Sunday 3 December 2023

Notes on my historic recipes

A couple of general about my recipes. Just to make everything clear.

I mostly write my recipes using original brewing records as the source. The level of detail in old brewing logs varies greatly. Some, especially the older ones, are a bit vague. Many miss out completely vital pieces of information.

How do I cope with missing information? I’ll be honest: I guess. Not just random guesses, but ones based on other sources, such as brewing manuals. Or later brewing records from the same brewery. It’s not perfect, but it’s the best that can be done.

Virtually no logs have any record of the hop additions. With the exception of some Barclay Perkins logs. All the other hop additions listed in these recipes are a guesstimate. Feel free to tinker with them as it suits you.

The ingredients, mashing details, OG and FG are always taken from the original brewing records. Except when they couldn’t be arsed to note down the FG. Which is annoyingly often.

Then there are the brewers – William Younger, I’m looking at you – when the last gravity listed is the cleansing gravity. In these cases, I make an educated guess. Sometimes based on analyses of the finished beer.

Before 1880, I assume volume quarters. Many brewing records, especially those from London, of this period list the weight. In these cases, I assume the weights from the brewing record. If they aren't specified, I assume 256 lbs per quarter for brown, amber and black malt; 336 lbs for pale and white malt.

After 1880, I assume all quarters of grain to be 336 pounds and a quarter of sugar as 224 pounds.

Care should be taken with the quantity of hops used. I reduce the original quantities, to take into account the age of the hops. But it’s all very much guesswork. When the hops were kept in a cold store, I don't reduce the quantities by as much.

Sugars are a bit of a problem. Brewers used a whole range of different sugars, many of them proprietary brands. I’m not sure if exact equivalents are available at all today, let alone to home brewers. I mostly use one of the numbered invert sugars as a substitute.

Hops are rather simpler. Where it says EK or MK, you can’t go far wrong with either Goldings or Fuggles, respectively. Plain Kent and Worcester, I interpret as Fuggles. Cluster is best for anything called American, Oregon, Californian, British Columbia or Pacific. Bavarian I mostly interpret as Hallertau.

The mash temperature I give is the initial heat after the water and grains have been mixed. Whereas the sparge is the heat of the water used.

Occasionally, I use other sources for my recipes. Things like gyle books, which list all the ingredients, but no process details. Or a combination of grist percentages and beer analyses.I always state when this is the case.

All the recipes are for a volume of 5 Imperial gallons/6 US gallons/23 litres. Mash: 3.25 US gallons (2.7 Imperial gallons/12.3 litres); sparge: 8.35 US gallons (6.95 Imperial gallons/31.6 litres).

I assume 72% brew house efficiency, as calculated by BeerSmith.

Interested in brewing records? Then why not invest in a book of them? Which is exactly what my Christmas book, "Yule Logs!!!!!!!!!"


  1. I always assumed these recipes were a rough science, and it's interesting to read about how they're developed.

    I assume for a lot of them serving well from casks is pretty crucial for a good replica, and that's well beyond me. Still, I've made several from your two books, and even bottled they're interesting.

  2. I've asked before but it bears repeating... it would be nice for other Beersmith users if you would export your .bsmx recipe file and include it with the recipes. I know you say it wouldn't be of much use to us but at least we wouldn't have to enter each ingredient individually. We would also be able to adjust gravities and bitterness units to match our systems. Perhaps just try it as a short term experiment. If it goes pants so be it but at least we will know.

  3. Err - shurely you've got your East and Mid Kents the wrong way round?

  4. qq,

    well spotted. Yes, I've got EK and MK the wrong way around.

  5. I thought only brown malt was blown, so that it would have a low amount of pounds per quarter. Surely amber malt and black malt should be significantly closer to pale malt, or did you get these equivalencies from a source?


  6. Christoph Riedel,

    I base the weights on those given in brewing records. Those for brown, amber and black are generally much the same. Though individual examples can vary quite a lot.