Session #64: Pale Ales

Beer Mat advertising St Austell Extra c.1960

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. In Britain, pale ale, under its oth­er name, bit­ter, is the sta­ple offer­ing of almost every pub in the land.

Yes, John Smith’s, Bass and all those oth­er ‘brown bit­ters’ 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 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.

3 thoughts on “Session #64: Pale Ales”

  1. Do you guys have that 1944 PA recipe? I’ve got a mild obses­sion with WWII vin­tage brews and I’d love to see the fine details.

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