Author Topic: Sugar in British Ales?  (Read 858 times)

Offline qhodgson

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Sugar in British Ales?
« on: August 24, 2016, 01:20:45 AM »
I just got CAMRA's Brew Your Own British Real Ale by Graham Wheeler and I'm curious why so many of the recipes call for white sugar in the mash when the expected abv is around 4%.  I've seen where higher gravity beers add sugar to ensure enough fermentable sugar to reach desired alcohol levels, but why would sugar be needed in a lower alcohol beer?

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Offline Hand of Dom

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Online hopfenundmalz

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Re: Sugar in British Ales?
« Reply #2 on: August 24, 2016, 11:30:56 AM »
If you use a Lyle's Golden Syrup in place of white table sugar, it does add a little flavor. If IIRC, the white sugar is a substitute for Invert No. 1, which is essentially Lyle's Golden Syrup.
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Offline Phil_M

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Re: Sugar in British Ales?
« Reply #3 on: August 24, 2016, 12:26:45 PM »
I use Lyle's, with blackstrap molasses added to approximate invert no. 2, 3, etc. It definitely adds something, a caramel note that's a bit like lighter caramel malts, but without the heavy/syrupy quality.
Corn is a fine adjunct in beer.

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Offline brewinhard

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Re: Sugar in British Ales?
« Reply #4 on: August 24, 2016, 10:00:15 PM »
I use Lyle's, with blackstrap molasses added to approximate invert no. 2, 3, etc. It definitely adds something, a caramel note that's a bit like lighter caramel malts, but without the heavy/syrupy quality.

Yes!  I can attest to this as I have enjoyed Phil's bitter before in the swap. Almost like a light crystal malt that adds a nuance of toffee.

Offline qhodgson

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Re: Sugar in British Ales?
« Reply #5 on: September 02, 2016, 07:15:00 PM »
Thanks!  I'll have to try an experiment with/without the sugar to see if I detect a difference.

Offline JJeffers09

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Re: Sugar in British Ales?
« Reply #6 on: September 03, 2016, 09:18:04 AM »
I have seen that book "dogged" on for that very reason that table sugar is in a lot of those recipes.  However I think that it is a decent book, not the best.  Good luck.  +1 blackstrap/Lyles additional flavor and complexity over sucrose any day.  Or at the very least, apply some human ingenuity, and make a caramel or amber candy out of your table sugar.
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Offline Phil_M

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Re: Sugar in British Ales?
« Reply #7 on: September 03, 2016, 02:11:42 PM »
I've got a copy of that book as well.

To me, it's most useful for being another source of brewing techniques that work. It's always good to see approaches different than the norm, might help people develop a process that works better for them.

Also, that book (and some other research) got me thinking about something...racking to secondary. Though most of us no longer do this, it fits exactly in to racking to a cask. I may not have my facts right, but it seems that secondary serves as a settling AND and carbonating stage, then you just bottle the already carbed beer.

Might be an interesting technique to further minimize oxygen uptake for those seeking to do so. Ferment to within a few points of FG, rack to secondary and dose with primings and finings. Store at a temp such that the dissolved CO2 is at an appropriate level for British styles. Bottle in a few days before the yeast have completely finished with the primings.

Sorry if this seems rambling. Lately I've really been trying to learn more about British brewing, and there are some interesting tie ins to the whole minimizing O2 problems approach that is such a hot topic today. If I understand things right, the Brits basically keep the beer on active (still fermenting, though perhaps only slowly) yeast for the life of the beer. Seems to me these active yeast would be ideal oxygen scrubbers...
Corn is a fine adjunct in beer.

And don't buy stale beer.

Offline reverseapachemaster

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Re: Sugar in British Ales?
« Reply #8 on: September 04, 2016, 03:51:06 PM »
Various sugars and syrups are common to English brewing for a number of reasons. Cost and availability are usually cited as reasons why sugars/syrups became common in English brewing but I speculate there are other reasons.

First, the rise of sugars/syrups in English brewing comes right around the time brewing starts to become scientific as a profession and breweries start cleaning so wild yeast/brett secondary fermentations start to appear less, leaving behind less attenuated beers. Sugar/syrups can help cut the body and sweetness.

Second, perhaps along the same lines, heavier English beers were facing global and domestic challenges from drier lagers. If you read nineteenth century brewing literature you find a lot of criticism of English beers as being too heavy and sweet. So that may have been a move to compete with lagers.

I don't know that I've seen literature support either of these positions but I suspect one could line up the widespread introduction of sugars/syrups against some of the attenuation and sales data around the same time period. English brewers were notorious liars about their brewing practices and sought shortcuts to improve profits for centuries.
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