This glossary aims to provide definitions of terms likely to be encountered in the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century brewery literature which forms the basis of my study. Terms and meanings from outside my period are occasionally defined, but only where this will help to avoid confusion. I have been particularly concerned to tease out the multiple meanings of such general terms as ale, porter etc, which cannot by their nature have any solid correct definition over all time and space, in spite of the efforts of various prescriptive authorities. References to primary or secondary sources (listed at the end) have been given wherever I felt this would be useful.
References for this section
Senior brewery staff member, most often in the major London porter breweries, with responsibility for the round of visits to publicans' premises, to collect payments and see to matters of day-to-day management. Mathias notes that in the 1950s the district managers at Truman Hanbury Buxton still bore this title [Mathias (1959) 31 n1].
Brewery worker, most often in the major London porter breweries, sent out to perform various duties at publicans' premises: these might include the supervision of fining, care of the casks, and the collection of receipts [Mathias (1959) 104-5]. A story collected in Curiosities of Ale and Beer suggests that abroad coopers were also responsible for tasting the beer to guard against adulteration by the publican (see cooper). Mathias notes that the term was still in use at Whitbreads in the 1950s [Mathias (1959) 31 n1].
1. In the dominant modern British sense, ale is taken to be one of the two principal subgroups of beer, the other being lager. By this definition ale is a traditional style found mainly in Britain and Northwest Europe and characterised by relatively high fermentation and serving temperatures, top-fermenting yeast strains and specialist malts and hops. This technical characterisation, however, only came to prominence during the rise of Brit-lager in the mid-twentieth century.
2. Historically, the distinction between ale and beer (here taken as the generic) is a complicated one. The two terms may originally have expressed the same general concept, with regional usage variations deriving from the different terms employed by the various Anglo-Saxon and Nordic groups who settled England from the fifth century onward.
3. A firm distinction, however, seems to have emerged in the fifteenth century between the native ale, which was at that time made without hops, and the hopped beer produced at first by immigrants from the Low Countries [Mathias (1959) 3]. For a time, ale and beer were perceived as wholly separate drinks produced by distinct brewing communities and subject to different standard measures (see barrel).
4. Before long, the ale producers too began to use a proportion of hops in modern times practically all malt liquors are hopped but the distinction of sense 3 served to spawn another. One of the purposes of hopping is preservation: this had replaced the traditional ale brewers' need to brew to high gravities so that the beer would be rich in alcoholic spirit (now understood to have antiseptic properties in its own right). For a given keeping quality there was thus a trade-off between hoppiness and strength: the two terms came to represent divergent poles, with ale indicating a sweet, heavy, alcoholic drink with a low hop rate, and beer a well-hopped and probably much lighter drink: it tended to be understood as a general principle that ale was stronger, and hence of more value, than beer, although beer was consistently the more popular drink in urban centres.
5. In the eighteenth century porter inherited most of the beer market and contributed to the decline of the contemporary ale style. Since porter was generally brown (and later black), there seems to have been some tendency towards an assumption that ale was a typically pale-coloured drink, which had not previously been the case. This was heightened by the rise of provincial brewing centres such as Burton in the mid-nineteenth century, with the swing away from porter and towards the new pale ales. Although the term ale was thus repopularised, its meaning had clearly shifted from that in sense 4, since Burton-style pales were well hopped (in the case of India Pale Ale, very much so).
In recent times both beer and ale seem to have gained a more generic status with the twentieth-century 'bitter' style, which with its low gravity and high hop rate would certainly qualify as 'beer' under the distinction of sense 4, strongly accepted as ale. However, except in certain regional dialects, beer has tended to become wholly generic, whereas the dramatic growth of lager styles and the birth of 'real ale' consciousness in the past forty years have prompted greater awareness of the technicalities informing the ale/lager distinction, leading to the situation outlined in sense 1.
Official employed (in various circumstances) to test the strength, quality etc of ale.
Malt dried to a degree intermediate between pale and brown; in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries it was apparently very much in use, as being free of either extream [Ellis (1736) 20; cf Morrice (1827) 34].
Device, typically a submerged coil through which running water may pass, used for controlling the temperature of bulk liquids. From around the beginning of the nineteenth century, attemperators were marketed to brewers, chiefly for the purposes of wort cooling and fermentation management [Mathias (1959) 73-6].
Literally 'thinning-out': the process, now understood as the conversion of sugars into alcohol, by which fermenting wort became less dense, less viscous, less sweet-tasting and more liable to intoxicate. Following John Richardson's saccharometric quantification project, the attenuation came to be understood as a value, expressing the extent of fermentation, computed as the difference between the original gravity and final gravity.
Generic term for vessels used in the brewing process. Often pronounced buck; same derivation as bucket, according to Wheeler (1997) 215. See hop back, under-back.
A cask of a standard size (in general-purpose English, barrel tends to be applied to any vessel of hoops and staves; in brewery circles, cask is preferred as the generic and barrel tends to denote a particular volume.) According to Mathias, the Excise Acts of 1672 define standard barrel sizes of 36 gallons for beer, and 32 gallons for ale within London (as defined by the Bills of Mortality), and of 34 gallons for both beer and ale elsewhere [Mathias (1959) 363]. These distinctions were presumably abolished some time in the eighteenth century, with a general value of 36 gallons arising. Citing a letter of 1808 from the Burton brewer Allsopp, Mathias also notes that Burton used its own distinct cask sizes, 40 and 80 gallons [Mathias (1959) 188 n4].
For convenience, I here take the word beer as a generic term covering all fermented malt liquors. This has not been the case at all times and in all locations: see ale for a summary history of the distinction between the two terms. Nowadays in many areas of Britain beer is assigned the restrictive meaning here given to ale, so that beer and lager are mutually exclusive.
Wheeler draws our attention to a suggestion in certain editions of Chambers' Dictionary that 'beer' must be bottom-fermented [Wheeler (1997) 118], and thus, presumably, that beer and lager are synonyms distinct from ale: this seems to be the result of some confusion in terms, and is unsupported to the best of my knowledge.
Same root as barley, but in modern times usually equivalent specifically to bigg.
Species of barley (six-rowed, but with the appearance of four rows) often mentioned as taking the place of common barley in Scottish brewing: a much more hardy plant than common barley, [which] ripens better in northern latitudes [Accum (1821) 13].
= patent malt.
a technical term used by coopers, to denote sugar that is calcined, until it obtains the colour that occasions the name [Combrune (1805) 2].
High-dried brown malt which has been allowed to torrefy, or 'blow' (in a similar fashion to popping corn), increasing the volume a given mass will take up.
See pounds per barrel.
Any individual brewing site, especially a large one used for brewing in common. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the Brewery was often used to refer to professional brewers collectively or to the profession of brewing.
Building or chamber housing the apparatus used for brewing, whether in a dedicated brewery or not.
A publican (licensed victualler) who brews his or her own beer, for consumption on the premises (the opposing term is common brewer). This was the most common means of production until the nineteenth century; on-site brewing was virtually extinct by the 1960s, but has recently seen a resurgence, the modern establishments being known as brewpubs.
Feminine of brewer. Since domestic brewing was initially considered women's work, many of the early publican brewers were female.
1. Following initial fermentation, beer is always somewhat cloudy owing to suspended yeast and other materials. The beer is said to have dropped bright when, in the cask or vat, this suspended matter drops out of the beer, leaving it transparent.
2. A more recent (largely post-1960, now declining) usage of the expression bright beer applies specifically to 'keg', 'tank' and non-live bottled beers, which, having been filtered and pasteurised, must necessarily remain bright in sense 1 since they have no yeast activity.
= abroad cooper.
Malt dried to relatively high temperatures, often over a wood fire, imparting a brown colour and characteristic flavour to beer brewed with it.
Generic term for a cask, often indicating large size. Sometimes indicates a specific capacity of three barrels (in the case of beer measure, 108 gallons).
Generic term for the familiar vessel to hold beer or other liquids, generally constructed in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries of wooden staves bound by metal hoops, and forming a tapered cylindrical shape ideal for rolling into position. Modern casks tend to be all metal, though the shape is not greatly changed. See barrel, puncheon, hogshead, kilderkin, firkin, pin.
Transfer of finished beer from the fermenting vessels into casks.
cocculus indicus or cocculus india
Toxic, stupefying berry used in extract form as a brewing additive, and principal cause célèbre in the adulteration controversies around 1800: it was widely asserted that the porter-brewers were poisoning their customers by employing large quantities of the substance. Accum decried cocculus indicus as a deleterious vegetable substance producing baneful effects; Morrice by contrast commended it thus: a substitute for Malt and Hops, and a great preservative of Malt Liquor: it prevents secondary fermentation in bottled Beer, and consequently, the bursting of the bottles in warm climates. Its effect is of an inebriating nature. [Accum (1821) 205, 210; Morrice (1827) 123]
Relatively large brewing concern, producing beer at a central brewery for distribution to a number of public houses, usually attached to the brewery by tie or direct ownership (cf brewing victualler).
1. A maker or repairer of casks, and sometimes similarly-constructed vessels such as mash-tuns. The London Coopers formed a Chartered Company in their own right and were largely independent from the Brewers; major breweries in the eighteenth century did employ coopers directly, but these seem to have been concerned mainly with the repair and upkeep of casks rather than with their construction [Mathias (1959) 223-4].
2. Perhaps as a result of this arrangement, the term 'cooper' gained a somewhat different meaning within the brewery, indicating an individual employed to clean and maintain casks, and perhaps also to manage other activities such as fining at the public house. See abroad cooper.
3. In Curiosities of Ale and Beer a description is given of a drink named 'cooper', consisting of equal proportions of porter and stout, apparently popular in London in the late nineteenth century. Two possible derivations are given, one from a Broad Street publican with the surname Cooper, the other suggesting that at this time the abroad cooper (or 'broad cooper') had responsibility for testing beer: the publican who watered down his porter would secretly draw some stout into the sample to bring it up to acceptable strength ['Bickerdyke' (1886) 375].
Brewing vessel used for the hop boil: in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries this was generally fired by direct heat, and was usually made of copper.
entire, intire, entire butt beer
An early synonym for porter. The well-known but problematic 'Harwood' account states that the name 'entire' comes from its being drawn direct from a single cask or butt, rather than being a mixture of several different beers [Feltham (1802) 249]. Some of those who dispute the account suggest as an alternative
Porter additive: simply unrefined sugar, according to one source [Shannon (1805) 242].
The dissolved fermentable materials in a wort, extracted from malt during the mashing process.
Additive much in use around 1800, widely condemned as an adulterant. Alexander Morrice promoted fabia amara as the best substitute for hops, and also as able to some degree to compensate for a shortage of malt [Morrice (1827) 49].
In a brewing context usually refers specifically to the conversion of sugary wort into intoxicating beer through the addition of yeast, the final stage of the brewing process. However, the conversion of beer (or other spiritous drinks) was also sometimes accounted as a fermentation process, and the early eighteenth-century chemists who inspired several writers on brewing applied the term more widely to a variety of chemical transformations.
The gravity of finished beer, once fermentation is complete.
The clarification, or dropping bright, of finished beer, which tends to be cloudy immediately following fermentation. Some beers fine naturally if left undisturbed for a period; however, discussion of the act of fining usually refers to artificial precipitation using finings such as isinglass.
Preparations used for the artificial fining of beer, usually added directly to the cask at the point of dispense. In the eighteenth century isinglass was the chief fining agent.
A small cask, generally containing a quarter of a barrel (9 gallons).
Yeast brought to the top of the vessel during fermentation, carried by bubbles of (as it was understood in the eighteenth century) fixed air, and tending to form clumps leading to the creation of a large rocky head. Cf lees.
General term for putrefaction or other spoilage in beer. Beer tainted in this way is said to be foxed. Monckton offers the explanation that [w]orts thus infected produced a reddish head during fermentation and it was this abnormal colouring that gave such worts their descriptive name [Monckton (1966) 146]: I have so far found no support for this assertion.
Quantitative term (still extant in the brewery, derived directly from the eighteenth-century natural-philosophical expression since replaced by density) indicating the density of wort, finished beer, brewing liquor etc: see original gravity, final gravity. Devices such as the saccharometer for determining gravity values were marketed to brewers from the 1780s onwards. In many modern brewing situations, including the homebrew trade, gravity is quantified using the specific gravity scale (expressing values as a simple quotient of the density of pure water) inherited from distillery practice; the traditional brewery-specific measure, however, was the scale of pounds per barrel, pioneered by John Richardson in his 1784 work Statical Estimates.
The malt (and sometimes other materials) to be mashed.
The malt (and sometimes other materials) to be used for brewing, usually after water has been let onto them in the mash-tun; unexpended fermentables generally, as in Alexander Morrice's comment on inefficient brewers giving Goods instead of Grains to the Pigs [Morrice (1827) viii].
An individual brewing batch.
False-bottomed vessel used to separate the spent hops from the wort following the hop boil.
Stage following mashing in the brewing process: the (as yet unhopped) wort is drawn off and boiled vigorously with hops in the copper for perhaps one or two hours.
Large standard cask containing 54 gallons (one and a half barrels). The London and Country Brewer mentions one private brewer using "Half-Hogshead" casks, presumably of 27 gallons [Ellis (1750) 312].
Substance prepared from the swim-bladder of a fish (in the case of 'true' isinglass, the huso or great sturgeon), dissolved in a small quantity of stale beer and added to casks for the purpose of artificially fining the beer. Isinglass seems to have been an early eighteenth-century innovation, and sparked controversy as to whether its use constitued adulteration [Mathias (1959) 51-3].
Cask equivalent to half a barrel, ie 18 gallons. I have seen one recent popular text which indicates that, just as the early London ale barrel contained 32 rather than 36 gallons, there was for some time an ale kilderkin of 16 gallons. [Peter Haydon, Beer and Britannia (Stroud: Sutton 2001) 34].
German term, originally indicating a beer which had received a relatively long period of storage. Although an old-established expression in this sense, the term had no particular impact in Britain until it became associated with imitators of the Pilsener variety developed around the mid-nineteenth century, characterised by a light golden colour, temperature-stepped mashing, low-temperature fermentation (subject to careful technical management), bottom-fermenting yeast strains and a low serving temperature. In fact, the thin keg session beers accepted as lager in Britain from the 1960s onward are scarcely representative of the central European style, but this use of the term has gained considerable currency. Cf ale.
That portion of the yeast, or yeast residue, which sinks to the bottom of the vessel during fermentation (cf flowers). The term is used with respect to beer and wine alike.
In brewery parlance, liquid generally (malt liquor etc); liquor on its own tends to refer specifically to the water used for mashing. The London and Country Brewer notes that it is Sixpence forfeit in the London Brewhouse if the word Water is named instead of its brewery equivalent [Ellis (1736) 38].
maltster (also malster)
A manufacturer of malt. Malting was a trade in its own right, and maltsters generally independent from either the farmers who produced the barley or the brewers who consumed the malt, though some of the larger breweries conducted their own malting operations, especially from the nineteenth century onwards [Mathias (1959) 455-474]. Technically the term 'maltster' is feminine (cf brewster), malting having traditionally been the work of women; by the period in question, however, the enterprise was male-dominated and the term applied largely to men.
The central extraction process in brewing, in which hot liquor is run onto the grist and left to infuse for, typically, one to two hours. Soluble sugars in the malt are absorbed by the water to form wort, which is then run off from the grist.
Any vessel used for mashing: usually a large coopered wooden vat.
In eighteenth-century parlance, fresh or immature beer (cf stale), which might in fact be too harsh-tasting to be drinkable unmixed. This sense of 'mild' is not to be confused with the modern mild style, indicating a dark or light beer with a low hop rate, usually sweetish and with a low gravity.
Any substance resembling glue; specifically, in technical brewery literature, the greyish, slimy and apparently unfermentable component of malt extracts, the nature and value of which were subject to dispute around 1800 [see in particular Baverstock (1805) 125-162]. The brewers' qualitative distinction between saccharine and mucilage informed the nineteenth-century chemical distinction between maltose and the dextrin group.
multum or hard multum
Euphemistic term used for a compound additive supplied by brewers' druggists in the years around 1800. The ingredients of 'multum' are obscure, and probably varied: they almost certainly included ingredients illegal in commercial brewing, and were kept secret for obvious reasons. At the 1818 hearings the Solicitor of Excise stated he believed multum to be a compound of colouring and opium [Parliamentary Papers 1819, v5, 33].
The gravity of hopped wort immediately prior to fermentation, when all the dissolved fermentables are still present: from this value, in principle, the maximum potential production of alcohol can be computed.
= abroad clerk. 'Obadiah Poundage' describes himself as the oldest acting out-door clerk in the brewery ['Poundage' (1760) 436]
1. Category of ales (in bottle or cask) derived from pale malt, having a characteristic golden colour. In the period of porter's dominance (the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries) these were chiefly popular in rural areas and among the more prosperous classes.
2. A specific pale ale style (perhaps more heavily hopped than previously) which came to dominate British brewing culture in the mid-nineteenth century, with the decline of the London porter trade and the rise of provincial brewing centres.
Malt dried to low temperatures, over gentle heat, sometimes over coke fires to limit coloration as far as possible; often represented as being dried to the lowest possible temperature to prevent further germination [Combrune (1805) 161; Accum (1821) 25]. Until the late eighteenth century the delicate process of pale malting seems to have been reserved for the higher grades of malt, with the pale ales and beers produced regarded as prestige products. Once it was discovered that the production of brown malt was relatively inefficient, pale became the dominant product and found its way into porter and brown ales, appropriately disguised by colouring agents [Mathias (1959) 415-6].
Intensely dark, very high-dried (yet still slightly extractible) malt produced in a roasting cylinder, permitted under strict regulation for use as a porter colouring from 1817 [Mathias (1959) 423].
Smallest of the standard cask sizes in regular use, containing four and a half gallons or one-eighth of a barrel.
Name which came into use around 1720 to describe a well-hopped, relatively cheap style of brown beer which became tremendously popular in London and later elsewhere. Its origins and initial nature are obscure: accounts in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century literature proceed mainly from a single source ['Poundage' (1760)] which was so widely borrowed from as to be wrongly interpreted as a consensus of independent authorities [Mathias (1959) 13 n2; Corran (1975) 111-2]. This source suggests that porter began life as an intermediate between the 'mild' and 'stale' brown beers which were often blended at the point of sale; some later accounts [eg Monthly Magazine 13 (1802) 42] suggest that the flavours of three specified beers were involved, and tie down the innovation to a specific brewer, Ralph Harwood, who kept a brewhouse in Shoreditch [see especially 'Bickerdyke' (1886) 366]. These accounts suggest that Harwood originally coined the name 'entire butt' for the product (since it could be drawn from a single cask). The name 'porter' is a contraction of "porter's beer", probably deriving from its early popularity among London's porters (licensed fetchers and loaders); many accounts offer the alternative suggestion that it instead took its name from the porters who originally delivered it [eg, 'Bickerdyke' (1886) 367].
Porter utterly dominated London beer production by the late eighteenth century. The dozen or so major porter breweries were huge industrial concerns, orders of magnitude larger than contemporary ale breweries [Mathias (1959) 12] and, prior to the pale ale resurgency which followed 1830, porter was the most popular beer style nationwide. The production and character of porter unquestionably altered a good deal over its period of ascendancy. In the years around 1800, financial constraints and a growing realisation of the greater cost-effectiveness of pale malting meant that porter came to contain lower and lower proportions of the brown malt which had formerly defined its taste and appearance; caramel and burnt malts were introduced to attain the desired colour. Around this time, it appears, porter was generally no longer brewed 'entire', the publicans having reverted to blending mild and stale beers [Rees (1819)].
A perceived reduction in quality coupled with the new popularity of Burton-style pale ale seems to have been responsible for the death of the London porter tradition around the turn of the twentieth century: its principal legacies are 'mild', a style loosely derived from the weaker end of the porter gravity spectrum, and 'stout', the modern meaning of which (a very dark hoppy beer with heavy black malt or roast barley character) derives from 'stout porter', 'stout' here simply indicating 'strong'.
pounds per barrel or brewers' pounds
Quantity used to express the gravity of samples of beer, wort etc, introduced by John Richardson in his 1784 Statical Estimates. The value expresses the number of pounds' weight difference between a barrel of the test liquid and a barrel of pure water: in the case of worts, it therefore displays clearly the magnitude of the extract achieved in mashing. Cf saccharometer.
Large cask: in the brewery, often used with specific reference to a cask of two barrels' (72 gallons') capacity. Capacity varied according to the drink contained: Brande mentions "iron-bound rum-puncheons", which "hold in general 120 gallons" [Brande (1830?) 135].
Prior to its application to a synthetic sweetening agent, 'saccharine' as a noun was used by brewers to refer to the sweet-tasting, soluble and readily fermentable component of the extract of malt, as distinct from the gluey mucilage which was also obtained.
saccharimeter or optical saccharimeter
Not related to the saccharometer, the saccharimeter is a late nineteenth-century innovation which assists in computing, not the quantity of dissolved sugars in a sample, but the proportions of chemically distinct sugars (maltose, dextrins etc) which it contains. It employs plane-polarised light, which these sugars rotate to different degrees. A good overview of the device is given in Egbert Grant Hooper, The Manual of Brewing Scientific and Technical (London 1885).
Term coined by John Richardson to describe his device (manufactured by John Troughton of Fleet Street) for determining the gravity of samples, expressed in pounds per barrel. Richardson steadfastly maintained that this was a brewery-specific innovation against claims [eg Baverstock (1785)] that it was merely a marginally adapted implementation of the familiar hydrometer used in the distillery and by the Excise authorities. Nineteenth-century brewers retained the term saccharometer to describe similar instruments such as the popular model manufactured by Dring and Fage, but seem to have been ready to accept the device as a special case of the hydrometer [Sumner (2001) 267 n43].
(Of taps, stopcocks etc) to turn on, set running.
set mash (occasionally sett mash)
Brewery calamity which results when mashing is attempted with water which is too hot. The malt clots, assumes the consistency of paste, and retains most of the liquor, meaning that an inadequate (and usually cloudy) wort is drawn off. It is qualitatively obvious when a mash has been fully set; however, a partial set mash (with lesser, but still significant ill-effects) may occur without the brewer's noticing, causing an unexpected diminution in beer strength [Richardson (1788) 283-5].
= blown malt.
Liquorice-based flavouring and colouring additive, often cited in brewing recipes around 1800. Morrice states that Spanish Liquorice or Juice, is made from boiling [liquorice] root lightly in water till the fluid has acquired a deep yellow tincture, and the water, at length, evaporated over a moderate fire. There remains a black solid sediment, of a pleasant smell; of a dark reddish-brown colour when in the mass, and, when drawn out into strings, of a golden colour, which we call liquorice juice, or sometimes Spanish Juice. Its quantity amounts to nearly half the weight of the root. [Morrice (1827) 122].
The modern practice of rinsing the spent grains with hot water, once the wort has been run off, to rinse out fermentable sugars which have been retained. Sparging is standard practice in the modern brewery, having replaced the custom of taking multiple mashes from the same grist. In the eighteenth century it was apparently assumed that only prolonged infusion could carry fermentables out of the grist: Richardson dismisses as a country superstition the practice of leaking on, which seems to be equivalent to sparging [Richardson (1788) 287-8].
Mature beer which, in the eighteenth century, might have been kept in vat for a year or more, gradually developing in richness and flavour (cf mild beer). Staleness at this time was not a fault but a desirable characteristic, with beer described as 'stale' commanding higher prices. 'Obadiah Poundage' describes new beer being mixed with stale as a trade-off between flavour and cost, and seems to suggest that porter derived from a desire to replicate the blend ['Poundage' (1760) 436].
Originally a synonym for strong; now refers to an extant style derived from the stronger varieties of nineteenth-century porter.
tun (occasionally ton)
Any large vessel, usually coopered, especially a mash-tun, primary fermentation vessel, or long-term storage vat. Also a standard ale cask size of 216 gallons (6 barrels).
Pale or amber-coloured beer brewed for ready drinking, generally sent out as soon as fermentation had subsided, and with no keeping potential. Combrune describes it as a sweet, luscious drink; Morrice says it "is in almost as great request as Porter during the winter, when it is drunk warm." [Combrune (1762) passim; Morrice (1827) 69]. Twopenny was brewed with much less malt than porter, or from second worts; the name comes from its original price of 2d per quart pot, in a period when porter was stable at threepence or 3½d a pot.
Vessel below the mash-tun, into which the wort is drained after mashing, and allowed to stand prior to transfer to the copper.
The sweet, viscous liquid produced by the mashing process, either before or after the hop boil but before fermentation, and as such devoid of alcohol.
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