Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Let's Brew Wednesday - 1968 Whitbread Forest Brown

This is an unusual one. Two recipes for the same beer from the same year. Just brewed at different breweries.

I’ll explain how this came about. I was visiting the Wimbledon Brewery on Saturday to chat with my old mate Derek Prentice. I was especially interested in the two Truman’s brewing books he keeps in his office. One covers most of WW I and it was fun pointing out what GA meant (Government Ale) and why it appeared at a specific time in 1917. The other is from 1969 and that contained the biggest shock: a beer called FB.

“That’s Forest Brown,” Derek said, ”we used to brew it for Whitbread.”

That was news to me. And quite a surprise as Whitbread owned more than a dozen breweries at the time. It seems odd that they’d get a London rival to brew one of their core products for them. Were they that short of capacity? Anyway, the beer was fermented at Truman then picked up by a Whitbread tanker and taken off for bottling. They were brewing a fair amount of it a Truman, going by the number of entries in the brewing book. And 500 barrels at a time.

I immediately realised this was a great opportunity. A chance to compare the beer brewed in two different places.

My first guess, having looked at the Truman version, was that it was pretty close to the original. For a start, unlike the other Truman beers it contained no adjuncts, just malt and sugar. And it was fermented with the Whitbread yeast. How wrong I was.

I’d forgotten that Whitbread started using adjuncts in 1963. At first just in their Pale Ales, but later in just about everything. Including Forest Brown. Which got me wondering about when exactly Truman started brewing Forest Brown. Because looking back through the Whitbread brewing books, their recipe appears remarkably similar to the Whitbread one from early 1964. Looks to me like Whitbread changed the recipe, but never told Truman.

See for yourself:

1964 Whitbread FB 1968 Truman FB 1968 Whitbread FB
pale malt 79.48% 68.46%
flaked barley 13.69%
mild malt 78.97%
crystal malt 7.70% 8.57% 7.82%
no. 3 invert sugar 10.91% 9.87%
no. 1 invert sugar 7.17%
Hays M 2.41%
Duttson CDM 2.08% 2.85%

That got me thinking: how unusual is that? If Brewery A gets Brewery B to make some if its beer, will it pass on every recipe change? In the case of Forest Brown, Whitbread cheapened the recipe by substituting flaked barley for some of the base malt. But let Truman continue to brew it more expensively. And didn’t tell them when they cut the OG of their own version from 1032.9 to 1032.1. That can’t have been an accident.

That Truman were using an old recipe might also explain the colour difference, as Whitbread also darkened the colour in 1965.

Talking of colour, Duttson CDM must be pretty dark. Because when spun through BeerSmith using No. 3 for all the sugar, both the Truman and Whitbread versions come out way too pale. Which is why I’ve substituted No. 4 invert for CDM. I suspect the letters stand for something like “Caramel Dark Mix”

As usual, the hop varieties are a bit of a guess. The 1968 Whitbread version has WGV and some that are just listed as MK. The Truman version only list the grower, though one is Whitbread so I guess it’s probably WGV. Even though the hopping and boil times differ, BeerSmith calculates both to be 19 IBUs.

Believe it or not, this is actually on the strong side for a 1960’s Brown Ale. 1027º – 1030º is a more typical gravity range. Interestingly, Truman always achieved better attenuation than Whitbread. The lowest OG for Whitbread’s version in the 1960’s (in the photos I have) is 1008.3º. The highest Truman’s is 1007.3º. Not sure what that tells us.

Bet you’re just gasping for the recipes. Or maybe not. Geek beers they certainly aren’t. Just easy drinkers.

1968 Whitbread Forest Brown
pale malt 5.00 lb 68.97%
crystal malt 80 L 0.50 lb 6.90%
flaked barley 1.00 lb 13.79%
no. 1 sugar 0.50 lb 6.90%
no. 4 sugar  0.25 lb 3.45%
Fuggles 60 mins 0.25 oz
Goldings 60 mins 0.25 oz
Goldings 40 mins 0.50 oz
Goldings 20 mins 0.50 oz
OG 1032.1
FG 1008.3
ABV 3.15
Apparent attenuation 74.14%
IBU 19
SRM 25
Mash at 150º F
Sparge at 170º F
Boil time 60 minutes
pitching temp 64º F
Yeast Wyeast 1099 Whitbread ale

1968 Truman Whitbread Forest Brown
pale malt 5.75 lb 80.42%
crystal malt 80 L 0.50 lb 6.99%
no. 3 invert sugar 0.75 lb 10.49%
no. 4 invert sugar 0.15 lb 2.10%
Fuggles 75 mins 0.50 oz
Fuggles 60 mins 0.50 oz
Goldings 30 mins 0.50 oz
OG 1033
FG 1005.5
ABV 3.64
Apparent attenuation 83.33%
IBU 19
SRM 17
Mash at 144º F
Sparge at 180º F
Boil time 75 minutes
pitching temp 62º F
Yeast Wyeast 1099 Whitbread ale


Anonymous said...

What would the SRM of the sugars be? thanks

Ron Pattinson said...


No. 3 70 SRM
No. 4 300 SRM

Unknown said...

Dutton's were brewing the stuff in 1966 as well, as the first entry in the brewing ledger (1966)DDX 2310/1/3/13 , Lancashire Archives is F.B , No D 83 , colour 95-115 ebc grist makeup v similar, as were hop varieties( Pemble , May, WGV & Whitbread J2)

Ron Pattinson said...


that's what I'd expect: Forest Brown being brewed in multiple Whitbread plants. It was their standard Brown Ale, after all.

Unknown said...

Sorry Ron , got the date wrong , the earliest page in the ledger is 1/05/67 , D83 FB