Thursday, 31 October 2013

The Big Six

The Big Six. Who remembers them now? Probably no-one under forty. How did the companies who dominated British brewing manage to disappear so completely?

For the younster amongst you, the Big Six consisted of Allied Breweries (Tetley, Ansells and Ind Coope), Bass Charrington, Courage, Scottish & Newcastle, Whitbread and Watney Mann. None are still in brewing.

But, a bit like the fifth Beatle, there was really a seventh member of the Big Six. Which was never lumped with the others. Probably because CAMRA didn't have a beef with them, as they owned no pubs and sold real ale in every pub: Guinness. The Big Six was shorthand for the enemy.

Their dominance of British drinking was based on pub ownership. With the majority of beer being drunk in pubs, owning them was the key to success as a brewer. Which was why large breweries would snap up smaller, run-down breweries. They didn't want the brewing kit or the brands. They wanted the pubs.

Time for some numbers. But, for once "ohne Gewähr", as they say when announcing the lottery results on German TV.  I collected these figures a long time ago. When I hadn't learned to always identify the source. I can't remember where I found them. So I can't guarantee their accuracy. They look about right to me.

Pub ownership
Brewer no. pubs % of total
Courage 5,921 8.18%
Watney 5,946 8.21%
S&N 1,678 2.32%
Allied 7,665 10.59%
Bass 9,256 12.78%
Whitbread 7,865 10.86%
Big Six 38,331 52.94%
Other brewers 13,800 19.06%
All brewers 52,131 72.00%
not brewery owned 20,273 28.00%
total full on-licences 72,404

The Big Six's control of the pub trade was even greater than it appears from these figures. Many of supposedly "Free Houses" were in fact loan-tied to a brewery. Mostly one of the Big Six.That's reflected in their market share, which was larger than the percentage of pubs they owned:

Market share (%) All Sales
Brewery 1976 1985
Watney 13 12
Courage 9 9
S & N 11 10
Bass 20 22
Whitbread 13 11
Allied 17 13
All National (Big 6 only) 83 78
All National brewers 82
11 Regional brewers 11
41 local brewers 6
Micro breweries 1
BLRA and breweries
1986 Courage estimate

If you'd told me early on in my drinking career that all of them would disappear within a decade or two, their tied estates be dissolved, their breweries taken over and mostly closed, I'd have thought you were having a laugh. That's understandable. I lacked perspective.

When we're young, we lack historical depth. We think that the present and the immediate past will continue indefinitely into the future. We fail to grasp that the dramatic changes of the more distant past can happen again. That the future is full of surprises.

That always pops into my mind when I read about the inexorable rise if "craft" beer in the USA. And particularly of IPA. Both booming are all that younger drinkers can remember. They expect current trends to extend infinitely into the future. They won't. Because nothing ever works like that. Fashions and beer styles rise and fall, are born and often die.

It was the Beer Orders, to a large extent, that did for the Big Six. Forced to choose between their tied houses and their breweries, they either drifted away from brewing or sold up.

Lack of international ambition was another cause of their demise. In the early 1970's, they had been amongst the largest breweries in the world. But they were too slow in spotting the internationalisation of the industry and found themselves small fish in an ocean full of sharks.

It makes you wonder what will happen to to the current crop of multinational giants. Heineken, AB Inbev, Carlsberg, SAB. How long will they survive? I'm sure there will be plenty of surprises.

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Bottle top fraud

Time for another random newspaper article about bottled beer. Or more specifically, crown corks. These ingenious kids had found a good use for old bottle tops. Though the authorities saw it as fraud.

Fraudulent Use by "Fittie" Youths.
At a Children's Court Aberdeen yesterday five boys from the Footdee district, aged between eight and eleven years, were charged, before Bailie Edwards, with having, on, 16th July, inserted 101 spurious discs into an automatic machine at the Sea Beach, belonging to the British Automatic Machine Company, whereby they obtained 38 packets of chocolate.

The discs consisting the flattened tops beer bottles were produced in court and in the course of evidence one boy said he was pulling the drawer of the machine while another boy inserted the disks.

Questioned as to where they had got the discs some of the boys made reference to an older lad from whom they said they got the discs ready shaped.

Baillie Edwards admonished and dismissed three of the boys.

To two of the boys who had had previous convictions he administered very stern warning, pointing out that theft was very serious offence, and that a further appearance at court would certainly lead to the birch rod. He put both on probation to be of good behaviour for twelve months."
Aberdeen Journal - Thursday 01 August 1929, page 2.

I was confused by the "Fittie" inm the headline, until I dug a little and discovered that it's the slang name of Footdee, a weird little fishing village at one end of Aberdeen harbour.

Based on my knowledge of crown corks and pre-decimal currency, my bet would be that they were counterfeiting halfpennies. How much did a bar of chocolate cost in the 1920's?

The British Automatic Machine Company - not a very snappy name, is it? I suppose it describes the business well enough, but it's not exactly memorable.

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Attack on "Reputed" Pint

WW I and bottled beer in one article - what could possibly be better? I suppose if had been Barclay Perkins bottled beer. But that would be too much to ask for.

You may remember from earlier articles that control of beer prices in the final years of, and immediately after, the war caused considerable tension and confusion. And reputed pints only made matters worse.

It's an odd anomaly of British law that while beer could only be sold in multiples of half and a thits of a pint - a law that had been around for centuries - bottlers could use any size they pleased. In particular the reputed pint, which in reality was two-thirds of a pint.

Another odd thing is where I first came across the reputed pint - Australia. At least back in the 1990's, about the only place the reputed pint was still in use. And, ironically, as a draught beer measure. Slightly bigger, too, as it's thrre-quarters rather than two-thirds of a pint.

Attack on "Reputed" Pint.

Aberdeen City Food Control Committee met last night—Mr John M. Ross, chairman —and had under consideration, among other matters, the prices of eggs and fish—reported in another column—and the charge made for the reputed pint of beer as compared with the imperial pint.

. . .

Unfair Beer Prices.
Mr Frank Ambler moved a resolution in the following terms dealing with the price of beer:—

That this committee desire to draw the attention of the Food Controller the latest official retail maximum price list of bottled beer and porter, as adversely affecting the consumer in Aberdeen, where, generally speaking, the bottlers use the reputed pint bottles. According to the list, the fixed price the imperial pint bottle is only one penny in excess the bottles containing a reputed pint, whereas the former contains 4 gills and the latter contains only 2.5 gills (and very often less), or, a matter fact, the Aberdeen consumer is being called upon pay 9d for a bottle containing 2.5 gills as against the consumers in England (where the imperial measure is generally used) having only to pay 10d for a bottle containing 4 gills. The committee are opinion that if it is not practicable to enforce the imperial standard of measure here, the prices should be amended so as to prevent the bottler gaining undue advantage, at the expense of the consumer.

No doubt, he said, some of the members of that committee were not directly interested in the consumption of beer, and no doubt some of them thought beer should not be consumed at all. He thought they would all agree, in the light of what had occurred during the war, that beer played a very important part with the working man. He (Mr Ambler) admitted that he took a glass of beer, and always felt benefited by it. - (Laughter.) He did not see why in Scotland they should have to pay more for their beer than anybody else. He took three reputed pint bottles to the Weights and Measures Inspector, and not one of them held 3.5 gills. The bottles hold only about 2.25 gills. Assuming, however that they held 2.5 gills it would just mean that they in Aberdeen were having to pay 3.5d for a gill of beer, against 2.5d where it was bought imperial measure. That meant that they had to pay 4d more for beer supplied by the reputed pint than for an equal quantity sold by the imperial pint. He thought the Controller did not know the local circumstances, and must have been badly advised in view of the vast difference between the prices.

Treasurer's Theory.
Treasurer Fiddes asked if it not the case that a large part of the cost went to the bottle, the labour in filling the bottles, the corks, the labels, etc. It was the custom here of certain people to prefer the reputed pint, and there seemed to be an explanation of the difference in price from the extra number of bottles, etc., required for selling the reputed pint.

Mr Ambler said the price for a half reputed pint was 2.5d for a half imperial pint the price was 3d. The Controller had taken the cost of labour into consideration.

Dean of Guild Meff said he was not teetotaller. but, like the Treasurer, he was not an expert in regard to the system measures. Mr Ambler might defer his motion, and illustrate his argument at next meeting by examples. (Laugher.)

Mr Ambler said a lot of people were commenting adversely upon the reputed pint. He did not see why they should pay 4d more than the men in England.

Dean of Guild Meff—The Londoner might turn round and ask, "Why should I pay more for a glass of whisky in London than you can get it for in Aberdeen?"

Mr Ambler—There seems to be too many teetotallers here. (Laughter.)

Lord Provost Sir James Taggart said the cure might be to get the Imperial pint introduced here. They might recommend that.

Treasurer said the English brewer had only to supply and fill five bottles for 28 gills, while in Aberdeen they had to supply and fill 8 bottles for 28 gills.

Sir James Taggart—If you took a barrel of beer you would get it cheaper than by the reputed pint. (Laughter.)

Mr Ambler said the vast difference in the price they had to pay for the beer would not be represented by the difference in the cost of a few extra bottles.

Mr Ivan Sutherland seconded Mr Ambler's motion.

Lady Member's View.
Miss McRobbie moved that no action be taken. People who took beer could generally look after themselves. (Laughter.)

Treasurer Fiddes seconded.

Mr Ivan Sutherland said he was not beer-drinker himself, but there were complaints as to the poor quality the beer.

Mr A. Morrison said it was the beer not the bottle the man paid for. He did not get possession of the bottle.

Treasurer said the capital cost of the bottles had to be considered.

By 5 votes to 4 the committee decided take no action.

The Chairman said though he voted for the thought amendment, he thought Mr Ambler perfectly right, but that was probably not the place at which to bring the matter up.

Miss Taylor said she had refrained from voting, and the reason was that while she thought there was injustice, she believed the Food Committee had more important matters to consider. This was not an essential matter."
Aberdeen Journal - Wednesday 05 March 1919, page 6.
I wonder why Scotland used reputed pints and England imperial ones?

It's odd how much laughter there was in committee meetings and courtrooms back in the day.

Monday, 28 October 2013

Bottled beer - more random stuff

More random stuff I found looking for "bottled beer" in the newspaper archive.

First, a reference to King's Ale:

King's Ale Sold for New Infirmary Fund.

There was an unusual ceremony at the annual assembly of the Aberdeen Licensed Trade Association in the Bon-Accord Hotel, Aberdeen, last night. A bottle of King ale, one of the last from the 500 barrels brewed by King Edward at Burton-on-Trent in 1902, was put up for auction in aid of Lord Provost Lewis's Fund for the new Infirmary. The bottle presented by Mrs A. D. Hay, whose son, Mr W D. Hay, was the auctioneer.

The bottle was sold in snow-ball fashion, and there were numerous sums realised ranging from five shillings to £2, ladies prominent among the bidders. At the end of the sale Mrs Hay rang up the Lord Provost, and delighted him with the information that the sale had realised £21. The ale finally went to Mr W. D. Hay, at final bid of £2."
Aberdeen Journal - Wednesday 18 January 1928, page 6.
As there are still bottles of the thing knocking around, that definitely wasn't one of the last bottles. I should know - I drank some just last year. And King Edward didn't actually brew it, just symbolically press a button or something.

This one is to show that there's nothing new about pub violence. And a reminder of how dangerous a weapon a bottle can be:

A serious assault with a bottle on fellow woodcutter was admitted by James Christie, woodcutter, Hillhead, Auchattie. Banchory- Ternan, in Stonehaven Sheriff Court yesterday.

Christie pleaded guilty to having, on Augast 31, High Street. Banchory, assaulted William Gregor, woodcutter, Clune Sawmills, Durris, by striking him on the face with a bottle.

It was slated that the beer bottle was wielded with such force that it was completely shattered, and two other men who were nearby were cut by flying fragments. Gregor's cheek w«s cut in two places, and one cut required two stitches. Another stitch had to be inserted in a cut on his eyebrow.

Christie said that he struck the blow self-defence. A fine of £3 was paid in court."
Aberdeen Journal - Thursday 19 September 1935, page 5.

It's a shame there's nothing said about the runup to the attack. If Christie claimed he acted in self defence, what had Gregor done?

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Whitbread Mild Ale 1955 - 1964

I've made an executive decision to carry on with Mild. This post and one more will follow Whitbread's Mild until the closure of Chiswell Street in the early 1970's.

I won't pretend that there's going to be any great excitement in this stuff. Oh, one thing I forgot last time. Did you notice how after 1950 the gravity never fell below 1030. There's a very good reason for that. The way duty was calculated changed in that year. Until then, there was a flat rate charged per 36 gallons of up to 1027 gravity, plus an additional amount for every degree above 1027. In 1950 that was changed to a gravity of 1030. It meant that you paid the duty for a beer of 1030, even if your beer was just 1027. It made brewing a beer below 1030 financially unattractive.

Which begs the question, had the rules not changed, would Whitbread have continued to brew a sub-1030 Mild. And was the rule changed designed to bump up the gravity of the weakest beers to 1030?

You can see that Whitbread's stronger Mild, XXX, didn't last long. Introduced in 1954, it was discontinued in 1955. But not before the gravity had been cut from 1037.5 to 1034.8. The mid-1950's was when stronger beers of various kinds were introduced. Mostly they were stronger Bitters, but there were some Milds, too. Presumably sales of XXX didn't take off. Then again, that was exactly the period when Mild's decline began. You can notice the fall in demand from the batch sizes. Until 1951 Whitbread brewed their Mild in batches of 800 or 1500 barrels. After that date it was 400 or 800 barrel batches. A pretty sure sign of a fall in demand.

Whitbread Mild Ale 1955 - 1964
Date Year Beer OG FG ABV App. Attenuation lbs hops/ qtr hops lb/brl boil time (hours) boil time (hours) Pitch temp length of fermentation (days) colour
20th Oct 1955 Best Ale 1030.9 1009.5 2.83 69.26% 5.59 0.71 1 0.75 65º 8 105
27th Jan 1955 MA 1030.9 1009.5 2.83 69.26% 5.56 0.71 1 0.75 65º 6 115
24th Oct 1955 XXX 1034.8 1010.0 3.28 71.26% 5.56 0.80 1 1.58 65º 8 115
7th Nov 1956 Best Ale 1030.0 1008.5 2.84 71.67% 5.56 0.68 1 1 65º 7 105
11th Jan 1957 Best Ale 1030.4 1010.0 2.70 67.11% 5.56 0.71 1 0.75 65º 6 100
6th Mar 1958 Best Ale 1030.7 1008.5 2.94 72.31% 5.67 0.70 1 0.75 65º 6 110
1st Jul 1959 Best Ale 1030.5 1010.5 2.65 65.57% 5.56 0.71 1 1.75 64º 7 115
2nd Mar 1960 Best Ale 1030.6 1010.0 2.73 67.32% 5.67 0.70 1 1 64º 7 110
4th Oct 1961 Best Ale 1032.5 1009.8 3.00 69.85% 5.51 0.70 1 1 64º 7 105
6th Mar 1962 Best Ale 1032.2 1009.2 3.04 71.43% 5.35 0.69 1 0.75 64º 8 100
26th Mar 1963 Best Ale 1031.0 1008.6 2.96 72.26% 5.61 0.70 1 0.75 64º 9 105
28th May 1964 Best Ale 1030.7 1009.4 2.82 69.38% 5.84 0.72 1 0.75 64º 7 105
Whitbread brewing records held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document numbers LMA/4453/D/01/122, LMA/4453/D/01/123, LMA/4453/D/01/124, LMA/4453/D/01/125, LMA/4453/D/01/126, LMA/4453/D/01/127, LMA/4453/D/01/129, LMA/4453/D/01/130 and LMA/4453/D/01/131.

There was one definite change in brewing technique between this period and the last: the fermentation time was extended. In the late 1940's and early 1950's, it averaged 5 days but could be as few as 4. In this time period, it averaged around 7 days. I have no explanation for why this occurred. It's unlikely they carried out a major refit of the brewery in the austerity years just after the war.

The rate of attenuation is quite poor, averaging 69.7% for the samples in the table, down from the 71.5% for the set from 1945-1954. Which leaves almost every example below 3% ABV.

Whitbread Mild Ale 1955 - 1964
Date Year Beer OG hops crystal malt MA malt no. 3 sugar Hay M sugar
20th Oct 1955 Best Ale 1030.9 MK hops. 6.27% 79.44% 11.15% 3.14%
27th Jan 1955 MA 1030.9 MK and EK hops. 6.27% 79.44% 11.15% 3.14%
24th Oct 1955 XXX 1034.8 MK hops. 6.27% 79.44% 11.15% 3.14%
7th Nov 1956 Best Ale 1030.0 MK and KT hops. 6.27% 79.44% 11.15% 3.14%
11th Jan 1957 Best Ale 1030.4 MK hops. 6.27% 79.44% 11.15% 3.14%
6th Mar 1958 Best Ale 1030.7 MK hops. 6.41% 79.00% 11.39% 3.20%
1st Jul 1959 Best Ale 1030.5 MK hops. 6.27% 79.44% 11.15% 3.14%
2nd Mar 1960 Best Ale 1030.6 MK and Worcester hops. 6.41% 79.00% 11.39% 3.20%
4th Oct 1961 Best Ale 1032.5 MK, KT and Worcester hops. 6.23% 78.89% 11.76% 3.11%
6th Mar 1962 Best Ale 1032.2 EK, Saaz and ESX hops. 6.10% 79.32% 11.53% 3.05%
26th Mar 1963 Best Ale 1031.0 MK, Yugo and Worcester hops. 6.41% 79.00% 11.39% 3.20%
28th May 1964 Best Ale 1030.7 MK and K hops. 6.07% 79.35% 11.34% 3.24%
Whitbread brewing records held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document numbers LMA/4453/D/01/122, LMA/4453/D/01/123, LMA/4453/D/01/124, LMA/4453/D/01/125, LMA/4453/D/01/126, LMA/4453/D/01/127, LMA/4453/D/01/129, LMA/4453/D/01/130 and LMA/4453/D/01/131.

Now the recipe. And it is the recipe. Just four ingredients in the grist - mild ale malt, crystal malt, No. 3 invert and Hay's M - always in the same proportions. This shouldn't be a surprise. 1955 to 1975 was one of the most stable periods in British brewing. You could almost stay stagnation, at least in terms of top-fermenting beers. Average gravity barely changed at all 1951 to 1993. If you looked at the previous 40-odd years - a period stretching back to before WW I - you'd see average gravity varying between 1053 and 1033*.

Average OG of beer brewed in the UK 1951 - 1993
year OG year OG year OG
1951 1036.99 1966 1037.63 1981 1037.30
1952 1037.07 1967 1037.46 1982 1037.20
1953 1036.87 1968 1037.36 1983 1037.20
1954 1036.97 1969 1037.14 1984 1037.40
1955 1037.13 1970 1036.90 1985 1037.40
1956 1037.22 1971 1036.90 1986 1037.50
1957 1037.42 1972 1036.90 1987 1038.00
1958 1037.48 1973 1037.00 1988 1037.70
1959 1037.52 1974 1037.10 1989 1038.20
1960 1037.25 1975 1037.30 1990 1038.00
1961 1037.41 1976 1037.50 1991 1037.70
1962 1037.70 1977 1037.50 1992 1037.30
1963 1037.70 1978 1037.60 1993 1037.43
1964 1037.66 1979 1037.60

1965 1037.67 1980 1037.60

Statistical Handbook of the British Beer & Pub Association 2005, p. 7
Brewers' Almanack 1955, p. 50
Brewers' Almanack 1971, p. 45
Brewers' Almanack 1962, p. 48

The hopping is almost as boring as the grist, consisting mostly of Kent hops with only the odd Eastern European ones thrown in for variety. It always pleases me to see Saaz in British beers. No idea why.

That's it for today. Next time we'll cover the rest of the 1960's and the couple of years the brewery was open in the 1970's.

* Sources: Brewers' Almanack 1955, p. 50
“The Brewers' Society Statistical Handbook 1988” page 7

Saturday, 26 October 2013

The invention of the crown cork

"Background to the Crown" is a frustrating booklet in some ways. The end is rather anticlimatic and brief. There's no real description of how William Painter came up with the idea, nor how he put it into practice. Just one brief paragraph:

"In the summer of 1891 William Painter took a holiday and while staying at a seaside resort on Rhode Island he drew up the design for an "over the top" sealing cap, which was destined to revolutionize the bottling industry. In other words the "Crown" was born.

The British patent - No. 2031 of 1892 - was issued on February the 2nd. Plate 8 is a reproduction of the first sheet of drawings accompanying the patent."
"Background to the Crown" by Cecil J. Parker.

I'm sure there must have been a lot more to the invention than that. Rhode Island. Mmm. Where Dann brews for Pretty Things is almost in Rhode Island. And pretty close to the coast. Not sure why I bothered to mention that.

"It was a remarkable specification. Its basic simplicity combined with functional perfection to satisfy the whole list of requirements for a faultless closure. The opening paragraph of the specification is worthy of quotation. It reads as follows:-

"The objects of my invention are to seal bottles as effectually and reliably as can be done by the use of corks and fastening wires or cords, and to do this with a substantial saaving in the cost of sealing materials as well as with economy in applying the sealing devices to the bottles, it being understood that the said sealing devices may be thrown away after having been used once as is common with ordinary corks."

These claims were sell justified, as nearly sixty years of ever expanding usage have proved."
"Background to the Crown" by Cecil J. Parker.

I'm not sure why the author found that passage so worthy of quoting. It's a little dry. Though at the end there's the best clue as to the date of the booklet. Nearly 50 years from 1892 would date it to around 1950. Not far from my last guess.

"Like other new closures the "Crown" was received by the bottling industry with a certain degree of scepticism. Accustomed as they were to using more elaborate means of sealing, its very simplicity made them hesitant to give credence to its efficiency. But William Painter and his associates were not to be discouraged. The first foot-operated machine was quickly designed and built, followed by the single head power crowner. In 1899 the multiple headed machine made its appearance, strangely different from but ultimately to develop into the highly efficient and well-known "Jumbo".

The first bottlers who were sufficiently far sighted to give the new "Crown" closure a trial were soon convinced that its merits were not overstated. With the recently developed high output automatic bottle making machines, the glass manufacturers found the simplified "Crown" finish eminently suitable to their production methods. The streamlined shape of the "Crown" enabled it to be fed rapidly to the crowning heads and as a consequence high speed continuous bottling became almost overnigh an established achievement.

For over fifty years many have racked their brains to find a better closure than the "Crown" but all have failed. This is partly due to the fact that practically all possible modifications of the cap were foreseen by the inventor himself and covered in various specifications. Its design has changed only in very minor detail from the original one laid down so long ago. Its essential principle remains unaltered from that day to this. It is the perfect closure."
"Background to the Crown" by Cecil J. Parker.

Having seen the other weird and wonderful bottle degsigns, I can understand why bottle makers would have liked the simple shape required for a crown cork. And no fiddly bits of wire or scary spikes.

Could you invent a better way of closing beer bottles than the crown cork? I doubt it somehow. I don't see how you could come up with something cheaper or simpler. That it has survived a further 60 years and remains by streets the most popular way of sealing beer bottles says something.

Friday, 25 October 2013

Let's Brew Wednesday - 1885 Younger XP

It's been a while. Too long, since the last Let's Brew post. Not down to me. I guess Kristen is too busy with his brewery to write recipes. So . . .

I've decided to go it alone for a while. Because I realise how much some of you value the recipes. Kicking off with a preview of one of the recipes in The Homebrewer's Guide to Vintage Beer.

You may remember me banging on about what bollocks it was claiming Scottish brewers barely used hops, when Edinburgh and Alloa had been major centres of IPA brewing. So here's a Scottish IPA from the 1880's.

In one way, this recipe is a distinctively Scottish. In which way? The lack of sugar. An English IPA or Pale Ale recipe from this period would almost certainly have contained sugar. The Scots - like the Irish - weren't as enthusiastic in their use of sugar as the English. It's also quite low gravity, even for an IPA. A beer like Bass Pale Ale was around 10 points higher at 1065.

If you still believe any of the fantasy spread about Scottish beer, take a look at that pitching temperature. 59º F is nothing like the Lager-like temperatures some would have you believe Scottish beer was fermented at. It's the same pitching temperature that you'd see for an English beer.

The hop combination is also typically Scottish, in being a mix of American, Continental and English hops. Yes, they may not grow hops in Scotland, but they came up with this dead ingenious method of getting hold of them. They had these big wooden or metal things - ships I think they called them - that brought them in from elsewhere.

This recipe is for 6 US gallons.

1885 Younger XP
pale malt 2 row 12.50 lb 100.00%
Cluster 90 min 2.00 oz
Spalt 60 min 2.00 oz
Goldings 30 min 2.00 oz
OG 1054
FG 1013
ABV 5.42
Apparent attenuation 75.93%
IBU 92
Mash at 152º F
Sparge at 163º F
Boil time 90 minutes
pitching temp 59º F
Yeast WLP028 Edinburgh Ale

Ther were also the equivalent of 1.25 ounces of dry hops (for 6 US gallons). It doesn't say which variety, but I'd go for Goldings or Spalt.

Thursday, 24 October 2013

New cover

My publisher has put together a new cover for my book that's coming out in January, The Home Brewer's Guide to Vintage Beer. I have to admit it brought a tear to my eye.

Why? Because it includes the label of the beer my mum used to drink. At least until it was discontinued. See if you can guess which one it is.

Slightly less weird stoppers

By the 1880's two camps had emerged in the search for the perfect stopper. On the one side were the adherents of internal devices like the Codd stopper. On the other, those who favoured an external "over the top" stopper like the various forms of flip top. Neither was perfect.

"The "over the top" supporters held their type of closure to be superior from the point of view that the pouring lip of the botde was protected from dirt and that the removal action could be more gradual, allowing top pressure to escape slowly and so eliminate the excessive fobbing. The bottle could be filled in its natural position and satisfactorily cleaned inside. These were undoubtedly favourable points, but it remained an unfortunate fact that up to then they had been unable to produce a successful pressure-holding closure without the aid of wire bails or like appendages.

The problem of the "interior" sealers was to make a closure that could be applied from the outside and be removed outwardly leaving an unobstructed interior. That of the "exterior" sealers was to find a cap that was sufficiently strong to hold high pressures. This then was the situation at the time that William Painter entered the field."
"Background to the Crown" by Cecil J. Parker.

I'd never considered just how difficult it is to design an exterior stopper capable of resisting the pressure inside a beer bottle. A crown cork seems such a simple and obvious solution. Why did it take so long to be invented?

Well, we're getting closer to that invention. Because now the key figure appears on the scene: William Painter. The man who finally came up with the crown cork. But not quite yet. Because he started out in the internal stopper camp.

"William Painter, of English descent, lived at Baltimore in Maryland. By trade he was a Mechanical Engineer and by nature a genius in things mechanical. During his working career he took out over eighty patents covering many widely divergent subjects. Possessed of an extremely active brain and an "up and doing" temperament he was for ever thinking out something new and then making it.

We cannot know for certain how he became interested in the bottle closure problem, but as so many others were at that time, it is more than likely that his position as foreman in an engineenng shop brought him into contact with an inventor who was having working models made of some form of stopper. We do know, however, that in September of 1885 William Painter's name appears in the English Patent Office records as co-inventor with another of an "interior" seal stopper. See Plate 7.

It was a very simple invention, as will be seen from the drawings which show A, the earliest form ; B, later form with stud ; and C alternate form with wire loop. These were to facilitate opening! The scaling disc was made from some flexible material such as rubber. It was of greater diameter than the neck of the bottle and was pushed into the latter in such manner that a convex surface was presented to the interior, the principle being that pressure from within the bottle would tend to flatten the disc and so tighten it against the inside of the neck."
"Background to the Crown" by Cecil J. Parker.

Simple, yes. Effective? I doubt it. Looks very flimsy to me, even the later versions. How exactly did you get the stopper out? Or did you just push it in?

"It is fairly obvious that at this time William Painter did not have a very extensive knowledge of the practical side of bottle sealing. In the earliest form it will be seen that while there was an inner shoulder to the bottle neck to prevent the sealing disc from sliding out under internal pressure, no means were provided to ensure that it did not penetrate too far when inserted. This was rectified in the later forms by change of the neck finish. Another curious point concerning the earliest specification is that alternative to india-rubber, the disc, it was said, might be made of linoleum.

For some years Painter worked hard to make a go of this closure. A certain degree of success was undoubtedly achieved, for 1890 found him taking out patents for a combined filling and stoppering machine, tongs for forming the bottle necks and another machine for fixing wire lifting loops to the sealing discs. It is significant, however, that at the same time he was patenting a spring bail for holding the stopper in place during pasteurization. From this it would appear that its pressure holding capacity was not all that could be wished for and this probably altered the trend of his thoughts from inner to outer sealing."
"Background to the Crown" by Cecil J. Parker.

It's that change of heart that lay behind the invetion of the crown cork. About which we'll hear next time.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Whitbread Mild Ale 1945 - 1954

It seems several lifetimes ago that I was last discussing Whitbread's post-WW II beers. Surely time to return to them?

And where better to begin than Mild? At the time, one of Whitbread's biggest sellers. At the start of the period, they brewed just one Mild - XX. This had been introduced in 1940, replacing X Ale. Initially with a gravity of 1031, though by 1942 it was below 1030. A level it remained at until its demise in 1949. For a brief period in 1949, Whitbread brewed two Milds, XX at 1027.7 and B or Best Ale about three points higher.

Between 1950 and 1954, Best Ale was Whitbread's only Mild, then they introduced XXX at 1037.5 What I guess would have been called Best Mild, if their other Milds hadn't already been called Best Ale.

There are a couple of points I'd like to make about the brewing techniques. The boil times a very short, almost certainly a consequence of the war. In 1914, the two coppers used for X Ale were boiled for 1.75 hours. In the 1930's it was 1.25 hours for the first and 1.5 hours for the second. In 1940, it was down to 1.25 hours and 1 hour. By 1944, it was just 1 hour and 0.75 hours. The reasoning was simple: saving fuel.

Whitbread Mild Ale 1945 - 1954
Date Year Beer OG FG ABV App. Attenuation lbs hops/ qtr hops lb/brl boil time (hours) boil time (hours) Pitch temp length of fermentation (days) colour
31st Dec 1945 XX 1027.8 1009.0 2.49 67.63% 5.77 0.68 1 1 65º 5 15 + 40
19th Oct 1945 XX 1028.2 1008.5 2.61 69.86% 5.77 0.72 1 1.33 65º 6 13 + 40
22nd Jan 1946 XX 1028.3 1009.0 2.55 68.20% 5.77 0.70 1 1 65º 5 14 + 40
29th Jan 1947 XX 1027.7 1005.5 2.94 80.14% 6.28 0.72 1 1 65º 4 14 + 40
21st Jun 1948 XX 1027.7 1006.0 2.87 78.34% 7.03 0.82 1 1 65º 4 11 + 40
22nd Jun 1949 B 1030.5 1007.5 3.04 75.41% 6.33 0.78 1 1 65º 6 16 + 40
20th Oct 1949 Best Ale 1029.1 1010.0 2.53 65.64% 6.73 0.81 1 1.08 65º 8 16 + 40
21st Jun 1949 XX 1027.7 1007.5 2.67 72.92% 7.26 0.83 1 1.25 65º 5 13 + 40
16th May 1950 Best Ale 1032.3 1008.0 3.21 75.23% 7.13 0.89 1 0.75 65º 5 18 + 40
17th Jul 1951 Best Ale 1031.8 1009.0 3.02 71.70% 7.32 0.93 0.75 65º 5 15 + 40
4th Feb 1952 Best Ale 1030.8 1008.0 3.02 74.03% 7.35 0.88 1 0.75 65º 5 16 + 40
28th Jan 1953 Best Ale 1030.6 1008.5 2.92 72.22% 6.66 0.83 1 0.75 65º 8 17 + 40
21st Jan 1954 Best Ale 1031.0 1010.0 2.78 67.74% 5.49 0.71 1 0.75 65º 7 18 + 40
29th Sep 1954 MA 1030.8 1010.5 2.69 65.91% 5.66 0.72 1 1 65º 6 120
29th Sep 1954 XXX 1037.5 1012.0 3.37 68.00% 5.66 0.88 1 1 65º 7 125
Whitbread brewing records held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document numbers LMA/4453/D/01/113, LMA/4453/D/01/114, LMA/4453/D/01/116, LMA/4453/D/01/117, LMA/4453/D/01/119, LMA/4453/D/01/120, LMA/4453/D/01/121 and LMA/4453/D/01/122.

The pitching temperature, at 65º F, is pretty high, but more likely just a simple reflection of the very modest gravity of these beers. In general, the stronger the beer, the lower the pitching temperature, presumably because of the greater amount of heat generated by the fermentation of a stronger wort.

Talking of modest gravity, you'd have struggled to get very pissed on just about any of these beers. Only a couple poke their heads above 3% ABV. The weakest, I'd barely count as alcoholic drinks.

Moving on to the ingredients, you can see that there were some odd hops and hop extract or substitute used in the immediate postwar period. Britain was basically broke by the time hostilities ended and the first few years of peace were difficult ones. By the time the 1950's kick in, you can see that there's been a transformation in hop usage, with almost exclusively British hops being used, with the exception of occasionally a few Californian (CF) hops. It's one of the ironies of British brewing that imported hops became much less important after WW I and mostly disappeared in the two or three decades after WW II.

Whitbread Mild Ale 1945 - 1954
Date Year Beer OG hops pale malt crystal malt MA malt no. 3 sugar other sugar - Hay flaked barley
31st Dec 1945 XX 1027.8 American and MK hops. Hopulon. 7.51% 63.33% 10.02% 1.97% 17.17%
19th Oct 1945 XX 1028.2 Oregon, Old Continentals, and MK hops. 7.51% 63.33% 10.02% 1.97% 17.17%
22nd Jan 1946 XX 1028.3 MK and EK hops. Hopulon. 7.51% 63.33% 10.02% 1.97% 17.17%
29th Jan 1947 XX 1027.7 MK and Jugoslav hops. Hopulon. 8.09% 82.08% 7.71% 2.12%
21st Jun 1948 XX 1027.7 MK and KT hops. Hopulon. 20.79% 7.87% 63.48% 5.99% 1.87%
22nd Jun 1949 B 1030.5 MK hops. 8.22% 84.25% 5.48% 2.05%
20th Oct 1949 Best Ale 1029.1 MK and KT hops. 7.66% 84.31% 5.84% 2.19%
21st Jun 1949 XX 1027.7 MK and KT hops. 7.98% 85.55% 4.56% 1.90%
16th May 1950 Best Ale 1032.3 MK, EK and Worcester hops. 7.29% 86.46% 4.17% 2.08%
17th Jul 1951 Best Ale 1031.8 MK and CF hops. 7.30% 86.61% 4.17% 1.91%
4th Feb 1952 Best Ale 1030.8 KT hops. 7.30% 86.61% 4.17% 1.91%
28th Jan 1953 Best Ale 1030.6 MK hops. 7.41% 85.71% 4.94% 1.94%
21st Jan 1954 Best Ale 1031.0 MK, EK and SX hops. 6.74% 80.31% 11.05% 1.90%
29th Sep 1954 MA 1030.8 MK, EK and KT hops. 6.35% 80.42% 11.29% 1.94%
29th Sep 1954 XXX 1037.5 MK, EK and KT hops. 6.35% 80.42% 11.29% 1.94%
Whitbread brewing records held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document numbers LMA/4453/D/01/113, LMA/4453/D/01/114, LMA/4453/D/01/116, LMA/4453/D/01/117, LMA/4453/D/01/119, LMA/4453/D/01/120, LMA/4453/D/01/121 and LMA/4453/D/01/122.

The grists aren't the most exciting you'll ever see. Whitbread hadn't used adjuncts before the war and the use of flaked barley was almost certainly dictated by the authorities. After 1946, no adjuncts were used. Though obviously lots of lovely sugar. Which is where most of the dark brown colour came from. As was typical in Milds of this period, there was no malt darker than crystal. I'm not sure why the sugar content fell in the first few years of the 1950's. That aside, the recipe was pretty stable: 7% crystal malt, 80-85% MA (mild ale) malt, 11% No. 3 sugar, 2% Hay sugar. That latter is some sort of proprietary sugar, which was presumably dark.

What should I do next - follow Mild through subsequent decades or look at the other styles for this same period?