lbs. or 9 lbs. As soon as the saccharometer indicates a 7-lb. gravity in the gyle, and the temperature stands about 66°, a third or more of the yeasty head may be removed ; another portion when the gravity is reduced to 5 lbs.; and when reduced to 4 lbs. gravity, it may be skimmed close; repeating the operation whenever the light head thickens. It should then be allowed to cool and clarify for two or three days, at the end of which it will be found fit for vatting. If racked into store casks, 2 lbs. of the best and fullest flavoured hops per barrel should be added, and the casks rolled over every day, that the liquor may impregnate the hops, and extract their flavour. Cane vents may be used with advantage, after fermentation is partially complete.
"The brewer: a familier treatise on the art of brewing" by William Loftus, 1856, pages 59-61.
Let's explain those numbers. 18 lbs of hops per quarter a 3 barrels per quarter is 6 lbs a barrel. Or a load. Assuming a yield of 80 brewers pounds per quarter, that would give a gravity of about 1074, which seems rather on the high side. The finishing gravity of 4 lbs per barrel is about 1011. Or around 85% apparent attenuation, which does seem more like it. Early Pale Ales had a very high degree of attenuation.

The range of pitching temperatures suggested, 55 to 62º F, is pretty wide. A few years later, in 1866, Whitbread's PA was pitched at 58º F, or just about bang in the middle.

Great care in was taken to fully ferment out the beer before racking. But that dry hopping. That's just crazy, man. Two pounds per barrel. One pound is the most I've seen in brewing records. Though many logs don't record the dry-hopping so my sample size is smaller than usual. In 1900, Barclay Perkins used 0.75 lbs of dry hops in their PA, half a pound in the their weaker Bitter, XLK.

Monday, 27 December 2010

Drinkalongathon disappointment

You may be wondering about the sudden end of my Drinkalongathon post. There's an explanation. You decide if it's s good one.

My stinking cold took control around lunchtime, leaving me flat out on the settee, sniffling and feeling rather sorry for myself. Just as well I was feeling sorry for myself. I got no sympathy from the heartless beasts who share this house with me.

My sincerest apologies for the untimely demise of the Drinkalongathon. I'll try to do better next year.

Barclay perkins 1933 KKKK update

I must apologise. I forgot to include some information about Barclay Perkins KKKK. Martyn will like this.

The information comes from a wonderful little scrapbook of circular letter. Mostly covering WW II. They are copies of the letter and leaflets sent out to publicans. And price lists. Sure enough KKKK is on them. I'm surprised they still brewed it during the war.

Here's one of the price lists.

KKKK wasn't a cheap beer. Double the price of Bitter . But see what it was called. Old Burton. Just like the Fullers OBE.

But what about their bottled beers? OK, let's see those, too:

While we're on the topic of K's, No. 1 Southwarke Ale had the brew-house designation KKK (bottling). It was also called Old Ale. So here are those K's all nicely in a row

KK: Burton
KKK: Old Ale
KKKK: Old Burton

Isn't that nice and simple?

Sunday, 26 December 2010

How long do you need to boil IPA?

IPA. It's a while since I wrote anything about IPA. (Other than it not being a strong beer.) Time for an amusing little text from the early days of the India trade.

The piece is really about boiling and how long a wort needs to be boiled to get the required preservative qualities out of the hops.


About this, also, there are various opinions; many think that long boiling, particularly of the last worts, tends to make the beer keep sound, I am not aware, however, of any preservative quality, imparted by long boiling; but, on the contrary, I have seen grey beer produced, after very long boiling ; the result, probably, of some injurious extract from the hops. The high colour produced by bad boiling, is a mere eye sore. The brick red I have seen come upon very pale worts, during fermentation. I have also seen ale, intended to be pale, made of a brick-reddish colour, after too long boiling. Whether this proceeded, however, from the long boiling, or from the copper not being altogether safe before turning out, I cannot say. Long boiling undoubtedly adds to the strength of the worts by evaporation, and thus enables us, where there is no raw wort, to take a few barrels more from our goods. I doubt very much, however, whether the expense of coals and time does not more than counterbalance the advantage.

In 1832, I brewed a small gyle of pale beer for the India market. The first worts were boiled one hour, the second one and a half hour. I beg leave to subjoin the report made upon it in Calcutta.

"Calcutta, 8th August, 1832. — Report on two hogsheads of Black's pale ale, examined in the custom house godowns of Messrs. Lyall, Matheson and Co. —Two hogsheads of Black's pale ale. — This pale ale, of superior quality, is well adapted for the India market, both in colour, body, and flavour.

(Signed) John Brown And Co.,
Coopers to the Honour able Company.

Another lot of this same beer went to Messrs. Watson and Co., and I beg leave, also, to insert a short extract of their letter to me, of date, Calcutta, 9th April, 1833.

"We wrote to you on the 17th of November to which we refer you.—Your beer is now ripe, and confirms what we then wrote you; it is really most excellent, and, as such, we are disposing of it in small quantities, so as it may be known."

This, at all events, proves that long boiling is not essential to the preservation of beer; and I have come to the conclusion, that long boiling can do no good, but may do harm. Unless, therefore, longer time should be required for strength, I should say, that one hour's boiling will sufficiently break the first worts, and two hours, at the utmost, will do the same by any other wort."
"A practical treatise on brewing" by William Black, 1835, pages 39-41.

There you have. An hour's boil for the first wort and two hours for the rest is plenty to preserve a beer on the journey to India.

One things puzzles me. What the hell is a godown?

Saturday, 25 December 2010


Good morning. Time to kick off the drinkalongaronathon.

A gentle start to the day. A light aperitif.. And what better aperitif is there than a nice dry sherry. It goes with every type of breakfast food: cornflakes (sprinkle some over the cornflakes for an extra christmassy treat), bacon sandwich, cheese toasty, mince pie or, the kids' favourite, chocolate.

Time for breakfast. And what goes better with a bacon sandwich than a Manzanilla sherry? Oh, I've done that one, haven't I? But it's still true, even after 15 minutes. Just look at the photo to your left. You can tell it's christmas. The bacon's in a nice roll, rather than just white sliced. We spoil the kids. Nice roll, bacon and a decent sherry.

Time to park our fat arses in front of the television. Well, me and the kids. Dolores has kitchen duties between now and midnight. "Oy, where are the cheesy biscuits?" And what goes better with morning TV than a nice, dry sherry? Maybe a nice dry sherry stiffened with Laphroaig. Mmmm. Works really nicely. But don't tell Dolores.

Time for a change of pace. For a long drink. What could possibly fit the bill? I know. Because it's christmas I deserve something special. And something with a god connection. Let's think. . . . That's it. A St. Bernardus Abt. In a Chimay glass. That'll get me in the festive mood even more than the low-quality christmas songs the computer is spitting out.

I enjoyed that. The Abt. So full of beery goodness. But now I did something to match a quick bout of Ostalgie. What do you pair with romaticising the DDR? I could get out that bottle of Nordhäuser Doppelkorn, but Dolores would probably give me one of her looks. A bit early in the day for schnapps. So let's stick with the Abt. A beer that goes with everything.

Just reading the introduction to the 2011 Good Beer Guide. What to take the sting out of the multiple classic Protzisms? I'll tell you a few while I ponder my drink choice. "First brewed in London and Burton-on-Trent, IPAs were strong in alcohol and high in hops" or this about Mild "It was developed in the 18th and 19th centuries as a less aggressivley bitter style of beer than Porter and Stout". He appears to have an endless supply of this bullshit. A rare talent, indeed. Only a Laphroaig will take the edge off such concentrated stupidity.

I'm slowing down. Must be that age thing. After the Protzisms, I need something to un-angry up my blood in time for the goose. What can I choose? What fits the relaxing numberiness of Sudoku? There can only be one choice. The mighty workhorse of boozing: St. Bernardus Abt. (I told you that you'd need a full crate of the stuff).

I still can't get those Protzisms out of my head. Only one thing will do: whisky. Not just any whisky, oh no. Stinky Islay whisky. Dolores had to open the bedroom window last night. The islay fumes were keeping her awake. She preferred the frozen wind off the tundra. I'll be sleeping in the shed tonight. My Choice? It just has to be another Laphroaig.

First course time. We're so sophisticated. Prawn cocktail. With a side order or prosecco. Mmm. No time to talk. Must eat.

Drinkalongwithron update

I forgot one item on the drinks list: 2 bottles of prosecco.

Sorry about that. You could use champagne or cava as a substitute, should you be uitgeproseccoed.

Allsopp beers 1870 - 1948

Allsopp. I just never tire of them. Hopefully you don't either. Otherwise things are going to get very tedious for you. I'm nowhere near finished banging this particular drum.

I haven't published a table for, ooh, must be two or three days. Another is long overdue. This one, as the title reveals, covers a period of more than half a century. And it covers quite a wide range of styles. Sadly there are only a couple of Lagers. One of the bizarre twists of the Allsopp story is that they became principally a Lager brewery at one point. From the labels I've seen, they brewed quite a range of Lagers, including a dark Munich-style one.

Luckily there are some typical Burton beers. Burton Ales and IPA. You can probably guess what I'm going to bring up now. Look at the gravities. Pre-WW I, there are only a couple of beers weaker than the IPA: a Mild and a Light Dinner Ale, beers very much in the relegation zone of the strength league. The genuinely strong beers, Burton Ales, are almost twice as strong as the IPA. Hang on, I'll start a new paragraph to make this stand out more . . .

IPA was not a strong beer.

I feel better now. That out of the way, we can discuss some other points of interest. Like attenuation. Some of the beers, IPA for example, have a very high degree of attenuation. 85 to 90%. That's not such a surprise in the case of IPA. That was one of its characteristics. And what differentiated it from standard Pale Ale. More surprising is the 90% attenuation of one of the strong Burton Ales.

One more IPA point. Between 1901 and 1921 its gravity dropped from 1062 to 1054. That's quite a small decline, when you consider that over the same period Whitbread Porter went from 1055 to 1028. Having looked at the gravities of beers from Worthington and Bass, it seems Burton brewers were much less affected by gravity cuts.

But that's enough of me. Time for you to wonder and some numbers:

Allsopp beers 1870 - 1948
Old Burton Ale (brewed March 1869)
Strong Ale


Old Burton Ale
Strong Ale

Burton Ale
Strong Ale


Burton Ale


Burton Light Dinner Ale
Dinner Ale


Luncheon Stout


India Pale Ale, Red Hand




Pale Ale


Extra Stout (Belgian sample)










Brown Ale
Brown Ale

half pint


Milk Stout

Milk Stout


Milk Stout



Burton Pale Ale (bottled in Brussels)
Pale Ale


John Bull Ale
Pale Ale
half pint
40 + 9
Burton Pale Ale Export (bottled in Brussels)
Pale Ale

British Medical Journal January 15th 1870
Whitbread Gravity Book
Truman Gravity Book

One last point. The Burton Pale Ale brewed for the Belgian market. See how that remained a reasonable strength of over 1050 even in the late 1940's. A time when British beer strengths were at a low, second only to 1919. The average gravity of UK-brewed beer was 1032.59 in 1948 and 1030.55 in 1919. Note that beer strengths hit bottom after the end of both wars.