Of Ale And Beer

The English word ale is obviously the same with the Swedish word ol, which is applied to the same kind of fermented liquor; while the word beer is synonymous with the German bier. These two words in Great Britain are applied to two liquors obtained by fermentation from the malt of barley; but they differ from each other in several particulars. Ale is light-coloured, brisk, and sweetish, or at least free from bitter; while beer is dark-coloured, bitter, and much less brisk. What is called porter in England is a species of beer, and the term porter at preaent signifies what was formerly called strong beer. The original difference between these two liquids was owing to the malt from which they were prepared. Ale malt was dried at a very low heat, and consequently was of a pale colour; while beer or porter malt was dried at a higher temperature, and had of consequence acquired a brown colour. This incipient charring had developed a peculiar and agreeable bitter taste, which was communicated to the beer along with the dark colour. This bitter taste rendered beer more agreeable to the palate, and less injurious to the constitution, than ale. It was consequently manufactured in greater quantities, and soon became the common drink of the lower ranks in England. When malt became high priced in consequence of the heavy taxes laid upon it, and the great increase in the price of barley which took place during the war of the French revolution, the brewers found out that a greater quantity of wort of a given strength could be prepared from pale malt than from brown malt. The consequence was, that pale malt was substituted for brown malt in the brewing of porter and beer. We do not mean that the whole malt employed was pale, but a considerable proportion of it. The wort, of course, was much paler than before, and it wanted that agreeable bitter flavour which characterised porter, and made it so much relished by most palates. The porter brewers endeavoured to remedy these defects by several artificial additions. They prepared an artificial colouring matter, by heating a solution of coarse sugar in an iron boiler till it became black, and was reduced to the consistency of treacle. The smoke issuing from it was then set on fire, and the whole was allowed to burn for about ten minutes, when the flame was extinguished by putting a lid on the vessel. This substance was mixed with a certain quantity of water before it was cold. The porter is coloured by adding about two pounds of this colouring matter for every barrel of wort while in the copper. Some brewers make their colouring matter with infusion of malt instead of sugar; and, in 1809, M. de Roche took out a patent for preparing the colouring matter from the husks of malt, by burning them like coffee, and then infusing them in water. We believe that all these colouring matters are of the'same nature ; of course the brewer ought to employ that one of them which is cheapest.

To supply the place of the agreeable bitter which was communicated to porter by the use of brown malt, various substitutes were tried. Quassia, cocculus in-dicus, and we believe even opium, were employed in succession; but none of them were found to answer the purpose sufficiently. Whether the use of these substances be still persevered in we do not know, but we rather believe that they are not, at least by the London porter brewers.

It was this change in the use of the malt which occasioned the great falling off in the London porter, which has been so much complained of, and ascribed to so many causes. We do not believe that the schemes of Mr Jackson, of notorious memory, though they enriched himself, produced the injurious effects upon the London breweries that have been ascribed to them. This man, whose character was notorious, kept an apothecary's shop on Tower-Hill; and speculating on the means of amassing a speedy fortune, he hit upon the idea of brewing beer from various drugs instead of malt and hops. But instead of commencing practical brewer himself, he struck out the more profitable trade of teaching his process to the London brewers. ]Mrs Piozzi informs us, that even from one great brewer he contrived to realise an ample fortune. His methods must have been practised upon a considerable scale for some time; but we have no doubt that they have been all abandoned long ago. It was the French war9 and the enormous tax upon malt, that was the real cause of the deterioration of the quality of London porter, nor will it ever recover its former good qualities, till the tax on malt is reduced to its former rate ; or unless the price of porter be greatly enhanced, which is not likely to happen. We have sometimes thought that if quassia were reduced to powder, and burnt like coffee, it might probably be employed with great advantage, both as a colouring matter of porter, and as likely to furnish the agreeable bitter, at present considered as peculiar to brown malt

The quantity of malt employed annually in Great Britain, in brewing ale and beer, may be easily deduced from the annual statements of the amount of the malt-tax, printed by order of the House of Commons.

The following tables will shew the quantities of malt made in England and Wales, Scotland, and Ireland, from the year 1833, with the amount of revenue received thereon, and the rates of duty in each year; also the amount of duties on malt and hops, and the quantities used in the United Kingdom from 1843, with the number of licensed brewers, and amount of duties thereon for the year 1846.

Account of the Quantities of Malt charged with Duty in England and Wales, of the Revenue received thereon, and of the Rates of Duty, in each year, from 1833.


Number of Bushels of

Amoont of Duty.

Rate of Duty per Bushel.

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