Friday 31 March 2023

Looking back (part two)

A bit of a deeper dive into the beers being drunk back in the 1970s.

I'm going to start off with some data because, well, I have it. And I wasn't sitting in a corner noting what everyone ordered. My memory isn't that great, either.

A word of caution regarding these number. They are for the UK as a whole. A point worth making, as there were very large regional variations. By the mid-1970s, Mild was pretty much dead in some areas. For example, Scotland, the Northeast, the Southwest and London. While in parts of the North and the Midlands, Mild didn't trail that far behind Bitter. Lager was far more popular in Scotland than elsewhere and was already rivalling Bitter.

UK Beer Sales by type (%)
beer type 1971 1972 1973 1974 1975 1976 1977 1978 1979
Ale & stout  90.1 88.3 85.1 83.6 80.3 76.5 75.5 73.1 70.9
Bitter & Stout  72.4 72.4 70.9 69.8 67.0 63.9 62.8 61.1 59.4
Light Mild              3.4 3 2.8
Dark Mild              9.3 9 8.7
Mild  17.7 15.9 14.2 13.8 13.3 12.6 12.7 12 11.5
Lager  9.9 11.7 14.9 16.4 19.7 23.5 24.5 26.9 29.1
Draught Lager  7.1 8.6 11.3 12.6 15.6 18.5 19 20.6 22.1
“The Brewers' Society Statistical Handbook 1988” page 15
“The Brewers' Society Statistical Handbook 1990” page 17
"Statistical Handbook of the British Beer & Pub Association 2003", p. 21
"Statistical Handbook of the British Beer & Pub Association 2005", p. 17

As I know some of you like a visual representation, here's that data as a graph:

There's a steady rise in Lager sales, and a corresponding decline in those of Bitter and Mild.

Almost 90% of beer was sold in pubs, the vast majority of that in draught form. Only around 10% of the beer sold in pubs was bottled. And most of that was either consumed by older drinkers or drunk mixed with draught beer. For example, Light and Bitter or Brown Ale and Mild. 

Personal recollections again next time. Or maybe some more numbers. Anyone interested in prices?

Thursday 30 March 2023

Looking back: Newark breweries

I was thinking about the questions I wished I'd asked older people when I was younger. Not about anything really important. Just what beer had been like when they were young.

Then I jumped forward. Maybe I should do that. Answer the questions I would have like to have asked. But about my experiences 40 or 50 years ago. Because things have changed a lot.

The former Warwick & Richardson brewery

Let's go back to my childhood.

When my family moved to Newark in the early 1960s, the town boasted two decent-sized regional breweries: Warwick & Richardson and Holes. As well as several substantial maltings. Both breweries owned 200 or so tied houses. Including almost all the pubs in town. We'll be gt5ting back to that later.

In 1962, John Smith bought Warwick & Richardson. After brewing ceased in 1966, the pubs were rebranded as Barnsley, another brewery owned by John Smith. Holes was snapped up by Courage in 1967. But the cataclysmic event was in 1970, when Courage took over John Smith. Leaving Courage owning 30 of the 35 pubs in Newark. And all four of the pubs in Balderton, the village bordering Newark where we lived.

When I started visiting pubs around 1972, most of the pubs in town were supplied by the former Holes brewery. But a couple were still supplied by Barnsley: the King William IV and the Wing Tavern. The latter being the only pub in town with handpumps. Well, working ones. It served one cask beer, the magnificent Barnsley Bitter.

The only other pubs selling cask were the four Home Ales pubs: Newcastle Arms, the Ram Hotel, the Clinton Hotel and the Cardinal's Hat. Though the last named was in the middle of a post-war council estate and, because of the weird street pattern, quite difficult to find. All of their pubs served cask Bitter and Mil through electric pumps.

If you've been paying attention you'll have noticed that I've only got to 34 pubs. The 35th was a former Steward & Patteson pub, the Olde White Hart. Which was in the hands of Watney. Meaning the town had no free houses whatsoever. Every pub was tied.

The vast majority of pubs sold bright Holes beer. That is, rough-filtered, but not pasteurised and served through electric pumps, without extra CO2 pressure. The result was a halfway house between cask and keg. Poorly handled cask beer was often hard to distinguish from bright beer. The confusion being increased by most cask being served through electric pumps.

The Courage beers served in most pubs were AK, the main Bitter of Holes, and Mild. I'm sure the Mild had a name, but I can't for the life of me remember what it was. A couple of former Warwick's houses sole IPA, which had been the flagship Bitter of Warwick & Richardson.

Other than Skol, then the main Lager of Courage, and Tavern, their premium keg beer, only seven draught beer were available: Courage AK, Mild and IPA; Home Bitter, Mild and whatever their Lager was; Barnsley Bitter. Oh, and whatever shit was on offer in the Watneys pub. Probably Red Barrel. I don't know for sure because I never went in the Olde White Hart. Still never have been.

Not exactly spoilt for choice.Newark was one of many local monopolies, of varying sizes, which were found around the country. Usually where one of the Big Six had bought up all the local breweries. The situation was totally different in many of the towns around Newark.

Nottingham, for example, was dominated by the three local breweries: Home Ales, Shipstone and Hardy & Hanson. The owned the lion's share of pubs in the city. And 99% of then sold cask beer. Though only a handful of pubs retained beer engines. The vast majority of beer was served by metered electric dispense.

I've looked for an image of a typical electric pump, but can't find one. These things used to be so common, but I suppose have totally disappeared. If you have an image, please let me know.

I'll be continuing these reminiscences until, well, I get bored or my memories run out. Which probably won't be long, as I can recall so little.

Wednesday 29 March 2023

Let's Brew - 1900 Whitbread Single Stout

I did mention posting a consolation Single Stout recipe after it was just pipped by Imperial Stout in a poll. As I can't think of anything better and I have this recipe to hand*, Whitbread Single Stout it is.

It's exactly the same gravity as Guinness Extra Stout of the day. Which the brewer considered a Double Stout.

Yippee, I thought, when Whitbread were down to just two Stouts. And now they’re up to four. The bastards. I’d forgotten about the return of Single Stout.

For the first time in several decades, there was a Single Stout parti-gyled with the stronger Stouts. I won’t go through the minutiae if the fiddling with the grist. Which saw all of them either go up or down a little bit. Some of the sugar is described as “black”, which I’ve interpreted No. 4 invert.

Still clinging onto two mashes, an underlet and a sparge. Or maybe two sparges. Starting off fairly cool. The time the mash was stood after the underlet keeps getting reduced.

action barrels strike heat time mashed time stood tap heat gravity
mash 1 540 154º F 30      
underlet 50 174º F   75 143º F 1085.0
mash 2 280 180º F 15 30 158º F 1035.0
sparge 300 180º F        

The hops were all east Kent, two-thirds from the 1899 harvest, one third from 1898.

Looks like another Runner, to me. Just a few weeks of secondary. Too little time for Brettanomyces. 

1900 Whitbread Single Stout
pale malt 8.00 lb 50.79%
brown malt 2.25 lb 14.29%
black malt 0.75 lb 4.76%
amber malt 3.25 lb 20.63%
No. 2 invert sugar 1.00 lb 6.35%
No. 4 invert sugar 0.50 lb 3.17%
Goldings 105 min 1.75 oz
Goldings 60 min 1.75 oz
Goldings 30 min 1.75 oz
Goldings dry hops 0.50 oz
OG 1070
FG 1026
ABV 5.82
Apparent attenuation 62.86%
IBU 60
SRM 39
Mash at 148º F
Sparge at 180º F
Boil time 105 minutes
pitching temp 57º F
Yeast Wyeast 1099 Whitbread Ale

* It's one I recently wrote for "Stout!", my upcoming book on London, er, Stout.

Tuesday 28 March 2023

Tetley cask Mild specifications (part three)

Funning this material up isn't the easiest. You could call it rather dry. Even though it's documenting something rather wet. Well, at least with a lot of water in it.

Are there any big surprises? No, is the short answer. Because the mashing scheme is identical to that for Bitter. In fact, the Bitter and Mild are so similar, that I could imagine them being parti-gyled together.Spin the Mild out at a lower gravity and add a bit more caramel to it at some point and there you go. As the popularity of Mild fell, I'm sure brewers did things like this. Or simply added caramel to their Ordinary Bitter.

I've gone back and looked at Tetley's records from 1945. As with the Bitter, the process doesn't seem to have changed much over the forty years. The barrels per quarter rate is the same at 2.25. Both are a single infusion, followed by a sparge. The initial heat, at 148º , was a little higher than in 1985. But within the +-2º F tolerance. The biggest difference is the time the mash was stood, which, at two hours, was twice as long in 1945.

The sparging rate was the same, too, at around 5 barrels per quarter of malt. And, at 165º F, the sparge temperature was also much the same as in 1985. 

a) Mash rate (brl/qr) 2.25
b) Mash Temp (°F) (°C) (i.e. water & malt to masher) 146 +-2 (63.3° +- 1.2) varies with materials
c) Stand Time (mins) 60
d) Sparge Temp (°F) (°C) 165 - 170 (74 - 76.5)
e) Sparge Rate (brl/qr) 5
Tetley Beer and Malt Specifications, 1985, beer page 8.

Any guesses for what comes next? Yes, boiling.

Monday 27 March 2023

Tetley cask Mild specifications (part two)

No, I hadn't forgotten about my series on Tetley's beers in 1985.  Loads more to go just on the cask beers. Then there's all the brewery-conditioned beers. Lots of fun just waiting for us.

Exciting stuff in this installment. Little things like the grist. Which isn't all that exciting, as it turns out.

To my total non surprise, the grist turns out to be very similar. Th only difference is in the sugar. Bitter had two different types, T3000 of LPW in addition to S. G. T. While Mild only had the latter. Other than that, it's just the quantity of caramel that distinguishes the two beers.

How much coloured malt is there? None at all. Not even crystal malt. All of the colour comes from caramel. Did I realise this when I was shovelling down gallons of the stuff in the 1970s and 1980s? Of course I fucking didn't. I assumes the colour came from crystal and chocolate malt. Or something like that. How wrong I was.

When I first started looking at brewing records I soon noticed that recipes weren't as I expected them to be. Once I'd finished being all snobby about flaked maize and sugar, I discovered how brewers had actually brewed the beers I loved. And I embraced it. Like a a long-lost child. Or something. No, I remember what it was. I started shouting at home brewers telling them they'd got UK beer totally wrong.

a) White Malt 75 - 80
b) Torrified Barley 5 - 10
c) ERC 4ths -
d) S.G.T. 10 - 15
e) Caramel Variable
Tetley Beer and Malt Specifications, 1985, beer page 8.

I assume that the torrefied barley is there for head retention. Why barley and not wheat, which was more common in this role? No idea. I'm sure there must have been a reason, though. As the same quantity of S.G.T. was used in the Bitter, it couldn't have been very dark. Given it was only 21 EBC.

No idea what ERC 4ths is. Nor why it was included in the table when the quantity is zero.

The water isn't very exciting, being from the same sources and treated the same as for cask Bitter.

a) Source Town/Borehole Mixture (2 : 1 Ratio)
b) Treatment H2SO4, Auto-Injection (Variable)
c) Filtration (borehole only) Sand filtered but not chlorinated
Tetley Beer and Malt Specifications, 1985, beer page 8.

Next time we'll be looking at mashing.

Sunday 26 March 2023


I recently ran a slightly tongue-in-cheek poll about enthusiasm for beer. Obviously, it's not a fair cross-section of society, being people who follow me on Twitter, mostly.

I was genuinely surprised, even considering that, at the general level of enthusiasm.

Are you enthusiastic about beer?
More than ever 29.60%
Loads 46.30%
Only if it's Abt 7.60%
Can't be arsed 16.40%
341 votes   

In which category would I place myself? No, it's not option 3. I'd say that, sadly, I'm still at option 2. Dead enthusiastic. Which is a bit of a surprise. Because I've been at this stuff for years, off and on.

My enthusiasm levels are much where they've always been: very far over to the obsessive side. What has changed is the nature of that energy.

When I was younger, I dived headlong into the swimming pool of beer. Initially searching out as many cask beers as I could. Though, in particular Mild. With foreign travel, that interest widened. As I hunted down Lagers in Czechoslovakia, Alt in Düsseldorf and Gose in Saxony. Pursuits to which I devoted considerable energy and expense.

I rarely join the chase foe a specific beer nowadays. Unless it's something really special. And by special, I mean odd, forgotten and obscure styles. Not the latest trend. I can take or leave the newest type of IPA or adulterated Imperial Stout. My interest has now mostly shifted to history. Understanding how beer styles are formed and mutate as they spread out from their initial homelands.

I put in as much time and effort as ever, Just in a different environment. No longer out in the field with my binoculars hoping to spot a rare bird to cross off my list. But at my computer, excavating the barrows of long-lost brews. Without enthusiasm, I wouldn't be doing this work.

I hope I never lose it, my boundless enthusiasm for beer. For what would I be without it? Just another fat, old bloke sitting in the corner with a half-finished pint of Mild.


Saturday 25 March 2023

Let's Brew - 1940 Barclay Perkins XX (Light)

Another recipe as the result of a Twitter poll. Of the four options - X, XX, XXX and XXXX - XX was a narrow winner, just pipping XXXX. I've picked an example of Barclay Perkins XX from a year into WW II. Not the happiest of times.

It didn’t take long for the war to take a bite out of the OG of XX. It’s down 4º on the year before.

That’s not been the only change. The grist has been fiddled with, too. The quantity of pale malt has been massively reduced, replaced by more mild malt. Flaked rice arrives in place of flaked maize. But there’s about 50% less of it, the slack being taken up by No. 3 invert.

This was parti-gyled with X (Dark). Especially in the early war years, Barclay Perkins rarely brewed any of their Milds, other than X Ale, single gyle. Presumably because the quantities of Ale and XX Ale required were far more modest. This gyle, for example, consisted of 192 barrels of XX and 390 barrels of X.

The hops are also more complex than at first sight. They’re all Mid-Kent Fuggles from the 1939 harvest, but there are three different types.

As with all their Milds, XX was quite heavily primed, raising the gravity by 2.5º. I’ve added an extra 0.25 lb of No. 3 invert to allow for these primings. 

1940 Barclay Perkins XX (Light)
pale malt 0.75 lb 8.94%
mild malt 4.00 lb 47.68%
crystal malt 60 L 0.50 lb 5.96%
amber malt 0.33 lb 3.93%
flaked rice 1.00 lb 11.92%
No. 3 invert sugar 1.75 lb 20.86%
caramel 1000 SRM 0.06 lb 0.72%
Fuggles 90 mins 0.75 oz
Fuggles 60 mins 0.75 oz
Fuggles 30 mins 0.75 oz
OG 1041
FG 1013
ABV 3.70
Apparent attenuation 68.29%
IBU 29
SRM 17
Mash at 144º F
After underlet 152º F
Sparge at 170º F
Boil time 90 minutes
pitching temp 60.5º F
Yeast Wyeast 1099 Whitbread ale

Friday 24 March 2023

Whipping up interest

Specifically, in my book about brewing in WW I. The only detailed look available into the tumultuous few years which transformed UK beer and pub culture. With a blow-by-blow account of the legislation which pummeled brewers.

In addition, there are stack of recipes - over 350 - for the home brewers amongst you.Documenting the highs and very lows of wartime brewing.

I'm baffled as to why it hasn't been a big seller. I think it's one of my best.

Get your copy now!


Support independent publishing: buy this book on Lulu.


Blumeanu to Amsterdam

Flying back home day. I’ve a long journey ahead of me. Which starts with packing and breakfast. Mostly in that order.

I eat the usual fat, egg, fruit combination I’ve had every other morning. That’s heathy, surely?

I realise that I’ve eaten exactly the same breakfast every day (but one). The only variables have been the number of cups of coffee and the exact composition of the fruit course. Always melon and watermelon, sometimes mango, sometimes guava. Usually three types. Does that make me a boring old git? I hope so.

My uber to Navegantes is booked for 8:15. I rise at six, just to be on the safe side. Waiting outside as the minutes count down. At just before 8, my phone tells me “No driver found.” That’s slightly annoying, given that I ordered the fucker yesterday.

Luckily, a driver is found before the appointed time. As you’d expect for a long, but quite simple, journey. Mostly on a sort of motorway.

On the last half of the journey, in a flat valley, almost all of the land seems to be on offer for development. Or already hosts a warehouse. In the empty sections, billboards distorted by the wind, kneel into the red earth.

That’s the view of the West. To the East, the hills almost brush the road with their extended fingers. And the trees bristle, flowing down towards the valley.

But I’m sitting on the passenger side and can only see easily to the West. I’ll have to make do with the light industry. And the occasional cattle farms which must have once dominated the landscape. Now pushed into corners.

It takes a little more than an hour to reach Navegantes airport. Which is delightfully small. Dumping a bag takes a few minutes, and after just a couple more I’m airside. Without even needing a pushy-in oldie person queue.

I remember the downside of the airport’s dinky size: no bloody bar. Just a snack bar that sells draught beer. The other downside is that the beer is Brahma.

It’s cold enough for me not to care. I notice there’s free wifi. I sign my phone in and start fiddling. I’ve been building up to this for years. Fiddling with my phone in public. This is how modern people live! The pure adrenaline rush of connecting to your email account, in an airport terminal. I pity those who have experienced nothing more powerful than a speedball.

Not a long flight. Scheduled at 80 minutes, but. In reality, just about an hour. As on the flight out, there’s a tiny packet of tiny cheesy puffs. And a glass of a soft drink. Barely enough to stave off dehydration.

Never been to Congonhas airport before. Coming in, it looks like it’s built on a mound inside a residential district. Right inside a residential district. The pilot jams on the brakes so hard that I have to use my hands to stop me bashing into the seat in front. Short runway, I guess.

Bag thankfully collected, I look for a taxi stand. There appear to be several.

I randomly choose one. Soon realising that only the taxis with red flanks stop here. The rest speed past to another rank 50 metres down the way. Private cars park next to a row of cones sectioning off the taxi space. And blocking taxi access, briefly. Until a uniformed bloke comes and tells them off.

The red taxis dry up. Should I move to another queue? I can’t be arsed and I have loads of time. Seven hours until my Amsterdam flight departs.

Red taxis reappear and soon mine rolls up. “Do you have a voucher?” I think the driver asks. “No.” He flicks on the taximeter. Damn. I should have got a voucher. I couldn’t see any of their stalls in the arrivals hall. Would have been better, as I could have paid by card. This looks like it’ll be cash. Of which I have exactly 205 reals (around 40 euros). Should be enough.

As we speed towards Guarulhos International . . . well, we don’t. We pull out of the airport into near-stationary traffic. Spluttering and splattering along, sometimes getting up to a decent run, often no more than a stumbling walk. Except for the mopeds that snake speedily between the lanes, beeping their horns in warning.

It’s looking very dark over Bill’s Mother’s, as my Mum used to say. Threatening grey topped by menacing black, singed silver by strikes of lightning.

We pick up speed as we cross a half-crumbled industrial neighbourhood. As the rain hits, like a full bucket thrown directly into your face. That sort of impact. Except it doesn’t stop. Whipping in capes around the lorries, spraying curtains of mist from the road, furious in its malevolent energy.

Are we safe at this speed? We’re up around 100 kph and visibility can’t be more than 50 metres. At most. With relief, I notice the rain slackening a little. Wide lakes the driver needs to dodge are more of a worry now. And the taximeter.

It already reads 140 reals. And the last signpost I spotted said 9 km to the airport. Should be OK. Though, now we’ve hit a decent lick, the reals are racking up.

I spend anxious moments searching for another signpost. When I spot the weird artificial lake with a tiny island and a single tree. I know we’re close. 170 reals on the clock. I’ll make it easily. Had I come up short, I’m not sure what I’ve had done. Because I’ve fuck all euros on me.

Bag dumping doesn’t take much time. It was a pain in the arse getting across town. But at least I didn’t have set foot in the claustrophobic mess that are the older terminals here.

There’s a bit of a queue for security. And no oldie-person cheat queue, like there was last time. I notice a woman behind me in the queue crying. Afraid she’ll miss her flight. Her boyfriend tries to get her to the head of the queue. It seems to work.

I spot Ben and another judge behind me in the queue.

“How long have you got before your flight?”

“It should have started boarding 5 minutes ago. I’ve plenty of time.”

I wouldn’t be so casual. As I have stuff to do airside. Important stuff.

Past passport control, I head immediately for the cachaca shop. This is my important stuff. I pick up a couple of bottles. Nothing crazy expensive. Just $15 and $20.

I asked about the lounge when ditching my bag. W lounge, by gate 327. Next to my flight’s gate. Which is handy.

Assuming it’s close to the other lounges, I head upstairs. It isn’t there. Then again, this is nowhere near to gate 327.

It’s quite a trek. At least it’s right by my final destination.

The lounge is tiny. Sandwiched between a couple of gates. But there’s space for me to park my arse and laptop. And the whisky measures are very generous.

The last three times I’ve been in this airport, the lounge has been a different one. What’s going on?

On my sparked-up flip-flop I light up Spirited. Will I have time to finish of series 2 before I board? Maybe. It depends on how long I spend grazing the food. And the bar.

With my phone I’m messaging the family. Making Andrew jealous and Dolores nervous with photos of whiskies and caipirinhas. While watching Spirited on my laptop. I’ve finally become what I despise most: a phone fiddler.

Dolores replies with images of snow falling. Great. I’m wearing shorts.

I tease Andrew: “Maybe I should have gone to the duty free.”

“Oh well, it doesn't matter too much.” He answers, unconvincingly. Or he doesn’t believe me.

The food is OK. Cheese, olives and some little pastry things. The warm stuff isn’t so appetising. There’s enough to occupy me for the hours I’ll be here. And fill me up. I’m not counting on eating anything much on the plane. I’m so done with KLM food.

When I get my final whisky, I notice the bottle is about half empty. It was full when I started. I haven’t noticed anyone else drinking it.

I finish with a couple of caipirinhas. A fitting way to exit Brazil. I ask the young lady to use just a little amount of sugar. “Pocinho azucar.” My Portuguese is getting so good. I can ask for the toilets, too. Important when you’re my age.

The bastards have changed the gate to 305. Right at the start of the hall. And the bloody moving walkways only run in one direction. I could do without this.

My timing is a little out and it’s 5 minutes or so before my pushy-in boarding starts.

The plane is very full. Totally full. No luxury of an empty seat next to me, as on the way out.

I watch a decent film, The Lost King, while I’m waiting to the fed. Once the horror of a half-picked meal has been taken away again, I doze off watching something or other.

Before I know it, we’re over halfway. I must have slept for at least 4 hours. Properly slept. I doze for most of the rest of the flight.

Until breakfast, some bits of which I eat. But not many.

There’s a long queue at passport control. But only for non-EU citizens. My shiny new Dutch passport whisks me through the electronic gates.

Home, and a nice cup of tea, is just a cab ride away.

24 hours from start to finish. I feel remarkably chipper, considering.

Enough to slip down to Ton Overmars for some Abt. But not enough to slip out of my shorts. I’m rather underdressed downstairs. Especially as I’m wearing my winter coat. No-one remarks on it in the shop. That’s another one of the great things about being old. You’re expected to be weird.

Thursday 23 March 2023

Blumenau slowtime

I’m awoken at 1 AM by a massive thunderstorm. Lightning crackles across the sky. Rain throws itself furiously down as slip back into sleep. Soothed by the white noise of the storm.

I rise properly just before 9:00. And trail downstairs for my standard breakfast. Scrambled egg and bacon for main, fresh fruit for pudding. After a while I’m joined by Jos Brouwer.

Before going back to my room, I have a quick chat with Claire and Tim.

“What are your plans for today?” Tim asks.

“None at all.”

“I was planning on having some lunch.”

“Sounds good to me.”

We meet in reception at one. Stephen Beaumont comes along, too. Seu Porco (Your Pork) is our destination. Which even I can work out is a specialist pork restaurant.

It’s not far. Just a short walk, which suits me.

We struggle somewhat with the menu. As the translation apps aren’t coping well. We all end up ordering roast pork. Which turns out not to be quite what I expected. It comes with rice, black beans and something I think might be potato, but is some other form of starch. It wouldn’t be a Brazilian meal without two types of carb.

I start with a Cerveja Blumenau IPA. Then switch to that most reliable of drinks: caipirinha.

We chat about many things. International relations, Jeremy Clarkson, the challenges of Brexit and why sludge beer is crap. Other things, too. But my brain goes a bit mushy after the third caipirinha. 

The décor is a bit weird. Human figures with pigs’ heads. “It’s like the name isn’t ‘Your Pork’ but ‘You’re Pork’.” I joke feebly.


When we’ve stuffed as much of the food mountain into our gobs as we can manage, we decant to E-10. A serve-yourself place. It’s a juicy Double IPA for me. A favourite style of mine. Not really. But it has a price/ABV ratio I find attractive.

E-10’s unique selling point is that it doesn’t close. Opening 24 hours a day. It would be even better if they sold caipirinhas. Can’t have everything, I suppose.

I start off with Swamp Grassroots Imperial IPA, at a modest 7.5% ABV. It’s OK. So I pour myself a larger one the second time.

The others have to leave quite soon. Tim to fly home, Stephen for his talk at the conference. Will I be going to the conference/beer festival? I don’t think so. Yesterday more than scratched that itch. It tore off the scab and left a bloody mess. I’m really not into torturing myself for no reason.

I’ve another excuse to stay put. All the credit on the fobs. I unwisely put 100 reals on mine. And Stephen gave me his. Lots of beer still to get through. Not going to waste credit, am I? That would be like throwing beer away. Which is against my principles.

Carolina, with whom I judged yesterday, turns up with her boyfriend. We have a good chat about beer culture and the importance of emotional attachment to beer. At least for me. And the fun of judging together.

That comes up. In retrospect, it was good fun. It may have dragged on for longer than I would have liked, but we had some good discussions. And I appreciated her very different perspective. Perhaps I should have told her that more openly. Simone’s views were similarly divergent from mine. Considered and with his own specific take from an Italian standpoint.

This is why judging with a diverse group Is so important. Balancing different cultural viewpoints. It’s not something I’d get if my fellow judges were all English.

Next is Locomotive/Se Val Sobrenatural Juicy IPA, 6.5% ABV. I know. Sludge filth. I can’t even blame it on a mistake. It’s clearly labelled “sludge filth”. Weirdly, they have Hoegaarden from one of the ten taps. Wonder where that’s brewed?

Then rain starts. The type you only get in tropical climates. Not too much a spattering as a splattering. Another good reason for me to stay put. Despite the hotel only being 200 metres away, I consider getting an Uber. But that would just be silly. And I still have credit on my fob to use up. Stephen’s, too.

I save the Imperial Stout until last. Salvador Cookie de Chocolate. I’m shocked that it’s rather sweet. No. Not really. The name is a bit of a clue. Nice enough. But I wouldn’t want to drink four pints of it.

When the rain has declined from a horse torrent to an old man trickle, I venture out. Stopping only to buy some weird stuffed bun thing in the petrol station opposite the hotel. It’s not very appetising. Even warmed up.

I debate with myself: should I venture to the hotel bar for a caipirinha? Being strong, I told myself: no. But now I write about it, the thought is more tempting. Hang on, I’ll just put my shoes on. For one last lovely cocktail.

I’ll tell you in a minute how it went.

The restaurant is closed. As I head back to the lift, Stephen is just getting out.

“They’re closed.“ I tell him.

“I’ll have to find somewhere else to eat.”

I only wanted a caipirinha. And I still have enough rum in my room to knock me out.

Seu Porco
R. Floriano Peixoto, 55
Centro, Blumenau,
SC, 89010-500.

E-10 Tap House

R. Curt Hering, 33
sala 7
Centro, Blumenau
SC, 89010-030.

Disclosure: Concorso Brasiliero de Cervejas paid for my hotel during the judging as well as for some food and drink.

Wednesday 22 March 2023


The idea was simple. Turn a talk I'd quickly written on the history of Stout into a book. Dead quick. Mostly because I didn't want to waste the tables.

I'd already created slides, assembled tables. Sketched the outline, really. Filling in the holes, plumping the slides out to chapters, I could whack out a great little history of London Stout in no time. It wouldn't be much work.

It wasn't. Much work. Just a few weeks and I had 30,000 words. All the history - except for the vague early 18th century - polished off. Only the recipes to go.

That's when I made a bad decision for a very good reason. By bad, I mean bad for me, in terms of time consumption. Good for everyone else. I hope.

I don't know how many brewing records I have of London Stout. Hundreds. Maybe thousands. It would be stupidly impractical to include recipes for them all. How was I going to filter them? Rough or smooth?

Whitbread is the reason I went rough. I have their Stouts from 1805 to 1973 with just a handful of years in the 1960s missing. By writing as many recipes as possible, I'd get a huge amount of data. Grist composition and calculated colour and bitterness.

Five year intervals. That's what I chose. I should, perhaps, have worked out how many recipes that would be. I've completed 140. Good news is that Fullers, Reid, Combe and Lovibond are done. Less good news: I just finished the 1880 recipes for Whitbread. I'm not even halfway through.

Patience is the only virtue I've gained with age. It will take a while. As long as I knock off a few recipes every day, I'll get there eventually. And be all the richer, in terms of insights, than if I hadn't been arsed.

Do I regret my decision? Of course I fucking do. As I keep repeating, I'm incredibly lazy. Like a sloth on valium. And smacked up. That's me on a good day.

"Stout!" should be available sometime this year. Depending on how much I travel.

Let's Brew Wednesday - 1870 Truman Imperial Stout

You asked for an Imperial Stout recipe and here it is. From Truman, whom you might not associate with the style. The version from Barclay Perkins being rather more famous.

Imperial Stout wasn't just brewed by those two breweries. Courage also produced one before WW I. And there was a bizarre trade in Scotland for London-brewed Imperial Stout. So much so that, between the wars, Barclay Perkins brewed a special (weaker) version just for the Scottish market.

Here we are at Truman’s strongest Stout, Imperial. Except that it isn’t. Going against naming conventions, it’s weaker than Double Export Stout.

The grist is the same as Running Stout and Double Stout. There’s a reason for that: it was parti-gyled them. Quite a low brown malt content and quite a lot of black malt. As in most of the other Stouts, apart from Double Export Stout.

As the mashing details are cryptic even for Truman. There were at least three mashes, but there could have been more.

All American hops, two types, both from the 1869 harvest.

Unlike in 1861, it was racked into a vat. Number 2 vat, to be precise. I can’t have been very big, as only 50 barrels were brewed. 

1870 Truman Imperial Stout
pale malt 17.75 lb 88.75%
brown malt 1.50 lb 7.50%
black malt 0.75 lb 3.75%
Cluster 120 min 3.50 oz
Cluster 60 min 3.50 oz
Cluster 30 min 3.50 oz
Goldings dry hops 1.00 oz
OG 1084
FG 1023.5
ABV 8.00
Apparent attenuation 72.02%
IBU 155
SRM 29
Mash at 148º F
Sparge at 170º F
Boil time 120 minutes
pitching temp 60º F
Yeast Wyeast 1099 Whitbread Ale

Tuesday 21 March 2023

Free at last

Hoorah! With no judging, I can get up when the fuck I want. Which turns out to be not that late. As nature’s alarm clock wakes me at 6:30. How do I switch the fucker off?

I lie around in bed for a while dozing. But get bored.  I’ve arranged to meet Jos for breakfast at 9:00. I’ve a little time to spare and use it to traipse to a nearby supermarket. It’s cloudy and only in the mid-20s C. But the 300% humidity still makes it quite a sticky walk. Especially when I try to cross the road. Traffic is pretty crazy in Brazil. I’m lucky to make it there unscathed.

I soon find what I’m after: cheap rum. I finished off my hotel whisky yesterday. I take a few snaps of the stuffed fruit and veg shelves to send to my friends in the UK.

I breakfast with Jos. When he heads up to his room, I chat with Chris for a while. This is lovely and relaxing. Which is exactly what I need after the strain of yesterday.

I’ve arranged to go to Cerveja Blumenau with Jos. When I mention this to Chris, he says that he’ll get in touch with Alexandre Melo, who brews there, to show us around. That’s very good of him.

“Alexandre speaks very good English.” Chris tells me. That’s handy. I remember a visit to the Alles Blau brewery three years ago. No-one there spoke any English. We ended up using Google translate on a phone.

When we arrive at the brewery, we’re ushered into a waiting room. Where Alexandre collects us. Then gives us a tour around the shiny things. Which look much the same as the shiny things in every brewery everywhere.

We finish in the barrel ageing room. Where Alexandre pours us samples. Dead good, they are. A lovely clean, bright acidity. Overlaid in some with a little Bretty funk. I’m impressed.

We adjourn outside, where he pours us some more samples. Catharina Sour and, something I was quite apprehensive about: a Special Bitter. I shouldn’t have worried. It’s pretty good.

As we sit in the shade, talk pings around between beer styles, historical brewing in Santa Catharina, Crimea Porter, capivaras and much else.

A cooling breeze blows over us, and I think: “How did my life go so wrong?” I could still be a wage slave, working for an ungrateful boss. Instead, here I am sipping beer in the tropical heat. While back in Amsterdam everyone is freezing their arse off.

When we get back to our hotel, Stephen Beaumont trolls up.

“What are you going to do now?” he asks.

“I’m going to say hello to my bottle of rum. If you want to drink some really cheap and nasty rum, you’re welcome to join me.”

“You make it sound so appealing, but I think I’ll pass.”

He doesn’t know what he’s missing.

“Hello rum.” I say, “Do you want to be my friend?”


“I’ll take your lack of response as a ‘yes’.”

Not having eaten since breakfast, I drop down to the hotel bar for a snack at 16:30. I grab a seat outside. Stephen is in the pool. While I’m waiting for the food, I get myself a caipirinha. A ham and cheese toasted sandwich. And a pile of chips. Makes a change from another fucking barbecue. A little afternoon rum has given me a healthy appetite. For once.

Luckily, there’s time for a second caipirinha. Pity there was no vinegar for the chips.

I only stay for the two caipirinhas. Don’t want to get overexcited too early. It’s not that long until we’re bused off to the beer festival and awards ceremony. And I want to slip in a quick hotel room rum. Or maybe two. Let’s see how thirsty I am.

Not stupidly thirsty, it turns out. Leaving my legs in fully working order. For the time being.

The bus to the festival is at 18:30. It seems to take an incredibly circuitous route. Maybe that’s just the one-way system.

Before the awards, I trail around the festival a bit with Chris. We kick off with an Old Ale from Lohn, aged with pediococcus. We’re given some chocolate to go with it. Which cuts through the acidity quite nicely. But I really can’t be doing with sour beer. The mixed fermentation beers on the first day of judging really did my stomach in.

Next, it’s the turn of Seasons. Where I get a couple of IPAey things. And have a dead good chat with a brewer. But time is passing. And we need to get to where the awards are.

They’re playing the Peep Show theme tune. Why the hell is that? I record some video so I can show the kids. They’re both massive Peep Show fans. Alexei is forever quoting Super Hans at me.

The judges’ enclosure is on a balcony. Where there’s left over beer from the competition. And a few seats. It’s boiling hot. Only made bearable by being able to grab a seat. Next to Jos Brouwer.

It’s not as unbearably loud as last year.  But it’s a lot warmer. Did I mention that it’s unbearably hot? It’s unbearably hot.  I’d prefer unbearably loud. Paper handkerchief in my ears would solve that. I’ve no way of cooling down.

Most of the beers seem to be either some sort of hybrid or sour.  My stomach isn’t going to thank me for anything acidic. Eventually I find a straight up IPA. That’s nice and cold. Between sips, I hold it to my temple.

There’s much rejoicing on the floor when the gold medals are announced. I know what the overall winner is. Because I judged the pre-BOS of the category: Italian Grape Ale. There was a good deal of discussion about which beer we should award gold to. Me and Carolina liked one beer. Simone a different one. Our eventual choice was a compromise. As these things often are.

When the awards are done, Chris says: “Fancy a nightcap?”

Of course I fucking do.

There’s a craft cachaca bar from the Moendao distillery, just at the bottom of the balcony stairs. We have a few samples. The ten-year old is dead good. So me and Chris each buy a bottle.

It’s time to leave. I’m feeling hot and tired. As there’s no wifi kerbside, we nip into a bar, where Chris connects to the wifi. And I drink a cachaca. Not as good as the ones at the festival. But, hey, it’s full of alcoholy goodness.

The uber returns us swiftly to the hotel. In my room I say hello to the cheap rum again. Still no reply. But it takes me by the hand and leads me to slumberland

Cerveja Blumenau

R. Arno Delling, 388
Itoupavazinha, Blumenau
SC, 89066-35

Disclosure: Concorso Brasiliero de Cervejas paid for my hotel during the judging as well as for some food and drink.