Confused? There’s no need to be. Convention has it that stout is a dark heavy beer, but at The Durham Brewery we have reverted to the 18th century meaning of “Strong”. The original meaning was “brave” or “proud” but came to be associated with strong beer. In 1755 Samuel Johnson defined stout as a “cant name for strong beer”. Colour did not come into the meaning until the 19th century, when porters (originally brown) were made in varying strengths, and after the invention of patent black malt in 1817 by Daniel Wheeler, became much darker. The lower strength porters were called just that – “porter”. Strong porters, above 6% abv, were termed “stout porter”. Eventually there was just porter and stout as the language became streamlined. There were also very strong porters called imperial russian stouts.
White Stout is our trade name and any other brewery using it, has stolen it. We launched White Stout in November 2012. We should have trademarked the name before the launch because its immediate success barred any subsequent protection from trademarking. The IPO researched the name on the internet and concluded that because there were already numerous references to our pale stout being a White Stout, the term had become generic and it would be confusing to trademark it. We have been using the term “White” for twenty years to define our range of pale, hoppy beers and designated our new pale stout as the top of the “White Range”.
We were first
Our first mention of White Stout was on twitter. Within a few hours Brewdog had twittered their pale stout. Unbeknown to us, they too had been cooking up a pale stout. Presently there are a number of breweries producing not just a pale stout but a “White Stout”!
Lager is Beer
There is a belief among some drinkers that lager is some mystical substance made from vats of chemicals. Somebody once said, “I only drink beer, not lager”, before making the sign of the cross towards the bottle-conditioned lager on the shop shelf. Much of this misconception has originated in CAMRA’s dogged hate propaganda against keg beer. It is a pity because, although many English made lagers are tasteless, there are many good continental lagers with excellent characteristics.
Lager is mashed, to convert starches to sugars. Mashing is generally more complex than in English beers but this consists in stepping up the mash temperature to achieve maximum conversion, whereas the English traditionally mash at one temperature. Hops are boiled just the same as we do. Where the real difference lies is in the fermentation. English beers are fermented with a top fermenting yeast which requires temperatures around 20 degrees.The fermentation is fast and usually lasts only a few days. Lager uses a bottom fermenting yeast which requires low temperatures. Seven degrees is common although the yeast can work at temperatures approaching freezing. A cold, slow fermentation takes a long time and two months is common, although some beers can take three months. The beer is stored cool. The German word to store is “lagern”. The beer is cool lagered.
The chemicals idea is completely misguided. A German brewed beer must conform to a purity law. The Reinheitsgebot requires that only malt, hops, water and yeast are used as ingredients.
Colour of Lager
Another English misconception is that lagers are all pale, golden beers. The word lager refers only to the slow fermentation. It is quite possible to lager beers made with darker malts. A dunkel is a brown beer, a schwarz is a black beer.
Ale is the original English word for a fermented malt beverage which did not use hops. Malt provides sugars which are fermented to make alcohol and carbon dioxide – the fizz. Hops are not indigenous to England so we made a drink from malt which we flavoured with herbs and spices. We called it ale.
Hops are a wonderful bittering agent and a preservative. Continental breweries were using hops well before English breweries. The malt extract from the malt is boiled with hops to extract the bittering and preservative qualities, and the resultant beverage is called beer.
Before about 1400 we made ale. From about 1420 we started to grow hops in the South East of England and we started to make beer.
Please don’t confuse archaic terminology with modern usage. What we now call real ale is an invention of CAMRA to distinguish keg beers from naturally conditioned cask beers. The term ‘ale’ has change many times over the centuries and now is used to distinguish English top fermented beers from Continental bottom fermented beers – lagers.
What is a Hogshead?
Simply, in the context of beer, it is a 54 gallon cask. Historically it is not so simple, with the size of the container changing according to what product it held. For instance, a hogshead of ale was 51 gallons. The unit was standardized by an act of parliament in 1423, but even then there were local variations.
The system of cask sizes continues to this day, although there is much confusion between casks and kegs, and cask sizes.
1 pin = 4.5 gallons
1 firking = 9 gallons
1 kilderkin = 18 gallons
1 barrel = 36 gallons
1 hogshead = 54 gallons
1 butt = 108 gallons
Please note that a barrel is a cask size, not the term for the container.