A Good Beer Blog


Have you read The Unbearable Nonsense of Craft Beer - A Rant in Nine Acts by Alan and Max yet? It's out on Kindle as well as Lulu.

Maureen Ogle said this about the book: "... immensely readable, sometimes slightly surreal rumination on beer in general and craft beer in particular. Funny, witty, but most important: Smart. The beer geeks will likely get all cranky about it, but Alan and Max are the masters of cranky..."

Ron Pattinson said: "I'm in a rather odd situation. Because I appear in the book. A fictional version of me. It's a weird feeling."


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Ron Pattinson -

>the problematic place IPAs find themselves in, sort of the place where ESBs used to sit uncomfortably<

I'm quite sure what you mean by this. Do you mean ESBs started to appear half-hearted when the hop-monster IPAs appeared? I hadn't ever looked at it that way, but I suppose on this side of the Atlantic we don't get much of the aggressive IPA style.

Incidentally, do you have any idea when Fuller's introduced their ESB? I think it was the first beer to use the name, but I could be wrong.

Alan -

There certainly is a "maximum hop" trend in the states that makes the lesser styles apparently lesser which adds to the lack of respect for styles as points on a continuum leaving them more as brands to be slapped on a label. I don't know about Fullers but was wondering where you would put Abbot Ale in the scheme of style of pale.

Ron Pattinson -

I would probably call Abbot Ale a strong bitter. That's how it's usually presented in pubs. If I remember correctly, it's at the dark end of the colour scale for bitter.

If I sound a little vague, it's because I was never that keen on strong bitters. I realise now that my dislike stems more from such beers being served too young, rather than their intrinsic qualities.

According to their website it was first brewed in the 1950's. I would guess that, like Young's Special, it's a beer that was created as a result of "style splitting" at a time when the gravity of standard bitter was falling. Many strong bitters came into being by this process.

Consulting book number 396 in my collection (a history of Fuller's), I see that ESB was first brewed in 1974 to replace Old Burton. It must have been one of the last Burtons brewed in the UK. Now there's a style some enterprising US micro should revive. One of the standard draught beers in 1946, within 30 years Burton had not only disappeared, but been totally forgotten.

BTW, there's a fascinating article by Brian Glover about "Home Brewed", another sort of strong Brown Ale, in May's What's Brewing. I have a label of Warwick's Home Brewed Ale and had always wondered what sort of beer it was.

Alan -

I understand that Sam Smith's Winter Warmer is their Burton renamed but that would make sense as the distinction between an ESB and Winter Warmer is about 1% and maybe a notch in hops.

Ron Pattinson -

Do Sam Smith's brew a Winter Warmer? They have a Winter Welcome Ale, but that isn't dark.

I can find these British Winter Warmers:

Fenland, Ely, Cambridgeshire 5.5%
Goddards, Ryde, Isle of Wight 5.2%
Guernsey, St Peter Port, Guernsey 5.8%
Swaled Ale, Gunnerside, North Yorkshire 5.5%
Thwaites, Blackburn, Lancashire 5.5%
Yates, Carlisle, Cumbria 5%
Youngs, London, 5%

So I guess about 5.5% is typical for the style.

Wahl & Henius (1902) define the characteristics of English beers thus:

OG pounds hops per US barrel
Burton Mild Ale 1053-1058 1.25-1.5
Burton Strong Ale 1064-1069 2-3
Burton Pale Ale 1064-1069 2.5-3
Burton Export Ale 1069-1075 3.5-4

It seems to me that the Burton Strong Ale is the Burton we've been talking about. So the same strength as Pale Ale with not much difference in the hopping rate, either.

That would make WInter Warmer strength - around the same as the strongest bitters - about right, too.

Wahl and Henius also have an analysis of Bass Pale Ale from 1888:
OG 1069 FG 1011 ABW 6.06 (about 7.5% ABV)

I can't imagine the Mild and Strong would have been fermented out anything like as far. I would guess at the mild being about 5.5% and the Strong 6.5-7%%

So in the intervening 100 years, around 2-2.5% ABV has been knocked off each od the styles.

Sorry to bore you with all of this detail.

BTW, you have Martyn Cornell's "Beer: The Story of the Pint" don't you? Look at page 288.

Myths 32 and 33 (page 285-286) were, coincidentally, amongst the topics Martyn and I discussed when we met last year. He's about the only person who interprets Obadiah Poundage's letter in the same way as me.

Alan -

That is right - I meant the Winter Welcome - but what do you mean about dark? Winter Welcome is left and I would say that is about right for an ESB. Here is the Beer Advocate's take on ESB which (at 6% and up) I'd say is indicative of the US scale of things being higher than the UK. My favorite ESB is Canadian - Halifax's Propeller - which from recollection is generally similar to Winter Welcome.<p>So there is a plausible working theory for me: Burton strong ales became ESBs. Ratty will be pleased.