Midland Counties Institute of Brewing
19th MARCH, 1896
(It’s a long read and the author was a king of run-on sentences – but worth the time)
by F. W. Fellowes
In introducing my subject for this evening’s discourse I have chosen a title of broad significance. Students know full well the advantages accruing from moments spent in retrospection, and, I take it, that we, as members of the Federated Institutes of Brewing, are sufficiently alive to our own interests, and sufficiently imbued with a desire for a better understanding of the principles underlying the operations of commercial brewing, to regard ourselves as students. Fallacious as were many of the fancies said to govern or explain the principles of the art of brewing in the days of our worthy and jovial grandsires, there may yet be found many dogmas which the stronger and more searching light of latter days has confirmed to the fullest extent and duly labelled “Facts”.
However, it is not my intention to attempt to give you an historical account of the progress of brewing science, nor to dwell upon the gradual evolution of the science from the ancient art; to do so would require an abler pen than mine. My object is to ask your indulgence for a little time whilst we take some broad retrospective glances at a few of the many facts, fancies, and fallacies included in the sum total of general brewing experiences. The time at my disposal naturally debars me from making anything but a hasty survey of this expansive field of work; nevertheless, I think that if the few points which I have jotted down tend to recall either sad or pleasant reflections of past experiences in the brewery, neither your time as attentive listeners, nor mine as a speaker, will have been misspent.
What a vast expanse for speculation is opened by the mere mention of the word “water”! yet, although it is the main constituent of all beers, it is sad to reflect that the majority of brewers, and even chemists, do not thoroughly understand it either in its natural simplicity (or should I say “complexity?”), its treatment, or its influence upon the finished product—beer.
The known facts are ably summarised by 0. G. Matthews (Trans. Inst. Brewing, 1893, 6, 118) in the following words:—”Hard waters tend to give paleness, delicacy of hop flavour, equable secondary fermentation, and read}* clarification, following on a fair but not low attenuation (1/4 original gravity +1), with great stability.” “The process by which the said beers are produced includes, generally speaking, straight through mashing, fairly high tap heats, quick fermentation by a vigorous type of yeast—to which the process gives rise—carried through a 10 degrees rise of temperature followed by cleansing in unions or pontoons.” ” On the other hand, carbonated waters of little permanent hardness demand lower tap heats, lower pitching heats with a prolonged fermentation, which very often has to be coaxed along by rousing, dressing, and other helps; the yeast, of which the crop is usually large and the vigour small, is removed by skimming, and a low final attenuation is reached. Higher-coloured ales are obtained. Considerable uncertainty in clarification is experienced; frets are by no means uncommon, and the stability of the beers is doubtful.”
Tradition has handed down these facts from one generation to another, and their foundation may therefore be regarded as based not upon the drifting sand, but upon the rock of well-tried practical experience. But, despite these reiterated facts, it is not sufficient to satisfy the modern spirit of inquisitiveness. We wish to know the “reason why.” If the ales of Burton owe their world-wide reputation for brilliancy, lightness of colour, cleanness on palate, and beautifully delicate aroma to other causes rather than to the peculiar type of water, why do they still maintain their undoubtedly high position? If, on the other hand, the secret lies in the nature of the saline constituents of the water, why cannot water from another source, and of different constitution, be so treated as to impart the requisite characteristic? Again, where treatment of water is carried out, and the best of materials employed in the brewing, what is the cause of the undoubtedly different result obtained to that which is the outcome of the use of a suitable natural supply?
I anticipate that it will be urged that these are problems for the chemist to solve; that knowing the reactions of the salts upon one another and the composition of any given supply, we ought to be able to transform it into a water typical of the best examples, or similar in composition to that of any predetermined source, and upon first consideration it would appear that such should be the case; but it must be confessed that our fancies concerning the mode of operation of the forces in Nature’s laboratory prove only too frequently that the deductions drawn are based, upon lines of experimental research founded upon some species of fallacious reasoning. It is true that much very excellent work has been done in connection with the influence of water upon brewery produce, and the papers by C. G. Matthews, and of Matthews and Forster, contributed to the Institute of Brewing, are brilliant examples of recent investigations in this direction. At the same time, despite these and other important contributions, it must be acknowledged that there exists a marked line of demarcation between a, suitable natural water and one artificially made up to a given standard. Let us briefly refer to a few of the results obtained by Dr. J. B. Roadman when investigating the effect of the saline constituents of water on the character of beer (J. Soc. Chem. Ind., 1894, 13, 374). The experimental waters were prepared to contain in each case 50 grains per imperial gallon of the particular salt selected. In reference to the settling and clarifying powers, and the condition, flavour, and odour of the beers, the following observations may be of interest at this point:—
Beer made with water containing only—
Calcium carbonate. Muddy, very bilter and yeasty flavour, heavy odour, harsh, after flavour.
Magnesium chloride. Cloudy, peculiar, heavy, rather unpleasant flavour.
Magnesium sulphate. Cloudy, medicinal flavour, but pleasant smell.
Sodium chloride. Cloudy, smell bad, taste unpleasant, beer very turbid.
Potassium nitrate. Slightly cloudy, heavy smell, unpleasant taste, resembles that of sodium chloride.
Calcium sulphate. Very clear, clean-tasted beer.
Calcium chloride. Fairly clear, full flavour, sweet, pleasant odour.
Now, although these salts and others are found in the best waters of the Burton district, it would seem from a consideration of these results that five out of the seven saline constituents exercise a baneful influence on brewing produce. But such a conclusion is by no means borne out by practical experience.
Again, Matthews and Forster, in their communication on ” The Influence of some of the Salts in Brewing Waters on the Composition of Malt Worts” (Trans. Brewing Inst., 1893, 6, 197), state that calcium and magnesium sulphates undoubtedly tend to produce larger crops of yeast in a quick fermentation, and yeast of a far healthier type, whilst, “where calcium chloride was employed (at rate of 20 grains per gallon), the yeast obtained was very difficult to press, being of a slimy or sticky character. “This latter peculiarity was not found to be the case in any of the other experiments.
These results are certainly interesting as preliminary evidence of the effect of the saline constituents taken into consideration separately. But I am afraid that many of the conclusions drawn from these experiments will require very considerable modification when they come to be considered in connection with other salts in the same water, and the influence heat may exercise as applied to the liquorback, for instance. I, myself, know of breweries using water containing about 30 grains per gallons total solid matter, and when gypsum alone is employed to increase the saline contents of the water, the yeast is by no means healthier, but undergoes a marked deterioration within a fortnight, whereas a blend of gypsum and calcinm chloride never fails to restore it to its normal vigour. Moreover, the crop produced is always reduced in the former, and increased in the latter case. I merely allude to this fact not because I think it carries with it anything particularly new, but simply to emphasise the importance of considering the salts as mixtures, and of avoiding deductions drawn from data only partially complete.
It is found that in all problems involving a considerable amount of direct research for their elucidation we meet with a vast number of side issues, upon which it is essential to acquire more information ere the main problem can be satisfactorily solved, and, personally, I am inclined to believe that before we can with certainty grapple with the more subtle influences of water upon the brewer’s materials we shall have to gain a deeper insight into the constitution and characteristics of those fickle bodies found in the extract from barley malt, and which, for the want of a more definite term, we now include under the name of “albuminoid” matters.
The subject of “water treatment” is still in need of much deep investigation, and whilst no one can deny that our present knowledge of the broad essentials to success in its manipulation has sufficed to render unsuitable supplies good and oven approximately excellent, we are yet in want of many details to throw light on the composition of the saline constituents as they occur in the natural supplies, to more correctly define their action upon one another, and to trace their influence, not as single salts, but as mixtures in irregular proportions, upon the quality and composition of wort and beer.
To obtain correct inferences from a mass of evidence such as we have in reference to this subject, something more than laboratory work is required on the one hand, and, on the other, we require uniformity of conditions in the brewery. It is difficult to ensure the latter, simply because the brewer cannot afford to carry out his commercial operations as mere experiments, whilst in the former case I am of opinion that the influence of “mass” (in weight or volume) manipulated is too frequently neglected, if not entirely lost sight of. In support of this argument I could give many instances which have come under my own observation; but this evening I am dealing with the work of others rather than with matters personal; moreover, I have no doubt that many of you have noted the wonderful influence “mass” exerts when making any experimental trials on a few ounces of materials and repeating them under similar conditions, using hundredweights. The brewing centres of experimental research on the Continent and in America have long since recognised the bearing of mass upon the accuracy of the interpretations of the results obtained.
I may add that it is not only possible, but very probable, that many disappointing cases noted in the use of artificially treated waters have their origin in defective treatment—treatment which not infrequently determines great irregularity in the composition of the water. It is often necessary in analytical work to wash precipitates with aqueous solutions of alkalis or acids, and the success of the process depends as much upon the uniform composition of the wash-water as upon the manipulative skill of the operator. What chemist, knowing it to be essential to use, say, alkaline water of a definite strength, would at one time use it several times too strong, and at another very much too weak, and yet expect good results? The same remarks hold good if applied to brewing waters—uniformity of composition is an important, though oft neglected, factor. Unfortunately, in many cases uniformity is not attainable, owing to the tank capacity being insufficient to admit of the treatment of water for the entire length of copper.
Considerable progress has been made of late in collecting data on the culture and ultimate manipulation of barley for brewing purposes. Nevertheless, the great majority of farmers do not appear as yet to appreciate the results obtained, otherwise I think we should see more marked attention to the general condition and treatment of the barley seed. The baneful influence of moist barley seed on the character of the crop has received abundant proof, and the fact of good dry seed giving a much more pronounced regularity of growth and greatly superior class of malting barley is now placed beyond doubt. It is well known that oven barley of excellent quality acquires a peculiar odour on being stored, and this odour is indicative of a deterioration in quality, and is attributable to the presence of an undue amount of moisture. To overcome this defect, some of the more enlightened agriculturists have adopted the method of sweating all seed barley on kiln prior to storage, with the result that the initial qualities of the barley are maintained, and followed by a manifest improvement in the regularity of growth and consequent evenness of the resulting harvest.
From the brewers and maltsters’ point of view, this question of slackness of condition of the barley seed is also a matter of the greatest importance. In fact, one of the principal reasons why foreign malt is in many cases superior to English is that in most cases it is received by the maltster in a much dryer condition than the home-grown grain. Speaking broadly, I may add that whilst the maltslcr usually finds English grain to contain about 18 per cent, of moisture, that of foreign growth contains only about half this amount. The influence of an excessive moisture percentage in malt is fully recognised; slackness of the barley corn itself is an equally harmful factor.
There has been of late a considerable tendency on the part of brewers to attribute many modern difficulties to the deteriorating influence of artificial manures upon barley crops for malting purposes. And, although I am of opinion that the arguments brought forward by Dr. E. R. Moritz in his paper on the “Alleged Deterioration of English Malting Barleys”, read before the Institute of Brewing, 12 months ago (this Journal, 1895, 1, 218), have lent considerable aid in the annihilation of many of the fallacies encompassed by the deductions of maltsters and brewers alike, I must admit that I cannot but regard his sweeping assertions as tending to prove only the faults of the present day system of malting, and therefore avoiding, to a very great extent, one of the main questions at issue: to wit, the influence of artificial fertilising agents.
In reference to the convenient manner in which Dr. Moritz shelved all considerations on this subject by the statement of his views upon the conditions of agriculture in eastern Europe, I think the remarks made by your President at the Annual Meeting and Banquet last November (this Journal, 1895, 1, 574) are sufficiently clear to prove the fallaciousness of the information on which Dr. Moritz so fondly relied.
Reverting to home considerations, it must be borne in mind that because certain results are obtained by the use of particular manures on given plots of land at certain experimental stations, it does not follow that similar results would ensue if the same methods of enrichment were practised on soils of a, totally different character. And it appears to me that, inasmuch as farmers are notoriously behindhand in their knowledges of the weak points of their soils, as considered from a chemical point of view, and exhibit a strong tendency to favour this or that particular brand of fertiliser, irrespective of its composition and suitability, or otherwise, it is only natural that widely different results should accrue from so haphazard a method of working.
Barley requires dieting with pretty nearly as much care as ordinary stock, or, for that matter, with as much consideration as we ourselves require in this respect. Yet I am informed that in agricultural districts, where farmers are placed on particularly convenient terms with the county analyst in respect to advice upon their soils and manures, &c, they are extremely backward in availing themselves of this manifest privilege. They do know, however, and appreciate the influence of artificial manures upon the yield per acre, and this yield per acre is an all important matter from their point of view. If the quality is not so good as that which would result from a more rational system of treatment, and the market value suffers a consequent reduction, then the farmer consoles himself with the fact of having reaped a more abundant harvest and realised a sum which more than covers the apparent loss due to its inferiority. Were it possible for the farmer to foresee the general conditions of the harvest and divine the future state of the market, he would then be in a position to set to work for a predetermined end. As it is he cannot do so, and the element of “luck”—that fickle factor which exercises so great an influence for better or for worse—is one against which his labours are by no means proof. Therefore, on reasoning out the problem for himself, he has arrived at the very logical conclusion that the more he can got out of the land under cultivation the better will he be able to cope with the undoubtedly downward tendency of agricultural pursuits. That the farmer could do better, at any rate for the brewer, I do not doubt, for I still maintain that much too little attention is paid to the actual requirements of the soil. It is all very well for an agriculturist’s report to affirm that a particular fertiliser is admirably adapted to the requirements of certain cereals; That it is especially devised for the enrichment of specified varieties of soil, or that it has met with the greatest success upon this or that particular land. It must be borne in mind, however, that the composition of different soils of the same class or type is by no means uniform, but is influenced by many factors, and treatment that may suit one field will not infrequently prove of inferior service if applied to one adjacent thereto.
Although the maltster may take a somewhat different view to that of the brewer in respect to the malting value of barley, I believe that from their standpoint, the use—or, shall I say, the abuse?—of artificial manures has not received adoption without yielding decided indications of its harmful influence.
For instance, whilst a liberal application of nitrates tends to produce an increased yield of barley and more straw, the barley is characterised by that greater coarseness and general thickness of skin which maltsters and brewers have learnt by experience to regard as undesirable features—features which point to inferior germinating capacity, increased difficulties to be encountered on the kiln, a predisposition to vitrefaction, and, in short, an irregular and defective malt, carrying forth its well-known peculiarities to give trouble and worry to the brewer. Again, the formation of much straw, following upon this system of forced growth, is not without its detrimental effect on much of the barley. The straw is largo but very weak, and should adverse atmospheric conditions prevail, such as strong winds or heavy rains, it will of a surety be blown or beaten to the ground. Moreover, an excess of straw undoubtedly tends to give rise to heated or discoloured corns by favouring the production of excessive heat in stack. These are but a few of the results of the indiscriminate use of fertilising agents, which, in my opinion, certainly point to a deteriorating influence upon malting barley.
That fiscal changes have contributed to an enormous extent to bring about the deplorable state of present day circumstances, I do not think any sane person will venture to deny. But I do think there is much more in-the question of the influence of artificial manure on barley than has been admitted by those who directly or indirectly attempt to relieve it of all responsibility. It is a practice which has its uses and its abuses, and much depends upon the richness or poverty of the soil treated as to whether it will prove beneficial or otherwise.
It is a fairly common belief that the appearance of badly coloured corns is of itself, sufficient to condemn a sample of barley. But abundant proof is to hand to show that discoloured corns are not, per se, sufficient evidence of either the effect of moisture or careless storage. In fact, yellowish-brown, dark brown, and black-tipped corns frequently put in an appearance when the conditions of ripening and of storage appear to be most satisfactory, yet, in spite of their unfavourable appearance, they germinate as well as their normal companions. As a rule, a dense, though thin-looking barley, that is to say, one in which the starch cells are compressed very tightly together, is regarded as an undesirable sample partially on this account and partially by virtue of the somewhat high percentage of nitrogenons bodies usually found in such samples, and despite our lack of information on these latter bodies, it is a fact that practical experience indicates that the process of malting, of mashing, and the activity of the yeast during fermentation, frequently do not suffice to eliminate their tendency to give rise to albuminous turbidity; hence, more plump and weightier corns are deservedly regarded as better fitted to produce satisfactory results in the brewery. Again, errors of judgment in milling barley may be regarded as the result of fallacious reasoning on the part of the farmer. He is much inclined to fancy that by reason of the more plump and even appearance and increased weight of the grain, its market value is enhanced by a system of close dressing. But the practised eye, well-trained in the art of discriminating between artfully prepared and good natural samples, quickly detects more or less corns with broken ends bearing ample testimony to the treatment they have suffered, and pointing with infallible accuracy to future mould and bacterial troubles in the malt-house. I feel that one cannot be too persistent in denouncing this modern fault of barley, inasmuch as it is, of a surety, due to the great prevalence of broken ended and otherwise damaged corns that mould and bacterial effects are so frequently made manifest.
To those who would further pursue the subject of malting barley, I cannot do better than refer them to the able and lucid paper on “Malt and Malting”, read some little time ago by Mr. A. Gordon Salamon, at a meeting of the North of England Institute of Brewing, and afterwards published in extenso in the leading journals devoted to brewing matters.
It is surprising what a large number of brewers put the question of cost before that of the quality of materials. Surely the fallacy of casting-out the cost of extract and plumping for the cheapest, regardless of its quality, should not require an exposure. In fact, the fallacies surrounding the price of materials are exceedingly numerous and necessitate the greatest vigilance on the part of the buyer to avoid being entrapped. Many of the fancies which influence the buyer in his selection of barley are of the most fallacious character. In this respect, probably the opinions held in reference to colour and size of corns give rise to the greater errors. Take, for instance, an imaginary case, although it is typical of what very frequently occurs in actual farming operations. Imagine two fields, A and B, to be sown with barley of precisely the same class. During the harvesting of A the weather is fme and dry, but between this time and the gathering-in of B one or two showers of rain fall. The value of the latter crop, from the popular point of view, will, in all probability, be considerably reduced owing to its colour defects. Yet it will not only malt easier and better than A, but will also give a more satisfactory result in the brewery. The question of the best “size” of barley corns is one upon which a difference of opinion exists between the maltster and the brewer who malts his own barley. To facilitate the easy sale of his produce, the maltster is compelled to pay particular attention to the size of the corns, and to select the larger and not infreqnently, coarser samples, whilst the brewer who malts for his own use, and is therefore independent of outside opinions, finds that he gets a better result from barley of a plump though relatively small size.
In the paper on “Malt and Malting” to which I have just alluded, Mr. Salamon very plainly portrays the part played by the brewer in determining the deterioration of modern malt. A much too eager spirit for malt of low price, backed by an obstinate refusal to pay that which would yield the maltster a margin for profit on his capital and knowledge of his business, has resulted in a system of hasty working detrimental in all its branches—from the steep to the kiln.
Undoubtedly, the combined effects of freedom of action for the maltster since the abolition of the Malt Tax, and the pressure brought by the brewer to bear upon the questions of £. s. d., have had an unfavourable influence upon the quality of this, the principal raw material.
When we consider that the duty of the maltster is to imitate the process of Nature in regard to the germination of the seed, it should be manifest that any wide departure from natural laws will of a certainty be followed by more or less marked abnormalities. What, then, can we expect if we render the working conditions of the malt ster such as to impel him to greatly restrict the time which should be given to the barley in steep and upon the floors, to load on the kilns before the grain is sufficiently modified to ensure its friability, and to follow this evil by a too rapid system of injudicious kiln heats?
It may be urged that the great majority of modern beers, being admittedly superior to those of earlier days, afford fairly substantial evidence of the fallaciousness of the argument just adduced. I think, however, that a little further consideration will readily prove that modern improvements in this direction are due to the combined effects of the chemist’s aid and the greater skill of the brewer consequent upon his deeper insight into the principles which underlie his operations.
There are many brewers, particularly those who work the smaller establishments, who, probably from a false view of economy, resort to crude, and careless systems of storage of their malt; and there are those who malt their own barley, who fancy it is sufficient to effect the removal of the rootlets by screening just before the grain is passed to the mill.
That malt, and especially much of the faulty material of present day produce, will not stand exposure to adverse conditions, but undergoes a rapid deterioration in quality, is a fact which will bear much reiteration—although one would expect that the fallacy of such a course would be too apparent to receive adoption. Where the stores are of good construction and well calculated to avoid an undue absorption of moisture by the malt, I am inclined to favour the system of transferring the latter to the bins prior to screening, and for the following reason:—Malt absorbs moisture from the atmosphere very readily, but the avidity of absorption by the rootlets is much greater. Therefore, if the bins are in a naturally dry position and built to prevent the access of damp air, what little Moisture is present will be absorbed by those bodies which seize it with the greatest ease. The rootlets thus act the part of the sulphuric acid or calcium chloride in the drying chambers of the chemist’s laboratory. But where the stores are defective, either in their construction or situation, and it is not an easy matter to avoid ultimate slackness, screening prior to storage is certainly essential. If neglected, the presence of the rootlets becomes a source of danger, inasmuch as they aid the increase in moisture percentage in the malt itself, and also by reason of their excessive humidity and friable condition, their removal at a later stage is a matter of considerable difficulty, whilst those which escape simply pass on to the mash-tun, there to part with much of the objectionable nitrogenous matter in which they are particularly rich.
Thanks to the broad views of Drs. Moritz and Morris, many of the fallacies surrounding the deterioration of malted barley and the increase in the proportion of ready-formed sugars found to accompany such retrograde action, have now received a highly feasible explanation, and we have a tolerably fair idea of the cause of the defective working of such material. As you are no doubt aware, it is the opinion of these specialists that the cause of the instability of beers brewed from malt, characterised in one sense by an unusually high rate of ready-formed sugars, cannot be attributed merely to the sugars themselves, but is due rather to the fact that their formation is effected concomitantly with the degradation of the nitrogenous constituents. Feasible, and possibly correct ns this explanation appears to be, it must be admitted that, viewed by the flickering gleam of our light upon matters nitrogenous, it is at best but an ingenious and plausible fancy evolved from much cogitation upon the results of work in which the nature and peculiarities of many of the constituents still remain unknown. Nevertheless, there is strong presumptive evidence in favour of this view, and it merits the best attention of all interested in matters appertaining to the quality of malt.
The fact that it has been affirmed that slack malt is improved by being re-dried has resulted in much fallacious reasoning in regard to the influence exerted upon the malt. Many appear to have labored under the delusive fancy that the defects of any and all malt which had acquired an excessive amount of moisture would be removed by a process of re-kilning, irrespective of the time during which it had remained in that moist condition. Had the fact been borne in mind that re-drying is not carried out with the object of converting degraded grain into sound malt, but rather to check any further deterioration, such a view would not have received acceptance.
Naturally a decrease in the yield and a deterioration in the quality of extract follow an increase in the percentage of moisture in malt.* At the same time there is one point of danger which it would be well to bear in mind. We all know that freshly-kilned malt is unusually brittle, and has a fairly strong tendency to become too finely reduced in the milling process. Now, by suitably adjusting
* Since writing this paper, I have had the pleasure of reading in the Journal of the Federated Institutes, the very able paper by Mr. J. E. Bowley; and whilst speaking of the fallacies surrounding the views on the subject of kiln drying slack malt, I may at this point state that, to a very great extent, my views upon tho re-torrefaction of all malt prior to mashing are in perfect accord with those expressed by Mr. Bowley. That even good malt loses part of its biscuity flavour during storage I think cannot be doubted, and careful re-torrcfaction is not only capable of renewing the good qualities which characterise the soundest materials, and imparting a general improvement in the condition of the wort and beer, but it also enables us to effect a noteworthy reduction in the striking heat. I believe that, to a very considerable extent, the good effects of this system are duo to the necessarily lower striking heats.
the rollers, this tendency may be overcome to a very great extent, and if the mill practically commands the grist case, the process becomes comparatively an easy one, but if any lengthy system of elevators be necessary to convey the grist to the hoppers, the excessive friction incident thereto will cause the undoing of the good effects of the adjustment at the mill, and the grain will arrive at the mash-tun very much too finely ground to work satisfactorily.
The mash-tun constitutes a capital indicator of the quality of malt, as it will be found that malts of good quality yield their extract well and freely, the wort running from the taps at the commencement being of a high gravity and continuing so for some time, when their redaction will be very sharp, and admitting low final densities to be easily attained. On the other hand, inferior malts do not yield high initial tap gravities, and such as they are, their redaction in strength is only attained gradually, whilst their final density rarely reaches the desired limit. It must not, however, be assumed that short extracts necessarily point to defective malt. The fact is that in many cases they may be traced to other and possibly more easily remedied defects, such as irregularities in the milling, faulty mixture of the goods in the mashing, insufficient depth of goods in the mash-tun, whilst too great a depth and a system of heavy sparging may give rise to the formation of a “dead mash.”
Viewed in the light of present day requirements, when the popular taste is so largely in favour of the lighter ales, I am much inclined to believe that the brewer’s strong adherence to the full details of our infusion system of mashing is born of that sound principle of conservatism which looks askance upon any change of a radical character.. At the same time, I do think there is ample room for modification of our present system to render it more suited to the requirements of the lighter ales and the irregular character of the greater part of our modern malt. In this direction I believe that much benefit would accrue from the adoption of a system based upon the low temperature steeping process practised by the Americans, and which is so conducive to the satisfactory peptonising action of the malt enzymes and to the more complete disintegration of the starch granules when the heat of the mash is raised. This process, necessitating only a slight modification in the existing system, is, as will readily be perceived, free from the objections urged against the decoction, or the limited decoction, processes practised in Germany, Austria, &c.
Another fallacy, now happily disposed of, was that of the prejudice against the use of either the raw or prepared grains o£ rice and maize. It is not so long ago that these materials were regarded as somewhat dangerous substances owing to the prevalent opinion that they would exert a detrimental influence on the proportions of maltose and dextrin in the wort. However, this fear is now practically, if not entirely, a thing of the past, and the use of raw and prepared grain is rapidly advancing in favour. That this should be the case is but the natural result of their excellent qualities.
In the case of the prepared cereals, notably low in their nitrogenous contents, they frequently exercise a beneficial action in aiding the apparent reduction in the amount of nitrogenous and other organic matters, other than carbohydrates, existing in malt wort. And in all cases, from the commercial point of view, their use is accompanied by the great advantage accruing from cheapness of extract. This cheapness of extract has on many occasions prompted brewers to exercise a too lavish liberality in its use, with the result that the excessive proportion has considerably lowered the quality of the mash and rendered its treatment a matter of no small difficulty.
I imagine that it will not be required of me to enter into a dissertation, however brief, in regard to the value of the quality of the wort, as, although it is not infrequently a difficult matter to obtain it in its most satisfactory composition, that constitution in regard to the ratio of sugars to non-sugars is now fairly well established. Beyond this, however, our information upon many of its component parts still remains in a somewhat chaotic condition. This is notably the case in respect to bodies of a nitrogenous character, and also the carbohydrates intermediate between maltose and the stable dextrin, in respect to which dissension still runs rampant in the rival schools endeavouring to attain the correct elucidation of this most interesting subject.
It will be remembered that, despite the fact of the discovery of maltose by De Saussure in 1819, and again by Dubrunfant in 1847, their researches were, by some unaccountable means, entirely over-looked, and the disestablishment of the early view, which regarded the sugar of malt as dextrose, is rightly attributed to the work of O’Sullivan, who isolated it in 1872. Again, the important work of Brown and Heron in connection with the action of heat upon diastase in solution, in reference to the proportion of the main products, maltose and dextrin, resulting from its action upon starch, has removed many of the fallacies which formerly surrounded this subject, and in doing so has considerably simplified the operations of the mash-tun.
The process of boiling wort is one which has given rise to considerable misconception as to the true nature of the object required. The appearance of a volume of liquor boiling tumultuously is well known, and there are many who appear to believe that if this physical appearance is accompanied by a somewhat rapid evaporation, the essential conditions of boiling are receiving their due attention. Rate of evaporation and efficiency of boiling are by no means synonymous, though both are essential; in other words, vigorous boiling does not necessarily mean a relatively large evaporation. It should be borne in mind that, in addition to diminution of volume, other equally important changes are desired, such as the precipitation of the coagulable nitrogenous matters and the efficient solution of the hop extract. In regard to the latter object, excessive evaporation will materially destroy the good effects of an otherwise satisfactory extraction. The influence of moist heat upon the permanent solution of much of the nitrogenous matter in wort should not be lost sight of. This influence is, as would naturally be expected, increased by the effect of a slightly increased pressure. And in cases where it is not desirable to use domed coppers and slight pressure, too much attention cannot be paid to the attainment of the fullest possible peptonization in the mash-tun and to the ratio of the diameter to the depth of the copper, so as to secure all further available benefit from the cooking effects of the boiling process. The marked improvement in the rate and degree of clarification, the more pleasing palate flavour and consequent increase in the stability of beer which has passed through a satisfactory period of boiling, are points well-worthy the attention of those who favour shallow coppers and rapid evaporation.
Although analytical research, has not as yet succeeded in establishing a claim to any great consideration as a more reliable means of differentiating between good and inferior varieties of hops than the usual well-tried physical tests, it has undoubtedly had a very considerable influence in clearing up many of the mysteries surrounding their action upon the constituents of wort and beer. The able researches of Hayduck have enabled the well-known antiseptic qualities of hops to be attributed to a somewhat definite source. It will be remembered that Hayduck noted the presence of hard and soft resins, the former having a harsh and exceedingly bitter flavor supplemented by but slight antiseptic power, whilst the latter have lesser bitter qualities, though possessing very marked antiseptic properties, especially in reference to lactic acid producing organisms, which power he proved by direct experiment with the oleo-resin itself.
According to the light thrown upon hop-tannin by Hayduck’s work, it appears to possess certain objectionable properties which render it an undesirable constituent, for, despite the fact that in the presence of albuminoid matter it gives a precipitate having but slight solubility, the precipitation is of only a partial character; the more soluble compounds thus remain in solution until their solubility is decreased by the combined action of the reduced temperature of the cooled wort and its further attenuation by fermentation. They then become visible as turbidity troubles.
A point of considerable interest is that the tannin is present along with a substance known as phlobaphen, which can be produced from the tannin itself. The aqueous solution of this substance has a yellowish-brown colour and a disagreeable bitter taste, but it also has the redeeming feature of reacting with albuminous bodies to produce a precipitate of perfect insolubility. Although attempts to effect the transformation of tannin into phlobaphen in the wort itself have not proved successful, it would appear to be a very desirable end to attain, as tending to decrease the frequency of, at any rate, one form of cask turbidity in beer.
The fallacy of the somewhat popular fancy which, has gained ready acceptance in modern times, in reference to the colour-giving properties of all hops of brown colour, has been well exploded by the interesting and carefully executed experiments of Messrs. Briant and Meacham. These authors state that, “owing to the demand by brewers for hops of pale colour, growers are led to pick their hops far too soon, fearing greatly any appearance of brown ripeness, which would spoil the sample in the brewer’s estimation. . . . Healthy brown hops do not yield colour to the same extent as green unripe hops, and therefore the brewer, if able, as he should be, to distinguish between brownness due to ripeness as distinct from brownness due to disease, would, in purchasing the former, get far better value for his money, and we should hear much less of hop-resin turbidity than has been the case during the last decade” (Trans. Inst. Brewing, 1894, 7, 123).
The misplaced faith in the power of dextrin to produce palate fulness is now fast giving way, and, although one occasionally finds lack of body and general thinness attributed to low dextrin percentage, this fallacy is one which may be regarded as a thing of the past. At the zenith of its popularity it did much to bring dire disaster upon the unlucky brewer enamoured of its simplicity. The change in the quality of beer, made necessary by the change in palate flavour on the part of the public taste, induced many to attempt their starch conversion under the influence of highly restricted diastatic action. The object being to secure a slightly attenuated beer, depending upon a high dextrin rate for palate fulness. The fallacy, however, was soon rendered evident by the marked thinness in palate of the finished beer.
Paradoxical as it may appear, thinness of beer and absence of palate fulness need not necessarily be concomitant characteristics. A beer may be light, or, in other words, low in regard to density, and yet be characterised by ample palate fulness. The satisfactory production of such beers is, nevertheless, a source of much worry to many brewers, and, with the manifest inclination of the public to favour the lighter class of ales and the difficulties attached to their production, we cannot avoid being forced to the conclusion that ultimately brewers will admit the fallaciousness of the arguments brought forward to champion the all-round superiority of our present system of mashing. To avoid misconception arising from my reference to the process of mashing, I would add that, although I regard the practice, of pro-digestion as being eminently calculated to lend considerable aid to mash-tun operations, I do not regard it as a panacea for all evils. Naturally, the blend of materials and the type of yeast used, together with the system of clarification and its degree of efficiency would still remain matters of the greatest importance.
Probably the greatest weakness of modern light ales is their great tendency to premature flatness or lack of condition, and as a natural consequence, early indications of instability follow. When we consider that an otherwise palatable beer is rendered hopelessly undrinkable if deficient in dissolved gas (carbonic acid), and that a slow though steady after-fermentation constitutes one of the safest guards against bacterial supremacy, it is easy to understand why early flatness and instability should be so closely related. In the case of beer intended for bottling, many brewers have endeavoured to overcome this defect by resorting to artificial saturation with carbonic acid gas. “Whilst this system of artificial carbonation frequently results in either the partial or total loss of the finer flavours which characterise a well-matured beer, it certainly enables us to produce a beer in bottle ready for immediate consumption, and which the consumer may open at any time with the certainty of finding it in good condition, in so far as gas is concerned. The reduction in the amount of stock is also a point which the producer does not fail to appreciate.
In respect to the world of the infinitely little, as represented in the brewery by the ordinary yeast or barm, the number of fancies and fallacies foisted upon the scientific world since Anthony van Leeuwenhoek first viewed these minute forms, is almost legion. To attempt an historical review of the theories of fermentation would be a task of supererogation. For a period extending over 200 years, botanists and biologists have busied themselves in seeking to fathom the mysteries connected with fermentation phenomena. And extremely interesting as were the conclusions deduced in all good faith by such investigators as Willis and Stahl, Liebig, Mitscherlich, Meissner, and many others, the light of our time, though it is but dim and flickering in fitful gleams upon many phases of thin subject, is nevertheless sufficiently clear to enable us to regard them as exploded fallacies, and to view the cause of fermentative action in its true light.
The theories of mechanical action, catalytic effect, or purely chemical affinity, having served their time and become replaced by one which regards fermentation as “a necessary consequence or manifestation of life,” a field of the broadest character was laid open for investigation.
The observation of the characteristics of the many forms of ferments, aided by the rapid improvements in the optics of microscopy, naturally received much attention, and upon the results obtained attempts were made to organise a system of classification. Purely physical characteristics, however, proved of but slight value, and oven with the greatly refined methods of culture and observation at present in vogue, it must be acknowledged that we are not yet in possession of sufficient information to warrant the formation of a well-defined system of classification. Recent research has thrown much light upon the enormous influence minute variations in the composition of culture media may have on the physical appearance and specific characteristics of organisms growing therein; whilst the influence of temperature, of acidity, or alkalinity, also tend to further increase the difficulties in this direction. The net result of such work is to render the comparison of bacteriological observations a matter of considerable difficulty in many cases, owing to the widely different conditions prevailing in the methods adopted by different investigators. These remarks, however, have especial reference to bacterial research work. In the case of the yeasts we are fortunately in a better position, and the system of classification evolved from the broad generalisation of a biological genius of Emil Hansen’s magnitude has rendered service of inestimable value to the brewing world at large.
Having arrived at a fairly good understanding of the cause of fermentation, experimentalists devoted themselves to the study of the relative fermentability of various assimilative bodies, and it was found that yeasts, like bacteria, possessed somewhat strong powers of selecting their more appropriate foods out of nutritive solutions of great complexity. One of the results of this line of work was to establish the marked superiority of dextrose as a fermentable body. The results of Bourquelot’s experiments on the diffusibility of sugars proved that dextrose can pass with much greater rapidity through a moist membrane than the levo-rotatory sugar, fructose, or levulose.
And, inasmuch as probably the majority of physiologists incline to the view that nutritive substances, to undergo fermentation, must pass through the outer membrane or cell-wall of the yeast, it was imagined that in the case of invert sugar, consisting, as we know, of equal parts of dextrose and levulose, the former sugar, by reason of its greater diffusibility, would be entirely decomposed before the levulose was acted upon. The fallacy of this assumption was exploded by the work of J. O’Sullivan, who found that the relative amounts of dextrose and Levulose fermented was as 100 : 50-3. Whether this ratio would hold good in the case of pure cultures is somewhat problematical.
Again, recent research on the action of enzymes tends to prove that maltose, hitherto regarded us being directly fermentable, is, as a matter of fact, hydrolysed within the cell into dextrose, whilst some of our German physiologists have ventured to assert their belief in the existence of only one directly fermentable sugar, to wit, glucose, and that all other varieties must be transformed into this type ere true fermentation is possible.
Unquestionably our knowledge of the inner working of the process of fermentation is progressing by leaps and bounds. In fact, since Pasteur’s masterly work on the influence of tartaric acid upon the plane of polarised light, and the consequent inception of a new line of investigation into the constitution and molecular configuration of organic bodies, resulting in the enunciation of the theory of asymmetry by van ‘t Hoff and Le Bel, much excellent work has been done, particularly by Emil Fischer, in the elucidation of the structural changes which may be wrought by the action of enzymes and other chemical entities upon many organic bodies of vegetable origin.
Many of the assertions of scientific men—assertions not infrequently couched in phraseology of a somewhat too dogmatic character—on matters appertaining to brewing science, have been so diametrically opposed to each other as to weigh heavily upon the mind of the brewer, and tend to considerably reduce his faith in purely abstract chemical considerations. But, although repeated attempts to dogmatise upon apparently insufficient data are apt to become tedious to the onlooker, it must be borne in mind that the grand truths extracted from problems of a highly intricate character are not to be obtained by any instantaneous process. Innumerable fancies and fallacies must be overcome ere the goal of facts is attained.
Twenty-five years ago, Sir Wm. Thompson, in delivering his Presidential Address to the British Association, alluded to the popular fallacy which regards the conception of the theory of gravitation as being an almost instantaneous and involuntary idea of Newton’s, and he farther pointed out that, as a matter of fact “it was only by a long train of mathematical calculation, founded on results accumulated through the prodigious toil of practical astronomers, that Newton first demonstrated the forces” and arrived at “the idea of the universality of gravitation.” Later on, he adds that: “Scientific wealth tends to accumulation according to the law of compound interest. Every addition to a knowledge of the properties of matter supplies the naturalist with new instrumental means for discovering and interpreting the phenomena of nature, which, in their turn, afford foundations for fresh generalisations, bringing germs of permanent value into the great storehouse of philosophy.”
When our scientific wealth has accumulated sufficiently to enable us to understand the true nature of certain bodies of a carbohydrate character, and all matters of a nitrogenous character existing in wort, it is not beyond the pale of reason to expect that our insight into the physiological peculiarities of the yeasts and bacteria will progress with enormous pace. At present, the deductions drawn from the chemical and optical behaviour of fermented worts, are, at their best, but vague and indefinite, and, strictly speaking, of comparative use only in the case of work done with one and the same worts. As Victor Meyer has remarked (Pharm. Journ., 1890, 773), “the chemist only deals with bodies of great molecular stability; while it cannot be doubted that those which play a part in the process of life are the very opposite in every respect.” Loew’s investigations on the nutrition of bacteria (Bull. Coll. Agric. Imp. Univ. Tokio, 2), led him to make a similar observation in regard to the proteids. He regards them as ” exceedingly labil compounds that can be easily converted into relatively stable ones,” and he also expresses his conviction that “a great lability is the indispensable and necessary foundation for the production of the various actions of the living protoplasm; for the mode of motions that move the life machinery. There is a source of motion in the labil position of atoms in the molecules—a source that has hitherto not been taken into consideration either by chemists or by physicists.”
When our scientific wealth has farther accumulated, and we have gained a clearer and more extensive view of the molecular configuration of organic bodies, and when the problems bearing upon their mode of formation in plant life—whether they originate from a process of building-up or one of breaking-down—as well as their actual condition and general properties, have received further elucidation, we may expect to witness the inception of many new facts and the destruction of many of the present day fancies and fallacies concerning the inner working of fermentation phenomena. At present, as the Marquis of Salisbury has remarked: “We live in a small bright oasis of knowledge, surrounded on all sides by a vast unexplored region of impenetrable mystery.”