Saturday, 23 February 2013


Thanks to Aaron Bennett for the Charlie Papazian text I'd requested.

I've seen some bollocks written about beer history, but this take the whole McVitie's warehouse:

"Most barley wines are golden or copper colored. One style that is a deep rich copper brown is represenetd by Russian Imperial Stout brewed by the Courage Brewery in England. It is a style unto itself, not really a stout in the traditional sense , but historically named for its strength."
"The Complete Joy of Homebrewing" by Charlie Papazian, page 135.

Even the worst writers realise Russian Stout is, er, a Stout. They might name the wrong Russian monarch as its recipient, or talk twaddle about its strength being to avoid freezing in transit. But they do get its basic Stoutiness right.

He can't have ever tried the beer. It's pitch black and the flavour is, well, Stouty.

I'm gobsmacked.


Mike Austin said...

I'd stop reading home brew books now - they're all full of stuff like this. You'll be ill!
I've spoken to commercial brewers, large and small, who think that CAMRA home brewing books have been a big influence on microbrewery beers - over hopped bitters, milds like weak stout, etc.
Up to a point I can see this. What do you think?

Ron Pattinson said...

Mike, I wasn't just looking at home-brewing books.

Never heard that about CAMRA home brewing books before.

Drew Beechum said...

I'd check my copy of Joy, but it got wrecked a few years back. To be fair to Charlie, the text dates back to the 80's and as such still (despite the revisions) has a bunch of erroneous information. The man certainly has traveled around and tasted a number of beers.

The good news is that more recent brewing books have gotten better thanks to the increased scrutiny.

Doesn't mean the "facts" that have been circulating for years are ever going to go away. It's the "print the legend" syndrome of things.

When I give a talk these days I usually preface my presentation with a warning: "the stuff I'm about to say is made up of stories told by brewers to drinkers and drinkers to others around the bar. Please bear in mind the truth of every bar story you've ever heard".

Mike Austin said...

I used to work for the exise, and talked to a lot of brewers. Most microbrewers started as homebrewers,and are slowly learning that Graham Wheeler / Roger Protz weren't right about everything.(Sugar is evil, caramel is shoddy, etc.)
Perhaps it's changed since I retired!

Ron Pattinson said...


that's very interesting.

I find myself often fighting against anti-sugar prejudice.

Ron Pattinson said...


even in the 1980's it wasn't hard to discover the truth about Russian Stout.

Aaron Bennett said...

That is a truly bad book that nonetheless has given a ton of brewers their start. I was so proud of the "Rocky Racoon Honey Ginger Lager" that I brewed from that book about 10 years ago I could just die of embarrassment. For posterity, the recipe...

3.5# extra light dme
2.5# honey
1.5oz cascade hops (60 minutes)
.5 oz cascade (4 minutes)
2-4 oz grated ginger

Ya know... I hate to say it but that actually might taste ok. Relax. Don't worry. Have a homebrew.

Gary Gilman said...

Say what you will, Charlie Papazian is a giant figure in the craft beer revival. The beer scene without him would look very different and not just in America. He is not a beer historian, but rather a home brewer and industry leader. He made an error in an early book at a time when few had any real understanding of beer history. Jackson made some errors too, they all did then. It is fair to point out an error he made, sure, but the fuller background may be of interest to those not aware of it.


Drew Beechum said...


Totally agree that it was easy to find things out, but.. well.. yeah.

If it's still in the latest rev of the book, that's truly amazing.

Michael W. said...

Unfortunately Courage Russian Imperial Stout does not appear to be available in New York state, but is rumored to be available next door in Massachusetts. Will have to go on a scouting party to find out.

And thank you Ron for writing this blog, it's always delight to visit. Beer and history really do go together well.