Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Let's Brew Wednesday - 1911 Russell AK

AK. I never, ever tire of it. I'm happy to present another AK recipe as part of my campaign to revive the style. If even one of you brews it, my work won't have been in vain.

This one comes from a fairly obscure source: Russell's Gravesend Brewery. For those not well acquainted with the geography of England, Gravesend is in Kent, the county that makes up the bottom right-hand corner. Gravesend is in the north of the county, on the south bank of the Thames, half a dozen miles downstream of London proper.

Russell's eventually fell prey to Trumans. That's why a few years of their brewing logs exist. They form part of the Truman archive.

The three logs are for1911-1912, 1917-1919 and 1929-1930. AK is in the first two, but not the last. It appears to have been yet another casualty of WW I. In July 1917 it was replaced by something called GB.I suspect that stands for Government Bitter. That is a gravity-restricted, price-controlled beer. Which is fascinating. Because the London brewers I've looked at all brewed Government Ale that was a type of Mild. Russell's is the first Bitter I've come across being brewed as a Government Ale.

[I do realise that the label comes from a totally different, unrelated brewery called Russell's. I don't have any images for the correct Russell's. And Nutty is such a great name for a beer.]

In the 1929-1930 log, there's no mention of AK. Looks like it didn't make it through the war. I suspect that many AK's never came back.

Contextualisation time. Just so you understand where this beer fitted in with the rest of Russell's range, here's a table of the full set:

Russell Beers 1911
Date Year Beer Style OG lbs hops/ qtr hops lb/brl
14th Sep 1911 XX Mild 1055.4 8.77 2.01
16th Sep 1911 X Mild 1048.1 6.10 1.20
15th Sep 1911 AK Pale Ale 1041.3 7.52 1.29
19th Sep 1911 X Mild 1047.9 6.13 1.51
20th Sep 1911 LDA Pale Ale 1046.3 8.00 1.56
20th Sep 1911 PA Pale Ale 1060.9 10.59 2.86
21st Sep 1911 P Porter 1049.9 7.95 1.74
21st Sep 1911 XXX Strong Ale 1075.9 10.05 3.24
26th Sep 1911 XX Mild 1051.8 8.39 1.90
27th Sep 1911 LDA Pale Ale 1046.8 8.00 1.61
28th Sep 1911 AK Pale Ale 1041.6 7.51 1.31
28th Sep 1911 DS Stout 1074.2 8.37 2.86
Russel brewing records document number B/THB/RUS/10 held at the London metropolitan Archives.

As you can see, AK was the weakest beer they brewed. And the least heavily hopped. 1041º is an extremely low gravity for a beer pre-WW I, when average gravity was around 1055º.

I've not much to say further. Except "Drink AK!". Time for Kristen . . . . . .

Kristen's Version

Grist – Pretty much the standard typical AK recipe. Pale malt/s, maize and sugar. This one is perfectly simple. Choose a great UK pale malt. Since the low gravity I’d tend to lean towards the more malty ones. Cocktail works wonderfully here. Maris, as always, its great. Optic is a bit ‘fat’ for this one and will overpower with its malty/doughy goodness. For the other pale I chose the MFB pale that is wonderful with a bit more to it than the Dingemanns stuff. Standard flaked maize is fine. Its not a big part but pretty much required. This one is a bit different in that it doesn’t mix colored inverts but sticks to the standard Invert No1. I tried doing it with Golden syrup but it I think I’ve come to the conclusion that the lower gravity the beer gets and the paler it gets the more I stay away from the Golden syrup. I really do love it for a lot of reasons but here, you get a big mouthful of toffee that completely dominates the palate. So…back to my point. This one uses some caramel to get any sort of color as this beer is one of the palest you can make. If you got it, use it. If not, a touch of black strap might do. However, don’t sweat it. Really. You are more likely to add too much than not. However, I put it for full disclosure.

Hops –  A single hop variety of the Goldings lineage. Because a lot of these recipes call for a lot of Goldings, I like playing around with different ‘similar’ hops along the same lines. This one I used 100% First gold. Such a nice little hop. Brings a little more oomph  to the beer than EKG but still very good. There is a very light touch of dry hopping in this beer that you can add or not. It's up to you. I just wouldn’t go to much.

Yeast – For such a light beer I like a pretty clean yeast that does a good job cleaning up any funk it gives off during the whole process. Buttery ones are out. Fat ones are out. I really like the West Yorkshire first but since I didn’t want to culture any up, I chose the White Shield strain. Gives more mineral than most but it works very well with the malty sweetness and crisp finish. Nottingham…man that yeast can do pretty much anything. This is a beer that can be made and in the keg in probably 3-4 days with Nottingham. So if you are in a pinch and put off making that beer for the party next week. Here you go.


Ed said...

Funny you should post this one today Ron. I was reading your '1909' book at the weekend and thought the Russell AK from 1911 would be a good one to do on the commercial kit. Though the recipe you've just posted looks slightly different from the one in the book.

It may take a while until I can fit it into the brewing schedule but Russell's AK will be brewed in Kent again soon!

Kristen England said...


AWESOME! This one is really nice indeed.

As for similarities, we've got a lot of repeat recipes from the same year that vary batch to batch with ingredients and such.

thebrewingman said...

Looks an interesting recipe which I must try.

Russells Brewery was known for its "Shrimp Brand Beers" which were advertised with no mention of Russells Brewery.

Gravesend was well known for its shrimp fishing.

Andrew Clark said...

I've been lurking a bit and have brewed 6 of the recipes you have posted, no complaints yet! This one will be added to the list and should be in production in 3 weeks looking forward to another tasty Ale.

ChrisF said...

brewing this one up as we speak. I used Marris and Pearl as that was all they had at the shop. So I don't know, b/c of the Pearl this may wind up a bit more bready than it should be. Also went with first gold and the Notty as per the suggestion. smells wonderful... preboil gravity was spot on. 1.032, the invert making up the rest. Question though; why the need for a 90 min boil with this one?

Kristen England said...


Re boil, its what they did in the log. That being said, I really think you want to have a least a 75min boil, if not 90. I prefer the 90min. Most homebrew people boil 60min and throw the hops in at 60. Lots of research has gone into showing what happens if you don't do this. Basically when the wort 'breaks' the protein coagulates (aka egg drop soup). It takes about 12min but 15min is easier to time.

If you throw hops in before, then a lot gets trapped in the proteins. Before anyone brings it up, first wort hopping, is altogether different.

ChrisF said...

ahhhh, yes, gotcha. I opted for 75mins as I had plans beyond finishing the brew session up. I guess my hop additions were a bit off timing wise. Oh well, I'm wiling to bet this still turns out to be a delicious beverage. Hit my target gravity spot on. I'll report back in a couple of weeks when I'm cracking open the first bottle.

Ed said...

AK is now back in Kent:

Ron Pattinson said...

Hope it goes well. Must see if I can find it in London.

ChrisF said...

hey there folks, it just occurred to me that I didn't respond with my experience of brewing this AK. first and foremost, it picked up a Brett infection. that's what I get for brewing so many sours I guess. Due to the presence of the Brett pellicle, I figured there's no sense letting it go to waste, so I may as well bulk age it for a while and see what becomes of it. it's just a little over 5 months old now. I usually like to let Brett beers age a good 6 months at least so I'll report back later when I bottle this up.

the other thought i about brewing this was; the notty didn't finish out for a week or more, ( the Brett infection came on later when I racked to secondary),. So if as Kristin says, that this beer could almost be ready to go in three days, I'm not so sure I'd agree. but then again, I bottle and perhaps he kegs and uses finings?

Kristen England said...


I made this a week ago for the Upper Mississippi Mashout ( banquet. It was done in a keg in 3 days using the Nottingham yeast and dropped like a rock. I served it on day 5 or 6. Don't remember. 20L went in about 10min.

ChrisF said...

I guess it's just my process then, perhaps too much chaff is making its way into my wort. I don't have the most sophisticated set-up after all.

Which Notty were you using? Did you use a starter at all or just pitch directly?

I used the dry S-04. Perhaps that's my problem. I pitched it directly on the wort as well.

I'd love to nail this recipe though.

Gregg said...

I know this post is a year and a half old, but wanted to say thanks to Ron for posting this. My first homebrew not from a kit, and it's wonderfully refreshing, perfect for the slowly emerging springtime. Thanks for all the work you've put into this blog; I'm slowly reading through the archives, learning a great deal about beer and clearing up a lot of my misconceptions.

Ron Pattinson said...

grsing, glad to hear it turned out well. My dream is to resurrect AK as a style.

Kristen England said...

At Pour Decisions our next mainstay to be released in May/June is an AK. The pilot batch was destroyed by the taproom. 4.2% golden. Spicy hops. UK pale malt, touch of maize and wheat and a nice dose of invert!