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30-03-2016, 07:29
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Here’s a classic – and very geographically specific – type of Strong Ale: a Manchester “C” Ale.

I was so pleased when I found this tucked away in the Lees brewing records. I’d come across mentions of “C” Ale a couple of years previously and had wondered what the hell it was. Some sort of stronger bottled beer, but I had no real details. Lees records told me it was very like a London Burton, but bottled rather than draught. So dark, 5%-ish ABV, reasonably hopped, dark in colour.

In the middle decades of the 20th century several Manchester breweries produced a “C” Ale. I’ve seen labels from four different breweries: Lees, Groves & Whitnall, Cornbrook and Openshaw. There may well have been others. As to what the name means and who first brewed it – I’ve no idea. And it seems to have disappeared just as mysteriously as it emerged. I’m not being very informative, am I? I could make something up, but I’ve sort of made a point of not doing that. I’ll leave that to you.

Getting back to cold, hard facts, I am sure of the OG. The FG is a guess because the brewers at Lees couldn’t be bothered to enter it in this period. Which is a bit irritating. At least they filled most of the rest in. Apart from the pitching temperature. That, too, is a reasoned guess.

Lees were quite adventurous for 1950’s British brewers in that they used some dark malts. Unlike most brewers who preferred to use sugar, other than in Stout. This has a touch of black malt and some crystal. The log just says “invert”, but I think the No. 3 variety is a reasonable guess. What I’ve listed as cane sugar was “Barbados syrup” in the original. Sounds like some sort of unrefined sugar to me.

There’s very little detail on the hops in the brewing record, save that they were from the 1949 crop and cost £27 per cwt. I happen to know that the average price of that year’s crop was 26 10s per cwt.* So these are hops of average quality. Fuggles is definitely the way to go. Goldings would probably have cost more. And those two hops made up 90-95% of English hop production back then.

I’ll stop pestering you now and throw the recipe at you.

* 1955 Brewers' Almanack, page 63.

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