Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Let's Brew Wednesday - 1959 Watneys XX Mild

Not sure if Kristen’s going to make it on time this week. So I here’s a recipe of mine.

Watney – now there’s a name to conjure with. The bogeyman of brewing in the 1970’s. This wasn’t brewed in their own Mortlake brewery but at Ushers of Trowbridge in the West Country. Watney owned the brewery and clearly made them brew some of their own lovely brands.

If I remember correctly, Ushers was one of the few Watney plants that never completely got rid of cask. Their beers were OK, if nothing particularly special. When Watney started to unravel, Ushers regained its independence with its own estate of tied houses. This arrangement only lasted around a decade, when the brewery was closed and it continued as a pure pub company. The brewing equipment ended up in North Korea.

Returning to the beer, XX belongs to the wateriest class of Milds, whose origins can be traced back to the Government Ale of WW I. After war’s end, a new, very low-gravity type of Mild called 4d Ale continued to be brewed. At a time when standard Mild was 1035 – 1043º, 4d Ale was usually under 1030º. When WW II forced down gravities of standard Mild to a similar level, 4d Ale mostly disappeared.

Some brewers, particularly in the West Country, continued to brew their Mild at very low gravities, even after most had bounced back to the low 1030’s. It’s no coincidence that the gravity is 1028º. There was no point dropping below 1027º as no matter how low the gravity, the minimum duty chargeable was as if a beer were 1027º.

There’s nothing too horrible about the grist: mostly mild ale malt with a bit of crystal and flaked maize, plus a bit of sugar. As with Watney’s Brown Ale, it’s the other shit thrown in that’s the problem. This was added to the gyles (332 barrels) to make 383 barrels:

BB 18 barrels
Bottoms 18 barrels
RB 11 barrels
finings 4 barrels

A bit better than the Brown Ale – at least this is only 15% crap.

I wouldn’t recommend trying to recreate that gyling. I can’t imagine the leftover beer added anything positive to the finished product.

That’s me done. Over to  . . . . me . . . .

1959 Watneys XX Mild
MA malt 4.75 lb 79.76%
crystal malt 40 L 0.25 lb 4.20%
flaked maize 0.33 lb 5.54%
roast barley 0.25 lb 4.20%
No. 2 invert 0.25 lb 4.20%
caramel 0.125 lb 2.10% 5.96 lb
ginger pinch

Fuggles 45 min 1.00 oz

OG 1028

FG 1007

ABV 2.78

Apparent attenuation 75.00%

IBU 14.5

SRM 30

Mash at 152º F

Sparge at 170º F

Boil time 45 minutes

pitching temp 60º F

Yeast WLP023 Burton Ale


Tandleman said...

I'm assuming the added "ingredients" to be RB - Returned beer, but what is BB? Bitter Beer? No?

Ron Pattinson said...


not sure what BB is. Pretty sure it's not Best Bitter as Usher didn't have a beer called that. Bound ro be something nasty.

Gary Gillman said...

Graham pointed out it was bottle beer, which is surely the case, IMO.


J. Karanka said...

Roast barley in a mild, now you are just messing with my head :D

Anonymous said...

Ginger! I did a quick Google and the only other Lets Brew recipe I saw with any spice in it was another Watney recipe, for a Brown with ginger too.

Was this a special ingredient for them, or were other brewers using ginger or other spices? (Not counting funny business as adulterants)

Barm said...

I've seen adverts for something called "Sevenpenny Ale" in the Tyneside market. Would that be 4d ale a few years later, after inflation?

Ron Pattinson said...


it's an Ushers thing. This beer was brewed in Trowbridge.

Ron Pattinson said...


no, I don't think so. Was it from a Scottish brewery? They often had prices on their bottled beers in the interwar years.

Graham Wheeler said...


It was only that Barclay stated that "Some bottling beer" was added to his entire. He was trying to make the point that much of the miscellaneous stuff added to his entire actually enhanced its quality. He stated that brown stout was twenty shillings a barrel dearer than common beer and bottling beer was ten shillings per barrel dearer.

It is clear that the same sort of thing went on in almost all breweries, but it is only a guess that the BB nomenclature of other breweries stands for bottling beer; it is quite unlikely.

From the context in which Barclay was talking it seems that the added brown stout and bottling beer might not have been spoiled beer. The term used is "bottling beer", not "bottled" or "bottle", indicating that it never got as far as being bottled.

I have to admit that I have not conjured up a plausible reason for these additions if they were not spoiled beer.

The relevant part of the transcript is in Booth's Art of Brewing (just search for "Barclay" within the book), but I am sure that I have seen the full transcript somewhere on the web.