Amber, Gold & Black: The History of Britain’s Great Beers by Martyn Cornell
By Martyn Cornell
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Additional info for Amber, Gold & Black: The History of Britain’s Great Beers
In addition, detailing the long histories behind Britain’s beers may go some way to restoring respect for the country’s national drink. While Thomas Hardy could write in The Trumpet Major of Dorchester beer that ‘The masses worshipped it; the minor gentry loved it more than wine, and by the most illustrious county families it was not despised’, today beer is seldom given the position at the heart of British gastronomic life that it deserves. British food grew and developed alongside beer and the two complement each other, just as French or Italian food is complemented by wine.
It allowed a higher hop ratio without bringing out harshness from the hops in the way that the carbonate-high waters used by London brewers did; took less colour out of the malt, producing paler beers even from already pale malts and promoted yeast growth during fermentation. The arrival of the railway in Burton upon Trent in 1839 enabled the Staffordshire town’s brewers to start sending the pale, hopped beers of the kind they shipped to India to customers around Britain as well, without having to pay the huge charges and suffer the inevitable pilfering they faced when sending their beers by canal.
Although the K style of bitter pale ale was probably an old one, evidence is lacking: one of the first mentions in print is in 1855 in an advertisement for the Stafford brewery, which was selling ‘Pale India Ale’ at 18d a gallon, and AK Ale, ‘a delicate bitter ale’, at 14d a gallon. The Burton brewer James Herbert said of AK ale: ‘This class of ale has come very much into use, mostly for private families, it being a light tonic ale, and sent out by most brewers at 1s per gallon. The gravity of this Ale is usually brewed at 20lb’, which is 1056 OG.