Tuesday, 4 August 2015

DDR pub etiquette

More from the distant past. This time the do's and don't's of DDR boozers.

A couple of notes on DDR pub etiquette. Everywhere is waiter service only and no standing is allowed. Unfortunately chronic staff shortages (made worse by the recent exodus of many catering personnel to the west) mean that there are often insufficient waiters to serve the whole pub. Hence the 'reserviert' ('reserved') and 'bestellt' ('booked') signs sitting on tables which remain unused all day. It's not unusual for half the tables in a pub to be out of action in this way. It's also not a good idea to start moving chairs around from one table to another without asking, as the waiters often take offence (though the recent surge of visitors from the Federal Republic seems to have helped to loosen them up a little in this respect). All of this can make it difficult to find seats (and hence get a drink), especially for a large group of people. The best way around this is to turn up at an off-peak time (i.e. not 12 - 13 or after 21). Also bear in mind that closing time means what it says - it's when the pub will lock it's doors for the night, not last orders. Don't expect to get a drink in the last 15 minutes before closing.

Most pubs and restaurants are run by HO (Handelsorganisation), a state company which runs all types of retail outlets, including shops. The rarer private pubs are generally a little cosier and more personal inside, but have the same low fixed prices as the state enterprises.

Beer prices vary from about .80 M a half litre for hell to around 1.30 M for spezial or bock beers. W. German beer is about 4.00 M a half litre. Meals vary from around 2 - 5 M in a pub to 6 - 15 M in a hotel or posher restaurant. Don't assume that the latter will always assure you higher quality. Often the small and seemingly grotty corner pubs offer much better value in terms of quality and price, though the choice of meals may be limited.

Those intending to travel by rail should note that Deutsche Reichbahn's services are notoriously slow and unreliable. However, due to the lack of a Dr. Beeching there are still innumerable branch lines, making it possible to reach many quite small villages by rail, as long as you're patient. Most stations of any size have a Mitropa or buffet where hot food and drinks (including draught beer) can be purchased. When in a strange town desperate for a beer but unable to find a pub open, the local Mitropa is usually your best bet. They open seven days a week, from the early morning until 11 or 12 at night. But be warned that it seems to be increasingly difficult to obtain bottled beer in stations, so if you want some refreshment during your journey it's best to buy in a few bottles beforehand. On the main express routes the trains often have Mitropa buffet cars selling simple food and bottled beer. On busier trains, these are good for generating despairingly long queues.

That's made me feel all nostalgic. Going to Berlin soon. Noticed that there a recreation of a HO pub called Gaststätte W. Prassnik. Must drop by. I wonder if they have "reserviert" signs? It would be a nice touch.

Monday, 3 August 2015

Dutch Lager Styles 1870 - 1960 (part eight)

Output by style in 1929

Heineken Rotterdam production by type in 1929
type no. of brews size of brew (HL) total amount % of total
Licht 95 440 41,800 14.46%
Donker 48 770 36,960 12.79%
Bayerisch 41 295 12,095 4.19%
Pils 491 395 193,945 67.11%
Bok 21 200 4,200 1.45%
total 696 289,000
Heineken brewing record held at the Amsterdam Stadsarchief, document number 834-1754.

There’s been a massive change between 1911 and 1929, with Gerste disappearing altogether and Pils dominating production. Pils was around two-thirds of sales with Licht Lager a very distant second. It’s quite a transformation.

Heineken Rotterdam beers in 1930
Beer OG Balling FG Balling app. degree attenuation % ABV Colour kg hop/hl
Pils 12.2 3.8 68.85% 4.7 4 0.21
Licht 9.2 3 67.39% 3.5 3 0.17
Donker 9 3.2 64.44% 3.5 11 0.14
Bayerisch 13 5.45 58.08% 5 14 0.17
Bok 17.6 8.45 51.99% 7.1 15 0.19
Heineken brewing records held at the Amsterdam Stadsarchief

There are a few significant differences compared to 1911. The colour of Pils has fallen from 6 to 4, while Bayerisch has got slightly darker, going from 13 to 14. The gravity of Pils has fallen from 13.2 to 12.2 but as the FG has also fallen, attenuation and ABV remain similar. The hopping rates are pretty much unchanged.

Gerstebier has disappeared, seemingly replaced by a dark version of Lagerbier.

The sales of all types of beer went into steep decline in the early 1930’s due to the Wall Street crash. Output declined from 2,319,000 hl in 1929 to 1,609,000 hl in 1933 - a fall of 31%. This is how much sales fell at various breweries in the first five months of 1933 compared to the same months the previous year:

Fall in sales of Lagerbier and Fijnbier 1932 - 1933
Brewery Lager Fijn Total
H.B.M. (Heineken) 7.26% 12.83% 11.09%
Amstel 10.46% 16.44% 13.72%
van Vollenhoven 15.31% 15.23% 15.28%
Z.H.B. 14.54% 20.12% 17.32%
Oranjeboom 13.59% 22.52% 18.64%
Letter from Amstel to the Bond van Nederlandsche Brouwerijen held in the Amsterdamse Stadsarchief, doscument number 204 - 35.

By Fijnbier, I think they mean full-strength Lagers like Pils. Sales were falling off a cliff. How to explain that? The letter-writer suspected it was due to Lagerbier being passed off as Pils in pubs.

Sunday, 2 August 2015

Coronation Beers

There’s nothing like a royal event for generating celebration brews. Jubilees, royal weddings and coronations have all spawned dozens of special beers.

Queen Elizabeth’s coronation in 1953 came just as Britain was starting to drag itself out of the gloom of the immediate post-war years. With gravities had edging up a little and restrictions easing, it must have seemed a good excuse to cut loose with a really strong beer.

But everyone was so optimistic.

A limited number of brewers are brewing high-gravity beers for the Coronation.

Most brewers would like to have a special beer available for the Coronation, but as sales  will be limited, it is not a practicable proposition, so far as many are concerned, to put through a special brew without a great deal of waste. With this in mind, and feeling that under the circumstances some breweries may wish to purchase sufficient quantities of Coronation beer from an outside source, to bottle under their own label, Messrs. Starkey, Knight and Ford, Ltd., Tiverton, Devon, offer supplies, as will be seen from their advertisement published in this issue. In point of fact, they offer supplies in bulk or bottled under customers' own labels.”
"Brewer's Guardian 1953", 1953, page 59.

Nowadays I guess you’d call that arrangement contract brewing. As most breweries had bottling lines then, I suspect most would have taken it in bulk and bottled themselves. Bound to have been cheaper.

The author takes a very pessimistic view of the opportunities for a coronation beer:

“That a large number of brewers will not be brewing a Coronation beer is due to a wide variety of considerations, but indifference is certainly not one of them. The pros and cons of producing  Coronation beer were discussed in our January issue, when "Country Brewer" the contributor of the article, left the reader in no doubt as to the technical and other problems involved. Apart from the problems dealt with by "Country Brewer" other considerations which have led to decisions against a Coronation brew include (1) Indications that certain sections of the retail trade would not welcome the handling of yet another high-priced speciality; (2) That several "strong" beers were already being marketed and that coming so soon after the production of "Festival" ales and stouts, another would be unlikely to meet with success.”
"Brewer's Guardian 1953", 1953, page 59.

Basically no-one really wanted another strong, expensive beer. The Festival beers he mentioned were ones brewed for the Festival of Britain, which took place in the summer of 1951. There were indeed beers brewed for it, though I only have an analysis of one brewed by Barclay Perkins.

Now the author has a moan about the price of a coronation beer and the costs associated with brewing it:

“Some of the Coronation beers being produced, to sell probably at 1s. 6d., 1s. 9d., or 2s. per nip bottle, will be of 80° to 90°. At those prices which, on the face of them, may seem sufficiently remunerative, there is that bewitching item of "overheads" to be added, plus the cost of nip bottles, which raises the consideration of what use they can be put to next.

The choice of materials for the production of a Coronation beer is fairly simple—they must be of the best. There is scope, however, for the choice of hops of maximum P.V., since aroma and flavour are completely masked by the other constituents of an extra heavy beer.

The excessive Duty towers above material costs, and when that has been fully considered, one can weigh the possibility of making a profit against the probability of cutting a loss.”
"Brewer's Guardian 1953", 1953, page 59.

Not sure why he thinks brewers would have to buy in nip bottles especially for their coronation beer. Lots of breweries already packaged beer in nips. And not only really strong ones. The Whitbread Gravity Book usually mentions the bottle size. These are the breweries who according to that used nips in 1952 and 1953:

Bass, Barclay Perkins, Courage, Hammonds, Ind Coope, McMullen, Watney, Wenlock, Aitchison, Aitken, Alnwick Brewery, Ballingall, Barnard, Bentley's Yorkshire Brewery, Blair, Brickwoods, Bullard, Castletown, Catterall & Swarbrick, Chester Brewery, Cobbold, Bellhaven, Ely Brewery, Everards, Felinfoel, Flowers, Friary Holroyd, Fullers, Gordon & Blair, Guinness, Harman's, Hay, Holt Bros., Hunt Edmunds, Hydes, J Fowler, James Hole, Jeffrey, John Joule, John Smith, John Wright, JW Green, Maclachlan, Masseys, McEwan, Meux, Morgans, Morgans, Morrell, Norman & Pring, Octagon Brewery, Plymouth Breweries, Rose, Russells & Wrangham, Russell's, Scarborough & Whitby, Simonds, St. Austell, Star Brewery, Steel Coulson, Steward & Patteson, Tamplin, Taylor Walker, Tennent, Tetley, Threlfalls, Tollemache, Truman, Usher, W Murray & Co, WA Smith & Sons, Wards Ltd, Whitaker & Son, Young & Co, Younger Geo., Younger Robert, Younger Wm., Youngs Crawshay & Youngs.

Looks to me like his argument about nip bottles is bollocks.

His point about it not mattering which hops you used sounds equally dubious. He’s about right about the selling price, though 2s is on the high end when I look at beers of 1080-1090º in the Whitbread Gravity Book for 1953.

Next time we’ll see how many breweries did make, or at least market, a coronation beer.

Saturday, 1 August 2015

The beers and breweries of Thuringia (25 years ago)

Here's another installment of possibly the most useless guide ever. To part of a country that no longer exists.This time it's an overview of some of the breweries and their beers.

Thank god for Peter Crombecq. I'd picked up a copy of his book "Biersmaken" when I moved to Amsterdam in 1988. My main reason for buying it was that it had a complete list of Belgian beers. But it also contained a section on objectively tasting beer. It got me intrigued in trying to describe beer flavour and prompted me to start making tasting notes. Which is why I have the brief descrptions in the text below.

The beers are all bottom-fermented, though the Schmitt brewery in the village of Singen produces a pale top-fermenting beer. Most are unpasteurised and the bottled beer will develop a sediment after 6 to 7 days. They fall into the following general categories:

Hell pale and fairly thin
Pils with a bit more body, often quite bitter
Pilsator a bit darker and more like a true Czech Pils
Spezial a premium Pils, the bottled equivalent of Pilsator
Bock a winter beer (available November to January) of about 16% Balling - can vary in colour from amber to black
Schwarz as the name suggests, a dark lager, similar in style to Czech Tmavé Pivo

The Reinheitsgebot has never been enforced in the DDR, originally due to raw material shortages in the 1950's. Currently, the ordinary pils and hell beers are brewed using about 70% malt and the spezial and bock beers using about 80%. Both use about 10% sugar. Despite this, some of the beers, especially the pilsators, are very characterful and compare favourably with some of the rather inoffensive pils-style beers of the Federal Republic. In fact, with their bitter emphasis, the DDR beers are often more reminiscent of the pale Czech lagers. With the availability of W. German beers in the DDR it is now possible to directly compare the products of the two nations' breweries. In Muhlhausen, for example, beer from Eschwege (about 30km away over the border) is on sale. After a couple of glasses of the excellent local Turmquell Pilsator I tried Eschweger Pils which, although as it proudly proclaimed brewed to the Reinheitsgebot, seemed thin and almost tasteless in comparison.

The specific beers, by brewery, in the towns described are as follows:

Vereinsbrauerei Apolda
Classic malty with a strong bitter finish

Eisenacher Brauerei
Hell a bit thin and watery
Wartburg Pils sweetish flavour with a bitterish aftertaste
Bock  amber coloured, pleasantly malty

Braugold Erfurt
Pils a good, clean, very bitter beer
Angerbrau well-balanced and bitter

J. Andreas Klosterbrauerei, Eschwege, Federal Republic
Eschweger Pils neutral flavour with a slight bitter aftertaste

Brauerei Gotha
Pils thin and bitter
Diabetiker malty aroma and bitter, slightly strange, taste
Spezial bitter aroma and bitter taste

Brauerei Jena
Pils light with a bitter aftertaste

Kostritzer Schwarzbierbrauerei, Bad Kostritz
Schwarzbier Black, fairly sweet and malty

Muhlhausen Turmquell (bottled)
Pils light, rounded malt aroma and bitter taste
Spezial hoppy, slightly acidic flavour, with a bitterish finish
Bock slightly sweet, malty flavour with bitter finish

Muhlhausen Turmquell (draught)
Pils pale and quite bitter
Pilsator malty/fruity aroma with strong bitter finish

Brauerei Neunspringe, Worbis
Hell thin with a slight bitter taste
Pils a bit more body and a bitter finish
Pilsator slight malty/fruity aroma with a hop finish

Sternquellbrauerei, Plauen
Pils thinish but bitter
Plaunator bitter beer with a malty aroma and bitter/buttery finish
Pilsator bitter taste with a full spicy, hoppy finish
Bock sweet and dark with a slight caramel finish

Konsum-Brauerei Weimar-Ehringsdorf
Ehringsdorfer Pils thin but pleasantly bitter

Exportbier-Brauerei Wernesgrun
Wernesgruner Pils      malty aroma and bitter aftertaste

The companies listed above are all VEB (Volkseigener Betrieb) or nationalised firms (apart from the Eschwege brewery, of course), but, especially in the south, there are still several very small private breweries operating. Examples of these are the Brauerei Göpfert in Jüchsen, Brauerei Geßner in Steinach and Brauerei Schmitt in Singen (the smallest brewery in the DDR). The best bet for finding the beers from these breweries is probably to visit their home village.

Wasn't that, er, completely useless? While most of the larger breweries have closed, I was delighted to discover that the three small private breweries mentioned in the last paragraph are all still open:

Brauerei "Zur Goldenen Henne"
Queckgasse 17,
98631 Jüchsen.
Tel: 0170/ 6018260
Fax: 036947/ 50903
Email: webmaster@brauerei-juechsen.de

Privatbrauerei Gessner
Am Lindenbach 27,
96515 Sonneberg.
Email: info@privatbrauerei-gessner.de
Telefon: 03675/4079-0
Fax: 03675/4079-40

Brauerei Schmitt
Brauereiweg 1,
99326 Ilmtal OT Singen
Tel: 03629-802556
Email: info @ brauerei-schmitt.de

If you'd like to try the Schmitt beer, the fasmily runs a pub in the village:

Gasthaus Zum Singer Berg
Friedrich Schönheit Str. 4,
99326 Ilmtal.
Tel: 03629-802244
Fax: 03629-8379127


Friday, 31 July 2015

Dutch Lager Styles 1870 - 1960 (part seven)

The war had a devastating effect on Dutch brewing, despite The Netherlands being neutral. The unrestricted German U-Boot campaign that began in 1917 caused havoc with international trade. Dependent on imported barley, Dutch brewers began to run out of raw materials. Despite drastic reductions in the strength of beer*, by 1918 production was down to just half of the pre-war level at 0.72 million hectolitres**.

Dutch breweries by province
1890 1900 1910 1920 1930
Noord-Brabant 241 214 191 72 65
Gelderland 42 31 27 13 10
Zuid-Holland 35 25 24 14 -
Noord-Holland 22 19 17 12 10
Zeeland 36 33 31 25 25
Utrecht 12 7 7 4 3
Overijssel 10 9 7 3 3
Friesland 2 2 2 2 2
Groningen 20 16 14 1 1
Drenthe 1 1 1 0 0
Limburg 236 216 201 77 66
Total: 657 574 522 223 198
Nederlands Etiketten Logboek, 1998 

More than half of all Dutch breweries closed: from 522 in 1910 to 223 in 1920. The majority of those that closed were small affairs in Limburg and Nord-Brabant - 243 out of 299. Many had still been top-fermenting which effectively gave a further boost to Lager brewing in Holland.

Amstel slashed their range to just two beers, Pilsener and a dark Lager***.  They also started using rice, maize, tapioca and sugar in addition to malt****.

Interwar years
During the 1920’s the Dutch brewing industry bounced back and by the end of the decade output was up by almost 1 million on the pre-war level. This despite the number of breweries having more than halved between 1910 and 1920 . The biggest fall was in the Southern provinces of Noord-Brabant and Limburg, where there had been a large number of very small breweries.

Dutch beer output 1925 - 1939
year output (hl) year output (hl)
1925 1,944,000 1933 1,609,000
1926 2,033,000 1934 1,512,000
1927 2,058,000 1935 1,373,000
1928 - 1936 1,262,000
1929 2,319,000 1937 1,298,000
1930 2,280,000 1938 1,382,000
1931 2,103,000 1939 1,508,000
1932 1,807,000
European Statistics 1750-1970 by B. R. Mitchell, 1978.

Once again international developments intervened in the form of the 1929 Wall Street Crash and the worldwide recession that followed. The gains of the 1920’s were more than rolled back and, though the situation improved in the final years of the 1930’s, Dutch beer production was about the same in 1939 as it had been in 1914.

Pils was gradually gaining ground at the expense of other styles, though breweries continued to brew the low-strength Licht (pale)and Donker (dark) Lager as well as the stronger Bayerisch Dark Lager.

* "Amstel, het Verhaal van ons Bier 1870 - Heden" by Peter Zwaal, 2010, pages 59 and 66.
** Bier in Limburg, Sef Derkx, 1990.
*** "Amstel, het Verhaal van ons Bier 1870 - Heden" by Peter Zwaal, 2010, page 59.
**** "Amstel, het Verhaal van ons Bier 1870 - Heden" by Peter Zwaal, 2010, page 66.

Thursday, 30 July 2015

1990 Mühlhausen pub guide

Here’s another excerpt from my 1990 guide to Thuringia. It’s a small pub guide to Mühlhausen. Not a great deal of use to anyone, I realise.

There’s a simple reason why I visited Mühlhausen several times. My wife’s sister lived there. And it was home to one of my favourite beers, Turmquell Pilsator. I was lucky enough to get inside one of the town’s two breweries in the DDR period, thanks to my sister-in-law’s husband, who knew someone who worked there.

It was heart breaking to say the inferior Eschwege Pils flood into the town after the wall fell, eventually killing off the town’s breweries. It made no sense to me. Why pay considerably more money for a beer that wasn’t half as good? Turmquell Pilsator is one of the beers I miss the most. I've cried a little every day since it disappeared.

30 km north of Eisenach, just 45 terrifying minutes away along a crumbling and treacherous road (it's not a good idea to try navigating it after dark) is the ancient town of Mühlhausen. If you happen to get thirsty on the way, the village of Mihla has three pubs. Mühlhausen is graced with a virtually complete town wall and, of more practical value, two breweries (one of which is built into said wall). Inside the old fortifications, not a lot has changed in the last few centuries. There's a maze of twisting streets and narrow alleyways all lined with half-timbered buildings leaning at disturbing angles. Unfortunately for the inhabitants, but fortunately for us tourists wishing to recapture the atmosphere of the past, most of the houses don't seem to have been modernised since they were built. A few months ago I would have added that they also didn't seem to have been painted since their construction, but, in honour of the recent influx of guests from over the border, a few of the main streets have seen their facades receive a well-needed lick of paint. I'm sure that it's dirty, dingy, generally unkempt appearance is far more in keeping with the spirit of the Middle Ages than are the antiseptically tidied and prettied up towns over the border. The town is also famous for the quality and quantity of its bakers. They produce the typical dark German rye bread in hearteningly traditional manner, without the use of the chemical additives so common in the west.

On Görmaer StraBe, just inside the wall on the way into town from the railway station, is the Hotel Grune Linde (8 - 24), selling the excellent draught Turmquell Pilsator. This is a pub/restaurant of a slightly higher class, so your table will have a tablecloth, albeit probably not very clean. The single large room is comfortable enough and the tables seem happily immune to the plague of 'bestellt' signs (the current record for these is held by the Lindenhof of Eisenach, which one evening contained eight tables, two customers and six 'reserviert' signs). On the walls, no doubt at the whim of an HO interior decorator, hang some arty and enigmatic prints of trees, totally out of keeping with the nature of the place and its customers, who don't exactly look like the type to knock around in art galleries.

Carrying on down Görmaer Straße, one of the streets recently having undergone a slight face-lift, you'll come to Wilhelm-Pieck-Platz. Pretty well directly opposite where you enter the square is the Mühlhauser Bierbar (16-23:30; Sat, Sun closed), an unassuming old building without much indication of being a pub. Inside its cramped interior, in the wonderful HO 'heritage' style (pine furniture and obviously designed folksy decoration), a variety of DDR beers are available. The selection varies, but you can usually count on Bad Kostritzer Schwarzbier and Wernesgrüner Pils, both bottled (unfortunately so in the case of the latter, which tastes much better in its unpasteurised draught form). This is the only specialist beer bar in the area and, judging by its popularity, you would think that it was the only pub in the area full stop. A word of advice: arrive closer to 16:00 than 23:30. (If you are unable to get in, nip over the road to the modern Stadt Mühlhausen Hotel, which sells Turmquell Pilsator on draught and stays open until midnight.)

You now have a chance to see the centre of town on the way to your next stop - this saves wasting too much valuable time on sightseeing. On leaving the beer bar, walk to the diagonally opposite corner of the square, up Linsenstr. then left along Herrenstr past the Marienkirche. Through the Frauentor, one of the old town gates and an impressive chunk of stonework, you'll find a fairly desolate piece of open ground. To the right of this, on Johannis Straße, is Gaststatte Drei Rosen (10-17; Sat, Sun closed). One glance and the neglected and crumbling plaster of the facade tells you that you're in for a treat and, when you enter, the austerity of the interior is no disappointment. From the rudimentary counter, bare walls and tubular steel furniture of its single square room to the outside toilets (aspiring to Czech standards of filthiness) everything is perfect. It deserves to be preserved in its pristine state as a memorial to the HO minimalist school of pub design. It's to be hoped the changing times won't see such monuments swept away. Your fellow customers are likely to be as straight-forward as the surroundings, but the atmosphere is relaxed and conducive to the quiet enjoyment of a glass or two of the Turmquell Pils which is on offer. A little further along Johannisstr., through another old gate,  is the  Turmquell bottled beer brewery, some of whose workers you might well rub shoulders with in Drei Rosen.

On leaving turn left, left again into Petristeinweg, then right along Petriteich following the town wall around (another chance for a quick spot of sightseeing here) until reaching Ammerstr. Turn left into here and a couple of hundred metres along, easily spotted by its distinctive green colour-scheme, is the strangely-named Ammerscher Bahnhof (10 - 20; Sun, Mon closed). Strangely-named, because not only is there no Ammerscher station in the vicinity, but no station of any description and not even a railway line. Here there's a bit more choice, with Turmquell Pilsator on draught and Gothaer Spezial and Eschweger Pils in bottles. There's a spacious dining area, a small taproom and another small dining room at the back. The higher quality wooden furniture, numerous pot plants and better standard of decoration are dead giveaways that this is a private pub. One wall has a particularly good mural of Muhlhausen, taken from an old engraving. Oddly enough, despite the visible outward signs of comfort, there's a lack of warmth in the surroundings. The grotty and Spartan Drei Rosen is actually a far more welcoming spot in which to enjoy a glass of beer and a quiet conversation. In just the same way that your local public bar is more convivial than a Berni Inn. In many respects, Ammerscher Bahnhof resembles more a W. German pub and I suppose that the cooler atmosphere goes along with that. They also use handled mugs instead of the usual straight glasses, a suspicious practice if I ever saw one, and the ceiling has fake beams.

As far as I can tell, only one of the pubs mentioned in my small guide to Mühlhausen still exists: Ammerscher Bahnhof.

Ammerscher Bahnhof
Ammerstraße 83
99974 Mühlhausen/Thüringen.

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Let's Brew Wednesday - 1950 Adnams PA

The 1950’s – what a wonderful decade. I sort of feel at home there, seeing it’s the era when I was born. Odd thought that.

But the usual images – teddy boys, rock and roll, rising living standards – all come from much later in the decade. The early years were much tougher. Rationing and shortages of almost everything were the order of the day.  Beer output was falling and gravities were only just starting to creep back up a little.

Yet this beer from that time is very recognisable. It looks much like the Ordinary Bitters I remember from my youth. OG of 1036, 3.6% ABV. Glancing at the 1977 Good Beer Guide there are dozens of Bitters with similar gravities. Including Adnams. Their Bitter is listed with exactly the same gravity as this version.

It would be difficult to have a much simpler beer than this: pale malt, No. 1 invert and English hops. It looks to me like a classic drinking Bitter. Especially as it has fairly robust hopping. In short, a beer built for a session. The eight pints in two hours kind of session.

It’s so simple, I'm struggling to think of anything more to say. Other than brew this beer. I’m sure you won’t regret it.

Now over to me . . . . .

1950 Adnams PA
pale malt 7.50 lb 93.75%
no. 1 sugar 0.50 lb 6.25%
Fuggles 90 min 0.75 oz
Goldings 60 min 0.75 oz
Goldings 30 min 0.75 oz
OG 1036
FG 1008.9
ABV 3.59
Apparent attenuation 75.28%
IBU 34
Mash at 149º F
Sparge at 170º F
Boil time 120 minutes
pitching temp 61º F
Yeast WLP025 Southwold

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Georges still

More from the chairman of Georges, speaking at the company’s annual meeting.

Let’s start with an obligatory part of every brewery chairman’s speech: a moan about the level of taxation on beer.

Price of Beer
Successive Chancellors of the Exchequer again and again turned to taxation beer as an easy source revenue. In less than one year, an additional 1d per pint was imposed twice, and there has been only one reduction of 1d per pint in recent years.

In our opinion, not nearly enough, it has proved, to make any real difference. Four and a quarter millions of this reduction had to be found by the wholesale trade. The price of beer to-day is consequently much too high owing to excessive taxation. Materials have also increased in price.”
Western Daily Press - Friday 27 January 1950, page 4.

As we’ve already seen, the tax on beer rose sharply during the war, but continued to rise after its end. It fell a little in 1950 and again in 1951, but remained at the high level of 321s per standard barrel for the rest of the 1950’s. In 1939 it had been 100s (with a 20s rebate per bulk barrel).* And brewers had complained then that it was ridiculously high.

More about the post-war boom in bottled beer:

“Extensions are also being carried out to enlarge the cold rooms in the bottling stores, and also new bottling units are being installed to cope with the ever increasing demand for bottled beer.

The output of bottled beer last month was a record for the brewery, and our weekly sales of bottle beer now exceed the cask.

I should like to emphasise again this year that the duty on beer is much too high, representing as it does nearly 7d on each pint of bitter ale. In the last ten years the duty has increased from 104s to 343s per standard barrel.”
Western Daily Press - Friday 27 January 1950, page 4.

Georges appear to have been doing better than average with their bottled beer. Or worse than average with their cask. Because despite a big increase in the proportion of bottled beer, cask still formed the majority of sales.  Bottled sales had risen from less than 5% of the total in 1900 to 25% in 1939 and 35% in 1954**.

7d of tax a pint is a lot when you consider that the retail price of Georges draught IPA in 1949 was 1s 5d or 17d***. I think he’s underestimating the tax. At 343s 4.5d per standard barrel****, the tax on a beer of the average gravity for 1949 (1033.43) comes to 8.7d*****. Close to 50% of the retail price.

All the shortages and restrictions must have been at best frustrating, at worst quite depressing. Here are some more:

Country Hotels Suffer
Messrs Crockers and our managed houses, of which only have 14, have not done well in recent years. Possibly the Catering and Wages Act, certain clauses of which one reads in the Press, from time to time, may be altered, is largely responsible for this.

The shortage of petrol may also partly responsible, especially in country hotels where there have been in many cases serious decreases in the number of visitors.”
Western Daily Press - Friday 27 January 1950, page 4.

The Catering and Wages Act comes in for a lot of criticism from brewers. It seems to have set some sort of minimum wages. Obviously breweries, who owned lots of pubs, employed, albeit indirectly, lots of people in the catering trade.

I wonder if it was just a shortage of petrol that damaged the trade of country hotels. Or was it because no-one had any spare cash?

This next passage is dead handy. Because it allows me to calculate something.

“The company's licensees are again to heartily congratulated on the efficient way in which they have conducted their houses, during the past 12 months, in spite of many restrictions and difficulties, which seem to increase rather than diminish. It is even more difficult than usual to forecast the future prospects of the company, as in these days of uncertainty much depends on taxation, the cost of living etc. Your directors do not consider that the output can be maintained, much less Increased, unless there is a really substantial reduction in the beer duty, already referred to; last year over £2.5 millions was paid this company in this tax alone

Brewers should allowed produce a beer which is at least 3d per pint cheaper and at the same time be allowed sufficient materials to increase the average gravity.”
Western Daily Press - Friday 27 January 1950, page 4.

That’s quite a depressing message: expect sales to go down, not up. Though the impact would probably also depend on the margins on beer in different types of packaging. If they had a better margin on bottled than cask, overall revenues might have been stable. Unfortunately, I’ve no idea if that was the case.

You can tell he was really unhappy about the high beer tax. That’s the third or fourth time he’s mentioned it. I’m really glad he mentioned how much tax they’d paid in 1949. It allows me to calculate how many barrels they brewed. The calculation is slightly complicated by the fact that the tax rose halfway through Georges financial year, in April 1949. Assuming half at each rate and that their average OG was the same as the national one, I make it 232,664 bulk barrels. To put that into context, it’s 0.86% of the 26,990,144 barrels brewed in the UK in 1949******.

That's me done with Georges. I'll have to look for some more annual meeting reports. I love me a whingeing chairman.

* Brewers' Almanack 1955, p. 50 and Brewers' Almanack 1962, p. 48.
** "Brewing Theory and Practice" by E. J. Jeffery, 1956, page 330.
*** Whitbread Gravity book held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number LMA/4453/D/02/001.
**** Finance Act 1949.
***** Brewers' Almanack 1955, p. 50.
****** Brewers' Almanack 1955, p. 50.

Monday, 27 July 2015

Adnams LA and LBA 1947 - 1959

Yes, I am doing Adnams Pally Allies. I know I promised them. Sort of. And I almost occasionally come through with my promises.

Throughout most of this period Adnams only brewed one Pale Ale, with the imaginative brew house name of PA. Wonder how they came up with that one? In 1947 they briefly brewed something called LA (presumably standing for Light Ale). Though as it looks much like the PA, I don’t really think it was a different beer.

In the last four years we’re covering there was something called LBA (Light Bitter Ale) which had a gravity a few points lower than PA. There’s such a small difference it hardly seems worth it. Though British brewers are still wont to brew multiple Bitters with tiny differences in gravity.

It would be nice to know in which form LBA was sold. It could have been a draught beer but my money would be on it being a bottled-only beer sold as Light Ale. For a beer of such modest gravity, a pound of hops per barrel is quite a lot. The attenuation isn’t great for most examples of LBA: under 70%. Which leaves it under 3% ABV. You weren’t going to get very pissed in a session on that.

Moving on to the grist, it’s pretty simple: pale malt and sugar. Except for in 1947 when there’s a little flaked barley. That’s a hangover from the war years when brewers were forced to use some flaked barley by the government. The reason was a very basic one. Flaking required less energy than malting. I’m not sure what Hydrol is. It could possibly be a form of glucose.

There’s very little to say about the hops, other than that they’re almost all English. The logs give no indication of the variety, or even the region in which they were grown.

Adnams LA/LBA 1945 - 1959
Date Year OG FG ABV App. Atten-uation lbs hops/ qtr hops lb/brl boil time (hours) boil time (hours)
3rd Jun 1947 1034.0 1008.3 3.40 75.56% 7.58 1.00 2
7th Sep 1956 1031.0 1010.5 2.71 66.05% 8.00 1.02 2
1st Aug 1957 1032.0 1010.0 2.91 68.84% 8.00 1.00 2
10th Jan 1958 1032.0 1008.3 3.13 74.03% 7.47 0.98 2
2nd Dec 1959 1031.0 1009.4 2.86 69.62% 7.82 1.01 1.58 1.5
Adnams brewing records held at the brewery.

Adnams LA/LBA grists 1945 - 1959
Date Year OG pale malt PA malt flaked barley no. 1 sugar Hydrol hops
3rd Jun 1947 1034.0 87.27% 5.45% 7.27% English
7th Sep 1956 1031.0 89.19% 10.81% English
1st Aug 1957 1032.0 89.19% 5.41% 5.41% English
10th Jan 1958 1032.0 85.71% 9.52% 4.76% English
2nd Dec 1959 1031.0 85.07% 8.96% 5.97% English, Styrian
Adnams brewing records held at the brewery.

PA next. I had intended including it here but ran into arsing issues.