Friday 30 June 2023

I finally have proper books (again)

By that I mean my properly published book. The Home Brewer's Guide to Vintage Beer.

I ordered the fuckers months ago. Various fuck ups with the publisher meant that they only arrived this week.I suppose I should let them off. Hachette is a tiny publisher with little experience of putting books into boxes and posting them off.

But I do have copies for sale. Signed copies. Look at how much a second-hand edition of the original would cost you. 

This is a total bargain.

Buy a signed paperback edition of the Home Brewer's Guide to Vintage Beer. For the USA, Canada, Australia and other locations outside Europe.

Buy a signed paperback edition of the Homebrewer's Guide to Vintage Beer. For locations inside Europe.

Shit 1970s beers - your opinions

When posting all this stuff about beer in the 1970s, I've added comments about the beers I drank myself. When I can remember. It was a very long time ago.

Lots of the beers in the lovely, lovely tables I've been posting,  Ones I never drank, can't remember drinking, or can't remember the taste.

What would be great - and admittedly, great for a putative book - would be for people to add their own experiences and critiques of the beers in the tables. 

I've had some pretty decent feedback. More would be great. For scientific purposes, if nothing else.

Recording this stuff now before my generation dies off. That's why I'm doing this. Noting down all the boring mundanities. 

All your comments on these crappy, and not crappy beers, of the 1970s are incredibly welcome as long as I can steal them.

I'm still looking for a good photo of a sideways glass diaphragm pump.

Any comments about any beer from the 1970s, very welcome. I'm not going to beg. But , , falls to knees .. please tell me your experiences of drinking Websters in 1974.

Or Hemingways, Would love to hear from someone who drank their beer.

What we've forgotten about the 1970s

A good old wallow in the mud-pit of nostalgia. Have I been doing that? The numbers, you know. They don't lie.

While I've been on my 1970s thing, it's mostly been boring old tables. With the odd reminiscence thrown in. (If all goes to plan, not just mine in future. Also ones from people with fat better memories.)

I may lust still after some of the beers from that era. But lots of things were crap. I used to think of the 1950s as being in black and white. The 1970s were, too, really. Quite drab. Even the punks were all in black.

Outside toilets, afternoon closing, a general lack of heating, power cuts, minimal pub hours on Sunday, no wifi, third-world style inflation, three TV channels, keg beer stalking our children, eleven o'clock closing, Leeds United and bright beer.

Beer that was never off, like cask might be. But was never great. Beer with the weak link - the landlord - taken out. I'm not surprised lots of brewers went for it. Not just the big boys. Regional brewers like Mansfield went all bright.

In a way, bright beer sums up the 1970s. Just about good enough. As long as you didn't look too closely.

Then again, they did pay me to go to university. Money well spent by the state, even if I say so myself. I may not have quite got a degree. But I did . . .  learn a lot of life lessons. Or just hang around eating pie and peas and playing table tennis. Which are also life lessons. In the value of pies. And how shit I am at table tennis.

Thursday 29 June 2023

AK! on Kindle

Following a request, I've created a Kindle version of AK!

 Someone better buy the bugger now I've made the effort.


London Bitter in 1971

How much more of this 1970s fun will we have? Loads more. Unless, of course, I get bored or distracted. Something that is quite likely.

I genuinely didn't start this with the intention of writing a book on the 1970s. However, I've assembled so much material it seems a waste not to. It will follow on from where "Austerity!" ends. Not sure when I'll publish it. Possibly as a "quick" book next year. If other things don't get in the way.

One difference from my other books in the series will be the inclusion of personal memories. Quite a few of which I've already collected. Though I'll be delighted if you send in some more. They really help conjure up the atmosphere of the period.

Right. Back to today's real topic: Bitters brewed in London.

First, something about the breweries. All are members of the Big Six, other than Youngs. Which may partly explain the high prices and poor value.

The average price, at 15.3p is just shy of 2p per pint more than Northern Bitters. Even though the average OG is a bit higher, the value is worse both in terms of OG and ABV. A couple are particularly poor value: Watneys Red Barrel and Charrington Crown Bitter. Both costing 16p for a beer of only around average strength.

The best value beer (in terms of OG) is also from Charrington, in the form of their Best Bitter. Which is considerably stronger than Crown Bitter, but 1p per pint cheaper. It doesn't make any sense. Unless Crown Bitter was keg and Best Bitter cask. I love the way you had to pay a premium to drink inferior beer.

Attenuation isn't great, averaging just short of 75%. Lower than all the other regions we've looked at so far. And that's with Youngs Special dragging up the average with its 85% attenuation. Which leaves that beer best value in terms of ABV. For London. It's far short of the best value from other regions.

Deserving special mention is Watneys Starbright in combining both shit value for money and being barely intoxicating at under 3% ABV. I'm sure it tasted lovely, too. 

London Bitter in 1971
Brewer Beer Price per pint (p) º gravity per p % ABV per p OG FG ABV App. Atten-uation
Watney Starlight 14 2.32 0.21 1032.5 1009.9 2.93 69.69%
Watney Red Barrel 16 2.29 0.21 1036.6 1010.4 3.39 71.58%
Watney Special Bitter 15 2.53 0.23 1037.9 1011.1 3.47 70.71%
Whitbread Tankard 16 2.38 0.22 1038 1010.4 3.58 72.63%
Charrington Crown Bitter 16 2.26 0.22 1036.1 1008.4 3.59 76.73%
Courage Tavern Keg 14 2.59 0.27 1036.2 1007 3.80 80.66%
Charrington Best Bitter 15 2.88 0.26 1043.2 1013.4 3.86 68.98%
Young Special Bitter 16 2.79 0.31 1044.6 1006.4 4.98 85.65%
Average   15.3 2.50 0.24 1038.1 1009.6 3.70 74.58%
Sunday Mirror - Sunday 21 March 1971, page 25.

Wednesday 28 June 2023

More Kindle books

The second volume of Blitzkrieg, which contains the recipes, has finally been approved by Amazon.I've no idea what their problem was with the book, but it's now resolved.

Buy one now and be the envy of your friends!

This one, my newly-released book on brewing in WW II, was already available:




Let's Brew Wednesday - 1942 Fullers BO

Time for another WW II recipe. Why? Because I need to push my wonderful new book, "Blitzkrieg!",

Wartime didn’t removed the need for London pubs to have something a bit stronger and darker. Especially in the dark winter months. Ones which were even darker with the blackout.

Burton was the beer. One whose name confused the hell out of me for a long time. Weirdly, I have an East German book from the 1970’s which correctly describes Burton Ale. Radical.

Fuller’s Burton remains the sort of souped-up Mild I wish I had available in my youth. You jammy London bastards.  I was going to say that you’d cruelly dropped then before my time in the capital. Then I recall Winter Warmer. The last London Burton Ale.

Were they brewing loads of BO? No, obviously. But a reasonable amount. This parti-gyle was split, in barrels, 82, 58 and 241 between BO, XX and X, respectively.

Not far away from 5% ABV – happy days, if you can find BO. 

1942 Fullers BO
pale malt 8.50 lb 81.93%
flaked barley 1.50 lb 14.46%
glucose 0.25 lb 2.41%
caramel 1000 SRM 0.125 lb 1.20%
Fuggles 90 min 1.00 oz
Fuggles 30 min 0.75 oz
Goldings dry hops 0.50 oz
OG 1044.5
FG 1008
ABV 4.83
Apparent attenuation 82.02%
IBU 23
SRM 12.5
Mash at 148º F
After underlet 152º F
Sparge at 168º F
Boil time 90 minutes
pitching temp 61.5º F
Yeast WLP002 English Ale

This recipe is one of 553 in my recently-released BlitzKrieg!, the definitive book on brewing during WW II.

Get your copy now!

The second volume contains the recipes. But not just that. There are also overviews of some of the breweries covered, showing their beers at the start and the end of the conflict.

Buy one now and be the envy of your friends!


Tuesday 27 June 2023

1970s playlist

I jokingly said that I should create a playlist to accompany all my posts about the 1970s. Then - I think Boak & Bailey - suggested that I should do it for real.So that's  what I've done. Thrown together a random jumble of stuff I might have listened to back then.

Enjoy. Or not. It may help conjure up the atmosphere of the time a little.

Northwestern Bitter in 1971

Where next with Bitter? I know - let's stay in the North. Just flipping over the Pennines to the Northwest.

When I started my, still unfinished, drinking career back in the 1970s, Manchester was renowned for its cheap beer. Something which might have been related to the survival of many regional and small breweries.

So let's start with the prices. Which average out to 12.4p per pint. Exactly the same in the Northeast. Which sounds pretty good. Except that the average OG is 1.6º lower. Though a higher degree of attenuation leaves the average ABV only a little lower.

Which segues nicely into a look at value for money. From what we've already learnt, it should be expected that in terms of OG, this set scores worse than the Northeast. And that in terms of ABV, it's roughly similar.

Once again, the Carlisle State Brewery is the cheapest pint and the best value at 10.5p for a beer of 1036º. You just can't beat nationalised breweries for price. I like that both the cask and keg version of the beer are included. It demonstrates just what bad value most keg beers were. 2p more per pint in this case. For a beer which probably tasted worse. Though it's still better value than three of the other beers in the  set.

Crappiest value is another keg beer, Greenall's Festival Keg. Again, the cask version is also in the table. This time a full 4p per pint more expensive. One of the reasons I was never tempted by keg beers as a youngster was the terrible value they represented.

Not that many in this bunch that I drank. Threlfalls and Duttons were still brewing when I started drinking. But I completely ignored them as they produced no cask beer. In common with all Whitbread's northern breweries, other than Castle Eden. Note that the two versions of Trophy are clearly different beers.

I drank Wilsons and Greenalls. Not sure if I had their Bitters, as I mostly stuck to Mild. The same is true of Tetley Walker. Drank in their pubs a few times, but almost certainly only drank the Mild. Boddies Bitter I definitely tried. As you can see a very dry and surprisingly strong beer, given its modest gravity. 

Northwestern Bitter in 1971
Brewer Beer Price per pint (p) º gravity per p % ABV per p OG FG ABV App. Atten-uation
Whitbread (Duttons) Trophy 12 2.92 0.28 1035.1 1009 3.38 74.36%
Whitbread (Threllfalls) Trophy 13 2.58 0.28 1033.6 1005.8 3.62 82.89%
Carlisle State Brewery Bitter 10.5 3.46 0.35 1036.3 1008.2 3.65 77.41%
Carlisle State Brewery Keg Bitter 12.5 2.93 0.27 1036.6 1010.2 3.42 72.13%
Wilson Bitter 12.5 2.86 0.29 1035.8 1007.5 3.68 79.05%
Tetley Walker Bitter 12.5 2.86 0.29 1035.8 1007.5 3.68 79.05%
Greenall Whitley Bitter 11.5 3.13 0.33 1036 1007 3.77 80.56%
Greenall Whitley Festival Keg 15.5 2.37 0.24 1036.8 1007.6 3.79 79.35%
Boddington Bitter 12 2.99 0.33 1035.9 1005.1 4.01 85.79%
Average   12.4 2.90 0.30 1035.8 1007.5 3.67 78.95%
Sunday Mirror - Sunday 21 March 1971, page 25.

Monday 26 June 2023

Kindle versions of my books

For those of you who prefer virtual over physical books, a selection of my efforts are available on Kindle:

All the same table fun, just without the chore of turning pages.

Books such as the best book in English on Berliner Weisse.

Or the book that reveals the shocking truth about Scottish brewing:

And, of course, my newly-released book on brewing in WW II:




Northeastern Bitter in 1971

Here we go again, Diving into the Bitters brewed in different regions of the UK in 1971. Hopefully, it's going to be informative. Probably not entertaining, but at least informative.

This is a set of which I have little personal experience. I definitely drank Magnet, but not until a good bit later in the 1980s, when John Smiths resurrected a cask version. Though that was stronger at 1040º. The Vaux beer was, I suspect Lorimer & Clark Best Scotch, which was brewed at Caeldonian in Edinburgh. In which case, I definitely drank it multiple times.

Unexpectedly, this set is better value than the Mild Ales. Both overall and from the North. Having two beers from Federation helps boost the average. Though, to my shock, the best value of the bunch is from one of the Big Six in the form of Newcastle Exhibition. Perhaps it was the competition with Federation that kept them on their toes. Only the Mild from Carlisle State Brewery scored better.

The average OG, at 1037.3º, is just about exactly the average for all beer brewed in the UK. Funny that.

There's a worse average rate of attenuation than for the Mild Ales. Not sure what that tells us. Though there is a considerable amount of variation across the individual beers: 71% to 85%.

Next will be another set of Bitters. I've not decided which region yet. Still thinking about that. 

Northeastern Bitter in 1971
Brewer Beer Price per pint (p) º gravity per p % ABV per p OG FG ABV App. Atten-uation
Federation Ordinary 11 3.05 0.28 1033.6 1009.7 3.10 71.28%
Vaux Scotch Bitter 12 2.86 0.30 1034.3 1006.8 3.57 80.17%
John Smith Magnet Bitter 13.5 2.58 0.27 1034.8 1006.7 3.65 80.75%
Vaux Gold Tankard 14 2.90 0.27 1040.6 1011.4 3.79 72.04%
Sam Smith Taddy Bitter 12 2.91 0.32 1034.9 1005.3 3.86 84.96%
Federation Special 12 3.40 0.33 1040.8 1010.7 3.91 73.90%
Scottish & Newcastle Newcastle Exhibition 12.5 3.42 0.35 1042.8 1009.4 4.34 78.04%
Average   12.4 3.02 0.30 1037.4 1008.5 3.75 77.31%
Sunday Mirror - Sunday 21 March 1971, page 25.


Sunday 25 June 2023

Mild Ales in 1971

The 1978 Sunday Mirror article I've been raiding wasn't the first time they'd had beers analysed. They had done something similar in 1971 and 1976. Leaving me with a stack more material.

While the 1978 article only looked at draught Bitter, in 1971 they also threw in some Mild Ales. Which is right down my street. In the 1970s I was a committed Mild drinker. There are far fewer analyses for Mild than Bitter, but it's better than nothing. So I'm not going to complain.

There are enough examples to be able to split them up by region. Something I always find instructive.

I drank most of these beers. The only exceptions being Watbeys Special Mild, Carlisle State Brewery Mild and Chesters Best Mild. Though I did have a later revived version of the last.

Speaking of Chesters, it debunks the myth of the dangerously strong "Fighting Mild". It's actually a pretty ordinary strength for a Mild of the period. How on earth did it get its reputation? Note that it's also not listed under Whitbread. It's all a bit strange, as Chesters merged with Threllfalls in 1961 and closed in 1966. The following year, Threllfalls was bought up by Whitbread.

Apologies for lumping MacMukken AK with the Milds. I'm going by how the Sunday Mirror classified it.

The London and Southeast beers are - surprise, surprise - the most expensive and worst value for money. They're also the weakest and with the poorest degree of attenuation. I know from having taken a close look at London Milds in the 1950s that versions brewed in the capital tended to be sweeter and darker than examples from elsewhere.

You have to wonder what's so "special" about Watneys Special Mild. Other than being especially weedy and expensive. And barely intoxicating at just 2.65% ABV.

It comes as no surprise that the Midlands Milds are the strongest. That was also the case in the 1950s. Ansell and Banks Milds have a gravity and ABV similar to Ordinary Bitter. The average attenuation is a good bit better than for the London examples.

Best value, however, are the Northern beers. Despite having an average OG 4º lower than the Midlands beer, the ABV is only a little lower, due to the higher degree of attenuation. The Northerners were also the cheapest and best value for money.

Cheapest and best value beer by far came from the Carlisle State Brewery. Based in Carlisle, the brewery and all the town's pubs were nationalised during WW Ito stop the many munitions workers who had moved into the area from getting too pissed. It had the cheapest beer in the country and turned a profit every single year until it was privatised in the mid-1970s by Ted Heath's government.

Next I'll be looking at Bitters. 

Mild Ales in 1971
Brewer Beer Price per pint (p) º gravity per p % ABV per p OG FG ABV App. Atten-uation
Lonson and Southeast
Watney Special Mild 14 2.17 0.19 1030.4 1009.9 2.65 67.43%
Whitbread Best Mild 11.5 2.69 0.26 1030.9 1007.7 3.01 75.08%
MacMullen AK 11 3.00 0.30 1033 1007.4 3.32 77.58%
Average   12.2 2.62 0.25 1031.4 1008.3 2.99 73.36%
Marston Mild 11.5 2.82 0.29 1032.4 1006.5 3.36 79.94%
M & B Mild 11.5 2.94 0.31 1033.8 1006.5 3.55 80.77%
Ansell Mild 13 2.88 0.28 1037.5 1009.45 3.64 74.80%
Banks Mild 12 3.02 0.31 1036.2 1007.85 3.68 78.31%
Average   12 2.91 0.30 1035.0 1007.6 3.56 78.46%
Sam Smith Taddy Mild 11 2.89 0.32 1031.8 1005.1 3.47 83.96%
Carlisle State Brewery Mild 9 3.67 0.35 1033 1008.55 3.17 74.09%
Tetley Walker Mild 11.5 2.83 0.28 1032.6 1007.4 3.27 77.30%
Wilson Mild 11 2.85 0.30 1031.3 1006.1 3.27 80.51%
Greenall Whitley Mild 11 2.85 0.31 1031.3 1005.4 3.37 82.75%
Chester Best Mild 12 2.67 0.29 1032.1 1005.55 3.45 82.71%
Boddington Mild 11 2.81 0.32 1030.9 1004 3.50 87.06%
Average   10.9 2.94 0.31 1031.9 1006.0 3.36 81.20%
Overall Average   11.5 2.86 0.29 1032.7 1007.0 3.34 78.74%
Sunday Mirror - Sunday 21 March 1971, page 25.

Saturday 24 June 2023

Let's Brew - 1945 William Younger IPA Pale

Here's a special beer for all you IPA fans. One that's about as far away from the modern idea of an IPA as you can get, with its weedy gravity and hopping a low-gravity Mild would be embarrassed about. So what makes it an IPA? That's what the brewer called it. The only criterium that makes any sense.

With IPA Pale it isn’t quite the same story as the other Pale Ales. It isn’t quite similar to the previous year’s version. It’s 100% identical.

About all I can say about the grist, is that there are two types of pale malt, one English and one Scottish. With around twice of much of the latter as the former.

The few hops thrown into the copper were a single type form Kent, harvested in 1943. 

1945 William Younger IPA Pale
pale malt 7.75 lb 73.81%
flaked barley 2.75 lb 26.19%
Fuggles 75 min 0.75 oz
Fuggles 30 min 0.50 oz
Goldings dry hops 0.25 oz
OG 1044
FG 1013
ABV 4.10
Apparent attenuation 70.45%
IBU 15
Mash at 152º F
Sparge at 160º F
Boil time 75 minutes
pitching temp 60º F
Yeast WLP028 Edinburgh Ale

This recipe is one of 553 in my recently-released BlitzKrieg!, the definitive book on brewing during WW II.

Get your copy now!

The second volume contains the recipes. But not just that. There are also overviews of some of the breweries covered, showing their beers at the start and the end of the conflict.

Buy one now and be the envy of your friends!