Friday, 29 December 2017

Let's Brew Wednesday - 1972 Whitbread Tankard

There is a weird theme to this new series of Kristen recipes. But I’m not going to tell you what it is. Why should I? I haven’t mentioned it to Kristen.

The early 1970’s was the golden age of keg. Not the overpriced fizzy crap that people with beards and tattoos drink. No, I mean the overpriced, fizzy crap that people with moustaches and tattoos used to drink. I guess the world hasn’t really changed that much.

Whitbread, one of the notorious Big Six, was a national company operating more than a dozen breweries. Their two main national brands were Trophy, their Ordinary Bitter and Tankard, a keg Best Bitter. Though Trophy wasn’t a genuine national brand. In reality it was more than a dozen regional beers marketed as if they were a single product.

Tankard was a truly national product and, unlike Trophy, was never available in cask form. It went head-to-head with the keg Bitters of the rest of the Big Six: Allied’s Double Diamond, S & N’s Tartan, Courage Tavern, Bass Brew X and the lovingly-remembered Watneys Red Barrel. All were sold as premium Bitter. And all were crap.

Not that there’s much wrong with the recipe of Tankard. Pale and crystal malt, torrefied barley and No.3 invert sugar. It’s what happened to the poor beer next that turned it into crap. Filtration, heavy pasteurization and force carbonation. Enough to bugger it up a treat.

I’m pretty sure Tankard is no longer produced. Which is sort of sad in a way. But just in a way. It’s not really any great loss.

Time for Kristen to take control . . .

Kristen’s Version:

Notes: Wow, in for a treat today. Looking way back to yesteryear of the early 1970s. Specifically to 1972 where there was actually some really crap national beer being made but at the same time some fantastic stuff from the really small brewers too. You guys know this though right? You’ve read through your copy of Brew Britannia by Jessica Boak and Ray Bailey numerous times right? Here is a cool little synopsis by the Daily Mirror... Although this beer wasn’t anything near great, because we are small, the little guys, we can make all the tweaks we need to make it stellar. #LESGO

Malt: One single pale malt. Pretty easy really. Choose something you really like, or something you’ve never used. Give some Propino, Azalea, Cocktail, Scarlet, Barke, etc etc a try. There is a touch of crystal some pick something you are familiar with that’s pretty dark. Also, one of my very favorite underused grains are in here, torrified barley. Along with its ‘cousin’ torrified wheat I really love the depth and gentle toast both of these give so if you can, don’t miss this, do find it. At 8% there isn’t a ton in here but definitely enough to tell the difference. If you can’t find it, I’d swap for torrefied wheat before I used flaked barley but if FB is the only thing you can find, use that. For the sugar, you’ll want to use something colored. I’ve listed Invert #3 to get closer to the color of the beer, but there isn’t a lot of it so you’ll not get a ton of character. No2 would be fine also. Just something to give it a bit more character.

Hops: This beer is most definitely not about the hop so whatever you use, pick something nice. They have a bunch of hop extract in this thing too but I didn’t list it because you don’t need it. A blend of Kentish hops as well as some Worcester hops but not a lot of them. There are no dry hops so if there has been something you’ve been meaning to use, that’s not silly, do it.

Yeast: I’m really not a big fan of the Whitbread yeast character for beers that have very little character to begin with … meaning, how about picking a yeast with a bit more oomph to it, something that will lend something. Thames Valley is a good choice, so is the old Courage yeast. Specifically to how you do it, I’d underpitch by about 25%+ for this little beer as you really do what those little beasties giving you all the love they can give you.

Cask: Standard procedure:
1) let the beer ferment until finished and then give it another day or so. For me right around 5-7 days.
2) Rack the beer to your vessel of choice (firkin, polypin, cornie, whatever).
3) Add primings at ~3.5g/L
4) Add prepared isinglass at 1ml/L
5) ONLY add dry hops at 0.25g/l – 1g/L.
6) Bung it up and roll it around to mix. Condition at 55F or so for 4-5 days and its ready to go. Spile/vent. Tap. Settle. Serve at 55F.


Unknown said...

I was looking for a beer to split a batch 1/2 Cask, 1/2 Keg while sitting at Schipol waiting on a flight.

I think I found a good starting point.

Barm said...

I am always reminded of how neatly our pal Allan McLean summed up these beers: “Some were bad before they were kegged; some were alright until they were kegged.”

qq said...

Another factor was that it was about this time that tower fermenters were introduced, which weren't great for quality (and were quite fussy about yeast, which is why Whitbread B became so popular). Given that Whitbread yeasts are readily available to homebrewers (as eg Wyeast 1098/1099), seems a shame not to use them?

Birkonian said...

How about brewing Gauntlet - Whitbread's keg beer launched with great publicity in the North which no one drank (except me - it was just before I discovered CAMRA)?

Ron Pattinson said...


where was Gauntlet brewed? I don't recall it it. Then again, I rarely ventured into Whitbread tied houses up North.

Kristen England said...

qq, As I said, sure, you can use them. Be my guest. I just really don't like that yeast in a very 'lite' beer (pale, low hopped blonde things).