1877 Pale Ale

International Homebrew Project 2013

IMG_7939On February 23rd I participated in International Homebrew Project 2013, hosted by Velky Al of Fuggled. His readers voted for which type of beer to brew this year, and the winning style was “1870s English, from Burton,” specifically a beer by Truman’s called No. 4, originally brewed in 1877. I’m calling my interpretation of the beer by the straightforward name of 1877 Pale Ale.

Truman’s & Burton

By 1877, Truman’s had been in business in East London for over 200 years. But something must have changed to allow them to create a recipe that people are still brewing today – and that something was the purchase of the Philips Brewery in Burton-upon-Trent.

Truman’s, like the other big London breweries at the time, made most of their fortune from porters and stouts, but in the second half of the 19th century pale ales were winning the public’s favour away from black beers, and most of them were coming from the town of Burton.

Burton-upon-Trent usually takes credit for the rise of the pale ale, including that most popular of craft beer styles the IPA, and the town’s success at brewing this style is attributed to its water profile. The London brewers couldn’t match the pale ales out of Burton, so Truman’s, in order to take advantage of the unique Burtonian water, bought the Philips Brewery in 1873.

The importance of water in beer, easy to overlook, is one of the points of the International Homebrew Project. Velky Al, host and creator, wants to hear about how different all these beers turn out, being brewed from the same recipe but in many different parts of the world. So as I sit here drinking my second glass of 1877 Pale Ale, I present to you my tasting notes from the first.

Doghouse 1877 Pale Ale

On February 23rd, I pitched 12 litres of wort on top of the yeast cake left after bottling my ginger IPA. I left it in the fermenter for four weeks before bottling and waited another four weeks before tasting. Most homebrewers don’t have that kind of self-control.

The recipe:

  • 3kg Maris Otter
  • 50g Cluster @ 90
  • 50g Goldings @ 30
  • WLP013 London Ale Yeast

It pours a pale orange colour, a bit cloudy but I think this particular bottle had been shaken up a bit. Bubbles are lively and a finger of thick, frothy tan head sits on top, gradually dissipating but never disappearing, and leaving quite a lot of lace. The nose is very hop-forward. The bitterness comes through front and center, with only a little bit of tropical fruit and even less of caramel to hint at the flavour.

The mouthfeel is surprisingly thick and smooth, coating the tongue. Not too fizzy. There’s a sharp bitterness at the top of the flavour followed by a thick maltiness that fills the mouth, but not sweetly. There’s a lot of fruit in there, and some pine. The finish is mostly grapefruit, followed by a long, warm peppery aftertaste.

Extremely balanced. Very hoppy but with enough maltiness to back it up – primarily bitter but not sacrificing drinkability. Not what I’ve come to expect from an IPA, which usually showcase finishing hops and dry hops, of which this beer has none. The mouthfeel is excellent and the grapefruit and black pepper flavours work wonderfully.

It’s probably the best beer I’ve made, easily in the top three, and if it were in stores I would buy it and recommend it to anyone who likes bitter beer. My first try at the International Homebrew Project was quite a success.

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4 thoughts on “1877 Pale Ale

  1. Big Al calls his version of this beer a Burton Ale, which is a very different beast from an IPA, and certainly Truman’s No 4 would have been a Burton Ale. So if it was “Not what I’ve come to expect from an IPA”, that wouldn’t be at all surprising.

    • That was a syntactic error on my part. I didn’t mean to insinuate that this beer was an IPA, I meant instead, because I had described it as “very hoppy,” to compare it to an IPA, since that is (I imagine) the type of beer most people would associate with “very hoppy.”

      Thanks for reading!

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