Saturday, 16 August 2008

Combe beers

I have very very little information about Combe & Co's beers. There's a very good reason why. The brewery closed in the 1890's.

In 1898, the first big merger of London breweries took place. Three of the capital's largest breweries - Combe & Co., Watney and Reid - joined together as Watney, Combe, Reid. The breweries of Combe in Longacre and Reid in Clerkenwell closed almost immediately. Brewing was concentrated in Watney's Stag Brewery, close to Victoria station. (The Stag Brewery was itself demolished in the late 1950's.) The new venture had an annual output of 1.8 million hl, about double that of the next two largest London brewers, Whitbread and Barclay Perkins.

The Combe and Reid names did live on, being used by the new merged company. Reid was used as the brand for Stout and Combe for Brown Ale.

Combe Brown Ale 1926 - 1936
Year Price size package acidity FG OG ABV App. Atten-uation
1926 7d pint bottled 1043.6
1926 7d pint bottled 1045.2
1926 13d quart bottled 1013 1044.8 4.12 70.98%
1927 7d pint bottled 1044.7
1927 7d pint bottled 1042.10
1928 7d pint bottled 1009 1046.6 4.90 80.69%
1928 7d pint bottled 1012.4 1043.4 4.02 71.43%
1929 7d pint bottled 1042.1
1929 3.5d half pint bottled 0.06 1011 1043.5 4.22 74.71%
1930 7d pint bottled 1042.90
1930 7d pint bottled 1012.5 1041 3.69 69.51%
1931 7d pint bottled 1042.23
1931 8d pint bottled 1039.80
1932 pint bottled 1009.5 1037.5 0.00 74.67%
1933 7d pint bottled 0.05 1008.5 1040 4.09 78.75%
1934 7d pint bottled 1041.10
1934 7d pint bottled 0.07 1011 1039 3.63 71.79%
1935 7d pint bottled 1039.90
1935 8d pint bottled 1040.05
1935 8d pint bottled 1040.50
1935 7d pint bottled 0.05 1016.4 1040 3.04 59.00%
1936 7d pint bottled 1040.80
1936 7d pint bottled 0.06 1012 1040 3.63 70.00%
Sources:
Whitbread Gravity book held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number LMA/4453/D/02/001.
Truman Gravity Book document B/THB/C/252 held at the London Metropolitan Archives
Thomas Usher Gravity Book document TU/6/11 held at the Scottish Brewing Archive


It's strange reading Barnard's description of the Combe brewery. It was large and modern. Supposedly the second largest brewery in London, with annual production of around 500,000 barrels (818,000 hl). Yet less than 10 years after his visit, it had closed. I won't bore you with a full inventory of their kit. Though it is impressive - several steam engines, attemperators, refrigerators, ice machines, cask washers. They even re-used waste steam and hot water for heating. How very green of them. There are, however, a couple of tidbits I want to share with you regarding Pale Ale.
"Since the year of the Great Exhibition [1851] light pale beers, which then created quite a revolution in the taste of the British public, have superseded the heavier and darker productions, and Messrs. Combe & Co. were amongst the first London brewers who wisely adopted the plan of brewing ales similar in character, colour and taste to those of Burton." Barnard "Noted Breweries of Great Britain and Ireland", volume I, p.289
"On one side of this building, pale ale casks are separately treated, this being a more delicate process, as they require greater care to free them from acidity. After every atom of hop has been removed from them the casks are filled with liquor, and then boiled by inserting a steam telescope-pipe into the bung hole - a few minutes suffice for this operation;- they are then finally steamed and dried." Barnard "Noted Breweries of Great Britain and Ireland", volume I, page 293
Never heard that one before. It seems clear that Pale Ale was more easily infected than other beers.

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