This is roughly the era when the ads of 1849 and 1850 issued I discussed in my post, close enough.
As I said in one of my comments to the post, I probably shouldn’t have presumed what Bass and Allsopp were exporting without checking. This Lancet, which I’ve seen in recent years (and there are other Lancet analyses of beer including pale and bitter ales), is useful because it focuses on stars of the India Pale Ale market. By then, the Bow Brewery was much reduced in influence, it came under different ownership again about the time this Lancet issued (as Smith Garrett), and was absorbed by a large brewer finally and disappeared.
The beers in question were exhibits at a grand exhibition, which made it easy for the Lancet to secure samples perhaps especially as some draft beer was analysed. The Bass numbers do tally with my recollection of Victorian Bass Pale Ale generally as a 7% abv beer. The numbers given which appear to me to be by weight, are for Bass, 5.31-5.59 (different samples) which equates to 6.7-7.03 abv. Today Bass Ale as available on draft in Toronto is 4% abv. I believe the American-made version (both are licensed) is 5% abv. Bass was strong then, by that comparison.
It was not strong compared to the next group though, an admittedly small sample, but still.
The single pale ale by Salt was 7.76 abw, or 9.8 abv. The Lancet called it “very strong”. In my view, there is some reason to analogize this language to that of “rather heavy” and “prodigious strength” that I discussed yesterday in relation to Hodgson Pale Ale. But even if you knock a point off to be conservative, a 9% abv Hodgson Pale Ale was pretty strong stuff. That was stronger than double stout was generally in the 1800s although possibly similar to strong stout in the 1700s (except for the “Russian” and Imperial types).
Allsopp’s range came in at 6.15-8.46 abw, or 7.70-10.71 by volume.
This is all about 100 years after Hodgson’s started to go after the market in India. Was Hodgson getting the same yields (extract efficiency) in the 1760s that brewers were getting 100 years later? The assumption of 80 pounds per quarter of malt (see my second comment yesterday), a contemporary rule of thumb, may have been optimistic for the late 1700s. Yet you find brewing writers speaking of such yields, sometimes 78 pounds per quarter, then. Many factors impact on this including how the hops were handled, e.g., they can absorb a lot of wort and there are a lot of hops in IPA.
Roberts’ average of 1068 OG for export IPAs, a group of 10 beers he analyzed, needs to be considered as well. Maybe a way to look at it is to take a mean between 7% abv and 9% abv, giving 8% which I suggested yesterday was a minimum strength for Hodgson Pale Ale.
We can’t know for certain. But using the reasoning in my previous notes, e.g., the comparable pricing to an “October” beer in 1849, and factoring known high abvs of some IPAs in the mid-1800s, I think Hodgson’s Pale Ale had to reach at least that 8%. And maybe it was stronger still, perhaps Salt was its successor, or Allsopp’s top end in the sample above.
The narratives of “very strong” and the special reputation Hodgson enjoyed were almost certainly connected to high strength, whatever else the beer had going for it. Ancestrally, “good” in beer meant strong. The more alcohol, the better beer was, in taste and value. Many factors worked against selling beer strong, everything from brewers’ margins to concerns about alcohol abuse (leading to Temperance campaigns finally), but again if Hodgson’s was prized you can be fairly certain, or I am, it was no washy stuff.
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