Showing posts with label burton ale. Show all posts
Showing posts with label burton ale. Show all posts

Monday, December 15, 2014

Return of the Mole

March seems so long ago, it's been that kind of year, busy, busy, busy.

It was back in March that I spent a day with the folks at Blue Mountain Brewery bringing a recipe for Burton Ale from 1923 back to life. A few weeks later Sensible Mole saw the light of day. I really enjoyed the beer, rippingly bitter but with enough residual sugar so as not to feel like your tongue was being savaged by coarse grain sand paper.

Given the historical aspect of the project, we were drinking Burton Ale mild, that is, young. However, a goodly proportion of the brew was stashed away in the most neutral bourbon barrels that Taylor and company had at the Blue Mountain Barrel House. There is has sat for the best part of 9 months and aged.

Where Sensible Mole was mild, the barrel aged version is old, Old Burton Extra could could call it, and if you were a Londoner drinking it in the 1920s, that's likely exactly what you would call it.

I am not entirely sure what to expect with this version of the beer. I imagine it will pick up some faint whiskey notes and a trace of vanillin from being in the barrels. The intense hoppiness must surely have lessened in the interim, though the bitter bite will, I think, still be there. Will the beer have picked up any light oxidation from the aging process? I would like to think so, especially if it lends the beer some sherry like notes. In short though, I have no idea what to expect.

Sensible Mole OBE makes its debut this Friday at the Blue Mountain brewpub in Afton, and yes I'll be making my way out there to try it and maybe get a sense of the kind of beer my great-grandfather might have drunk in the 1920s whilst telling war stories with his friends.*

* My great-grandfather was an Old Contemptible who went to France in 1914 as part of the Rifle Brigade, saw action at places including Mons and Ypres, eventually he came home in 1916 when he was wounded in action.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Rolling Back the Years

A few weeks ago, as you may recall, I spent a very pleasant Friday at the Blue Mountain Brewery brewing an iteration of a beer style that is all but dead. Once upon a time, Burton Ale was popular enough to be lauded as one of the four types of beer being brewed by British breweries. Today you may as well go looking for the faerie folk as try to get a Burton Ale in your watering hole of choice. Unless of course, your watering of choice is Blue Mountain Brewery this Friday.

Friday sees the release of Sensible Mole, our recreation of Courage Brewery's KKK from 1923, and named for a scene in The Wind in the Willows. While it is one thing to take a historical recipe and re-brew it, the question remains, is this how it would have tasted? Unless you happen to have someone for whom Burton Ale was a regular part of their drinking life around, it's difficult to answer with much real confidence. However, looking at the numbers involved in the brewing, and a knowledge of how the beer was made, can give us some pointers. Let's start with some numbers:
  • Original Gravity: 18° Plato
  • Terminal Gravity: 6° Plato
  • Alcohol by Volume: 6.5%
6° Plato is a very high finishing gravity for an 18° beer. Usually beers of that strength attenuate out in the range of 8-8.5%, so we have a lot more residual sugar to give the beer sweetness and body. Expect then a beer than has a thick, full mouthfeel, and plenty of lovely malt sweetness, which is just as well, considering the following number:
  • IBUs: 102
102 IBUs, or about 3lbs of hops to the barrel, is seriously, seriously bitter. If you remember from the post I wrote about the brewday itself, most of the hops went into the boil right at the beginning. The dominant hop in the beer is one of my favourites, Goldings, so don't go expecting the grapefruit and pine resin thing of 'hoppy' beers in the American context to be the dominant feature, think Seville oranges and great hefty dollops of spice. We also used Goldings for the dry hopping, so again expect a thoroughly British aroma to the beer, more spiced marmelade is the order of the day. The original recipe called for Cluster for the 30 minute addition, but we had to substitute that out for Nugget, so expect some floral characteristics from that, and maybe a trace of grapefruit. The combination of Goldings and Nugget has me thinking of taking wildflower honey and mixing it with your favourite thick cut Seville orange marmelade....yum. But don't forget the bitterness, it'll be there in abundance.

To quote Kristen England on his version of this recipe:
Big, dark, and hoppy as hell. Herbal hops, spicy endive, cedar, hints of grapefruit and sweet lady fingers flow into a rippingly tannic, crisp finish. A nourishing British, hop-centric, cracking pint for all you 'op 'eads from days gone by.'

Sensible Mole promises to be a beer unlike anything I have ever tried over here, and I for one am very much looking forward to a glass or two come Friday.

Friday, April 4, 2014

My Name is Rat, and I Approve This Ale


5 years since the Armistice brought the Great War to an effective end, the man that would become George VI married the woman I only ever knew as the Queen Mother, and the Irish Free State joined the League of Nations.

At the Anchor Brewhouse in Horsleydown, the Courage Brewery was making a beer which in the pubs of London was known as Old Burton, though in the brewery itself it was called KKK. Burton Ale has become something of an obsession of mine, rich as it is in history and brewing possibilities. Like all beers, Burton Ale has evolved, changed, and been understood in different ways throughout its history, and today it is all but ignored.

When I wrote a post called 'Time For Burton' at the end of last year, I suggested that Burton Ale was just the kind of beer that the 'craft' beer world should revive, much as is happening with Grodziskie. A comment on that post inspired me to comment on Facebook that it really was suprising that Burton Ale, big, boozy, and bitter, wasn't being made by 'craft' breweries, and would any of my pro-brewer friends be willing to pick up the baton?

Enter Blue Mountain Brewery in Afton. It's fair to say that I have a very big soft spot for Blue Mountain, they make one of my favourite pale lagers in the US, Blue Mountain Lager. They make one of my favourite winter beers, Lights Out. They make probably the only strong pale lager in the US that doesn't make me want to lament a total absence of balance, über Pils. Yes, it is very fair to say that Taylor and co know what they are doing. About half an hour after my post, Taylor had responded and initiated the traditional back and forth via email that eventually lead to last Friday's brewday, when we recreated .

We were forced into a slight change for our version of the beer. For some reason brewing supply companies on this side of the Atlantic don't seem to stock invert #3, the dark version of invert sugar syrup which gave the original much of its colour. Unfortunately British brewing supply companies that carry invert sugars don't have distribution or their products in the US, can't imagine why. What to do, what to do? Baker's invert sugar syrup was the answer, fully inverted, but also clear, so we upped the black malt a tad to adjust the colour.

By the time I turned up at 8am, the mash was already done and sparging was underway. Patrick, the brewer, had got in at 5am to get started, and with a 3 hour boil ahead of us, it's just as well he did. The colour of the wort was startling, deep, deep brown, but it lightened up with the sparging, and adding 10 gallons of clear invert syrup lightened it further so that it ended up a rich red/brown shade.

Another shock was the amount of hops we chucked in for the bittering addition. 22lbs of East Kent Goldings, for 15 barrels of beer! With the other additions of Nugget, and the Goldings used to dry hop the beer, we used something like 3lbs of hops per barrel, or a calculated 102 IBUs - take that, random IPA!

There are few things I enjoy more than a day in a brewery, the ceremonial dumping of the the hops, the chat about beer and brewing, discovering that one of the reasons the brewery wanted to do this project was precisely because it took them our of their comfort zone, and of course digging out the mash tun. Call me crazy, but that really is something I look forward to getting stuck in to.

Anyway, we ended up with about 15 barrels of dark, bitter, so very bitter, wort, which is being fermented by the McEwan's yeast and when it hits the taps at the brewpub will be about 6.5% abv, rippingly bitter, with plenty of residual sugar to take the edge off the hops. Simply put, it will be like nothing out there at the moment. Taylor is also planning to put some in some of his barrels to age for a year or so...

The name for this most auspicious brew....Sensible Mole, obviously.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Time for Burton

As the year draws to its close, there are several beery things on my mind. Deciding the Fuggled beers of the year for my categories of pale, amber, and dark. Choosing the beers that will make up most of my drinking on Christmas Day. Looking forward to January and my month of total booze abstinence. Working out what the theme will be for the International Homebrew Project in the coming Spring.

Thus it was at this time last year, unemployed and finally with the time to read Martn Cornell's magnificent Amber, Gold, and Black, the essential guide to British beers, that an idea started to form in my head. I knew as I read that I wanted to bring a neglected beer style back to life for the homebrewers from around the world that partake in the project. Thankfully one particular beer style jumped from the pages of Martyn's book (seriously, if you haven't yet bought it from Amazon you should do, thinking about it, Christmas is coming so treat yourself, or persuade someone to treat you), a beer with a story rooted in the imperial history of Great Britain, and tied inextricably to some of the most famous names in British brewing history; Bass, Allsopp, Ind Coope.

For those who don't follow Fuggled all that regularly, the International Homebrew Project will running for the 5th time this spring, and I very much imagine that we will continue our burgeoning tradition of bringing a piece of brewing history back to life. The project started out with just myself and one other homebrewer here in Virginia. Last year, brewers from several US states, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Czech Republic, Lithuania, and a clutch of other countries took part.

Last year's International Homebrew Project revived a strong Scottish mild from 1853 that single handedly smashed many a homebrew/craft brew myth about Scottish ales. You know the kind of bullshit, hops don't grow in Scotland so the brewers there had to import hops from England, and in an act of national 'living up to stereotype' were too cheap to do so in any great volume, all the while shipping peat infused water from the west to the breweries in the east. So, I didn't really have the heart to mess too much with people's heads, after all wouldn't a 10.5% abv, north of 100 IBU, pale mild be enough of a mind bend? Well, in the end, no, not really.

If there is a beer style that defines the microbrewing world, then surely India Pale Ale would be the forerunner, in a race of one pretty much. As such, given the sometimes woeful understanding of beer history and development that seems to abound, a pale beer with a shit ton of hops chucked into the boil, originally made in Burton upon Trent, has to have been the original India Pale Ale right? Well, no, beer history is, like most of human history, far more complex, and interesting, than the simple pronouncements that might one day make it into an Oxford University Press ultimate guide.

While Burton may be most famous in the modern age as the spiritual home of India Pale Ale, it is a beer which stayed much closer to home to which the city lent its name. At the same time as the likes of Bass and Allsop were shipping barrels of pale ale with plenty of hops to the sub-continent, they were making a pale ale with plenty of hops for the home market. By the middle of the 20th Century, Burton Ale was being listed as one of four principal ales being made by British brewers, the other three being pale ale, mild ale, and stout.

At the end of the 1940s, Burton Ale was described as being:

'a draught beer darker and sweeter than bitter...common to all breweries wherever they are. Burton is also known as 'old' '.

One hundred years previously though, Burton Ale had been a strong beer, made exclusively from pale malt, and with generous amounts of hops. An anonymous writer in the early 19th Century had Burton Ale with an original gravity of 1.140, 4.5 lbs of hops per barrel (in comparison, an IPA of the time would have had about 6lbs per barrel), and needed a year and a half maturation. This was clearly a beer which demanded respect.

Go back a further hundred years. From the 1740s until the Russian Imperial government introduced tariffs on beer imports in 1822, Burton Ale was a thick, sweet, brown ale, which was 'so rich and luscious that if a little were spilled on the table the glass would stick to it'. As an interesting historical side note, there was an exception made on the tariff for porter, which eventually led to the creation of Russian Imperial Stout.

What to do then with a beer which has evolved and meandered through the various colours, strengths, and bitterness levels associated with the drink. The answer is really rather obvious, ask the people that take part in the project. Thus it was that I suggested the following options:
  • 1860s Scottish version of Burton
  • 1870s English recipe, originally brewed in Burton itself
  • 1900s American Burton
  • 1910s English 'Mild' Burton
  • 1930s English Old Burton Extra
  • 1990s English recreation of 1840s pale Burton
The eventual winner was the 1870s variant, which was originally brewed by the legendary Truman's brewing company. Despite being most closely related with the East End of London, Truman's owned a brewery in Burton as well during the 19th Century, and it was there in 1877 that they brewed Number 4, a pale ale brewed with American and English hops, to almost the same levels as an IPA.

From the recipe provided by Ron Pattinson, the beer chosen would have an Original Gravity of 1.079, 125 International Bitterness Units, and an alcohol content of 7.3% by volume. Clearly a sweet, powerfully 'hoppy' brew, but not a n IPA. It was this fact that annoyed me something rotten when I read the feedback sheets from this years Dominion Cup, in which I entered my Burton Ale in the dreaded Category 23, listed as simply a 'Burton Ale'. The judges clearly weren't au fait with 19 century beer knowledge, and judged the beer as a 'historical IPA'.

I have since brewed an amended version of Burton Ale which was very well received by all who tried it at the recent Homebrew for Hunger, and I can see it becoming something a regular brew. As you can see though from the list above, I have another 5 recipes to brew, all of which claim their heritage from Burton Ale from different points in its timeline.

The next one I plan to make is the 1930s Old Burton Ale from Fullers. Just 58 years after Truman's made their pale brew, Fullers were making a slightly darker ale with an Original Gravity of 1.067, and somewhat paired back hopping, with 'just' 69 IBUs of Goldings. Gone though is the 100% pale malt, replaced with 41% each of English 2 row and American 6 row, 14.5% flaked maize, 3% white sugar, and 0.5% caramel colouring, resulting in a rich cooper beer.

The thing though that confuses me when it comes to Burton Ale is why so few 'craft' breweries seem to be interested in making the style, regardless of era. As a reasonably strong, certainly well hopped, beer, Burton Ale would seem to tick all the right boxes for a revival in the 'craft' brewing world. Like it's better known cousin that got to travel to exotic climes, perhaps the time has come to Burton to make a more concerted come back?

Sure, there are beers being made by various breweries that would be recognised as a Burton Ale at differing points in history. Fuller's 1845 is perhaps the most obvious example, though Young's Winter Warmer, and Timothy Taylor's Ram Tam have both been cited as valid examples of the style. There is a strong argument for saying that many of the modern 'Scotch' ales have plenty in common with 19th century Burton Ales being made in the large Scottish breweries, yet so few lay claim to the Burton Ale moniker.

Having gone through various, frankly ridiculous, shades of IPA, an age of discovery when it comes to the brewing of sour ales, the recent interest in beers from Eastern Europe, especially Grodziskie, perhaps the next big thing in the brewing world should be Burton Ale. A beer with a wealth of history, a great story to tell, as well as all the booze, and hops, so beloved of many a craft beer drinker.

Thus it is that I want to make a plea to the brewers out there looking to do something a little different. Put down the weird ingredients, the herbs, spices, and flavourings, pick up a book, Martyn's is a good place to start, and bring back to life the beers which have fallen by the wayside. Whether it is the Burton Ale which so piqued my interest or something yet more obscure, the past is as rich a resource for your imagination as the spice rack, and you might just find something more palatable there.

Friday, April 26, 2013

#IHP2013 - The Tasting

Finally the day arrived, the day to drink my recreation of a beer from 1877 - a beer which was commercially brewed 136 years ago. The beer in question was the Truman's No 4, from a brewery which was once the biggest in the world.

Number 4 was a Burton Ale, which in 1877 meant it was pale, bitter and sweet all at the same time. In 2013, my recreation looked like this:

The beer poured a rich amber, which surprised me given the grain bill of 100% pale malt (I wish I could get my bitter the same colour from a single grain). The nose was sweet toasted malt laced with traces of spice, toffee and a touch of boozy orange peel - think of a rum baba made with a pinch of white pepper and caramelised brown sugar and you are in the right ball park.

Tastewise, sweet malt juiciness dominates, kind of, balanced by a bitter tang that threatens to give balance to the beer but ultimately makes it like biting though the rind of an orange in your morning marmalade - marmalade was very much a theme running through this beer, specifically thick cut Seville orange marmalade, preferably from Marks and Spencer.

This is a full bodied, smooth, beer which fails to be either cloyingly sweet or overwhelmingly 'hoppy' - as in lots of late addition hops that make you feel like you are sucking your way through a grapefruit grove. As cheesy as it may sound, it really is very well balanced, the malt sweetness is there, and the hops play off it to perfection, giving a smoothness that belies its, calculated, 125 IBU.

In short, this is a very drinkable beer, especially given its strength and the amount of hops that went into it, and from a brewing perspective, one of the best beers I have made in quite some time.

This post is about another homebrewer who made the beer, thanks Derek for taking part! If you also brewed the beer, post a link in the comments, or tell us how it turned out!

Friday, April 19, 2013

#IHP2013 One Week Reminder

It has been a while since those of us that took part in this year's International Homebrew Project actually brewed our recreations of the Truman's No.4 Burton Ale from 1877.

I am sure that many of us have sampled a bottle or two as it has conditioned, for scientific and quality assurance purposes you understand.

Well, this is just a quick remember for those that brewed the beer that next Friday is the date set for blogging about how it turned out.

Naturally I will be posting about my brews - I will also review the failed version that came in at 4.5% and bears an uncanny resemblance to early 20th Century British IPAs.

In common with previous years, other brewers and bloggers should link to their posts in the comments thread to my post, and I will also tweet your links, again using the hashtag #IHP2013.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

What is IPA?

When I managed to screw up my first attempt at the International Homebrew Project Burton Ale I was loathe to ditch all that wort and start fresh, so I chucked in a packet of Munton's yeast and decided to see what came out.

The other day I got round to bottling both that and the batch which hit the nail squarely on the head. I say the first batch was messed up, but in reality it just had less fermentable sugar from the mash than I wanted. In reality I had a 4.5% abv pale ale with an estimated IBU rating well north of 100. When I tasted the sample I took for a gravity reading I was actually quite surprised that my tongue didn't disintegrate, it was quite nice - and I say that as an avowed advocate of balance in my beer. This got me thinking, a dangerous pastime to be sure, and so I calculated that I had the equivalent of about 2.25 lbs of hops per barrel in my beer and whisked a quick email away to Ron to see if there was any precedent in history for a relatively low gravity, super hopped up beer. I am sure you have guessed already, there is.

India Pale Ale, that darling of the modern brewing industry and victim of an almost Protestantesque ignorance of a large chunk of its own history (for those not sure what I mean, for many Protestant denominations, Church History skips from about 313 AD to the late 16th Century without covering 1300 years of doctrinal development and ecclesiastical wranglings). For many in the beer world IPA was invented in the 18th century by George Hodgson to survive the long trip India, it then disappeared entirely until the nascent American brewing scene revived it and claimed it as its own. Shame the whole premise is utter bollocks, but why let facts get in the way of a good story?

One thing that gets lost in the miasma of misinformation and mythology is that IPA lingered in British brewing for a very long time before becoming the hop bomb it is today. At the turn of the 20th Century, British brewers were still making beers that they called IPA. Indeed, Whitbread brewed, in 1902, an IPA with an Original Gravity of 'just' 1.050, an ABV of 4.9%, and 2.65 pounds of hops per barrel. I am fairly sure that if a modern brewery made such a beer, it would be lauded as 'innovative' and 'ground breaking' or some such silly nonsense.

The truth of the matter is that beer styles evolve, as we saw with the development of Burton Ale, and that a modern beer like Green King IPA is no more or less of a 'traditional' IPA than Worthington White Shield or Starr Hill's Northern Lights, they are all expressions of the same tradition, just from different parts of the timeline.

Kind of makes you wonder what's the point of style guidelines and websites that advocate the rating of beer?

Monday, February 25, 2013

Brewday Disaster

There is a story that when Robert the Bruce was on the run, between 1306 and 1307, he spent some time hiding in a cave on Rathlin Island, off the coast of Northern Ireland. Whilst hiding out, so the story goes, he watched a spider spin a web. and every time the spider failed. Rather than give up and take up quilting, which let's face it spiders are not exactly equipped to do, the spider would begin again until he succeeded. Inspired by the spider, Robert the Bruce returned to Scotland, eventually defeated the English and resumed his reign, which lasted until 1329. The story is told to illustrate the maxim 'if at first you don't succeed, try, try again'.

Today I will be channelling the spirit of that spider as I brew my International Homebrew Project recipe again, though with a couple of changes. Given that the target gravity of the beer is 1.079, I used my 5 gallon cooler as the mash tun on Friday when I initially brewed the beer, rather than my normal smaller one. I am not convinced that my 5 gallon cooler holds the temperature very well, and as such I got terrible conversion and ended up with an original gravity of just 1.044. Having substantially dropped short of my gravity I decided to ferment my wort with a different yeast, and so I have 2.5 gallons bubbling away with Munton's and Fison's Premium dry yeast. Also, the hoping is crazy, calculated at 135 IBU.

The changes I am making for today's brew are really very simple, I am going to do a smaller mash in my 2.5 gallon cooler, which I know holds the temperature very well and gives me about 75% efficiency rather than the 53% of the 5 gallon job. I will then supplement that mash with a couple of pounds of extra light malt extract to reach the target 1.073.

Once I am done, I think I will drink the final bottle of last year's International Homebrew Project which I found in the back of the cellar the other day...

Friday, February 15, 2013

IHP 2013 - 1 Week Warning

This is just a friendly reminder for those planning to brew as part of the International Homebrew Project for this year that next weekend is the designated timeframe for brewing Truman's No. 4 Burton Ale.

I will be brewing on Friday, assuming all goes to plan. I have my Cluster hops, my EKG, my London Ale yeast from Wyeast has been fermenting batch 3 of my bitter project this week, and I will be re-pitching it after I bottle the bitter and clean the yeast.

For those who do 5 gallon batches, I have scaled up my recipe on Hopville, you can see it here.

Let me know in the comments if you are planning to brew!

Monday, February 11, 2013

International Homebrew Project - Water

Those of you planning to take part in this year's International Homebrew Project will know that next weekend, February 24th/25th, is when we will be brewing the 1877 Truman's No. 4 Burton ale which topped the poll I ran last month. Hopefully most of you will already have sourced your ingredients, but a question which has been asked of me several times is in regard to the ingredient most of us tend to take for granted, our water.

Although Truman's is best known as a London brewery, they did have a Burton operation and it was there that the No. 4 would have been brewed. As such, they would have been using the famous Burton water, which is high in alkalinity, pretty hard and with a moderate sulfate content. A representative breakdown of the mineral content of Burton water reads like this:
  • Calcium (ppm):294
  • Sulfates (ppm):800
  • Magnesium (ppm):24
  • Sodium (ppm):24
  • Chloride (ppm):36
  • Carbonates (ppm):200
The accepted method of adjusting your water is through the use of gypsum and Epsom salts, although you can also buy specific Burton Water salts.

For the purposes though of the International Homebrew Project I really don't want to make Burtonising your water a requirement. Feel free to do so if you know the appropriate changes to make in order to replicate Burton's water, but don't feel as though you need to. One of the interesting things, at least from my perspective, about the project is reading the differences between the finally beers based on the same recipe and obviously water contributes a lot to that.

Still on the IHP theme, but nothing to do with the actual brewing, I have recently been in contact with Truman's Beer, the company which bought the rights to the Truman's name from Scottish and Newcastle and is in the process of returning to the East End of London. They were excited to know that homebrewers from around the world were recreating one of their old recipes and asked if it would be possible to have samples sent to them so they can see how they turn out. This is mainly, I imagine, for the UK and Ireland brewers, but if you are interested in sending some samples to Truman's drop me an email and I can give you the relevant details.

I am looking forward to brewing the Burton Ale, and decided to get a headstart on the yeast by brewing my latest batch of bitter using Wyeast 1028 on Friday so I will have a nice healthy yeast cake to pitch the wort on to when I brew.

Monday, January 28, 2013

International Homebrew Project Recipe

Ten days ago I posted my annual poll to decide what would be the International Homebrew Project beer for this year. In previous years we have brewed an American Pale Ale, a Milk Stout and a 19th Century Scottish Mild, this year I decided to return to brewing history and brew an iteration of the Burton Ale style.

As I discussed in a couple of posts, heavily informed by Martyn and Ron, Burton was a style that went through many changes between the 1820s and its eventual demise in the 1960s. For some, the apogee of Burton Ale came in the late 19th Century when it was a pale beer with a healthy dose of hops.

In the end, the poll result wasn't even close. The winner was the beer I described as '1870s English, from Burton', which in the real world was a beer by Truman called No. 4. If you know your beer history you will know that Truman was a brewery from the East End of London, they occupied the Black Eagle Brewery near Brick Lane in the Spitalfields area, and were renowned for their porter. In 1873 they purchased the Phillips Brewery in Burton upon Trent, which is where the No. 4 was brewed. At this time, Truman was the largest brewing company in the world, but it was eventually bought by Grand Metropolitan, which was itself bought by Diageo, though the Truman's brand ended up at Scottish and Newcastle. As a footnote to the story, Truman closed down in 1989, but in 2010 the brand was purchased from Scottish and Newcastle and spring of this year will see a new Truman's brewery in the East End of London, I believe their beers are currently brewed at Everards in Leicester.

So, to the recipe itself, which has been provided by Ron Pattison and dates from 1877. The vital statistics are:
  • O.G. - 1.079 (19° Plato)
  • F.G. - 1.024 (6° Plato)
  • ABV - 7.3%
  • SRM - 6 (Gold to Copper)
  • IBU - 125
The recipe is simplicity itself:
  • 100% Pale malt
  • 83 IBU of Cluster for 90 minutes
  • 42 IBU of Kent Goldings for 30 minutes
  • Wyeast 1028 London Ale/White Labs WLP013 London Ale
Basically, use what pale malt you can get hold of on this one. I am planning to use Maris Otter, though I have played with the the idea of Golden Promise. As you can see, this is a big bastard of a 'hoppy' beer. The hop additions should be the same weight for both additions. I did some research and British brewers can get Cluster online at The Home Brew Shop, for those that can't get Cluster, feel free to substitute with Galena, Eroica or Cascade.

With regards to the process, mash at 152°F, sparge at 170°F and then boil for 90 minutes. Talking about the water aspect, if you know the mineral composition of your water, then make the necessary adjustments to match the water of Burton, otherwise I wouldn't worry too much about it, after all one of the interesting things about the International Homebrew Project is the differences between beers brewed in different places.

Probably the most important ingredient for this recipe is the yeast strain, and being a Burton Ale that was actually brewed in Burton, and after consulting with Ron, I would recommend using either Wyeast 1028 London Ale or White Labs WLP013, both of which are reputed to be the Worthington White Shield strain. When I put the recipe into Beer Calculus it was giving me an ABV of 7.9%, so you might want to under pitch the yeast to under attenuate the beer a little to finish out at 7.3%.

The plan is to brew the beer on the last weekend in February, to give people enough time to source ingredients where necessary. I am looking forward to brewing this monster and hopefully it will come out as tasty as last year's 120/- ale!

For those interested in the other recipes, they were:
Picture credit: I got the picture of the Truman's Brewery and Brick Lane from Pub Diaries.

Friday, January 18, 2013

International Homebrew Project

As we have seen from my posts on Monday and Wednesday beer styles evolve and change over time, dictated by the capricious whimsy of consumer demand and circumstances sometimes beyond the control of the brewers themselves. In the case of Burton Ale it went from being essentially very alcoholic brown syrup to being pale and very 'hoppy' and then back to being dark, though not quite as strong, all in the course of about 150 years.

This evolution is, at least for me, one of the things that makes the history of beer so interesting because it shows that beer is ultimately a human product. Let's face it, what are the chances of barley malting itself, having a quick mash and sparge then boiling itself with some hops, and finally adding yeast? While beer may be made from natural ingredients, and in the case of malt even that is debatable (ever seen malt in the wild?), it is anything but a natural product, it is as man made from beginning to end as the electronic device you are using to read this. As a result of its man made nature, beers from the past can be re-brewed, revived and it is possible to get some idea of what your grandfather was drinking.

Around this time for each of the last three years I have organised the International Homebrew Project, where homebrewers from around the world brew a common recipe and write about the results. Last year, and the year before, we brewed historic beers, a 1930s Milk Stout and 1850s 120/- Mild Ale, and in keeping with this tradition we will be brewing a historic beer again. As you've probably guessed by now, the 'style' we will be brewing is a Burton Ale, but from which era in its development? Well, over the right is a poll with choices of various recipes that I have access to, for different kinds of Burton Ale, whichever polls highest will be the recipe of choice, simples.

The choice of recipe will come from the following:
  • 1860s Scottish version of Burton
  • 1870s English recipe, originally brewed in Burton itself
  • 1900s American Burton recipe
  • 1910s English 'Mild' Burton
  • 1930s English Old Burton Extra
  • 1990s English recreation of 1840s pale Burton
If you plan to join the project, please vote in the poll and leave a message in the comments section or drop me an email.

NOTE: I will be replacing the IHP 2012 page above with a 2013 version later today with a proposed schedule for this year's project.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Original Pilsner?

You all know the story, legendary brewer tinkers with the ingredients and methodology to create a new, paler beer which takes off and is soon being imitated by brewers throughout the land, and eventually overseas as well. However, I am not talking here about Josef Groll and the creation of what would become known as Pilsner Urquell. Rather, I am talking about Samuel Allsopp and Burton Ale.

As I mentioned in Monday's post, and again thanks to Martyn Cornell for this information, Burton Ale was once a nut brown, super strong ale which was shipped to the Baltic region and Russian Empire. This trade formed the basis of business for brewers such as Allsopp and Bass until 1822 when Tsar Alexander I's government instituted tariffs on the importation of beer into the Empire which made the trade too expensive to be profitable for the brewers of Burton. Left with large amounts of sweet strong brown ale on their hands, men like Allsopp needed to find new markets for their wares. In a scenario strangely similar to what would happen in Plzeň exactly 20 years later, in October 1822 Samuel Allsopp produced a new version of Burton Ale, which was less sweet and with a more pronounced hop bitterness than it's predecessor. According to a recipe from the middle of the 19th Century, Burton Ale had also become a pale beer, made with 100% pale malt and hopped only slightly less than the IPA that Allsopp would send to India in 1823.

By the time Burton Ale was being described as one of the four major types of beer being sold in Britain, it had become a 'style', for want of a better word, that had transcended its parochial origins to be imitated by many. In the ancient county of Middlesex, Chiswick brewers Fuller, Smith and Turner were producing a pale Burton style Ale from at least 1845 and would have a beer bearing the name , whether pale or dark, until 1969. In Scotland, the Edinburgh brewery William Younger's introduced a range of numbered ales, which bear a marked resemblance to Burton Ales, in the 1850s and according to Ron Pattinson, what became known as is Burton Ale by another name (which makes you wonder where this bullshit about Scottish beer 'traditionally' not being heavily hopped came from?). Even in the US, brewers such as Amsdell's and Ballantine were making their own versions of Burton Ale. By the time I was born though, in the mid 1970s, Burton Ale, in any form, was pretty much gone, a victim of mankind's slavish attachment to fashion, and perhaps the inexorable march of pale lager inspired by the work of Josef Groll?

I guess it is only natural to find parallels between the development of various types of beer, the interesting thing is to see how they ride out the peregrinations of fashion. Clearly Burton Ale didn't have the staying power of Pilsner, and who is to say whether or not modern IPA will still be here in 20 years time? History is so much more interesting than hagiography and myth, especially when it comes to beer.

Monday, January 14, 2013

The Other Burton Beer

Despite the fact that the making of beer has been part of the human experience for at least 6000 years, indeed one of the marks of being civilised in the Epic of Gilgamesh was to be a beer drinker (though I am sure ancient Sumerian 'beer' was a very different beast from the modern stuff), there are places which are renowned for their beer throughout the world, for various reasons. Whether it is Plzeň for its pale lager, which spawned endless imitations, Dublin and the stout porter that would define not just a beer style but an entire country in the minds of many, or Munich for its dunkels, there are some cities where beer is the very stuff of life.

One such city is Burton upon Trent in the English Midlands, an area rich in the history of the Industrial Revolution. At one point the city was home to more than a dozen breweries including such world famous names as Bass, Allsopp and Ind Coope. To put that into context, Burton is about the same size as Charlottesville and in the city proper there are currently 2 breweries. When people think about the Burton brewing industry they think of a style of beer which has come to embody in many way the modern brewing industry, India Pale Ale. However, when in 1948 The Brewer's Art listed the four main types of beer being brewed in Britain they were 'pale ale, mild ale, stout and Burton'.

Burton Ale is one of those beer styles which is almost extinct, I say almost because it would seem from my reading (mostly Martyn Cornell's 'Amber, Gold and Black', various of Martyn's blog posts and magazine articles, and naturally Ron Pattinson's blog) that the style lives on in the Winter Warmer genre of strong English ales. In common with many beers, Burton Ale evolved. Over the years it went from being a super strong nut brown ale shipped to the Baltic region to the Victorian era beer made to a recipe of pure pale malt and Kentish hops to create a beer which was about 6% abv and slightly less hopped than the IPAs being sent from Burton to India. Seemingly, and again most of this information is from Martyn, as the Victorian age gave way to the 20th Century Burton Ale became darker again and then in the decades immediately after the Second World War, the style practically died as the public turned away from dark, sweet beers in favour of pale, bitter ones.

According to Martyn's book though, there are still some beers out there which meet the description of a Burton Ale, whether the paler 19th century version or the darker 20th. Fuller's 1845 is apparently based on a Burton style recipe from the Griffin Brewery, Timothy Taylor Ram Tam is an example of a lower strength dark Burton, and is, according to Martyn, a 'classic of the Burton Ale type'.

Of those three, I have only had the pleasure of the Fullers 1845, and a mighty great pleasure it is, but I have it in mind to try creating some clone recipesof the various stages in the development of Burton Ale for my homebrewing this year. Brewing old beers is one of my favourite types of history (and history is probably one of my favourite things in general), the type you can drink.

Old Friends: Joseph's Brau PLZNR

I have to admit that there really are not that many things that I miss as a result of this pandemic. I am sure that comes as something of a ...