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This is the first of many posts about bottled Stout in the 1950’s. I hope you can contain your excitement.

To make things more manageable, I’ve created my own categories based on gravity and degree of attenuation. Pretty arbitrary, I’ll admit. But this is my party and I can do what I like. Including crying. And making up styles when I feel like it.

The biggest surprise is how many strong Stouts were still knocking around after WW II. There are six different brands with gravities over 1070. Kicking off with the granddaddy of them all, Barclay’s Russian Stout. Which had returned to its classic 1100 OG. In the early 1950’s it’s the only beer I can think of which still retained its 19th-century strength. Hang on. That 1958 Guinness FES is another.

The Bass and Worthington examples are obviously the same beer: P2. Just as Bass Red Triangle and Worthington White Shield were the same beer. I’m not sure why they insisted on keeping both brands long after the beers had become the same. Something similar was going on at Watney, where they were still branding Stouts as Reid when the brewery had been closed for half a century.

Royal Jubilee Stout played a key role in the merger mania of the 1950’s. Hope & Anchor of Sheffield wanted to sell it in Canada and struck a deal whereby they brewed Canadian Black Label Lager under licence in return. This drew the UK market to the attention of Eddie Taylor, owner of the Black Label brand. He’d been successful in merging brewing operations in Canada and saw an opportunity to do the same in Britain.

During the 1950’s Taylor built the UK’s largest brewing group, United Breweries, which eventually became Bass Charrington. Other large brewers didn’t want to get left behind and went on a takeover spree, too. By 1970, British brewing was dominated by 7 large groups: Allied breweries, Bass Charrington. Courage, Scottish & Newcastle, Watney and Whitbread. And Guinness, of course.

You’ll note that most of the stronger examples in the table have pretty decent attenuation. I suppose you could say, in the case of Russian Stout, by cheating. With a secondary Brettanomyces fermentation measured in years, it was always going to be a dry beer. The same is probably true of Guinness FES, which I still believe was at least partially aged in vats.

I struck by how good value Russian Stout was. It’s the same price – 45d per pint – as the Bass, Murray and Castletown Stouts which are all much weaker. If you think that it took more than two years from mash tun to glass, that’s impressive.

Considering that I used attenuation as a criterion for selection, I’m surprised that there’s a Milk Stout and a Sweet Stout in this set. The names allocated to Stouts in the 1950’s do show a trend towards sweetness. Things like Glucose Stout or – a real favourite this one – Nourishing Stout.

One last point. None of these even vaguely resembles the very sweet, low ABV beers British Stouts were supposed to have become around 1900, if you’d believe many beer historians.

Bottled Stout in the 1950's - Strong Stouts >65% attenuation
Year Brewer Beer Price size Acidity OG FG ABV App. Atten-uation colour
1953 Barclay Perkins Russian Stout 22.5d half pint 0.08 1101 1018 10.97 82.18% 1 + 25
1950 Barclay Perkins Russian Imperial Stout 22.5d half pint 0.11 1100.1 1021.1 10.41 78.92% 1 + 19
1955 Bass Imperial Stout 0.34 1078.8 1018.4 7.90 76.65% 375
1955 Worthington Imperial Stout 0.17 1078.2 1017.3 7.97 77.88% 325
1953 Bass Imperial Stout 15d nip 0.08 1078.2 1025.1 6.90 67.90% 1 + 20
1953 Samuel Smith Sam's Extra Stout 1/2d half pint 0.06 1077.8 1020 7.54 74.29% 1 + 13
1958 Guinness Foreign Extra Stout half pint 0.12 1074.4 1015.9 7.65 78.63% 250
1950 Watney Reids Stout 0.10 1072.9 1021 6.75 71.19% 1 + 14.5
1955 Watney Reids Stout 0.05 1072.1 1018 7.06 75.03% 325
1955 Guinness Export Stout half pint 0.04 1071.4 1013.3 7.61 81.37% 175
1950 Unknown Imperial Stout 0.16 1066.8 1017 6.49 74.55% 1 + 19
1955 Murray W Export Stout 1/3d nip 0.05 1064.6 1015.8 6.36 75.54% 350
1953 Castletown Manx Maid Stout 1/3d nip 0.06 1064.1 1022.3 5.41 65.21% 1 + 18
1950 Tennent Milk Stout (Export) half pint 0.16 1063.2 1020 5.60 68.35% 1 + 17
1955 Castletown Manx Oyster Stout 0.05 1063 1013 6.53 79.37% 250
1955 Hope & Anchor Royal Jubilee Stout half pint 0.06 1059.5 1019.9 5.13 66.55% 325
1953 Brickwoods Black Bricky 1/- nip 0.06 1054.8 1015.5 5.10 71.72% 1 + 11
1953 Young & Co No. 1 Stout 11d nip 0.07 1052.1 1016.3 4.64 68.71% 1 + 69
1956 Hammonds Senior Sovereign Sweet Stout 1/3.5d half pint 0.06 1050.4 1016.2 4.43 67.86% 300
Whitbread Gravity book held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number LMA/4453/D/02/001.

Let’s move on to the second set. More than half of the examples are only just below my arbitrary ceiling for this group. One, Bass Imperial Stout, also appears in the other table. Of the five examples with attenuation below 60%, it’s significant that two are Scottish. Scottish Stout genuinely seems to have gone mostly sweet quite early. From what I’ve seen in brewing records the trend started in the 19th century.

Archangel Stout must have been an interesting drink. With an FG of over 1040º - that’s higher than the OG of many Stouts – it must have been quite treacly. Which is just how an Arctic Ale is supposed to be.

Would you be allowed to call a beer Export Vitamin Stout today? I doubt it. They probably wouldn’t even let Nourishing or Invalid Stout pass, the miserable bastards.

Notice how few beers there are in this group. You could argue there are only really five. Which is all there would be left if I shifted the boundary from 65% to 63% attenuation.

[TABLE="width: 841"]
[TD="class: xl110, width: 841, colspan: 11"][B]Bottled Stout in the 1950's - Strong Stouts