Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Drogheda Ale

Lifting up stones on the interweb, I've found this little beastie. A snippet about Drogheda Ale. It was once very famous, apparently. Time has not been kind to its fame.

"On the Composition of Drogheda Ale, By Robert Simpson and John Mulligan, Students in the Evening Class for Practical Chemistry, Museum of Irish Industry.

[Read on Monday, January 20, 1862.]

The interesting results obtained by Messrs. Jackson and Wonfor in their analytical examination of Irish porter, induced us to undertake a similar examination of Drogheda ale, as this and the Porter" are the two beers which, are most consumed in Ireland, and they are also largely exported to other countries. No analysis of this ale having hitherto been published, we beg to lay before the Royal Dublin Society the results of our investigations.

As the time at our disposal would not permit us to examine more than one sample of ale, we selected that manufactured by Messrs. Cairnes as a specimen of all others. The sample which we analysed was of the description known as mild ale, and was obtained of Messrs. Weir and Co., through the Dublin Agent of Messrs. Cairnes.

The analysis was performed in the Laboratory of the Museum of Irish Industry, under the direction of Mr. Galloway. The mode of examination was precisely similar to that adopted by Messrs. Wonfor and Jackson in their analyses of the porter.

The results of the analysis show that the inorganic constituents are the same as those contained in the porter, and occur in about the same proportions; whilst the difference in the amount of spirit, sugar, and extractive matter, is very considerable, - the ale containing a much larger proportion of these substances: the porter, on the other hand, is richer in albuminous matter.

The two beers have different values as articles of diet, if the views most generally received of what constitutes nutritious and respiratory food be adopted. According to these views, the porter is the more valuable for the production of flesh, whilst the ale is richer in the substances which support respiration, and form fat."
"The Journal of the Royal Dublin society, Volume 3", 1862, pages 271 - 272.

There's then a very detailed analysis of Cairnes's Drogheda Ale. The full monty is a bit much even for me. I'll skip to the highlights:

Cairnes's Drogheda Ale 1862
I II Mean
Total amount of fixed organic matter 90.355 90.529 90.432
Total amount of fixed inorganic matter 94.375 94.71 94.61
Proof spirit 143 143 143
ABW 7.04 7.04 7.04
ABV 8.94 8.94 8.94
Acetic acid 3.75 4.09 3.91
Grape Sugar 15.062 15.062 15.062
Albumen 6.37 6.84 6.6
Extractive matter 68.903 68.627 68.875
Silica 0.186 0.189 0.187
Phosphate of Magnesia 0.753 0.753 0.753
Lime 0.087 0.088 0.087
Phosphoric acid 0.793 0.685 0.739
Chloride of sodium 0.381 0.375 0.378
Sulphuric acid 0.124 0.135 0.128
Potash 1.679 1.655 1.667
Soda 0.022 0.019 0.02
94.36 94.426 94.386
FG 1029.8
OG 1096.2
"The Journal of the Royal Dublin society, Volume 3", 1862, pages 276

The ABW and ABV are my own calculation, based on the proof spirit content. Proof spirit contained 49.25% alcohol by weight. The OG was given in the article. The FG I've calculated from OG and ABW.

I'm very happy to have found this. Of only because the Drogheda Ale is specifically called Mild Ale. That may not be important to you, but it is to me. I can now say for certain that Mild Ale was brewed in Ireland in the 19th century.

But it doesn't stop there. We've also learned more about the nature of Irish Mild. At least the Drogheda variety. For a start, it was pretty damn strong, almost 9% ABV. It was fairly well attenuated for the strength, around 70%. Fairly acidic, too. The lactic acid contents of the samples was 0.372% and 0.409%.

Do you know what Drogheda Ale reminds me of? Burton or Edinburgh Ale. So Irish Ale is really a form of Scotch Ale. That makes sense.

I feel like we're getting somewhere, don't you?


The Beer Nut said...

Weir's Drogheda Ale? Cairnes's, surely?

Ron Pattinson said...

Beer Nut, you're right, of course. It was Cairnes's Drogheda Ale. Weir was just the agent.

The Beer Nut said...

I see the former brewery foreman's cottage is up for sale if anyone has a spare €100k. There's never been a better time to invest in Irish property...

Martyn Cornell said...

"Drogheda Mild" (presumably the same stuff) was being advertised by the wine merchant Duncan Gilmour (who later became a brewer) in the Sheffield and Rotherham Independent on Saturday July 10 1858 at 4s per dozen pints: for comparison, Bass EIPA was 4s 4d, "Finest Scotch Ale" was 5s, Barclay Perkins porter was 4s, "Best Dublin Extra Stout" was 3s 8d and "Imperial Dublin Stout" was 3s 6d (sic).

Jeff Renner said...

You're missing a "9" in column I, line 2, in front of the 4.375.

Ron Pattinson said...

Jeff, indeed there is. Fixed now. Thanks.

Craig said...

Isn't albumen, egg white?

Andrew Elliott said...

Craig, I'm pretty sure it's being used in a more general sense to refer to the protein content.

Thomas Barnes said...

What were the units in the chemical analysis? grains? mg/l?

Any chance of a scan of the original chemical assay?

@ Craig. Yes, albumen is found in egg white, but also in blood. It's actually any sort of water-soluble protein. (

In the analysis, my guess is that "albumin" could be read as any sort of protein, which might include proteins found in suspended yeast.

I have no idea what protein levels are for modern beers, but could it be that Drogheda ale (and other mid-19th century beers?) actually contained a fair bit of hot or cold "break"?

Craig said...

Nevermind... albumin=finning agent.

I'm grossed out, but I get it now.

Martyn Cornell said...

Isn't albumen, egg white?

I believe Victorian analytic chemists used the word in a more general sense, the equivalent of "protein".

Chilli said...

Do you know what the precise ingredients were to brew their mild ale? I love to clone it

Ron Pattinson said...

Chili, in 1868 recipes were pretty simple. 100% pale malt and one or two types of hops.

Bogman said...

I am a native of Drogheda now living and home brewing in America. I remember exactly where the brewery was. There was actually a hill called the brewery hill that no longer exists.
My older neighbor often remarked that its porter was better than Guinness and the ales were very strong.
I am very much into the new American IPA's and would love an authentic recipe of an Ale by Cairnes to compare to the modern beers