Pale Stout

Plugging different beer-related key words into the search facility in the Times newspaper archive 1785-1985 is continuing to turn up gold. In June 1843 a series of small ads began to appear in the newspaper for Bavarian Pale Stout – put that one in your BJCP guidelines – brewed, not in Munich, but by Beamish and Crawford of the Cork Porter Brewery in Ireland

… under principles personally explained by Professor Liebig to the manufacturers, and is remarkable for its purity and agreeable flavour, and produces a grateful and cheering effect, without exciting any irregular actions in the stomachs of persons even of the most delicate constitutions, or inducing the least drowsiness in those of sedentary or studious habits.

This is a late mention for pale stout, but it would not have seemed as surprising to early Victorian beer drinkers as it does to us. For 150 years or so after the word stout first began being applied to beer it was used simply as an adjective to mean “strong”. A poem from Scotland in the latter half of the 18th century called “The ale-wife’s supplication”, which urged George III to cut the taxes on malt and ale, included the lines:

Here’s to thee neighbour, ere we part
But your Ale is not worth the mou’ing
You must make it more stout and smart
Or else give over your brewing …
… Cries Maggy then, you speak as you ken
Consider our Taxations
And brew it stout, you’ll soon run out
Of both your Purse and Patience.

London porter brewers certainly made pale stout right through the period they were also making stout porter, the dark beer that gave us what we think of today as the typical stout style. Truman’s brewery in East London had both brown and pale stout in stock in 1741, for example. Whitbread was selling pale stout in 1767, at a third more per barrel than regular porter. Barclay Perkins of the Anchor brewery in Southwark was still brewing pale stout in 1805, made from 100 per cent pale malt, at an original gravity of 1079. Barclay Perkins had apparently given up making pale stout by 1812, but a brewer’s manual published around 1840, called Every Man His Own Brewer still referred to “stout ales”, meaning strong beers in general

The existence of pale stout is the reason why Guinness’s “trade mark label”, the one with the harp on, was issued to bottlers “who sell no other BROWN stout in bottle” (my emphasis), with those words appearing on the label along with the harp – bottlers who did sell another bottled brown stout were not permitted by the Irish brewer to use the harp trademark on their bottled Guinness

Professor Liebig, mentioned in the Beamish and Crawford ad, was Justus von Liebig, 1803-1873, and clearly famous enough in 1843 to not need an introduction to Times readers. He was then of the University of Giessen in Hesse, Germany, and is now regarded as one of the great pioneers of biochemistry (he also founded the company that invented the Oxo cube). However, he believed firmly that fermentation was a chemical reaction that did not involve living organisms, and resisted for many years the discoveries of Theodor Schwann, the man who, in 1837, coined the name “Saccharomyces”, sugar fungus, for brewing yeast.

The ad does not say, sadly whether the “personal explanation” he gave to Beamish and Crawford about the principles behind Bavarian Pale Stout was given face to face in Cork, or in Germany, or through letters. Nor, of course, does it say what the principles under which it was brewed were, or how it differed from other pale strong beers: one might speculate that with the name “Bavarian” it involved Bavarian-style decoction mashing, and possibly even Bavarian-style cold lagering and Bavarian bottom-fermenting yeasts, but without any evidence to go on except the name, this is a guess too far. Beamish and Crawford still exists – I wonder how extensive their archives are, and if they say anything about Bavarian Pale Stout and Herr Professor Liebig?

7 thoughts on “Pale Stout

  1. Hi Martyn – did you note at page 422 in Hornsey’s book A History of Beer and Brewing, the reference to a 1759 poem “The Beer Drinking Briton” which includes the lines:

    “Let us sing to our own treasures, old English good cheer –
    “The profits and pleasure of stout British beer…”

  2. Yup – it’s quoted on p2 of Beer: The Story of the Pint, and was written by Thomas Arne, who also wrote “Rule Britannia”, and it originally appeared in print, according to WT Marchant’s In Praise of Ale, in the Gentleman’s Magazine for May 1757

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