Saturday 30 September 2023

Let's Brew - 1968 Fullers London Pride

As a relief from recipes mercilessly promoting my recently-released books, here's a recipe in one I'm still working on. For what is one of my favourite books. One trying to invoke the spirit of the 1970s.

A beer I drank quite a bit of back in the 1970s. It was my go-to beer in London when I lived there. Partly because Hock was rarely on in Fullers pubs.

London Pride is a typical product of post-war London. WW II restrictions knocked the strength stuffing out of Bitters. When the shackles were taken off a few years after the end of hostilities, many brewers introduced a new, stronger Bitter. Not quite up to pre-war strength. But a good bit stronger than austerity Bitters.

Called SPA (Special Pale Ale) in the brewhouse, it was first marketed as Chiswick Pride. Before adopting the iconic London Pride name.

Though this wasn’t in the parti-gyle with the LA and PA above, the recipe is pretty much the same. With just some tinkering with the sugar quantities. 

1968 Fullers London Pride
pale malt 7.50 lb 77.52%
crystal malt 120L 0.175 lb 1.81%
flaked maize 1.50 lb 15.50%
No. 3 invert sugar 0.25 lb 2.58%
No. 2 invert sugar 0.125 lb 1.29%
glucose 0.125 lb 1.29%
Fuggles 75 min 1.00 oz
Styrian Goldings 60 min 0.75 oz
Goldings 30 min 1.00 oz
OG 1043
FG 1013
ABV 3.97
Apparent attenuation 69.77%
IBU 38
Mash at 147º F
Sparge at 168º F
Boil time 75 minutes
pitching temp 61º F
Yeast WLP002 English Ale


Friday 29 September 2023


Our flight is in the early afternoon. No rush, then. Our lift to the airport is at 10:15. We get up a little before eight.

A better setting of the air-conditioning has left me feeling much more lively this morning.

“You need to finish the milk, Ronald. And your cola.”

“OK.” You know my view of arguing unnecessarily with Dolores.

“And your sandwich.”

“Don’t worry, I’m onto it.”

It’s quite a leisurely start to the day. It only takes a couple of minutes to stuff all my stuff into my bags.

Our flight isn’t until 13:00. But I want to be at the airport nice and early. No point in missing out on lounge time.

I get to see rather more than from the bus. The outskirts of Belgrade are exactly what you would expect: large assemblies of mid- and high-rise blocks. Mostly concrete. Lovely.

It takes longer than expected to check in. There being a couple of people ahead of us in the priority queue doing some sort of complicated shit. Get a move on. This is my drinking time you’re eating into. On the other hand, they did let us check in Dolores’s bag as well as mine.

Before going to the lounge, we make a detour to the duty free. To buy stuff for the kids. The jammy gits. Everything is priced in euros. A lot of it costs more than I’d pay for a good single malt. We buy the two cheapest bottles of the local stuff we can find. Buying in town would probably have been cheaper.

The Air Serbia lounge is modestly-sized. We manage to find big comfy chairs and think about our physical needs.

It’s a help yourself bar. Brilliant. My favourite type. It’s mostly local spirits in the slivovic vein, along with a few big international brands. Dolores pours me a nice big one. She takes a sip herself.

“Wow, that’s strong.”

“That’s what I was hoping for.”

There’s a bizarre old Yugoslavian film on the TV. With the sound down, obviously. What the fuck is going on? I can’t help watching it. Despite being clueless as to the plot. Is it really just about that bloke getting pissed in a restaurant? Where a strange band plays. Then a drunk steals a tram, seemingly to impress his equally drunk girlfriend. Who hasn’t done that after a few beers too many?

Dolores gets herself some food. First a ready-made sandwich. Then one she assembles herself. I’m not really feeling hungry. The warm food doesn’t look great. As in many lounges. Some sort of spaghetti thing.

“It looks like food that you’d give to kids.” Dolores thinks. She’s not really selling me on it.

I am thirsty, mind. Dolores fetches me another good slug of whatever-it-is. And, after another testing sip, confirms it as “really strong”. Just as I like it.

Just enough time for one more half-filled brandy snifter of some local fruit spirit. Different one every time. All filled with alcoholy goodness. Quite a bit of fruit flavour, too. As you would expect.

After three monster measures, I’m feeling warmed up enough for the flight. I am a nervous flyer, after all.

I don’t have far to stumble. The lounge is virtually opposite our gate. Where we don’t have much of a wait. Until pushy-in boarding is called.

The flight is much like the one coming. Same service and food. The only difference is that this flight is packed. Totally full. Strange how different the occupancy is on the two flights.

There’s quite a queue at passport control as the electronic gates aren’t in operation. At least we’re in the EU queue. The non-EU one is four or five times as long.

As I’m with Dolores, we get the bus back home. After she suggests: “Let’s get the bus.” Remember my policy on unnecessary arguments with Dolores? I’m applying it now.

The kids don’t seem to have destroyed anything while we were away. At least, nothing very obvious. They ran the dishwasher. And they’ve taken away the rubbish, which is suspicious. Hiding the evidence of breakages? I suppose we’ll find out over the next week or two.

Now, let’s get the kettle on. I’m gagging for a cup of tea.

Thursday 28 September 2023

Fortress (part two)

“We could go in here for a drink.” Dolores suggests as we get to a pub. Isn’t it me who’s supposed to ask that?

It’s not very big. And rather reminds me of a Czech pub. You enter into a taproom with a bar counter at one end. Off to the side is a room acting more as a restaurant, with the tables set for dining.

We sit in the taproom. There are just two other customers. A bloke a bit older than me who chain smokes while staring at his pint. And a bloke a few years younger than me eating and alternately drinking from a pint of Lager and a glass of cola. Neither looks like they have much in the way of commitments today.

As they just have the one draught beer, Lav Svetlo, our choice is quickly made.

“Dva piva, mate.” I sort of say. While waving my hands around in the international sign for “big”.

Looking at a fridge full of Carlsberg and Tuborg I ponder: “Is Lav is owned by Carlsberg?”

“I don’t really care.” Dolores is clearly captivated by this topic.

“I’m guessing that they are.”

“Do you fancy getting samosas on the way back?”

“Lav isn’t exactly the best name for a beer in English. Though it’s very unlikely it would ever be marketed there.”

“We could have them for our tea.”

We/re always having such deep, meaningful conversations, Dolores and me.

“Do you want me to help you with your beer?”

Is there a more humiliating question I could be asked?

“Yes. Take most of it” 

I’m having trouble getting through my beer. It must be the heat. Did I mention that it’s effing hot?

The beer is a bit sour, too. That’s my excuse. Tastes like the “bad pint” that makes you vomit at the end of the evening. Or in bed. Or as soon as you get up. Either for a piss or in the morning. Or, worse yet, after the first coffee at work.

It’s a bit weird sitting inside with fag smoke. Nostalgic, but in a bad way. Memories of awful times trapped in smoke-filled rooms.

Other than the Carlsberg-packed fridge, lots of old photos form the main decoration. I assume of Belgrade. One has the statue of the bloke on a horse pointing. That must be here, at least.

We only have the one. No more than a half for me, really.

Wondering why Dolores asked about samosas earlier? It’s because on the way out we passed a hole-in-the-wall North Indian street food place, called Biryani Central. Who doesn’t like a samosa?

I can remember exactly when I got into them. It was when I was living on Brudenell Road in Leeds. Around the back was a little Asian shop that sold them. Often still pretty warm, so they must have been cooking them on the premises.

Dolores has a good chat with the bloke behind the counter while our samosas get cooked.

I’m really happy to be back in the cool air of our room. Where Dolores tucks into her two samosas. Then a rice pudding she bought herself. There’s our budget out of the window.

The samosas look really good. A pity I don’t feel hungry.

Dolores asks the woman on reception about the best way to get to the airport. The bus 72 is rather slow. And is incredibly difficult to buy a physical ticket for. Everything seems to be done through an app. And local taxi drivers are very unreliable.

“I’ll drive you to the airport for 2,500 dinars.” The woman says. Which is about the official taxi fare. If we can find a driver who doesn’t cheat us. Dolores is relieved.

As I’m feeling a bit crap still, I hunker down in the hotel with the aircon while Dolores goes to the Ethnographic Museum.

Watching English-language films subtitled is fun. When the sound isn’t quite loud enough to catch everything. But you can’t turn it up, because the remote controls are weird. It gets me reading the Serbian subtitles as well. And understanding it much better. I think.

Before departing, Dolores says: “Leave some of the red wine for me.” Which I take to mean, “You can have most of the red wine.” How many bollocks I still have at bedtime will show if my interpretation is correct.

I eat about two thirds of a samosa. It is dead good. Damn my lack of appetite.

“I was the only one in there.” Dolores says on her return. “Except for the staff. And the painters. A shame, because it’s really interesting. “

She doesn’t seem too displeased with the couple of inches of red wine I’ve left her.

After a quick visit to the supermarket, Dolores returns with sandwiches. And a couple of bottles of beer. That’s my tea.

I don’t get through all the beers. And only half my sandwich. The rest will do for breakfast.

“Do you want to go out for a drink?”

“You know me, Dolores.”

“I’ll take that as a ‘yes’.”

Not feeling like going very far, we return to Gradska Pivnica Terazije on the main drag. It’s not too pricey and you get to see the city stream by.

For me, it’s Zaječarsko tamno again. And the pale version from the same brewery for Dolores. We just sit and soak in the scene while slowly sipping.

I notice that many people are drinking Kronenbourg White. Slightly odd to see here. Though I suppose it is a big international brand.

No food, this time. We’ve already had our tea. And we only have the one beer. Before walking back through the pulsatingly striated streets.

We don’t stay up too late. Even though we won’t be having get up at stupid o’clock, only around eight.

One, two. That seems to be a full set of bollocks. Time to sleep.

Restoran Brankovina
Uzun Mirkova 7,

Gradska Pivnica Terazije
Terazije 28,
Beograd 11000.

Wednesday 27 September 2023

Let's Brew Wednesday - 1939 Truman XXX

Unsurprisingly, XXX was the strongest of Truman’s Mild Ales.

At 1048º, it must have been one of the strongest Milds in the country. Few versions, even of Best Mild, got much above 1040º. It started off even stronger than that. As, in that weird Truman way, it was brewed at 1053.7º then blended with 30 barrels of XX to bring the effective gravity down to 1048.2º.

Just twigged what this beer is, after glancing at various analyses of Truman’s beers from the 1930s. It was the draught Burton Ale in their London pubs. The gravities match. And it explains why it’s over-strength for a Mild.

Parti-gyling Mild and Burton wasn’t unusual. Both Fullers and Courage brewed that way.

The recipe is very similar to that of the dark versions of X and XX. The main difference being a little less crystal malt and a little more flaked maize. That and there being no caramel.

XXX always seems to have been brewed in a three-way parti-gyle with XX and No. 7. Not sure why, exactly. Though given the way XXX was always blended down to a lower OG after fermentation, there needed to be at least one other beer brewed alongside it.

Once again the hops were all English from the 1937 and 1938 harvests. 

1939 Truman XXX
pale malt 6.50 lb 60.47%
high dried malt 2.25 lb 20.93%
crystal malt 60 L 0.50 lb 4.65%
flaked maize 0.75 lb 6.98%
No. 3 invert sugar 0.75 lb 6.98%
Fuggles 90 mins 0.75 oz
Fuggles 60 mins 0.75 oz
Goldings 30 mins 0.50 oz
OG 1048
FG 1007.5
ABV 5.36
Apparent attenuation 84.38%
IBU 25
SRM 11
Mash at 149º F
Sparge at 160º F
Boil time 90 minutes
pitching temp 59.5º F
Yeast Wyeast 1028 London Ale (Worthington White Shield)

This recipe is from 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 26 September 2023

The Big Six (part four)

My final part on the Big Six, this time covering numbers 5, 6 and 7.

The most hated of breweries amongst the CAMRA faithful. For the simple reason that they had moved aggressively into keg beer. Some of their breweries still produced a little cask, but they were deeply committed to keg.

In the 1890s, hey leapfrogged into first place in London after taking part in the first big brewing merger. The result was Watney Combe Reid. A company that was producing over 1 million barrels a year.

They owned several breweries in different regions: Norwich, Webster (Halifax), Wilsons (Manchester), Usher (Cheltenham) and Drybrough (Edinburgh). Some producing cask, others not. Webster’s beers were OK in cask form, but nothing special. Wilsons beers, even though often in cask form, I never cared for.

Very crafty, is how you could describe Whitbread’s route to the Big Six. Under the Whitbread umbrella scheme, they bought minority stakes in smaller brewers. The idea was to make them immune to hostile takeovers by other large companies. In reality, this was often just a first step to Whitbread taking total control.

Initially, many of the breweries gobbled up continued much as before, other than branding their Bitter as Trophy. There were some excellent beers. Wethereds springs to mind. A brewery in the Thames Valley that brewed outstanding beers. Of course, Whitbread fucked it up, but it was good while it lasted.

The seventh member of the Big Six. Somehow excluded from their club, Guinness wasn’t seen as one of the big brewers, because they owned no pubs. Ironically, it was Guinness who brought down the tied house system with a complaint which eventually led to the Beer Orders in the 1980s.

Because they owned no pubs and had a bottle-conditioned beer in every pub, Guinness mostly escaped the ire of CAMRA. And weren’t considered part of the evil Big Six, despite having a market share as large as that of Courage.

Monday 25 September 2023


Something seems to have gone wrong with the air-conditioning overnight. As in, switching totally off. I’m rolling in a bath of my own sweat by the time morning rolls around.

I’ve felt better in the morning. Maybe a coffee will wake me up. Though cooling down is what I really need.

“A coffee might perk me up.”

“It couldn’t make you look much worse.”

“Thanks.” The air-conditioning is starting to kick in, thankfully.

We have a wander to National Square, where there are pavement cafes. We park our arses in a random one, Ruzica. After a while, a waiter appears and tells us the table we chose, out of the couple of dozen empty ones, is reserved.

“That was weird.” I tell Dolores, as we move to the next table. “But I don’t really give a fuck which table we sit at.”

The coffee is nice, but much smaller than yesterday’s latte.

Feeling a little perked, we start making our way towards this morning’s destination: the fortress. It looks dead impressive on the internet. My only fear is that we’ll have to walk up a dirty great hill to get to it.

We know we’re just about there when we come to a tramline. On the other side of it, the fortress park begins.

“They only seem to have a couple of tram lines. I wonder why that is?” I ask Dolores.

“No idea. Maybe they replaced them with trolleybuses.”

That would make sense. There are a whole load of trolleybus lines.

My dirty great hill fears prove unfounded. That’s the day’s first win. We wander around for a bit looking for the fortress entrance. Watching where other people are headed and follow them seems a good ploy. And it works.

We first come to a couple of massive bastions. Obviously, part of a later phase of the complex. Between that and the oldest part of the fortress there’s a deep gully. Which must be part of the military museum as it’s full of tanks and artillery pieces.

“Oh, look.” I say, “tanks.”

“I suppose you want to go and look at them?”

“Yes, please.”

I send the kids a picture of a tank. “It’s so great having broadband. I can keep the kids up to date with what we’re doing.”

“Like what you’re eating? I’m sure they’re fascinated by that.”

“Well, they both like bacon?”

“That doesn’t mean they want you to send them photos of it.”

“Anyway, it was a tank photo. That’ll definitely interest Andrew.”

“And Alexei?”

“I bet that’s an Ausführung H.” I say, pointing at a Panzer IV. And trying to distract Dolores.

“Very interesting, whatever that means.” Dolores replies, apathetically. She’s not really digging the tanks.

There’s quite a good selection of them. Looking very much like what was left here at the end of the war. Being mostly either German, Italian or Russian. They don’t all look in the greatest of condition. Some lack tracks.

At the end of where the tanks are displayed is an outer wall of the fortress. There’s a slightly scary sign that proclaims “Danger of death”. That seems a bit extreme. Until we get to the very edge: there’s a 50-metre drop and no fence.

Dolores takes a few photos. I keep well clear of the edge. My balance isn’t the greatest. One stumble and I’d be fucked.

We finish in the oldest part. Which is mostly just a big open space with the occasional small building. Some people are sitting with their legs dangling over the wall on the Danube side. We go up there to have a look.

There’s an even bigger drop here. And no railing. But no death warning, either. I can’t look when a young daredevil climbs up on it and walks to the edge. How irresponsible.

After a quick sit down and a piss in the toilets, we start to make our way back. 

Cafe & bar Ruzica
Trg republike 5,

Sunday 24 September 2023

National Museum (part two)

Once I’ve pulled myself back together, we wend our way to the hotel. Where we cool ourselves down in the aircon. And I warm myself up again with some of my hotel slivovic.

“What do you want to do this evening?” Dolores asks. “Hopefully not just sit in the room drinking slivovic.”

Damn. Dolores has sussed out my plan. Thinking quickly, I say:

“We could go to the beer places down towards the river. It’s not too far.”


That was easy. Maybe too easy. Paranoid me can’t help thinking Dolores must have a secret plan. Just like me.

We set off before six, while there’s still daylight. It’s not too long of a walk to the Docker brewpub. As with many of these places, it’s located in an old industrial building. As the name implies, in the dock complex on the bank of the Danube.

The main road leading to the brewpub is, er, eclectic. Older, wedding cake blocks are interspersed with dour communist and overconfident modern interlopers. Topped off by the cherry of a massive derelict factory. The perfect location for the climatic chase in an episode of the Sweeney.

We take seats in the expansive beer garden. Which is the main reason I chose this destination. Then peruse the chalkboard beer menu.

That’s a nice touch. Behind the outside bar, hops are creeping up their wires. Forming vibrant green vertical stripes. It’s a proper beer garden Like they have in Germany. Not one of the beer car parks they have in the UK.

They have 19 of their own beers on draught. Not a bad range for a brewpub. Though it's very sour and IPA heavy. Here's how it breaks down.

5 Sour
3 Gose
3 Lager
1 Double IPA
1 American Pale Ale
1 Pale Ale
1 Hefeweizen

The only dark beer is a Stout from another brewery. I’ve seen worse lists on recent visits to the USA.

I get a Joker IPA, Dolores a Docker Lager. Both are perfectly acceptable. It’s an old-school West Coast IPA, thankfully. None of that sludge rubbish. Thankfully, the sludge beers are clearly marked as such.

It’s very calming as the sun slowly sets over Dolores’s shoulder. And the air begins to cool to more bearable levels.

So much so, Dolores asks: “What about some food?”

“That sounds like a good idea.” The heat earlier put me right off eating.

The menu is pretty much like an American brewpub. Burgers, chicken wings and the like. Nothing very local. You could also say that about the beer.

I don’t fancy anything too heavy. Nor does Dolores. We order onion rings and sweet potato chips. That should do. All healthy vegetables. I’ll just ignore the deep frying.

We get another round of drinks. I’m sticking to the IPA. While Dolores switches to Hefeweiaen.

As the sun sinks down and the lights come up, more customers pile in. Mostly of the young type. How I hate all these youngie people.

“I hate all these youngie people.”

I know what Alexei’s response would be: “It’s because you’re an old man. A boring, old man.”

Dolores is more tactful. And just makes that noise of hers. A bucketload of contempt with a few thimbles of pity (probably mostly for herself) and a good jug of loathing. That’s how it sounds. Can’t make that cocktail, myself.

To avoid further discomfort, I pop inside to have a look at the brewery. It’s in a long hall, filled with bench seating, with a bar at the opposite end. The kit is the usual shiny stuff. A decent size for a brewpub. Do they sell beer onto the trade? I’ve no idea.

It’s properly dark when we leave and climb back up the hill. One which, fortunately, has a gentle gradient. Not enough to make even me gasp for air.

We spot the Brotherhood Beer House on our way back, but don’t go in. It looks very crafty.

It’s lovely and cool in our room. Where we chill a little in the chill.

I finish the last of my slivovic while watching TV. A serene end to a hot day.

Docker Brewery & Beer Garden
Žorža Klemansoa 27b,
Beograd 11000.

Brotherhood Beer House
Žorža Klemansoa 18a,
Beograd 11000.

Saturday 23 September 2023

Let's Brew - 1959 Watney Dairy Maid Sweet Stout

A bit of an odd one, this. It’s a Watney beer, but it wasn’t brewed in London. This is a beer that was brewed there, but I have none of those brewing records. Luckily for me, Usher in Trowbridge also brewed some Watney beers. And I have some of their records.

A typical watery postwar Stout, you might say. But, being a Watney beer, it wasn’t as simple as that. 680 barrels were brewed. But then another 108 barrels of various shit were added at raking time. Bottoms, returned beer – all the crap brewers were so keen on not wasting.

In addition, there were also 2.25 gallons per barrel of candy sugar added. The net result being a rise in the effective OG by 3.6º to 1034.º. I’ve added a half pound of candy to account for this.

The base recipe looks normal enough. There’s a mild malt base with black malt for colour. The sugar is split between granules, which I assume is just plain white sugar and CDM (Caramelised Dextro-Maltose). For the latter, I’ve substituted mostly No. 3 invert, along with a little caramel.

Odd is what’s missing: lactose. The names “Dairy Maid” and “Sweet Stout” imply its presence. But I’m pretty sure it contained none, as it’s not mentioned the Whitbread Gravity Book analyses. Which usually made a point of doing so.

Weirdest ingredient is ginger, 26 oz of which were added to the 680 barrels. Which for this size of batch works out to bugger all.

A fairly typical underlet mash process was employed.

action barrels strike heat tap heat
mash 85 154º F 146º F
underlet 10 154º F 149º F
sparge 1   170º F 152º F
sparge 2   160º F 156º F

A single type of East Kent hops from the 1958 harvest was used. 

1959 Watney Dairy Maid Sweet Stout
mild malt 5.00 lb 67.80%
black malt 0.67 lb 9.08%
flaked maize 0.25 lb 3.39%
No. 3 invert sugar 0.50 lb 6.78%
cane sugar 0.33 lb 4.47%
candy sugar 0.50 lb 6.78%
caramel 2000 SRM 0.125 lb 1.69%
ginger pinch  
Goldings 45 mins 0.75 oz
Goldings 15 mins 0.50 oz
OG 1034
FG 1012
ABV 2.91
Apparent attenuation 64.71%
IBU 14
SRM 33
Mash at 150º F
Sparge at 170º F
Boil time 45 minutes
pitching temp 60º F
Yeast WLP023 Burton Ale

This is one of the 277 recipes in my new book on London Stout. Get your copy now!

Friday 22 September 2023

National Museum

Usually, Dolores would wake me with a cup of tea. But the room doesn’t have the promised kettle. Decent-sized teacups, which is a plus. But pretty useless if there’s nothing to boil water with. Instead, I’m offered a cup of milk. It’ll have to do.

We stroll through the city centre streets to the place we spotted yesterday, Restoran Mihailo. It’s not got too hot yet. We’d best appreciate it.

Sitting outside again, in the shade, it’s rather pleasant. Time for my coffee.

“What are you getting, Ronald?”

“I think I’ll have an espresso with milk.”

“Won’t that be too small? They have latte. That’ll be bigger.”

“OK. Latte, it is.” I find it best not to argue with Dolores. Life’s much more pleasant that way. Especially when she’s right.

Picking breakfast doesn’t take long. Bacon and sunnyside-up eggs. Sounds perfect. Dolores goes for sweet dumplings.

While waiting for our food to flop out, I have a look around at the other customers. Who, like us, mostly seem to be here for a spot of breakfast. Like the woman with what appears to be a bowl of roast peppers. Dead healthy.

My order is exactly what I wanted. Not huge, but perfectly formed. Well-deserving of a snap. And having broadband, I can send it immediately to the kids.

“That will cheer them up.” I say.

“Yeah sure. Andrew will be thrilled when he gets up this evening.”

Andrew isn’t exactly an early riser. In the winter, he rarely sees daylight.

Between Dolores’s Russian and my Czech, we can make some sense out of signs and menus. A big improvement on Korea.

Which is how we were able to work out what the little electric things were that kept coming and going outside the Irish pub yesterday. It’s a free service thing that does a circular route around the city. Down various pedestrianised streets. A free city tour. And they start right next to our breakfast location.

We jump on one. And move smoothly and serenely through the city. The plan is to get off at the next to last stop. Which is next to the National Museum. Our destination for today.

When Dolores says: “We need to get off here.” I assume that we’re at the National Museum. After we’ve got off, I realise that’s not where we’re headed. Dolores spotted a pub and we’re going there. She really is a wonderful woman.

We plonk our arses in the terrace of Venčac, as the pub is called. And get ourselves a bottle of Jelen Svetlo each. It’s OK, in a lagery sort of way.

“I noticed a supermarket just down the road. A larger one. I’ll go and see if they have any wine.”

Giving me a chance to closely observe the old chavs slowly plodding past the terrace up and down the hill. Feeling a deep bond. Most seem as reluctant to shave as I am.

As Dolores is away at the supermarket, I order myself a slivovic. It’s full of spirity goodness. So much so, I get a second. 

A couple of boys aged around ten come and sit down. That’s odd. When they get themselves some food, I realise that they’re here for lunch. Which consists of a sandwich about the size of their heads.

A group of old blokes arrive and turfs the two kids out of what must be their favourite spot. But not in a nasty or aggressive way.

“What’s that, Ronald?” Dolores asks on her return, pointing at my slivovic.

“A slivovic. I’ve only had the one.” Which is almost true. I’ve only finished one. I’ve still got half the second one left. I didn’t say this was the first one.

Dolores has a bag full of goodies from the supermarket. A litre of white wine, a bottle of some quince spirit. And some vegetable stuff.

The boys don’t manage to finish off their sarnies. They were totally out of scale for them. Though later Dolores says:

“I see they still have room for ice cream.” As she spots them later walking down the street, licking on cones.

When I go for a slash, I get a chance to check out the interior. Next to the counter, there’s a tiny taproom, with room to seat perhaps four anorexics. At the rear is a small room decked out as a restaurant. Pretty cosy.

We don’t stay for a second beer. Instead, walking up the hill and around the corner to the National Museum.

What had I been expecting of the museum? Nothing much, on reflection. And I’m very pleasantly surprised. In addition to all the ancient stuff, there’s a pretty decent collection of European paintings from the 17th to 19th centuries. I’m particularly struck by a couple of the exhibits.

I’ve become so emotional as I’ve aged. I suspect it has something to do with having the kids. Who really connected me to my emotional side. A 17th-century portrait of a woman just looks so alive. Her skin so real. Its beauty literally brings tears to my eyes. I can barely speak as words crack and clog in my throat.

A little further along there’s a Degas sketch. A simple little thing, But the figures are so animated, you can almost see them move and hear them task. Tears swell in my eyes and I’m left speechless. Literally, as in unable to speak. Just thinking about it as I write these words has tears streaming down my face.

Restoran Mihailo
Obilićev venac 16,
Beograd 11000.

Carice Milice 10,
Beograd 11000.

National Museum of Serbia

Trg republike 1а,
Beograd 104303.


Thursday 21 September 2023

To Belgrade! (part two)

We go all the way to the bus’s city-centre terminus. On the map, it didn’t look far to our hotel. It isn’t that far. It’s just that the intervening space is all uphill. And it’s like an obstacle course. No fun when dragging luggage behind you.

The street in front of the hotel is all dug up. With workmen scurrying around laying a new pavement.

Reception is on the first floor. A very high first floor. And there’s no lift. Did I mention that it’s hot? Very hot. An unseasonal 30º C. With the walk from the bus stop and ascending the stairs, I’m a ball of sweat.

It’s unmanned. On the door a phone number is given. We need to ring that to get the access code for the front door. Just as well I got that Serbian sim. Once inside, our room key is waiting for us on the front desk.

Thankfully, the air-conditioning is top-notch. Soon I’m cooled to a reasonable temperature. It’s time to fire up my flipflop and look for a supermarket. To stock up on a few essentials. Like beer and slivovic

There seems to be one just a couple of hundred metres away. So, off there we head.

Of course, it’s uphill. And some steps. So much fun in this heat.

No sign of a supermarket at the address. Bum. What to do? We go in search of a pub to regroup. We wander along a city-centre street lined with pubs and restaurants. Where to go? Eventually, we settle on an Irish pub. With the inspired name of Irish Pub.

I’m not tempted by the Guiness (sic). Instead, we both plump for Nikšićko Pivo. A pale Lager thing. It’s OK. And just 3 euros for a half litre.

“I’m surprised by how many of the shops’ signs are in the Roman rather than the Cyrillic alphabet. I wonder why that is?”

“No idea.”

While Dolores is away at the toilet, I order the cheapest spirit on the menu. Gorki List, 2.50 euros for 5 cl. With my first sip. I had a linguistic revelation

One of the differences between Czech and most other Slavonic languages is the letter “h”. It pretty well all the others, a “g” takes its place. So, Czech “hovno”  is “govno” is in all the other slavonic languages I’ve come across.

I can still remember a surprising amount of Czech vocabulary. Despite not having really used the language in the last couple of decades. Swap out that “g” for an “h” and you get “horki”. That’s why it’s so scorchingly bitter. I think, as I recall that “hořký”, is the Czech for “bitter”. Pity I didn’t remember that before ordering.

“What’s that, Ronald?” Dolores asks on her return from the bog.

“Something to help settle my stomach. A bitter.” I say, trying to cover up my mistake.

“Right. That’s a good excuse. How much does it cost?”

“Not much.” I’m not telling my own truth this time.

When we leave, we notice that a place over the road has some interesting-looking breakfast options. Could be a good spot for a bit of brekkie tomorrow.

On the way out, we noticed a smallish supermarket and that’s where we now head.

We get some French bread and some stuff to put on it: cheese, ham and some other sliced meat. Not totally sure what it is. Looks nice, mind. I’m sure that word means “roast”. Must be good, then.

The booze section is rather disappointing. Nothing stronger than beer. Especially disappointing for Dolores, because she fancies some wine. She’s lucky. I’m having to forgo spirits. Total disaster. Do they not allow supermarkets to sell booze.?

Luckily, there’s a wine shop almost opposite our hotel. I get some slivovic and crafty-looking beer/ The wine is far outside Dolores’s price range. That is, what she’s willing to pay.

Back in our room, we nibble a little on our nosh. And I try out my slivovic. While flicking through the TV channels. There don’t seem to be any foreign ones. At least not in languages I know.

In my pre-trip research, I found a couple of beery places fairly close to our hotel. Time to try them out. The first, Gradska Pivnica Terazije is on a big boulevard, flanked by rather grand buildings. Just past the impressive Hotel Moskva. We wander up there just after six and plonk our arses down outside.

“Do they have food?” Dolores asks. The menu only lists drinks.

“It doesn’t look like it.”

Doubting whether they have any food, we stroll around the corner to the second place, Samo Pivo. Down a much less impressive street. Which, despite being fairly narrow, is partially lined by seven- and eight-storey buildings.

Mmm … Where is the fucker. After a while, we realise that it doesn’t exist any more. Instead, we sit in the pub which has replaced it. Beery, it isn’t. There’s no food, either. And the beer (Lav) we order is rather sour. Well, that went well.

We return to the first pub. And ask for the food menu. As they do sell food. Well done me, I say.

They have 22 draught beers. Including lots of dull international stuff, like Heineken and Carlsberg. I can resist those. We both decide on local beers: Zaječarsko svetlo (pale) for Dolores and Zaječarsko tamno (dark) for me. They’re OK. Mine has a pleasant caramel flavour.

Neither of us being that hungry, we opt for small dishes. A salad for Dolores. A sausage and crisps for me. A slightly odd combination. Dolores is happy with her choice. Especially the cheese topping it.

We don’t stay out too late. Returning to the air-conditioned delight of our room. And the slivovic I bought earlier. Which eases me into sleepland.

Irish Pub Gecko
Obilićev venac 17,
Beograd 11000.

Samo Pivo
Balkanska 13,
Beograd 11000.

Gradska Pivnica Terazije
Terazije 28,
Beograd 11000'

Wednesday 20 September 2023

Let's Brew Wedbesday - 1937 Barclay Perkins KK (bottling)

I was going to extend the WW II tedium with another recipe from that period. But I thought: "They must be pig sick of this by now. Let's give my few remaining readers something different."

Like a recipe from the very late 1930s. Which just happens to be included in my scrupulously over-detailed book on beer during WW II, "Blitzkrieg!".

Plug done, recipe begins.

Marketed as No. 1 Southwarke Old Ale, this was a beer which was only sold in bottled format. I would say that that was to be expected, it being too strong for draught. However, Fullers Old Burton Extra was the same strength and that was only sold on draught. Mind you, that was made in tiny batches, mostly of fewer than 10 barrels.

It’s pretty typical of dark beers of the period (other than Porter and Stout) in containing very little in the way of coloured malt, just a little crystal. The bulk of the colour comes from the rather large quantity of caramel.

Slightly odd is the use of No. 2 invert. You’d expect No. 3 invert in this type of beer. There’s also a little malt extract, which is quite a rarity in Barclay Perkins beers. Only this and the strong version of IBS seem to have employed it.

The kettle hops were all English. Mid-Kent Fuggles from the 1936 harvest and two types of EK Goldings from 1935, one of which was described as “1st Grade”. Saaz from 1936 made up the dry hops. All of the hops had been cold stored. 

1937 Barclay Perkins KK (bottling)
pale malt 10.00 lb 69.57%
crystal malt 60 L 0.75 lb 5.22%
flaked maize 1.25 lb 8.70%
No. 2 invert sugar 2.00 lb 13.91%
malt extract 0.25 lb 1.74%
caramel 1000 SRM 0.125 lb 0.87%
Fuggles 150 mins 2.00 oz
Goldings 60 mins 2.00 oz
Goldings 30 mins 2.00 oz
Saaz dry hops 1.00 oz
OG 1069
FG 1022
ABV 6.22
Apparent attenuation 68.12%
IBU 69
SRM 18
Mash at 150º F
After underlet 153º F
Sparge at 164º F
Boil time 150 minutes
pitching temp 59º F
Yeast Wyeast 1099 Whitbread ale

This recipe is from 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 19 September 2023

To Belgrade!

“This will be my second new country this year.”

“Good for you, Ronald.” Dolores says unenthusiastically

“You don’t sound very enthusiastic.”

“Don’t make such a big thing out of everything.” That’s me telt.

We rise pretty early, at six. Our flight is fairly early. But not early enough to require us getting at quite that ungodly an hour. We just want to get in some lounge time. Why waste time and money making breakfast when we can get one for free?

A cab whisks us to the airport a little after seven.

The airport is busier than I’ve seen it recently. But that could well be because of the time of day. Most of my recent flights out of Schiphol have been in the late afternoon.

My bag is soon checked in, and we head for security. I’m not looking forward to the confrontation with the gatekeeper of priority security. Then I notice that the escalator isn’t working. Which a good excuse to take the lift up. Which also has the advantage of dodging the gatekeeper.

It’s all been a doddle so far. Then we get to passport control. Where there’s quite a queue. Again. The wait looks about as long for the EU and non-EU queues. We pick one randomly.

No duty free for me today. “You can buy something in Belgrade. It’ll be a lot cheaper there.” Dolores suggests. And I’m not going to argue with her. I know where that will get me. To not a good place.

As soon as we hit the lounge, it’s breakfast time. I let Dolores go first, gentleman that I am. She returns with a couple of plates of food. Good thinking, as the plates are tiny.

Before venturing for food, I visit the bar.

“One Teachers and one Jim Beam, please. No ice in either.” My usual order. OK, it’s not yet 8 AM. But we are in an airport. So, it’s fine.

“Do you want a coffee, Ronald.”

“Go on. It’ll help wash the whisky down.”

Once I’ve got a whisky/coffee combination inside me, I assemble my breakfast. No scrambled egg today, unfortunately. Just some weird round egg thing. It’ll have to do. Along with some sausages and a token bit of veg, in the form of spuds and mushrooms.

“Do you want anything from the bar, Dolores?”

“A rosé wine, please.”

“I see you’re applying airport rules, too.”

“What do you mean.”

“That it’s acceptable to drink alcohol in an airport at any time of day.” Dolores doesn’t normally drink wine just after breakfast.”

“Well, you can talk with your whiskies.”

“I didn’t mean it in any kind of negative way.”


One wine is enough for Dolores. At least until we get on the plane. Me, I need more whisky.

“Are those both for you, sir?”

“No.” I lie unconvincingly.

“You’re getting through the drinks quickly.”

“I’m a nervous flyer. I need to build up some courage.” I lie, ever so slightly more convincingly.

I’m just polishing off my third brace of whiskies when Dolores notices that the flight has been delayed by thirty minutes.

“Time for another drink, then.”

“Don’t go crazy, Ronald.”

“When did I ever go crazy?”

I head for the bar before Dolores has time to reply.

After my last encounter with the barmaid, I’m slightly nervous. And decide to play it safe.

“A Pils, please.”

It’s a bit of a walk to our gate. So, we allow plenty of time. It’ll take at least ten minutes. Trudging through airports is so much fun.

“This is so much fun.”

“Your comments are really helping, Ronald.”

We have to wait around a bit for boarding. I’d have cut it finer, myself. Dolores is more cautious. Like Andrew.

“Andrew gets quite nervous as it gets close to boarding time. I did leave it a bit late in Incheon earlier this year. We were the last to board and the ground crew had started to look for us.”

“Lovely. Don’t do that with me.” I wouldn’t dare.

The flight isn’t very full. As no-one is in the window seat next to us, Dolores moves there. Giving us more room. Which is cool.

They feed us a sandwich and ask what we’d like to drink.

“I’ll have a red wine, please.”

“A white wine for me.” Dolores says.

“Still applying airport rules, I see.”

“And what about you?”

“I’m just a hopeless pisshead. Totally different rules apply to me.”

“I’ve noticed.”

While we’re waiting for our bags to flop onto the carousel, I notice that they’re selling Serbian sims. It’s only four euros for a week. Which seems a pretty good deal. I get myself one.

It takes a while queueing and then having the sim fitted. But my bag still hasn’t emerged. After consulting with other baggage-less passengers, Dolores has a look on the other carousels. Sure enough, my bag is there. I assume that the luggage that has been circling our carousel for 40 minutes is from a random other flight.

After getting some Serbian dinars, we head off in search of the number 72 bus stop. Which should take us to within a couple of hundred metres of our hotel.

One eventually rolls up. Paying is a challenge. It’s not possible to buy a ticket from the driver. He points us at a poster. About a quarter of the way into the journey, I manage to work out what it says. You need to pay using a phone app. Great.

On the other hand, the driver being pretty uninterested in our success at ticket purchasing, we travel for free. 

More about our first day in Belgrade next. When we get to some pubs and drink some beer.

Monday 18 September 2023

The Big Six (part three)

More stuff on the demons of 1970s brewing. How evil they were. The ones who supped at the devils hosepipe. Two more Big Six members.

I have very mixed feelings about Courage. Having ended up owning both of my hometown of Newark’s brewers, they owned almost all the pubs. All but one of which sold no cask beer. On the other hand, they brewed Russian Stout.

On the other hand, my first job after school was working in their Newark plant, the former Holes brewery. Filling kegs. It was so much fun. Not really. It was very heavy work. Which my 18-iear-old body could cope with. Then there was all that free beer.

In the North and Midlands, Courage produced no cask beer at either their Tadcaster or Newark breweries. Drinkers in the South were luckier, with the London and Bristol plants producing some cask. Though Worton Grange, the replacement for the former Simmonds brewery in Reading, produced only keg beer.

Scottish & Newcastle
Due to the way the pub trade worked in Scotland, where loan ties rather than outright brewery ownership were the norm, Scottish & Newcastle looked by far the smallest of the Big Six.

Many “free houses” had some sort of loan tie to S & N. Often just for draught beer, rather than everything.

With not many more than the maximum number of brewery-owned pubs, S & N was the least affected by the Beer Orders.

Their cask beers offerings were patchy. Younger’s 70/- and 80/- appeared in natural form reasonably frequently. With the latter being called IPA in England. Just to confuse thing up.

The best-known beer of Newcastle Breweries was their Brown Ale, along with Exhibition. There was also an Anber Ale, which one of the two constituent parts of Newcastle Brown.