Session 127: Autumn’s Here, What To Drink?

Alistair has asked us to write about Oktoberfest beers for this edition of The Session but, like others, I like in a fairly sparsely serviced area. Boak and Bailey faced a similar problem and tried to see if there was a modern British equivalent. Sadly, they concluded not. But if we look back perhaps there was. This passage below is from a book titled Art and Nature at Home and Abroad From 1856:

September ale. Hmm. What was this stuff? The slaves to style will no doubt tell us that because it hasn’t been listed in the BJCP guide now it never really existed then. But as we have learned from archival brewings like Taunton ale, mid-1850s New York brewed IPA or cream beer we see again and again that the people of the past weren’t stupid and that sorts of beer labeled as this or that met the expectations of those drinking them.

The problem is not so much determining if it was as what it was. I have to admit a few things. I am writing this on an iPad mini and, while I co-wrote two books on it between laptop deaths, it is slow going. Plus I am in the middle of moving the kid into college. Perhaps another has already unpacked it. Dunno yet. So with the promise of a future exploration – let me suggest that what it tastes like, if the passage above is to be believed, is what Keats described in his poem. Autumn.


3 thoughts on “Session 127: Autumn’s Here, What To Drink?”

  1. September ale is just harvest ale – green hop beer in modern terms. Hops are fragile so best to turn them into beer ASAP without faffing around with oasthouses and storage.

    But if you wanted a specific seasonal beer that’s stronger than usual and brewed for a specific event – then Audit Ale is the obvious example.

  2. Could be. Any citations you can provide? As you will see here, on August 31, 1624 there was an expectation that September beer would be available. Not sure there is enough time to harvest and brew and finish before the end of August. The problem with September ale is that ale is not heavily hopped in this era.

    1. That timing would work – the beer doesn’t have to be ready before you place an order, in the same way you might order a Christmas cake a few weeks before Christmas – it doesn’t mean that Christmas now falls on 1 December. The sheer logistics of getting a message from the Hague to ?Essex and then beer back again also needs to be allowed for – and then as has been mentioned, there’s the calendar change. These days the main Goldings harvest is the first week of September and Kent brewers brew their green hop beer then to get it fermented and conditioned in time for the Canterbury festival, which is this weekend. So in those days that’s the equivalent of harvesting in late August and having beer ready by early September.

      As for the hopping – don’t forget that barley is important too. The timing there also works – these days spring barley is harvested in early August (so late July then), then 2-3 weeks for malting. You’ve got to imagine the anticipation of the renewal of brewing that the new harvest allows.

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