Thursday, 25 August 2011

Doctor Hassall explains

You'll have to excuse me for returning to Porter and adulteration. I'm like a rabbit caught in those twin beams.

More from the Select Committee on Public Houses of 1854. The man giving evidence this time is someone I've heard of. It's Dr. Hassall, author of "Food and its Adulterations". In that book are tables of analyses of Porter and Stout, comparing samples taken from brewery taps and ordinary pubs.The tables were handed in as evidence and Hassall was called in to comment on them.

4325. Will you give some further account of the analyses of those samples? —The addition of water, I am now going on to state, is not the only adulteration of porter. The water added, of course, reduces the strength and the colour of the beer, and this to such an extent in many cases as to render the employment of other articles necessary.

4326. The water increases the bulk, I presume?—That increases the bulk. One of those articles sometimes used is a coarse description of brown sugar. For the evidence of the use of this by publicans I must rely upon the statements which other people have made to me. I have been informed that some grocers are in the habit of supplying publicans with a kind of brown sugar, which is commonly known as "Foots:" it is half sugar and half treacle. I should have been able to establish the fact as to whether publicans used sugar or not in their beer, were it not for the circumstance that brewers are themselves, I believe, authorised to use brown sugar in the brewery. I do not know whether that is correct or not; at all events that is the information I have received.

4327. Mr. K. Seymer.] Therefore, the appearance of sugar would prove nothing?—No. I was deterred from carrying the examination to the extent I would really have gone; but if I had detected the presence of sugar in the samples of porter I purchased at public-houses, I should not have been able to have said whether the brewer or the publican had put it there.

4328. Chairman.] You have no doubt of its presence, I presume?—I have no doubt from the evidence which has been given me that it is frequently used by publicans. It is used more particularly in those cases where water has been added, because the use of water renders the use of something else necessary.

4329. Is sugar used to give weight or flavour to the beer?—To increase the colour, and to give flavour and weight to the beer. It has all those effects.

4330. Mr. Brown.] Are you aware whether the sugar which is used by the brewers in the process of making beer undergoes fermentation, or is it merely used as the publicans would use it?—It would undergo fermentation in the same way as the sugar contained in the malt would ferment. Brewers, I am told, but seldom make use of sugar in their breweries, because they have ascertained from experience that beer made with any large proportion of sugar does not keep so well as when it is prepared entirely from malt. In the next place, I would state that I find nearly all London porter to contain salt; this article, I know, is used in many cases, and perhaps principally by the brewers. I believe they do not use it for the purpose of adulteration, but to effect some object in the preparation of the beer. It is said to assist in the fining of the wort previous to fermentation. A short time since, I visited a brewery at Chelsea, and one of the proprietors showed me a pan of salt and flour mixed together, and he described to me the mode of using it. It seems, from the information I received, that the use of this mixture is general in porter breweries; but still I should be much disposed to think that salt is sometimes used by publicans as well, because it is very obvious it would be a cheap and ready means of increasing the flavour of porter which was reduced in strength, and because of the amount in which it is sometimes present.

4331. Do you mean that they use salt as well as sugar ?—Yes, in some cases.

4332. It would affect the flavour, I presume, if it 1s used?—It would increase the flavour.

4333. Is flour used by any brewers?—Flour is mixed with the salt; that mixture, they seem to say, acts in fining the wort. I do not know in what way, but I believe it does so.

4334. Mr. K. Seymer.] I suppose the salt, besides fining the wort, would make the persons who drink the beer more thirsty ?—It would have that tendency; the quantity is not usually very large, but in many cases it is so large that you may detect the flavour of salt in porter ; it is just perceptible to the taste.

4335. Sir J. Pakington.] The kinds of adulteration which you have now mentioned to the Committee, do not tend to make beer less wholesome, do they ?— I should say not altogether, unless an excess of salt were used.

4336. An excess of water would not have that effect?—No; I can answer that question positively. The fourth substance which I have good reason to believe is sometimes used in beer, is steel or sulphate of iron ; but this is not commonly present in London porters. Indeed, I have not found it present in a single sample which I have myself submitted to examination ; and I have examined 50 samples, the results of which are stated in these tables. But yet, in conversing with bottlers of beer and others, I am satisfied that it is sometimes used; it is said to give a head to the beer, and to prevent or to retard secondary fermentation in bottled beer ; the more respectable bottlers do not use it, however, for I have examined the porter of several dealers in bottled beer without finding iron.

4337. Chairman.] What is the precise object of giving the beer a head ; is it a fancy which people have who drink it; probably it does not improve it?—It is a great recommendation to beer, and especially bottled beer, that it should froth well, persons like to see it with a froth on the top.

4338. That does not depend upon the introduction of sulphate of iron?—Not altogether, but the frothing is said to be much assisted by the addition of a small quantity of iron. If this iron had been present in any of the samples which I have examined, in as small a quantity as two grains to nine gallons, 1 should have had no difficulty in finding it there; because when I came to incinerate some of the extract of the beer or porter, and had reduced that extract to an ash, I should have found the ash to be tinged, if iron was present, with the red oxide of that metal, if it had been used in that proportion. I found the ashes left to be white, or almost white. I think I need not go into the question of the use of a variety of other substances which are no doubt sometimes employed in the adulteration of beer, because I have no direct evidence of my own to offer upon their use ; such as coculus indicus, grains of paradise, vegetable bitters, gentian, quassia, and camomile, etc.

4339. You have heard that they are used ?—I have no doubt that they are used from the general evidence I have received.

4340. For what purpose?—I am far from wishing to be understood as saying that they are commonly used in London porters, but they are used more or less throughout the country. With regard to one of those substances, I would just make one statement: a party, upon whose testimony I may rely, has informed me that he himself has actually seen camomiles used in beer by a brewer living in Temple-street, Bristol. The brewer at the same time told my informant that either gentian or camomiles were used by nearly every brewer in Bristol for the purpose of producing that quality of beer which is familiarly known in Bristol by the name of "Burton ;" they do not call it "Burton beer," but simply "Burton." I think that I have now given nearly all the evidence I have to offer as respects the adulteration of porter, as far as I am myself able speak to it from direct observation.

4341. I asked you just now whether you knew the effect produced by those other substances when they were mixed with the beer ; you have not analysed any beer which would lead you to suppose they are used ?—Coculus indicus imparts an intoxicating property when present in a minute quantity to the beer, leading persons to suppose that it is really strong beer, and they are readily brought under its influence; but it is not from real strength, but from the intoxicating properties of that drug.

4342. If coculus indicus were put into the beer in a very small quantity, the consumer consumer might imagine that he had a strong beverage ?—He would, in nine cases out of ten ; he would judge from the effects it produced upon him.

4343- Would it make him stupid?—Stupid and giddy; apparently intoxicating him more readily than good strong beer.

4344- You have not had beer submitted to you which would throw a light upon the fact of that substance being used?—I have not; the detection of coculus indicus in beer is a matter of considerable difficulty, but still in the poorer kinds of beer, in some of those pale poor beers which are sold in the country, it is quite possible that chemical analysis might detect its presence, Quassia and gentian are used for the sake of bitterness, and camomile from its resemblance to the hop in its properties.

4345. Sir J. Pakington.] Camomile, I apprehend, would not make the beer unwholesome ?—No.

4346. Mr. Brown.] Neither iron nor camomile would make the beer unwholesome?— Iron, if it were present in any but very small quantities, would render beer stimulating and tonic, which would not be desirable in some cases; but the quantity used, even when employed, is but small, and its medicinal effects would not be considerable.
"The Sessional Papers of the House of Lords in the session 1854; Reports from Select Committees of the House of Commons, and Evidence; Public Houses" "Minutes of Evidence Taken by the Select Committee on Public Houses, etc." pages 253 - 255.

Having seen how watered some of the examples were - only 2.5% to 3% ABV - I'd wondered why drinkers didn't notice. Simple - the landlord added more than just water. Sugar for colour, body and flavour. Salt for flavour. Coculus indicus to give a buzz. And iron sulphate to give bottled beer a good head. It sounds like a lot of effort. Then again, there was money to be made.

Most intriguing is the bit about the Burton brewed in Bristol. I'm a sucker for anything to do with Burton. This is the earliest mention I've found so far of beer brewed outside Burton being called that. And without any Ale stuck on the end. How does camomile make beer taste like a Burton? I've no idea. Do you?

I'm going to get off the adulteration train. You can have too much of a good thing. Even St. Bernardus Abt.


Gary Gillman said...

I've run into a number of American craft beers flavoured with chamomile: ales and saisons seem picked out for this purpose.

Rogue Ales in Oregon made one a few years ago, here is a Beer Advocate review:

The range of opinion was wide but a majority of the raters liked it quite a bit and their taste notes give a good indication of the taste. I think the honeyed notes, noticeable also in tea made from chamomile, might have been a factor for the brewers in Bristol, i.e., this quality together with the dextrins in their ale might have lent a honeyed richness similar to what Burton beer had.

It's interesting how chamomile has resurged here and there in brewing, I doubt the brewers (or most of them) would know of its historical use. Perhaps the knowledge is in the folk memory so to speak.


Bikeraggie said...

Chamomile is one of the supposed flavor components of Belgian Wit Beer, and is suspected of being Celis's "secret ingredient" . I really like it, and have used it in many wit type beers.

Used with too heavy a hand, it can come across like Jucyfruit chewing gum.

What is most interesting is that it is regarded as "like the hop." Any more thoughts on this?

Oblivious said...

"Chamomile is one of the supposed flavor components of Belgian Wit Beer, and is suspected of being Celis's "secret ingredient" . I really like it, and have used it in many wit type beers. "

Are sure its not jamil zainasheffs interpretation of a wit beer?

Grains of paradise is probably more histrionically relevant