Copyright © 2005 the Brewery History Society
A Short Address to the Public on the Prejudices against the Breweries
by James Baverstock
In the following attempt to remove a severely injurious impression, the writer trusts that he will not be suspected of other motives, than such arise from the fullest conviction of the public mistake, in the case; and that an effort, however feeble, to correct a misconception, so universal, is, at all events, excusable.
A part of this popular error is owing to the general unacquaintance with what matters are, and what are not, fermentable.’ And from this ignorance, some few, even of those who are deemed brewers, may not be exempt. Such uninformed persons, as well as publicans, and others, who brew for themselves, will perhaps derive some new information from the assertion that ‘malt and hops are the cheapest’ as well as, in every respect, the most beneficial, ‘articles,’ that can be used ‘in brewing beer, ale, or porter’. Which information may, also, be new, to those well meaning gentlemen, who are, at this time, promoting the establishment of subscription breweries, in different parts of the kingdom.
Persuading myself that a communication, which may contribute to remove error, will be favourably received by the candid and unbiased part of the community, I am induced to offer the following observations, on the prejudices which prevail against the public breweries. Wherein I shall endeavour to shew that a very wide distinction exists, among the practitioners, in this considerable branch of the national trade.
If then, I am told that ‘some brewers use other materials than malt, hops, yeast and water, in making their beer, ale or porter,’ I answer, most confidently, that such men are entirely unacquainted with the most valuable principles of their business; and are, also, most contemptibly ignorant of their own interest; for that all the money, which is paid for such additional matters, is far worse disposed of, than if it were thrown into the sea.
Every brewer of beer for sale must have two leading objects in view. First, to provide a Liquor which, by obtaining a preference with the consumers, obtains, also, a ready extension of sale - and, secondly, to make that liquor of the proper and required quality, at the least possible cost to himself. This required quality comprehends flavour, strength and transparency.
With regard to flavour, those who are the most concerned in the sale of beer, have the best opportunity of ‘knowing’ that the flavour, which is yielded by malt and hops, alone, is absolutely inimitable and unattainable by any substitute whatsoever; and, so decidedly is it preferred, by all ranks of consumers, that every attempt to counterfeit it must be expected to produce a sensible decrease of demand for the beer. Nor can such an attempt be concealed from those who are, in any degree, Judges of malt liquor; to whom the imposture must, at once, appear so puerile, as to become highly ridiculous, and contemptible.
No peppers, no aromatics, can be used, without leaving a pungent heat in the throat, and on the palate; which, if at all attended to, can never be mistaken for spirituosity. And it is as easy to distinguish between that fine flavour which accompanies the bitter of the hop, and that of those ingredients which are said to be used as a substitute for it, as between the flavour of the finest champagne an the most ordinary cider. Besides, it is not only the peculiar bitter, and fine flavour accompanying it, which render the hop so essential to the brewer, but its particular preservative properties; which no substitute has ever been found to supply and without which no bitter can be of any real use in beer.
As to strength in beer, as in wines, cider and every fermented liquor, the foundation of it, in all, is sugar, viz. the sugar o the malt, of the grapes and of the apples. Now, the saccharine matter obtainable from well made pale malt is (under all the present high duties) positively, the cheapest sweet that is, by any art, or in any manner, procurable from any other British, or foreign, production.
In the years 1799 and 1800, Parliament judged it expedient to allow the use of sugar in the breweries - and, although the price of barley was then more than £4 the quarter, to which was to be added the duty on malt, it was discoverable by a very cheap and easy experiment, that the saccharine matter, obtainable from malt, was more than 20 per cent cheaper than sugar, for the purposes of making beer. So that the indulgence was of no use to the well informed part of the trade; although a few of the most ignorant persisted in, and pleased themselves with, the use of it.
Should any confirmation be required of the cheapness of malt, compared with sugar or with molasses, it is to be found in the practise of the distillers; who are not restrained from using those, or any other, articles; yet they constantly prefer malt and barley only - finding these to be the most productive of spirit, in proportions to the respective costs of all the subjects.
It follows, therefore, that the introduction of other ingredient than malt, to communicate strength of beer, is a positive waste of money; for it is a mark of the greatest ignorance to expect that peppers, or any 'unfermentable' matter whatsoever, will contribute to vinous spirituosity. Where then can be the temptation, to any brewer who is acquainted with his business, to substitute any matters for those highly valuable materials, malt and hops? In truth every attempt at such substitution is a gross folly - and, surely, no brewer, who knows how to use malt and hops, properly, in brewing, (wherein lies the distinction between the well informed and the ignorant practitioner) would subject himself to the severe penalty, as well as disgrace, which he would be liable to, for introducing substitutes; when he well knows, that the use of them must tend to the diminution of his trade, no less than to a considerable increase of his expenses; in making a less valuable, and a less saleable, commodity.
The close connection between flavour and spirituosity, or strength, in malt liquors, may be easily discovered by an examination and comparison of the different fine country ales, sold in London - where the brewer can always obtain a price, equal to the strength and quality of his beer; by which he is enabled to produce an article, made from the most curious extracts of the choicest malt and hops. And the superior and popular ales, in demand, ought to be distinguished by their strength and fullness of flavour, in proportion to the several prices obtained for them. For so intimately connected and blended are spiritousity and flavour in all liquors, that the one cannot be diluted without the others; which may be exemplified by mixing water with wine; in doing which it may be observed, that the flavour and spirituosity are, at the same time, reduced.
There are two parts of the process of brewing, which chiefly require the brewer's skill; because they principally affect both his profit and his repute. These are, first, the extraction of the fermentable matter from the malt, by the water applied in the different mashings, and secondly, the conversion of the worts, so extracted, into the desired vinous liquor, by a properly conducted fermentation. On the heats of the waters so applied, and the modifications of these heats in the different infusions, it greatly depends whether all the saccharine matter, which the malt is capable of affording, be extracted; and on these heats depends, also, the aptness of the produce to attain early, and spontaneous fineness: The extractable parts of malt are saccharum, and mucilage. Some portions of the latter is necessary - yet a superabundance prevents transparency, and induces greyness, which is still farther promoted by suitable heats, and the changes thereby produced in the subject, while under the action of fermentation. All these heats rest on the brewer's judgement; and, when determined on, are applied with the greatest precision, by using the thermometer. While the strength of the worts is adapted to the price to be obtained for the beer, with equal precision, by use of the hydrometer; even to less than a thousandth part of the whole fermentable matter contained in each wort.
Beer, ale or porter, brewed with the assistance of these instruments, and according to established rules, gained by diligent attention, and proved in a long succession of events to be correct, will stand in need of no art to produce transparency, provided it be allowed to remain in a proper cellar, undisturbed for a reasonable time, after it is removed from the store of the brewer. Such removal cannot take place without causing temporary turbidity; and, as in situations where the demand is the greatest, the rents are also high, and the room most generally scarce, so the retailer has it not always in his power to keep a sufficient stock of beer, to avoid the necessity of some occasional use of isinglass. I know of no other matter as at all applicable, or assisting, to fine malt liquors; and this article is well known to be not only perfectly innocent, but also so salubrious and nutritious, a to be given to the most delicate of invalids, and to be introduced in several forms as a luxury at the tables of the most opulent, it is strange in the extreme that the use of it should not be legally admitted in the brewery; for to many of the trade it is indispensably necessary, on frequent occasions; while to some it may not be necessary at all, or hut very rarely.
The Letter of the Act 42d Geo.III Chap. 38, S.21. subjects every brewer to the penalty of £100 even for using yeast to ferment his beer. How, therefore, is it in the brewer's power to make the required affidavit ‘That no material or ingredient is mixed, mingled with, or made use of, in the Fabrication, manufacture or preparation of his beer, ale or porter, other than malt and hops’ leaving out yeast and even water! If the act had been worded differently, those very respectable gentlemen who lately attended the Court, with the view of making an affidavit, to satisfy the public mind of the rectitude of their transactions, in their business, could have found no difficulty.
The colouring, which is, occasionally, used in porter, is sanctioned by the King's Patent; and verified by the respectable manufacturer, Mr Wood, to be prepared from malt only.
It is but fair to observe, here, that the complaints, against the reduced quality and altered flavour of the London Porter, are extremely uncandid. Let it be considered, that the excise on beer is increased 50 per cent and the duty on malt more than 200 per cent in the last four years; and the price of barley nearly 100 per cent, since 1790.
To these must be added the increase in the contingent expenses of labour, taxes, horses and their food and, withal, the large addition of capital required to pay for all the articles and charges. Notwithstanding all these disadvantages, the public so unreasonably, yet so powerfully, oppose any (even small) advance on the retail price of beer, and particularly In London, and its vicinity, that the Porter brewer can make no attempt to compensate himself, otherwise than by overwhelming his malt with four portions of water, instead of three, as formerly; the effect of which on the beer will, I presume, be sufficiently understood. And it must, hence, be allowed, that the diminution in the quality of this liquor is not attributable to the brewer, so much as to the present state of the national concerns; and to the choice of the public, in preferring a low price, to a more nutritious article.
To speak now, more particularly, of the prejudices against all the public breweries. It is extremely unjust, and a great misfortune to them, that those brewers who, by study and well directed observation, have attained a more scientific, and therefore a more successful, practise than some others, should be, generally, the first objects of suspicion and distrust - while those remain unsuspected, who are of inferior education and knowledge. Whose minds being unused to subjects of so comprehensive and intricate a nature, as constantly occur in a brewery, are utterly incapable of conducting the process; and who do not, therefore, make a wholesome, palatable, and transparent liquor, oftener than as the wildest chance may lead them to success.
It requires the laborious study of a whole life to establish an uniform practise in the brewery - such as may be, generally, successful. The whole process requires to be watched, from the infusion of the malt to the cleanse from the fermenting tun, and to be conducted by the means of the best instruments, and the nicest calculations, through all the various changes and modifications, to which worts, beers and all fermentable subjects are liable. They cannot be, wholly, left by night more than by day, until the effect to be produced is complete in them, and until they are brought to a perfection equal to the practitioner's wishes.
After all his labour and success, how intolerable must it be to the ear of such a brewer, to be told, that some low fellow (probably connected with a neighbouring publican who brews his own beer) is taking every means in his power to raise an odium against his brewery. That such a man goes into a house supplied by the brewer, and orders some sort of liquor - declares, 'he is particularly fond of malt liquor, but can never drink (such a) brewer's beer, on account of some matter being put into it which always disagrees with him - but that the home-brewed beer of his friend is particularly fine and good and never hurts him in any respect, &c. &c.'.
Should curiosity, or accident, afford the brewer an opportunity to examine this celebrated 'home brewed' beer, he finds it, nineteen times out of twenty, to be foul, and of every hue that is unnatural to good malt liquor - offensive to the smell, harsh, and everything but well flavoured to the taste; and withal, so strongly tinctured with other ingredients, as evidently not to be manufactured from malt and hops, yeast and water only. Yet, as such beers are made by an ignorant hand, and bear the name of ‘home brewed,’ they are out of the way of suspicion - although a liquor, containing not half the like ill qualities, would be, speedily, destructive of a public brewer's trade.
In short, the public are entirely mistaken - it is not the intelligent and successful brewer who is a proper object of suspicion, but the ignorant; and those who are in so small a way of business as to be capable of introducing their nostrums with their own hands. Entirely ignorant of, and incapable of using, the necessary instruments, they, at once, attribute the successful practice of the brewer to the use of drugs; and, in a false and fancied idea of following his process, attempt to imitate his beers, by introducing all sorts of trash into the composition of their own. For which they have the opportunity, without suspicion; owning to the implicit and improper confidence which is, too generally, placed in all malt liquors, sold under the name of 'home brewed beer.’
I would not be understood to insinuate that every retail brewer, or man in a small way of business, is an unfair trader; or that the extent of a man's trade should be, at all, a criterion of his intelligence, and rectitude. For there are many of the former description, without doubt, who are men of character and redemption; while there are, unfortunately, some few engaged in considerable country breweries who, from want of education, and want of common abilities, are extremely ignorant, however opulent. Between men of this description, and the intelligent, well informed, and truly respectable brewers, a distinction ought to be made.
For, a man who is not possessed of some other sort of information, than generally serves to conduct most of the trades, is no more capable of brewing uniformly (without which all is hazard) than a country bargeman is qualified to navigate a vessel through the ocean, to any proposed port or point without a compass; or, if he had one, without a right knowledge of its application.
From what has been said, it may be judged, that a successful practice in the brewery is not a matter of chance, but of valuable knowledge. Which is, also, useful to the public, in providing them a wholesome, palatable and spontaneously clear liquor, made from the choicest malt and hops; but without that most serious waste of these costly articles, which constantly attends the placing them in the hands of an ignorant practitioner; whether in public or private breweries.
Yet it has, most unfortunately, and most unjustly, happened, that in proportion as such described malt liquors have been most generally produced by any public brewer
What should be deemed creditable, and meritorious, is, by the ignorant, perverted; by being imputed to sophistications; which malicious calumny, often, decides to be of a deleterious nature.
But, I trust, it will be perceived, that the great number of very respectable and well-informed gentlemen, now engaged in this branch of trade, in every part of the kingdom, ought to stand, in the public opinion, far above all such suspicion. Seeing, that it can be no more their inclination, than it is their interest, to substitute in the manufacture of their beers, any ingredient for malt and hops; because no matter can be procured of equal value to them, at so cheap a rate; nor can any extraneous matter be introduced, in any way, into the brewer's practice, without causing a diminution of his trade, his profits, and his repute.
The imputations against the breweries are greatly owing to the artful practices of some travellers for the druggists. Who intrude themselves by first offering isinglass for sale; and take that opportunity to watch, according to the reception they meet with, how far they may be likely to succeed, in imposing upon the ignorant and credulity of a brewer, when they tell him they can supply him with an ingredient, which is a most cheap substitute for malt and hops. Now, second to malt, no dry fermentable matter can be so valuable to a brewer, as sugar - nor can any matter be so likely to answer the intention of the druggist, in the case, as sugar; disguised probably by some mixture of quassia, and ground together. Hence the combined sweet, and bitter, serve to persuade an ignorant publican who brews his own beer, (and perhaps at some times an ignorant public brewer) that this ingredient will save him, largely, both malt and hops. The temptation is great on both sides. The druggist ‘knows’ that if he can sell such a matter, he gains a profit of more than cent per cent - while the weak and credulous purchaser hugs himself under the impression, that he is chaser hugs himself under the impression, that he is indebted to this ‘most civil and kind’ gentleman for a secret, which will make him rich man 'in no time'.
He proceeds, accordingly, to lessen the allowance of malt, but not of water. The result of which is, that his beer is poor and thin, from a want of spirituosity, and so ill flavoured from the portion of quassia introduced, as to be utterly unsaleable. And this without the smallest recompense for the money expended - which, therefore, would have been much better disposed of, if it had been thrown away.
This, however, is but a part of the injury occasioned by these men. In their pressing solicitations for order, some of them will not scruple, most falsely and basely, to adduce the example of some eminent brewers, as purchasers of their trash. And it is this very description of persons, who, more than all others, contribute to promote the popular prejudices; it being their interest to persuade every ignorant brewer, whether public, retail or private, of the usefulness and cheapness of their drugs. Whereas, I will assert, that the stock in trade of any druggist, although the value of it may amount to £20,000 for other uses, is not worth the cost of a single shilling to any brewer, for the purposes of improving the flavour, or in any way contributing to the strength, of malt liquors; otherwise than as the articles may be saccharine.
And what may be the inducement to a brewer to exchange malt for any other saccharine material, will be seen in the following statement (if it be credited) of the result of various and repeated, experiments, on a great number of the different sweets, in domestic use. According to which, I have found that a quarter of middling pale malt, such as may now be bought at Mark Lane, for 70s will make as much wort, beer or vinous spirit, of certain given qualities, as 180 lbs of sugar; such as I learn may be bought for 60s the 112lbs. But the best pale malt, such as a brewer would cause to be made, under his own direction and inspection, at the cost of 76s the quarter, is equivalent to
|200lbs of sugar at||60s|
|226 of honey at||80s|
|240 of treacle at||42s 112lb|
I do not think it possible to find cheaper (fermentable) matters than malted corn, and the other articles above mentioned. If, therefore, I am correct in the prices of the last three, (and the error, if any, is not I presume very material) the following will be found to be the relative costs of their saccharine matter, when equalised with a
|Quarter of malt at||76s|
The public, therefore, can be at no future loss to decide on the sort of temptation, which can lead an intelligent brewer to listen to an insinuating druggist.
To conclude, the brewer, who does not 'know' that all substitutes for malt and hops are, 'very far worse than useless' cannot be otherwise than too ignorant, also to conduct a single day's process, in a brewery; with any probability of deriving adequate profit or repute from his labours.