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04-06-2012, 20:07
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Phew. The Beer Babe has chosen a Session topic we can address without hunting high and low for exotic imported bottles: she wants us to write about pale ales (http://www.thebeerbabe.com/2012/05/the-session-64-pale-in-comparison/). In Britain, pale ale, under its other name, bitter (http://boakandbailey.com/2012/04/no-marketing-budget-in-post-war-devon/), is the staple offering of almost every pub in the land.
Yes, John Smith’s (http://boakandbailey.com/2012/05/the-john-smiths-experiment-part-1/), Bass (http://boakandbailey.com/2012/01/the-big-red-triangle/) and all those other ‘brown bitters (http://boakandbailey.com/2012/02/the-brown-bitter-company/)‘ are pale ales. In the small town where we live, we’ve got a choice of about thirty cask-conditoned pale ales/bitters at any one time, but we’ve written about most of them before, or have made a decision not to do so for diplomatic reasons.
But there are plenty of Cornish pale ales we haven’t tried and never will.
Throughout World War II, St Austell (http://www.staustellbrewery.co.uk/) brewed nothing but PA (pale ale), ceasing production of mild, stout and porter altogether. In 1944, their PA used Tucker’s English malt, a little invert sugar (No 2), a big slug of caramel for colour and (we think) English hops — ‘Wickham’ being the producer. (A letter from the hop merchants tucked into the log promises at least a small allowance of best ‘East Kents’ for dry hopping.) All this produced a beer with an original gravity (OG) of 1.030 — about as weak as English beer ever gets, probably equating to less than 3% ABV.
In 1960, they were making beer intended for kegging and called Extra. It used Tucker’s English malt as its base, just like the 1944 brew. It also* included a small proportion of* ‘enzymic’ malt (acid malt?) and glucose alongside invert sugar 3 (darker than 2). In fact, it had three times as much sugar in as the 1944 brew — would it have been drier? Its OG was 1.040, so a bit stronger, but not that much. The name is pure marketing.
We’re still learning to read old brewing records (literally – the handwriting is terrible) and interpret them, hence the rather reticent descriptions of the two beers above. We’ll probably come back to them at a later date.

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