Wednesday, 31 August 2011

What I want for christmas

If only I had the room in my garden. What a great thing to own - your own miniature Victorian brewery. I'm sure I could put it to good use. But given the amount of space we have in Amsterdam, it'll have to wait until I retire to Franconia.

Allsopp's sounds the perfect brewery the way Barnard describes it. He seems to have been a big fan iof the brewery, judging by the number of pages he devotes to them. Having a pilot brewery, as well as being dead cool, is a very modern, practical appreoach. Maybe Barnard had good reason for his enthusiasm.

"We devoted the remainder of the day to an inspection of the Model Brewery, which occupies a corner of the second block of buildings in the New Brewery, and consists of several lofty floors or stages, each about 36 feet square. It is so arranged that it does not depend upon the New Brewery for anything except "power and water," the former supplied by a shaft from the engine, the latter from the neighbouring tanks. In this little model brewery, which is replete with every vessel and machine in use at the larger breweries, experimental brewing is carried on daily to test every ingredient and brew.

The mill, to which we ascended by a steep ladder off the second landing of the main staircase, like the larger ones, contains a pair of rollers, under which is the usual hopper to fill the mash-tuns below. In a recess, on the same level, there is a hot-water tank filled from the new brewery supply; and, on the floor below, which we reached by a short flight of steps, are two little mash-tuns, each about three-quarters, completely filled ; between them, and serving them both, is a Steels mashing machine fixed on an iron pedestal and communicating with the hopper above. Underneath these tuns, there is a neat arrangement of pipes through which steam is blown to the mash-tuns to soften the grist if necessary. Even the grains have not been forgotten, as a shoot through all the floors conveys them from the sides of the tun to the trucks below. On the half-landing, off the staircase by which we descended, there is a small underback holding eight barrels, and on the brick floor below, which is the copper stage, there are two coppers each of nine barrels content. Below this floor again, is the copper hearth where there are two furnaces, a small hop-back, the usual hop press, Morton's refrigerator, and set of pumps, all on a small scale to suit the operations. Following our guide, we came to the round's room, containing six rounds each of sixteen barrels content, and, from thence, to the union room below which is twice as large as the room we had just left. It contains sixty-eight union casks, each holding sixty-one gallons, and two racking squares holding together twenty-five barrels.

This model brewery has its regular brewer, mashmen, and rackers, the same as the larger breweries, and all the vessels and machinery are quite a picture of brightness and cleanliness."
"The Noted Breweries of Great Britain and Ireland, vol. 1" by Alfred Barnard, 1889, page 159.

Time for my usual analysis of the vessel sizes. The mash tuns are for three quarters. At least I think that's what he means. Three quarters is enough malt for around 12 barrels of beer. Which tallies well with the 16-barrel fermenters and 9-barrel coppers. The 68 union casks sound a bit over the top for such a small plant. Their combined capacity is 115 barrels, or about 10 brews. Considering beer only stayed in the unions a few days, it seems more than sufficient.

I wonder what happened to Allsopp's model brewery? The building, at least, is still there. It was in one corner of the building behind the offices (pictured above).

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Hugh Baird malts, 8th March 1938

You know what's been missing here recently? Ridiculous levels of ridiculously specific details. Time to put that right. If I'm not careful, I might get some new readers.

The Thomas Usher Gravity Book. You know those books for keeping kids quiet on their holidays? The Bumper Book of Fun or some such. That's what the Usher Gravity Book is for me. Something to slip into my hands on a rainy Mablethorpe Tuesday. Assuming the Mermaid isn't open yet. The beautiful weather this summer has provided plenty of opportunities to immerse myself in its funerificness.

I'm mostly there for the beer details, natch. But I can't help myself being drawn by the hypnotic gaze of other numbers. I'm such a tart. I like these ones so much, I've put them into a table. This table:

Analysis of malts from Hugh Baird, 8th March 1938
Name of malt extract per 336 lbs (lbs) moisture C.W.E. D.P. colour
Own Scotch 99.8 1.5% 18.6% 35º 5º L
??'s Scotch 98.2 1.7% 19.0% 36º 6.5º L
Gaza 83.6 1.4% 14.7% 27º 4º L
Chilean 91 1.8% 17.0% 34º 6º L
Aust. Corfu 86.4 1.4% 15.5% 28º 4º L
Calif 88.1 2.4% 15.6% 29º 4.5º L
???? 92.3 1.2% 17.0% 34º 6º L
Egyptian 83.9 1.0% 16.5% 31º 5º L
Document TU/6/11 held at the Scottish Brewing Archive.

I was surprised to see that the Scotch malt gave the best extract. And had the greatest diastatic power.

I'd wondered what C.W.E. stood for. Then an idea , rather like a carelessly thrown mackerel, struck me. Why not look at the malt analyses in Lloyd Hind. They might include  a similar column. And it's a good excuse to include a second table. This one:

2 row Malts in the 1930's                                                                                         

Pale Ale malts
Mild Ale malts
malt from foreign 2-row barley

Yorkshire plumage
Chilean Chevalier
Bohemian Hanna
moisture %
Extract, lb. 336 lb
colour, 1 inch cell
cold water extract %
diastatic activity Lº
extract on dry malt
total nitrogen % on dry malt
PSN % on total nitrogen
PSN % on total wort solids
"Brewing Science & Practice" H. Lloyd Hind, 1943, p. 254, 256 & 258
PSN = permanently Soluble Nitrogen

Cold Water Extract. That's what C.W.E. stands for. Doesn't make me much the wiser.

I was going to do the old compare and contrast bit. But there's precious little contrast. The two sets of numbers are pretty damn similar. Only the extract seems a bit low in the case of some of Usher's samples. Bit disappointing that. leaves me a bit . . . . er . . . . . speechless.

Monday, 29 August 2011

Closing Time again

Swings and roundabouts. "Elk voordeel heeft zijn nadeel*" as Johan Cruyff so wonderfully put it. There is an upside to strict closing times. The indescribable thrill of getting served outside them. Those who've grown up under a more liberal regime will never experience that unadulterated, but innocent, pleasure.

As long as there have been clsoing times, pubs have ignored them when they could get away with it. On literally several occasions I've had the good fortune to stumble into such a pub. I'll tell you of some of them in a minute. After we've heard from the nice Mass Observation chappies.

"Up to now we have spoken as if the pub shuts up sharp at 10 p.m., the official closing time. This rule is not strictly adhered to. While in London pubs "Time" is often called ten minutes before the closing hour, and the landlord tries to get the pub actually shut at the official closing time, in Worktown the theory is, there should be no more orders taken after 10 p.m. This is demonstrated by the notice in some pubs:

NOTICE. Will you kindly help us by ordering your BOTILED BEERS, etc., for taking out before "TIME" is called, as we must refuse all orders after PERMITTED HOURS. THANK YOU!

In the town centre pubs this is kept to usually, but people go on drinking five or ten minutes after the hour. And in Worktown the pub clocks are not put forward ten minutes as they frequently are in other towns. In the smaller local pubs it is normal for drinks to be served up to ten minutes after the hour, time being called then, and people sit about after the glasses have been cleared, sometimes up to half past ten. Drinkers tell us that in many small pubs the regulars are able to knock on the back door and get served as late as eleven. This is not easy to verify; and indeed, the presence of a stranger in the pub at closing time may be a factor in making the landlord brisker than usual about turning people out. Some pubs, however, make a habit of quite openly serving drink until fifteen minutes after the hour.

A report, which shows how it is possible to get drinks served after the pub has shut, if you know how to set about it;

Observer went with Councillor ______ and an ex-Councillor, to the _______ at 10.20 p.m. The ex-Councillor knocked with a key on the glass door—a special knock. We went in and stopped there until 11 p.m.

That this is not necessarily confined to small pubs is shown by the following remark overheard in a big pub;

Time is called at 10.10 p.m. Woman says "It's ridiculous really, Saturday night you can go on until eleven". The waiter agrees.

The biggest and most open infringements of the legal hours that we have observed took place during the Trinity Sunday Roman Catholic processions. Here are excerpts from reports on this: At 2.45 P.m. we go into pub, ask for drinks. Publican laughs, and says "Do you know what time we close on Sunday?" We say no. He says "2 o'clock, and adds "do we bloody 'ell, I'm going to make sun while the hay shines. And I'll tell you another thing. I'm not closing down for a while yet. It's the first time it's been two o'clock closing and the scholars walking at 2.30. It's a bloody shame!" (Used to be Sunday closing at 2.30. He assumes that everyone should have plenty to drink before walking in the procession.) A man comes in and says "I'll be out and have my lunch and be back again." . . . There are lemonade tables in the less crowded bye-streets. Ice-cream cars and carts in every side street. The G. is all shut up, several St. John's Ambulance men in uniform standing at side door. Nevertheless there's a steady and noticeable stream towards the pub. Many are going into or towards men's and women's lavatories, but most are crushing towards the passage into the pub.

Man 1. "Make way there."
Man 2. "Why?"
Man 1. "It's bloody full up, that's why!"
Man 3. "You can't stir in there!"
Man 4. "It was open to bloody near opening time last year!"

Most of the pushers are R.C.'s from the procession, or bandsmen. Some miss their places in the procession while others run after their bands. There are lots of police about.

Large scale open infringement of the law like this must be deliberately ignored by the police."
"The Pub and the People" by Mass Observation, 1943 (reprinted 1987), pages 194 - 197.

Calling "time" ten minutes before closing time in London? That's not what it was like in the East End in the 1970's and 1980's. Some pubs openly flouted the law, staying open well past midnight. Not, as you'd expect, pubs hidden away in the back streets, but ones on main roads. The local police must have been well aware what was going on, but chose to ignore it. I'll leave you to speculate what their motives might have been.

My favourite pub in the world used to be the Jolly Angler in Manchester. A lovely unspoilt Hydes pub, where time seemed to have stood still. If it hadn't, the landlord was doing his best to make it stand still. Or at least run differently from its normal course. My love for the place only increased when the landlord said to us: "Come back at half four and knock on the door. I'll open up for you." Very naughty. But it made those pints of Best Mild taste all the sweeter.

After hours drinking. It must still go on. Though with relaxed opening times, there can't often be much point.

* Every advantage has its disdvantage.

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Coopers Stout

Coopers Stout has a story to tell. About how things might have been. About a parallel beer world.

I knew all about Coppers beers before I moved to Australia. Hell, I'd even drunk some of them.And pretty damn nice they were, too. If a bit on the strong side. Not sure what I would have done without them during my time in Melbourne. Drunk a lot more wine, probably.

At the time, I didn't see how Coopers connected with British beer. But I knew a lot less back then. Less than I realised.

Last week, on the very last page of the Whitbread Gravity Book I came across a handful of American beers. Various Ales, including a couple from the legendary Ballantine. Take a look at them:

American beers in 1938
Year Brewer country Beer Style Acidity FG OG Colour ABV atten-uation
1938 Ballantine USA India Pale Ale IPA 0.05 1019.2 1077.6 16 7.63 75.26%
1938 Ballantine USA XXX Ale Ale 0.04 1016.1 1056.8 11 5.28 71.65%
1938 Burke USA Ale Ale 0.05 1013.7 1055.2 11 5.40 75.18%
1938 Dawes Canada Black Horse Ale Ale 0.04 1006.4 1050.6 12 5.78 87.35%
1938 Feigenspan USA Amber Ale Amber Ale 0.04 1013.3 1059.1 14 5.97 77.50%
1938 Foxhead USA Old Waukesha Ale Ale 0.05 1016 1061 19 5.85 73.77%
1938 Frontenac Canada White Cap Ale Ale 0.04 1010.6 1053.9 14 5.65 80.33%
1938 Hoffman USA Ale Ale 0.04 1016.6 1060.7 33 5.73 72.65%
1938 McSorley USA Cream Stock Ale Stock Ale 0.05 1011.6 1060 14 6.32 80.67%
Whitbread Gravity book held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number LMA/4453/D/02/001

Can you guess what struck me most about them? How strong they are compared to British beers of the period. Ballantine IPA, at 1077.6º is around 20 points stronger than any British IPA. The weakest beer is over 1050º.

Back to the story. The tale these beers are telling. About how different British beer could have been, had 20th-century history taken a different turn. Because Cooper's Stout and the 1930's American beers hadn't changed to become so much stronger than British beers. It's British beers that had changed.

Cooper's Stout. It's what British Stout might have been without WW I. Actually Stout. Another reason to love it

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Closing Time

Limited opening hours. I learned to live with them, however annoying or inconvenient they were during my youth. It was only when I moved abroad that I realised their unseen hand had been manipulating my drinking habits.

Take my brother. Friday and Saturday evenings he goes into town. He gets in at about 20:00 and rushes around before catching the 22:45 bus home. I find it far too hurried. "Why don't you go out earlier?" He just doesn't.

The pull of closing time. The need to use up every last minute of drinking time. It caused me lots of trouble in my first years abroad. What do you do when the pubs don't close? You have to learn a new skill. It's called deciding when to leave. I'd had no need for it when I lived in Britain. The clock and the bell decided for me.

I'm not the first to have noticed the irrational behaviour of drinkers:

"Writing in the News Chronicle (2.6.39), Doris Langley Moore remarked:

Licensing regulations, like many other old-fashioned methods of dealing with potential evil, were framed under the simple illusion that you can prevent people from doing something they want to do by placing difficulties in their way. The most acute students of human nature have long been aware that, on the contrary, difficulty frequently acts as a first-rate incentive, and forbidden or partly forbidden fruit tastes far sweeter than that which drops into the hand. . . .

I believe that, if we were given the freedom permitted in this respect to Latins, Hungarians, Rumanians, Yugo-slavians, and almost all the other people's of Europe, there might be at first some slight excess, but in a very short time we should adjust ourselves to the idea of being treated as rational creatures, and would behave as such.

It is difficult to believe that in limiting the hours during which pubs are open you limit drunkenness, any more than forbidding abortion prevents some 90,000 working-class women aborting per annum. First, people do not go to pubs to get drunk. Second, their drinking is limited by their spending capacity. Thirdly, as our timings all show, they could easily get drunk in the available hours if they wanted to do so, by coming in earlier instead of during the later hours of open time. Fourthly, unlike the last century's drinking, nowadays a primary reason for pub-going is not the desire to escape from appalling home life. There may well be other reasons for limiting hours, e.g. in the interest of the publicans, though it is doubtful whether these interests are best served by the present system, including the fact that pubs are compelled to open all the available hours every day, which effectively prevents small-pub people from holidaying. A recent poll by the British Institute of Public Opinion gave a nearly equal number of people for and against extending licensing hours, but more than that in both of these groups put together wanted the hours left the same. Unfortunately the poll failed to differentiate between those who use the pubs and those who don't, and is thereby rendered relatively meaningless in so far as no qualitative weight can properly be attached to such quantities of opinion."
"The Pub and the People" by Mass Observation, 1943 (reprinted 1987), page 233.
There are still some morons in the shabbier end of the British press screaming for opening hours to be cut again.

Don't treat drinkers like children. Unless you want them to behave like children.

Friday, 26 August 2011


I'm just going through a handy little notebook I'd completely forgotten about. It's from the Scottish Brewing Archive. One of the items in the Thomas Usher archive.

It appears to be the notebook of a lab technician. I grabbed it becuase it contains analyses of competitors' beers. I love that sort of thing. But they aren't the only contents. There are analyses of batches of malt and different brands of invert sugar, too. And something else. Something that initially puzzled me. Why would they have done these anlyses? Then it clicked: they didn't trust publicans.

Some of the most freqent entries are analyses of returned beer. Its FG and calculated OG. They were checking that the returned beer - for which the publican would be paid - was what it said it was. And hadn't been messed with. It many cases, it clearly had been tampered with.

Take a look at the examples in the table below. For purposes of comparison, I've included the details of a 60/- PA, as brewed.

Thomas Usher returns
Date Beer FG OG
26th Jan 1925 60/- PA 1003 1037
2nd Feb 1925 60/- PA 1006 1025
17th Feb 1925 1010 1020
23rd Apr 1925 60/- PA 1006 1040
12th May 1925 60/- PA 1000 1040
4th Jan 1926 1003 1015
24th Sep 1926 1004 1027
Beer as brewed
3rd Jan 1928 60/- PA 1014 1041
Document TU/6/11 held at the Scottish Brewing Archive.

Admittedly, I'm not sure which exact beer some of the returns were. But, Usher's weakest beer had an OG of 1035º. There are many returns to weak even to be that. There's obviously been quite a lot of water added. Let's take the second example with an OG of 1025. To get to that from the real OG of 1041, you'd need to add 14 gallons of water to a 36 gallon barrel.

What does this tell us? That publicans were a shifty bunch. And that breweries weren't daft enough to trust them.

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.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Let's Brew Wednesday - 1911 Russell AK

AK. I never, ever tire of it. I'm happy to present another AK recipe as part of my campaign to revive the style. If even one of you brews it, my work won't have been in vain.

This one comes from a fairly obscure source: Russell's Gravesend Brewery. For those not well acquainted with the geography of England, Gravesend is in Kent, the county that makes up the bottom right-hand corner. Gravesend is in the north of the county, on the south bank of the Thames, half a dozen miles downstream of London proper.

Russell's eventually fell prey to Trumans. That's why a few years of their brewing logs exist. They form part of the Truman archive.

The three logs are for1911-1912, 1917-1919 and 1929-1930. AK is in the first two, but not the last. It appears to have been yet another casualty of WW I. In July 1917 it was replaced by something called GB.I suspect that stands for Government Bitter. That is a gravity-restricted, price-controlled beer. Which is fascinating. Because the London brewers I've looked at all brewed Government Ale that was a type of Mild. Russell's is the first Bitter I've come across being brewed as a Government Ale.

[I do realise that the label comes from a totally different, unrelated brewery called Russell's. I don't have any images for the correct Russell's. And Nutty is such a great name for a beer.]

In the 1929-1930 log, there's no mention of AK. Looks like it didn't make it through the war. I suspect that many AK's never came back.

Contextualisation time. Just so you understand where this beer fitted in with the rest of Russell's range, here's a table of the full set:

Russell Beers 1911
Date Year Beer Style OG lbs hops/ qtr hops lb/brl
14th Sep 1911 XX Mild 1055.4 8.77 2.01
16th Sep 1911 X Mild 1048.1 6.10 1.20
15th Sep 1911 AK Pale Ale 1041.3 7.52 1.29
19th Sep 1911 X Mild 1047.9 6.13 1.51
20th Sep 1911 LDA Pale Ale 1046.3 8.00 1.56
20th Sep 1911 PA Pale Ale 1060.9 10.59 2.86
21st Sep 1911 P Porter 1049.9 7.95 1.74
21st Sep 1911 XXX Strong Ale 1075.9 10.05 3.24
26th Sep 1911 XX Mild 1051.8 8.39 1.90
27th Sep 1911 LDA Pale Ale 1046.8 8.00 1.61
28th Sep 1911 AK Pale Ale 1041.6 7.51 1.31
28th Sep 1911 DS Stout 1074.2 8.37 2.86
Russel brewing records document number B/THB/RUS/10 held at the London metropolitan Archives.

As you can see, AK was the weakest beer they brewed. And the least heavily hopped. 1041º is an extremely low gravity for a beer pre-WW I, when average gravity was around 1055º.

I've not much to say further. Except "Drink AK!". Time for Kristen . . . . . .

Kristen's Version

Grist – Pretty much the standard typical AK recipe. Pale malt/s, maize and sugar. This one is perfectly simple. Choose a great UK pale malt. Since the low gravity I’d tend to lean towards the more malty ones. Cocktail works wonderfully here. Maris, as always, its great. Optic is a bit ‘fat’ for this one and will overpower with its malty/doughy goodness. For the other pale I chose the MFB pale that is wonderful with a bit more to it than the Dingemanns stuff. Standard flaked maize is fine. Its not a big part but pretty much required. This one is a bit different in that it doesn’t mix colored inverts but sticks to the standard Invert No1. I tried doing it with Golden syrup but it I think I’ve come to the conclusion that the lower gravity the beer gets and the paler it gets the more I stay away from the Golden syrup. I really do love it for a lot of reasons but here, you get a big mouthful of toffee that completely dominates the palate. So…back to my point. This one uses some caramel to get any sort of color as this beer is one of the palest you can make. If you got it, use it. If not, a touch of black strap might do. However, don’t sweat it. Really. You are more likely to add too much than not. However, I put it for full disclosure.

Hops –  A single hop variety of the Goldings lineage. Because a lot of these recipes call for a lot of Goldings, I like playing around with different ‘similar’ hops along the same lines. This one I used 100% First gold. Such a nice little hop. Brings a little more oomph  to the beer than EKG but still very good. There is a very light touch of dry hopping in this beer that you can add or not. It's up to you. I just wouldn’t go to much.

Yeast – For such a light beer I like a pretty clean yeast that does a good job cleaning up any funk it gives off during the whole process. Buttery ones are out. Fat ones are out. I really like the West Yorkshire first but since I didn’t want to culture any up, I chose the White Shield strain. Gives more mineral than most but it works very well with the malty sweetness and crisp finish. Nottingham…man that yeast can do pretty much anything. This is a beer that can be made and in the keg in probably 3-4 days with Nottingham. So if you are in a pinch and put off making that beer for the party next week. Here you go.