Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Let's Brew Wednesday - 1933 Kidd AK

Remember the plan to do complete sets of draught beers from a specific brewery for a specific year? I didn't think you would. We've finished Barclay Perkins beers from 1942 and can move on to the second set: Kidd from 1934.

Kidd and Sons of Dartford in Kent was one of a series of breweries bought by Courage in the interwar years. There was the Camden Brewery in1923; Farnham United Breweries in 1927; Noakes in 1930; Kidd and Sons in 1937; Hodgsons Kingston Brewery in 1943. Those names look familiar? They should do. There are odd brewing logs for all of them except for Farnham United Breweries in the London Metropolitan Archives. (The Archives featured in a programme on BBC last night called "Filthy Cities". Unlike me, they let Dan Snow down into the bowels of the building.)

AK is another of those things I obsess about. Let's make this clear right at the start: it isn't Light Mild. AK is one of the types of Light Bitter Beer that appeared in the final decades of the 19th century. As drinkers began to demand lighter, less-alcoholic beers, brewers developped a new class of beers .

A standard Pale Ale of the 1880's had an OG in the range of 1060º to 1065º. If you brewed it properly, it took several months to be ready for sale. AK was 1045º to 1050º and was tapped within a couple of weeks. It was at the forefront of the new class of Running Bitters. After 1880, brewers had a clear incentive to turn their beers around quicker. The new system  introduced that year taxed beer based on the gravity of the wort before fermentation. Brewers settled up with the excise at the end of ever y month. Which meant that the tax would have been paid on a fully-matured Pale Ale months before the beer could be sold.

In 1900, AK was as common a beer name as IPA, especially in the South. Cheaper than full-strength PA, it was often one a brewery's best-selling beers. Only one remains: McMullen's AK. I can remember just one other being around in my drinking life, Hole's (later Courage) AK, brewed in Newark. So where did they all go?

They were the victim of falling gravities after 1914, similar to Porter. Breweries had a habit of retaining the name of their most prestigious Bitter, usually PA, as they cut gravities and culled their beer range. AK, being the bottom of the Bitter pile, was often the first to be cut.

I'd love to see AK make a comeback, though I doubt it ever will. At least commercially. There's no reason why you home brewers can't bring it back to life at home.

On that optimistic note, it's time to pass you on to Kristen for all that technical, home-brewer type stuff . . . .

Kristen’s Version:

This little beauty is one I’ve made a few times in the limited time I’ve had the recipe. It was gyled with the pale ale but at only 1.0025 points difference they are nearly identical and you aren’t gaining anything gyling these babies up. As for the AK’s, I just love the AK’s and really do wonder why they died out like they did. The combination of grainy husky American 6-row malt with the elegant English pale malts (MO, Optic, etc) really make this beer layered. The maize is usually never enough to be ‘corny’ but you definitely get a ‘maizy’.


Grist – Optic, because of its maltiness, is my preferred choice here. Some of you always email me and ask me what you can use to replicate 6-row American malt. We’ll, other than another source of 6-row malt, not really much. I do find that distillers malt, which is usally accessable to more people does a decent job. You get some of the huskiness but not all of it. But, as always, do what you can do. The mild malt in this recipe really doesn’t do much. Leave it out if you are lazy. If not, add it. Any flaked maize will do just fine from anywhere. Even the stuff out of the grocer didn’t make a noticeable difference. The No2 is very important as it gives a nice little fruit that you can get from No1. That being said, I’ve used Golden Syrup and although different, made avery very nice product that had more toffee and caramel lightness than the fruit when compared side-by-side. However, guys, lets face it. We’ve given you numerous ways to make your own invert syrup. If you haven’t done it yet, get off your butts, make a few pounds of it and you’ll have it one hand to use when you need it.

Hops –  I know, you are saying, ‘BLOODY FINALLY A BEER WITHOUT FUGGLES AND GOLDINGS!’ yes, a beer without fuggles and goldings. These hops are 100% not by choice, they are very much directly from the log. 100% Brambling Cross. What do you get out of these. Me, I get lemon and black currants. They are kinda Goldings-y but much rougher and elbowy. If you haven’t used them, give them a shot. If you can’t find BC’s, you can replace them with Brewers Gold or Cluster. You should be able to find one of them. All three hops are kinda ‘catty’ so if you aren’t a fan, pick something else!

Yeast – Again, the yeast really depends on you. For this beer, I find that the dry Nottingham strain does a very very good job. Crisp, clean, fruity. The Whitbread strain is a perennial favorite so give that a go. If you can find it, the Timothy Taylor strain is brilliant in any dry, crisp golden bitter…thing.


Advanced Mash – There was a short underlet but the single infusion worked pretty much exactly like the multi-infusion. Really, nothing special.


mentaldental said...

Hang about. A Let's Brew Wednesday recipe on a Wednesday?? What's going on?

Anonymous said...

Regarding the beer tax-until 1880 it was levied on the malt.Why did changing the taxation to being based on the OG make any difference to the cash flow in the brewery? Was the malt tax paid in arrears or something?

Ron Pattinson said...

Marquis, you're right, the malt tax was paid much earlier, before the brewer even got his hands on the malt.

Once he started paying it himself, it must have been more obvious to the brewer exactly how much money he had tied up in tax paid on beer sitting in his cellar.

Gary Gillman said...

This is from a current study of yeast and fermentation:

See pp 11-14 which gives a useful short overview of the development of pure yeast cultures and their late adoption by British brewers (1950's). The isolation of multiple yeast strains in British pale ale and in stout by Custer circa-1940 is consistent with this account.

The modern authors explain that conditioning in cask relied mostly on wild yeast influence or that pitching yeasts were themselves multiple strains. This must mean that the characteristic flavour of cask ale long-matured in wood, and some ale that was not long-matured, was from brettanomyces.

Certainly Imperial stout was always associated with that flavour, Michael Jackson in the 1970's was writing about brett in aged stout. It must have been the same for the few long-stored ales still available in the mid-20th century.

Of course each producer had his own methods or results and I believe some long-stored ales had high concentrations of diacetyl and lactic acid.


Alistair Reece said...

It really has to be done doesn't it - a 1.047 version of this style and call it AK 47.

Kristen England said...


Been a touch busy with another 'project' as of late so I apologize for the lack of LB's over the last few weeks. For this reason teh The next few are already done so you should be happy!


The AK47 was already done by my buddies at Northern Brewer. Although the description isn't really right, their hearts are definitely in the right place!

For the commercial guys, please note that the volume has changed to 20bbl.

Craig said...

"We’ve given you numerous ways to make your own invert syrup. If you haven’t done it yet, get off your butts, make a few pounds of it and you’ll have it one hand to use when you need it"

Big oohrah on that. Get to it guys, it's worth the effort.