Saturday, 24 March 2018

Let's Brew - 1953 Elgood BPA

One of the most popular styles of the 1950’s was Light Ale, a low-gravity, bottled Pale ale. It was often mixed with draught Bitter, usually in the hope of livening up cask beer in poor condition.

At 1031º, BPA (presumably standing for Bottled Pale Ale) was pretty typical for a Light Ale of the time. Not exactly heady stuff.

The recipe isn’t exactly what you’d call complicated. Just malt, a bit of sugar and a dash of malt extract. And a single, unspecified type of hop. Fuggles are just my guess. What isn’t a guess this time are the hop additions, which are handily noted in the log. The vast majority were added at the start of the boil.

The original mashing scheme was 20 minutes at 149º F, followed by an underlet and 1 hour 40 minutes at 152º F.

1953 Elgood BPA
pale malt 6.00 lb 88.89%
No. 2 invert sugar 0.50 lb 7.41%
malt extract 0.25 lb 3.70%
Fuggles 95 mins 1.50 oz
Fuggles 30 mins 0.25 oz
Fuggles hop back 0.125 oz
OG 1031
FG 1006.5
ABV 3.24
Apparent attenuation 79.03%
IBU 27
Mash at 152º F
Sparge at 167º F
Boil time 95 minutes
pitching temp 62º F
Yeast WLP025 Southwold

Friday, 23 March 2018


Henry arrives at nine, as I’m just chewing the last bite of my bacon butty. He’s becoming scarily reliable. Maybe having his own business is having an effect.

It shouldn’t take too long to get to Wisbech. Though the roads aren’t that great and quite busy.

“This looks just like home.” I remark of the flat landscape of the fens laid out around us. I’ve never been to this particular bit of Lincolnshire before.

“I’m really poorly travelled in Britain. I’ve never been to Sleaford, for example.”

“You haven’t missed much.” Henry replies drily.

‘Or Retford. Only been to Mansfield once, with David to see Sunderland play.”

“Retford is a dump. Mansfield is a shithole.”

“You don’t seem to like anywhere around here, Henry.”

“Lincoln is OK.”

“And Newark.”

“No, that’s crap, too.”

As we enter the brewery yard, I say: “I recognise that smell. The one there used to be at school: boiling wort.”

We’ve an appointment with Alan Pateman, the head brewer.

As he leads us to the visitor centre, I remark: “I can smell that you’re brewing.”

“Yes, we usually brew on Tuesday and Wednesday.”

Alan leaves us alone with the books. One of which has been retrieved from a display case. Open on the page showing the brewery moving into the ownership of the Elgood family.

Having Henry along makes my life so much easier. With the two of us snapping away it’s literally half the time and half the work for me. We’re done in an hour.

We go to Alan’s office and he takes us around the brewery. It’s beautiful and unspoilt, filled with rugged old kit. Exactly my sort of brewery.

We start off at the boiler, a massive, chunky affair that used to be coal fired. Alan leads us up some stairs to the mash tun, a very solid-looking cast iron. The hopper above it looks like it’s made out of iron, too. It bears the date 1910. It’s a 14-quarter tun according to Alan.

“Do you have a Steele’s masher?” I’m bizarrely interested in this sort of thing.

“Yes. There’s the old screw, which is totally worn out. We had a replacement made from stainless steel.” Alan tells me. They certainly don’t throw anything away without good reason here.

While we’re looking at the mash tun the brewery cat sidles up. It doesn’t look up to catching many mice. Well-fed, is how I’d describe it. The cat follows us to the malt store next door. It’s piled with sacks of Crisp and French & Jupp malt. The cat tries to jump on a pile and only just makes it to the top. Not the most agile cat I’ve ever come across.

Moving along, we come to the copper with a, er, copper dome. Again, a very substantial-looking piece of equipment.

There’s one bit of kit that will get the geeks excited: the open cooler. Or rather, coolers. There’s a set of two at slightly different heights. Call them coolships if you like. I used to be pretty anal about that word. Until Derek Prentice mentioned that they had something called a coolship at the old Truman’s brewery.

Some substantial chunks of oak are attached above the coolers.

“They come from a big, old oak tree that had to come down. They counted the rings when they felled it: over 200 years old.” Alan explains. The wood is there to retain microflora.

We come across a second, smaller mash tun. It’s part of their small brew house, which they use for shorter run beers.

In the fermenting room, there are vessels of various shapes and sizes, mostly square.

 “The fermenters are lined with plastic. They used to be raw wood. You can imagine the problems that caused.”

In one fermenter yesterday’s brew is bubbling away nicely. It has a very healthy looking head.

At one time they used Hole’s yeast. The brewery I worked in back in 1975. Obviously they can’t get hold of that anymore. Now they have a Yorkshire square yeast.

“I noticed that you have fishtails. Do you rouse it?”

“Yes, twice a day.”

 Most of the fermenters are sealed. “It’s safer that way,” Alan says, “because of the CO2.” Co2 has been one of the biggest killers in breweries over the years. I keep finding reports of asphyxiated brewery workers in the newspaper archive.

The racking area is basic, to say the least: a tank, two hoses and a little ramp.

A large cool room is where the casks go after racking. It’s also home to the hops. There are varieties you’d expect in a traditional English brewery, like Fuggles, Bramling Cross and Northdown, but also US hops like Cascade. Though thinking about it, US hops were extensively used in British brewing.

Dotted around the brewery are various tanks, which are used for their sour and fruit beers. Some are typical modern stainless tanks, but others are strange old green things. They never seem to have thrown anything away and these have been repurposed after years of disuse. There are also the obligatory oak wine casks. Everyone has at least a few of those nowadays.

Tour over, we retire to the nearest Elgood pub, the Red Lion. Where Alan buys us a sandwich and a pint. I’m delighted to see that they have Black Dog, their Dark Mild, on cask. It’s a lovely beer, when on form. Which this pint is. What looks more lovely than a freshly-pulled pint of Mild?

Alan tells us a little about his career. It started off at Paines, where his father was head brewer before him. Later he joined Hardy & Hanson. He tells me that they added a gallon of primings per barrel to their Mild. No wonder it was so sweet.

Sadly we can’t hang around long. Henry has an appointment in Newark.

“Did you see the bloke fiddling with No. 2 invert?” Henry asks as we’re bumping through the fens.

“No, I missed that. Damn.”

Henry drops me on Balderton Gate and arranges to meet me later in the Woolpack. Sorry, the Prince Rupert. At least the new name does have a Newark connection. The prince having hung out in the town during the Civil War.

I notice that the Zoo has reopened under the name of Belam’s Bar & Bistro. It’s one of the few Newark pubs I’ve never been in. Just too damn dangerous. It doesn’t look any more tempting than in previous incarnations.

I can’t resist a quick pint in the Fox and Crown. I have to walk almost past it. Magic Rock Inhaler. A beer, I’ve heard of, but never tried. It’s fair enough, in a fruity hoppy way. But I don’t see what all the fuss is about. Maybe my trips to the US have spoilt me.

As I stroll through Newark town centre, it’s eerily quiet. Hardly anyone is around, either on the street of in the shops. There only seem to be two staff in WH Smiths. I can’t find Viz and have to ask for help. Both look, one after the other and eventually uncover it, mostly hidden by other magazines. I can never find it in this place.

It’s a bit depressing that there are so few people around Newark used to be much busier.

One place I do want to be quiet is the pub. The Prince Rupert doesn’t disappoint. There are only a couple of other punters. I get myself a pint of The Raven Milk Stout and settle into a seat. Making sure I get a good view of some of the wonderful old signs.

Henry rolls up after a while and I have another pint or two in his company, before he drives me back to my brother Dave’s.

I’ve timed it well. The chippie has just opened.

“Just order a kid’s portion of chips.” Dave advises. Which I do. It’s still a full plateful. More than I can eat. I wonder what single pensioners do?

Luckily, there’s still plenty of Home Brewed left. Which Dave and I get stuck into as we watch some more cricket.

I’m in bed quite early again. I want to be fresh for a final lunchtime sesh with Henry.

Elgood & Sons
72 N Brink,
Wisbech PE13 1LW.
Tel: +44 1945 583160

The Red Lion
32 N Brink,
Wisbech PE13 1JR.
Tel: +44 1945 582022

Fox & Crown
4-6, Appleton Gate,
Newark NG24 1JY.
Tel: +44 1636 605820

The Prince Rupert
46 Stodman Street,
Newark NG24 1AW.
Tel: +44 1636 918121

Thursday, 22 March 2018


Dave has got in some bacon. I grill a couple of slices and make myself a sandwich. Bacon – what better start to the day?

I’ve a little time before I need to head off and take the opportunity to get the shopping in. Dolores has given me a list. Roasting joints, tea, hot chocolate powder, vinegar and, of course, salt and vinegar crisps for the kids. It’s good to get it all out of the way early.

There’s one downside to staying at Dave’s: he’s off the grid. No internet access in his house. In a way, it’s a relief to be free of the web for a few days. I spend way too much time on it.

I plan getting the bus at 9:35. By 9:50 there’s been no sign of a bus in either direction. I walk to Dave’s office and ask him to call me a cab. I’m quite surprised that he doesn’t say: “OK, you’re a taxi.”

He orders it for his home address. It arrives so quickly, it gets there before me. Ony six quid - bargain. Why was I going to mess around with the bus? Especially as it doesn’t go anywhere near Northgate Station?

I’m very early at Newark Northgate station. I get a posh coffee and sit in the waiting room. Which is decorated with old photographs of Newark. What date is that? Just before WW I, going by the clothes they’re wearing.

Ten minutes before my train is due, I go to see if I can spot Henry. He’s in the foyer. He had come into the coffee shop but failed to spot me.

When our train trundles in I notice that it’s an Intercity 125. It must be at least 40 years old.

“Why did they bother electrifying, Henry, if they’re going to run diesel trains?”

“Welcome to modern Britain.”

Luckily, we find two seats together. Despite all the seats being reserved.

We have to change in Doncaster. I’ve not been here for years.

“There’s quite a good pub on one of the platforms.” Henry remarks suggestively.

“We’ve only got 10 minutes. Too much of a rush.”

“Now there’s a first, you turning down a pub opportunity. Living abroad has ruined you.”

The connecting train to Sheffield is a bus-like two-coacher. It smells of piss. There’s no legroom, just six inches or so. We both have to sit sideways, which is fun.

“It’ll stop everywhere,“ Henry says, “shitholes like Mexborough and Rotherham. It’s so lovely, South Yorkshire.”

“Positive as ever, eh, Henry?”

The pissing rain doesn’t make it look any better. It’s still raining when we get to Sheffield.

“Fancy a quick one in the Sheffield Tap, Ron?”

“I suppose so.” I don’t want to overdo it, though. We’ve an appointment with some brewing records in Sheffield Archives. It is conveniently located right in the station. A magnificent space, lined with colourful Victorian tiles.

“How come the Best Bitter is weaker than the Session Pale Ale, Henry? That makes no sense.”

“These modern brewers call beers anything they like.”

“There should be some organisation making them stick to standards.”

“Like the BJCP?”

“No, not like the BJCP.”

We polish off our pints and head off into the rain. Luckily the archives are only a couple of hundred metres away. We’re still a big soggy when we arrive. I wish I’d brought my hat.

We quickly get reading passes and start trawling through the records I’ve ordered. This is so much quicker with two people. In less than an hour all the snapping is done. Tennant’s, in case you’re wondering.

We head to our next appointment: The Rutland Arms to meet Dann and Martha Paquette, former owners of Pretty Things. It’s still raining. And we’re not 100% certain of which way to go. Which ends up in us making a couple of hundred metre detour.

“Oh look, it’s an old Duncan Gilmour pub.” I say.

“What happened to them?”

“Bought and closed by Tetley. Look you can still see a huntsman there.”

It has a lovely tiled exterior. Though I prefer the inside – due to the rain – which warm and cosy. Dann and Martha are already there. It’s great to see them again. Been a while

I get an Anspach & Hobday Porter. Quite roasty, but nice.

Dann starts to tell us about all his problems finding premises for his brewery. It sounds like the council doesn’t want people to start businesses, which is insane. He’s remarkably positive, given all the bureaucratic hurdles being placed in front of him.

I have another Porter before we decide to brave the rain and move to another pub.

“Do you fancy going to a Sam Smiths pub?” Dann asks.

“Can do. I feel like spending an hour or two back in the 1970’s.”

“We can admire those magnificent little boxes that serve as keg fonts.” Henry chips in.

It rains all the way to the Brown Bear. We plonk ourselves down in the lounge. I wonder if beer is still more expensive here than in the public bar? Maybe they don’t bother with that anymore.

There’s a touch of sharpness to the Old Brewery Bitter. Not exactly off, but not exactly right, either.

“At least it’s only two quid a pint.” Henry observes.

“I had a pint on Saturday that cost over twelve quid. It was a 10% ABV Imperial Stout. And I didn’t pay for it.”

“Time for another pub before we go to the Devonshire Cat?” Dann asks.

“Of course, I reply. There’s always time for one more pub.”

We get rained on some more on our way over to the Bath Hotel. It gets its name from the Turkish baths further along the street.

Once inside, I’m glad we made the effort. It’s a gorgeous old pub, with its original layout and fittings intact. It’s a Thornbridge pub, so I get a pint of Jaipur. Something with a bit of oomph.

We’re running a bit late and only have time for one. I was supposed to be in the Devonshire Cat at 17:30 for a bite to eat before tonight’s event. It’s already past that. And we’ve some more rain walking to do first.

I’m surprised to see that the Devonshire Cat is a new building. I’d assumed it was an old pub. Inside, it’s fairly cavernous, but not soulless.

The Abbeydale guys are there, as is Jules of Hop Hideout. I’m soon stuck into a half of the William Younger 1868 No. 1. Yes, only a half. I’ve been drinking for several hours and still have an event to do. The beer is pretty nice. Perhaps a bit too nice, given how strong it is.

I’m soon getting stuck into pie, chips and mushy peas. Just the sort of grub I like, when in Britain.

The event is pretty low key. To the point of me not really doing anything but sit and chat with Jules, Dann, Martha and Henry. I’ve no problem with that. They’re all lovely people – well, maybe not Henry – and get along well with each other.

We decide to all trek to the Sheffield Tap for a last pint. Dann and Martha go for the unfiltered Bernard. I choose a Stout from the pub’s own brewery. Plus an Islay whisky. Just to set me up for the train.

The train back to Doncaster is classier than the one that brought us. Another Intercity 125.

“Good old British Rail, Ron, Good old British Rail.” Henry says as it trundles into view.

Those things must be like Routemasters. At least we can sat normally. There’s enough legroom for someone over seven years old. Unlike the other train.

“Do you fancy a drink in the bar, Ron?” Henry asks when we roll into Doncaster. “We’ve got twenty minutes. Almost.”

“OK.” I won’t disappoint Henry twice.

It’s the bar that does the disappointing, by being closed. No more beer for us.

Our train to Newark is the surprise of the day: it’s electric. And must have been built within the last 20 years.

Speeding back to Northgate is an electrifying experience. And we have seats. I was slightly concerned about the return journey. This is the last connection. And you never know with British trains. They aren’t exactly what I’d call reliable.

We get a taxi that drops off first me, then Henry.

“Directly behind the chip shop.” I tell the driver. Dave lives in a handy spot. If only they still ran buses after dark in Newark.

Sheffield Tap
1b, Sheffield Station,
Sheaf St,
Sheffield S1 2BP.
Tel: +44 114 273 7558

Sheffield Archives
52 Shoreham Street,
Sheffield S1 4SP
Tel: +44 0114 203 9395

Rutland Arms
86 Brown St,
Sheffield S1 2BS.
Tel: +44 114 272 9003

The Brown Bear
109 Norfolk St,
Sheffield S1 2JE.
Tel: +44 114 272 7744

The Bath Hotel
66-68, Victoria St,
Sheffield S3 7QL.
Tel: +44 114 249 5151

Devonshire Cat
49 Wellington St,
Sheffield S1 4HG.
Tel: +44 114 279 6700

Abbeydale Brewery
8 Aizlewood Rd,
Sheffield S8 0YX.
Tel: +44 114 281 2712

Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Let's Brew Wednesday - 1956 Tennant's Best Bitter

The mid-1950’s was a good time for British beer. Production was edging up a little and more stronger beers were available.

Tennant’s Best Bitter is an example of a stronger type of Pale Ale that was introduced around this time by many breweries. Relative to the watery stuff that was around in the immediate post-war period, it’s quite potent stuff. A high degree of attenuation leaves it with 4.3% ABV. Not bad for the time.

There are only two malts in the grist, one of which is a small quantity of enzymic malt, which is really just a special type of pale malt. The original contained four types of sugar, in addition to the No. 2 invert and lactose, there was SBS and CWA. I’ve substituted more No. invert for these.

The lactose is a bit of a surprise. I have seen it used in styles of beer other than Milk Stout -  Scotch Ale, Mild and Brown Ale – but never in a Bitter before. I’m not sure what purpose it’s serving as the quantity is pretty small. And the degree of attenuation is high.

The copper hops were Kent Fuggles (1954), Worcester Fuggles (1954) and Kent Goldings (1955) with Kent Goldings (1954) as dry hops. Tennant are one of the nice breweries that bothered to list the hop varieties. It takes out the guesswork.

It’s odd to think that this is a beer that my dad might have drunk. The pub on our caravan site was tied to Tennant. And he was a Bitter drinker. They had those horizontal measure half pint electric pumps that were popular in the North. Which were probably dispensing bright beer rather than cask when he was drinking there in the mid-1960s.

1956 Tennant's Best Bitter
pale malt 6.00 lb 70.88%
enzymic malt 0.25 lb 2.95%
flaked maize 1.00 lb 11.81%
No. 2 invert sugar 1.00 lb 11.81%
lactose 0.09 lb 1.06%
malt extract 0.125 lb 1.48%
Fuggles 95 mins 0.75 oz
Goldings 40 mins 0.375 oz
Goldings 20 mins 0.375 oz
Goldings dry hops 0.25 oz
OG 1040
FG 1007.5
ABV 4.30
Apparent attenuation 81.25%
IBU 20
Mash at 146º F
Sparge at 165º F
Boil time 95 minutes
pitching temp 60º F
Yeast Wyeast 1099 Whitbread ale

Tuesday, 20 March 2018


Being rather later this morning – I remember my watch is an hour ahead – the breakfast room is more crowded. But I find a seat.

I’m going for a more balanced meal today. Three slices of bacon and two eggs. Plus some token tomato. And a couple of slices of toast. Wholemeal, so it is healthy. I eat quickly and am back in my room for the start of Sunday Brunch at 9:30.

I can’t be arsed to walk to King’s Cross. I hail a taxi. Only going to cost a few quid. And it’s Sunday. The roads aren’t that bad. Just full. At around capacity. I probably could have run it quicker. If I were 40 years younger and had been able to run quickly. Which I never could.

I’m quite early and do a little shopping, An Observer, a cheese and onion sarnie and a bag of salt and vinegar crisps. That should keep me going until Newark. Never arrive on an empty stomach. It always feels like the zombie apocalypse is just around the corner in Newark.

The queue at platform 9 ¾ is ridiculous. They’re all paying, too. Must be a goldmine. I wonder where all that dosh goes?

Henry sidles up after a while. He hasn’t got any fatter. That’s vegetarians for you. Hitler was a skinny bugger, too.

I’ve a reserved a seat, but Henry doesn’t. He sits next to me anyway. Fortunately, the person whose seat it is doesn’t turn up. Which seems pretty common.

I’ve still got a can of Stone Ruination that I had in my suitcase but couldn’t be bother to dig out on the train ride over. Just after that’s finished, the trolley service arrives.

“Do you have beer?”

“Yes, Stella?”

“Any other beers?”


“Any other alcoholic drinks?”


“I’ll have a Stella, then.”

It’s not as awful as I’d expected. Almost taste-free. I feared something really nasty. Like Bavaria Pils.

“They’ve dropped the ABV. It’s only 4.3%. Didn’t it use to be 5.3%?”

“Don’t know, don’t care.” Henry replies unenthusiastically.

Totally inoffensive is my best description. It’s gone by the time we pull into Newark’s evil twin, Grantham.

Henry’s van is parked just around the corner from the station. I stick my ton-weighing bag in the back. No more lugging that bastard around anymore. It’ll be all lightened up soon once I get rid of all that cheese.

“Do you fancy a pint, Ron?”

“You didn’t really need to ask that question, did you, Henry?

Drop by the Horse and Jockey. Sorry, Oscars. I always stick with the old name. Especially if the new one is stupid. As they often are.

It’s much the same inside, in terms of layout. Still two bars. Let me have a think about the décor and get back to you. I tend to prefer old pub style.

The beer is pretty good. I just have the two. My brother Dave will be wondering where the hell I am. Or maybe not. He knows I’m with Henry. And he knows what we’re like. He’ll have assumed we’re in a pub somewhere.

Henry is dropping off a few cases of beer at Dave’s. That’s handy. Save me going down the supermarket. And it’s better beer than I’d find there. I’m not just saying that because he’s my mate.

Dave has curry goat ready for me. Except it’s made with lamb. He knows how to cook it properly, having been taught by a Jamaican. Not adding any water seems to be the key. Very, very hot. About the limit of what I can take. Tasty, mind. Especially with the rice and peas.

Luckily there’s all that beer Henry has just delivered to cool my mouth down. Me and Dave watch some cricket and drain a few bottles.

Henry comes back after a couple of hours to take me out for more beer. At Just beer, Newark’s micro pub. It’s very quiet, just one bloke at the bar and the barman. I don’t care. I hate crowds. And it’s quite pleasant to be wrapped in quiet rather than noise.

I have a couple of pints, then Henry takes me back to Dave’s. Where there’s a whole crate of Warwick’s Home Brewed waiting. Dangerously drinkable I think is the phrase. At 6% or so, it’s not really a session beer. However tempting it is to session it.

The Home Brewed is one of Henry’s beers, brewed to a Warwick’s & Richardson’s recipe from 1910. I was so happy when I discovered not all Newark brewing records had been lost. Henry went to Nottingham a few weeks back to photograph the one log that they have in the archives there. I’ve been putting together a few or the recipes from it.

Home Brewed is a style that everyone seems to have forgotten about. It’s a type of strong Brown Ale that was mostly brewed in the Southwest of England. The name is a bit odd, as it always came from production breweries. Warwick’s is about the most northerly example I’ve come across.

I’m not just saying this because Henry is my mate and it’s my recipe. Home Brewed is a cracking beer. Really moreish. I wish I had a crate at my place.

Talking of unfined beer, Home Brewed is unfined. As you’d expect from a vegetarian like Henry. It’s crystal clear, despite being bottle condtitioned.

Dave has to work tomorrow, so doesn’t stay up late. I go to bed at just after 11, too. Lots to do tomorrow. I have to take a bus into town at around 10. I wouldn’t want to miss my train. Me and Henry are off to Sheffield for another fun-packed day.

Oscar's Inn
105 Balderton Gate,
Newark NG24 1RY.
Tel: +44 1636 918130

Just Beer Micropub
32A Castle Gate,
Newark NG24 1BG.
Tel: +44 1636 312047

Henry's brewery:

The Cat Asylum Brewing
12 Besthorpe Rd
NG23 7NP

Monday, 19 March 2018

London day 2

I rise at half eight. Teeth brushed, I head downstairs for breakfast. A bacon-led event.

That’s weird. The breakfast room is closed. I ask someone at the desk where it is. “Down to the end and on your left.”

It seems that they’re just using a corner of it while the rest is renovated. When I’m at the buffet a waitress tell me to use a large plate for the hot stuff. Then piles four slices of bacon on it. It seems churlish to put one back. I’ll just have the one egg, then.

The breakfast room was oddly quiet. I realise why, when I switch on the news back in my room. It’s an hour earlier than I thought. I forgot my watch was still on Dutch time. What a schoolboy error.

I meet Mike Siegel outside the Market Porter in borough market at 10:30. We’re going to take a stroll down Park Street to the Anchor. He’s disappointed that the pub isn’t open.

“It’s one of the last pubs that opens at 6 AM. I guess it’s closed because it’s the weekend.” Mike says.

You used to be able to drink 24 hours a day in London, even before the licensing hours changed. There were pubs that opened weird hours close to market. And the railway yards at Stratford.

While we’re waiting for the others, we take a look in Utobeer, the beer shop in Borough Market. Never been there before. I see lots of familiar favourites, including De Molen. It’s fun staring longingly at beer you’ve no intention of buying. Not even the Schlenkerla Helles, tempting as that is. As tempting as a bacon sandwich with slabs of cheese replacing bread. Deep fried.

On the way to the Anchor, I show Mike what’s left of the Barclay Perkins brewery: two brewers’ houses. A stern “Take Courage” slogan still visible on the gable end. There’s that and the plaque commemorating Barclay Perkins’ draymen beating up Austrian general Haynau in 1850. Good on them. He was a bastard who had women flogged.

Not yet noon and the Anchor is pretty empty. Just someone telling an obviously new member of staff the table numbers. I don’t mind. I hate crowds.

Out of the handles on the bar. Truman Swift catches my eye. It’s a bit hazy. Is it supposed to be like that? Mike seems to think it tastes OK. We have the one, then head off to The Rake. I’ve not been there since the launch of Brewery Yard, the beer I did with Goose Island.

Being still pretty early, there are only a few other customers. That doesn’t worry me. I hate crowds. The busier a pub is, the longer you have to wait for your pint. And I hate waiting for beer.

I ask for a Heavy Industry Collaborator.

The barman asks “Do you want a pint or a half.”

“A pint. I don’t do halves. Not even of Imperial Stout.”

There’s a big lump of Lancashire cheese on the table, purchased at the cheesemonger on Park Street. Mike gets out a pork pie, bought in the market. We all get stuck into the cheese.

“What would you like next, Ron.”

The Garden Croatian Imperial Stout has caught my eye. Should I have a third or a half?

“I’ll have a half of the Imperial Stout.”

“I thought you didn’t do halves?”

Damn me and my big mouth. It is just about afternoon. “OK. OK, a pint of Imperial Stout.” Just as well I didn’t ask for a third.

It is rather nice. And full of alcoholey goodness. Warming me from the inside out.

I fetch my next beer. “A pint of Imperial Stout, please.”

“Are you Ron?” the barmaid asks.

How on earth did she guess that?

Mike Hill, one of the owners of The Rake turns up and chats with us. He has great stories, some of them even fit for publication.

We don’t stay too long. We’ve an appointment with heaven. At least heaven on earth. The Royal Oak is just a refreshing stroll away. For me Mike Siegel and Johnny. The others are heading off doing their own stuff for a while. They’ll meet up with us later.

It’s pretty empty, just four or five other customers. I don’t mind. I hate crowds. Fuck, I love this pub.

I planned on starting with a Mild. But the Old is just too tempting. It’s sort of strong Mild, anyway. It’s gorgeous. Balancing effortlessly on that razorblade between drinkability and flavour. Fuck, I love Harvey’s.

We order a selection of meals, which we share. Pub tapas. All classic British stuff: fish and chips, bangers and mash, bubble and squeak, pie. Real health food stuff. I’m not that hungry, but nibble at a few bits anyway.

The Old is disappearing pleasantly down my throat. Fuck, I love Harvey’s. I could happily drink nothing else for the rest of my life.

We eventually reluctantly leave the Royal Oak. Some of the crew want to drop by Oxford Street. Close to Oxford Circus. For shopping or other such nonsense. I have something slightly different in mind.

“We could go to the Argyll Arms.” I suggest. “It’s just around the back of Oxford Circus. The interior is magnificent.”

We duly jump on a tube. Some shop, others pub, bound.

The Argyll Arms is pretty full so we can’t sit in one of the little booths. But we do find seats at the back. What should I drink? I know, let’s have a beer for a change.

I’m a good boy. I only stay for a couple of pints. I’m back in my hotel room in time to watch Match of the Day.

The Market Porter
9 Stoney St,
London SE1 9AA.
Tel: +44 20 7407 2495

24 Borough Market,
London SE1 1TL.
Tel: +44 20 7378 6617

Anchor Bankside
34 Park St,
London SE1 9EF.
Hours: Open ⋅ Closes 12AM
Tel: +44 20 7407 1577

The Rake
14A Winchester Walk,
London SE1 9AG.
Tel: +44 20 7407 0557

The Royal Oak
44 Tabard St,
London SE1 4JU.
Tel: +44 20 7357 7173

Argyll Arms
18 Argyll St,
London W1F 7TP.
Tel: +44 20 7734 6117

Goose Island paid for my travelling expenses to London and for quite a lot of food and drink while I was there. 

Sunday, 18 March 2018

London by train

This is exciting. I’ve never gone to the UK by train before.

I don’t have to rise that early. My train is just after nine. A lie in, compared to my workday routine.

Trying to zip up my main bag is a challenge. Resolved mostly by Dolores. Totally by Dolores, really. Unless you count unhelpful suggestions.

I transfer some contents to the bag containing my laptop. Did I accidentally leave a gold bar in it? So heavy it makes my wrist ache. Despite the offloading, my trolley bag still feels as if it’s concealing a baby rhino. But at least it’s closed. It’s going to be fun hunking that around.

I’ve taken the shuttle through the tunnel when me and Mikey went to Folkestone, but never the Eurostar. They’ll be running direct trains to Amsterdam from London next month. But the other way you’ll still need to change in Brussels as they haven’t arranged the international treaty required. At least that’s what they say.

My journey is even more complicated than that. The Benelux train isn’t runnng as far as Amsterdam, currently. I need to change in Rotterdam and Brussels. Making it a much longer journey than necessary. As usual, the train is mobbed, despite being in the first carriage. I dread to think what it’s like further back.

I’ve come prepared. Sandwiches I made this morning and a few cans I picked up yesterday in Ton Overmars. They don’t have a great can selection, but it’s better and cheaper beer than I’d find in the station. I’ve got three cans of Stone Arrogant Bastard and a couple of their other beers. I crack the first Bastard as we pull out of Schiphol.

There’s a bit of hanging around at Rotterdam Centraal. Not been here much since it was rebuilt. At least it has a full roof now, which is an improvement. Luckily, my connection is on the same platform. Did another rhino sneak into my bag when my back was turned?

I crack the second Bastard as we emerge from the tunnel under the Maas. It’s good to see the back of Rotterdam, dump that it is. Having lived in the city, I feel I’m qualified to say that. Perhaps I’m a little harsh.

On reflection, no, I’m not.

I haven’t too long to wait in Brussels, though I do need to check in and have my bags X-rayed. Now where’s my ticket and passport?

“Is this someone’s?” one of the security guards asks holding up my ticket and passport. I’ve left them in the tray. Now there’s stupid. I really should know better, given how much I travel.

I wait until we’re clear of the Brussels suburbs before popping the third and final Bastard. Brewed in Berlin, obviously. I’ve no idea how closely it resembles the San Diego version as I’ve never drunk that. It’s pleasant enough in an Americaney hoppy sort of way.

It’s weird when we pop out of the tunnel. Partly because we don’t stop in Folkestone. But also because I’ve never been on a train going genuinely high speed in the UK before. I open a Stone mocha Stout thing to celebrate. Eventually, they’ll have a high speed network in the UK. Just when the first skin of ice is starting to form over hell.

I’m walking to my hotel, as it’s only 10 or 12 minutes away from St. Pancras. But my luggage is quite heavy. Those rhinos are now the happy parents of twins.

I need to pause for breath. Where better than the Euston Flyer? I have to walk right past. It is bad luck to pass an open pub, after all. I have a quick pint of ESB. Very nice it is, too. No time to linger, though. I’ve people to meet and beer to drink.

I really love the oddness of St Pancras New Church. With a sort Greek temple thing going on. And the female statues acting as pillars.  There are a couple of weird statues in front of its Euston Road side. I think they fit in quite well. Not sure why. Maybe because the church itself is a bit strange.

I don’t do much more than check in and dump my bags. I’m relieved. They now drag at my arms as if a third generation of rhinos has arrived. I shouldn’t have brought all that cheese. Though the beer is quite heavy, too. Those Brewery Yard bottles are like exercise clubs.

Time to tube.

Changing at Green Park, I regret my choice of route. There’s a walk of three or four miles between the Piccadilly line and Northern Line platforms. This is what happens when you don’t travel regularly by tube. You get sucked in by seemingly simple routes, not realising you’ll be a tomb raider, navigating endless underground passageways, hoping eventually to reach the treasure of your connecting train.

When I lived in London, I knew which connections to avoid. I’m a local no more.

Emerging from Old Street tube, I’m confused. Which way is it? Doesn’t help that there are no street signs on any of the roads. I walk a random direction and look at the name of the first side street. Which I look up in my A to Z*. Brill. I picked the right way.

I used to work not far from here. In that arms factory. I can’t recognise anything. It was all a very long time ago. 1979, to be precise. The first time I lived in London. Happy days. No. not really. I was glad to get away.

It’s raining when I get to the Artillery Arms. A compact, dark wood sort of place, bustling with punters. Never been here before, but it seems a decent pub. With, like most Fullers pubs, a pub theme. I quite like pubs that look, smell and feel like pubs.

I’m the first. The others arrive when I’m a few sips into my ESB. Mike Siegel and a crew from Goose Island in Chicago and ABI people from the UK. Plus Derek Prentice and Hugo Anderson, both London brewers. Derek worked at Trumans, Youngs and Fullers before his current gig at Wimbledon. Hugo is now retired after a career at Watney.

I chat with Hugo about Watney beers and all the ullage they contained. He’s remarkably upfront and upbeat about it. “We never brewed a drop of Star Light.” No wonder it had such a great reputation. Look it up on the internet.

Hugo has a big, old-fashioned suitcase. In it are two Reid’s Porter brewing books. I’m a bit nervous when he puts them on a table, in the near presence of pints. I wouldn’t want them getting damaged.

Looking through the logs with Derek and Hugo is a great experience. After a while I realise something. The 1820 one is in the same format as the later Reid records I have, from the 1840’s through to the 1870’s. But the 1837-38 they have at the Westminster City Archives is completely different, like a Truman’s or old BP log. It can’t be Reid. Who could it be? Anyone but Reid, Meux, Barclay Perkins, Whitbread or Truman. Combe, perhaps?

On the way over to where we’ll dine, we nip into the yard of the former Whitbread brewery. And gaze up towards the awesome wonder of the Porter Tun Room, where massive vats of Brown Beer used to ripen. But which we can’t really see, save for an odd glimpse through a high window.

Sad brewing ended here after a few centuries. Never got to taste any beer from it myself, even though I was drinking when it closed in 1974.

Our destination has a slight Whitbread connection. Well, quite a big one, really. It’s the former brewery tap, now called The Jugged Hare. Should I ever get my time machine working, it’s one of the places I’ll be drinking Porter. A brewery tap being about the only place I’d trust wasn’t fucking with the beer.

We sit in the restaurant and order ourselves the house Bitter. It’s on the cloudy side. But who knows if that’s a fault nowadays or not? And just because a beer isn’t fined, doesn’t mean it should be cloudy. Brewed right, beer will drop bright. If you’re patient.

John Hall, Goose Island’s founder, trundles in after a while. He’s always good fun. And a really nice bloke. We eat a little and drink rather more. Beer is such a social drink.

We finish in the Ye Olde Mitre, off Hatton Garden. Not that far from where the Reid brewery was located. Another Fullers pub, this time hidden down an alleyway. It’s pretty full, but we manage to squeeze into the public bar. What to drink? ESB seems like a good idea. I’ve been drinking it most of the day.

I don’t stay out too late. Busy day tomorrow.

* A sort of analogue Google map, printed on paper and bound as a book. Each page contains a map of a small section of London. Taken as a whole, it forms a street map of all London. An index allows you to locate a street, not just by page, but by a section of a page.

The Euston Flyer
83-87 Euston Rd,
London NW1 2RA
Tel: +44 20 7383 0856

Artillery Arms
102 Bunhill Row,
London EC1Y 8ND.
Tel: +44 20 7253 4683

The Jugged Hare
49 Chiswell St,
London EC1Y 4SA.
Tel: +44 20 7614 0134

Ye Olde Mitre
1 Ely Pl,
London EC1N 6SJ
Tel: +44 20 7405 4751

Goose Island paid for my travelling expenses to London and for quite a lot of food and drink while I was there.

Saturday, 17 March 2018

My latest books

Just a reminder of my two most recent, wonderful books.

First, Let's Brew, which is packed with all sorts of exciting historic recipes, including Lagers and North American beers. The majority have never appeared in this blog. Every homebrewer whould own a copy.

Second is the definitive history of Scottish beer over the last 150 years or so. Other than a few recipes, of which there are almost 400, all the material is new. 

Just think of poor Alexei. His bottle of gin is almost empty. Please help him buy a new one.

Let's Brew - 1953 Elgood Strong Ale

I make a point of trying to collect new brewing records whenever I’m in the UK. On my last trip I managed to pick ones up from a couple of sources. One being Elgood.

I first asked the brewery if I could drop by a couple of years ago. The reason I hadn’t made it there until now is purely a question of the practicalities. Wisbech has no train station. Even though it isn’t that far from Newark, getting there by public transport is a nightmare. Luckily my mate Henry has a van and he drove me down.

Before we go any further, I’ll point out the problems that I had with this recipe. Basically, the numbers don’t add up. The grist consisted of 14 quarters, 93 barrels of water were used in mashing and sparging and there were 80 barrels of wort in the copper. But there were just 19.5 barrels in the fermenter. Where did the other 60 barrels of wort go? I can’t imagine it was thrown away.

To take this discrepancy into account, I’ve divided the hopping rate by four. And then reduced them some more because they were from the 1950 season. I know nothing else about them, other than that they were English. 5 of the 85 lbs really were added in the hop back.

The grist is almost as simple as it appears. There really just is a single base malt. The sugar in the original, however, is half invert and half something called Muntona.

The mashing scheme is an infusion stood at 149º F for 20 minutes followed by an underlet held at 152º F for 100 minutes. Then sparging, obviously.

1953 Elgood Strong Ale
pale malt 9.00 lb 90.00%
No. 2 invert sugar 1.00 lb 10.00%
Fuggles 95 mins 0.75 oz
Fuggles 60 mins 0.75 oz
Fuggles hop back 0.13 oz
OG 1047
FG 1017
ABV 3.97
Apparent attenuation 63.83%
IBU 20
Mash at 152º F
Sparge at 167º F
Boil time 95 minutes
pitching temp 61º F
Yeast WLP025 Southwold

Friday, 16 March 2018

On the management of Beer in private houses

Before WW I it was quite commonto buy in a cask of beer to drink at home. The newspapers were full of brewery adverts for exactly this purpose.

Yet I can't remember ever finding anything before about how casks were handled in this doemstic setting. Until now. It's a delightful insight into what used to be a common practice,

Of course, if you've ever handled a cask of beer you'll know that there's a lot more to serving it than banging in a tap and turning the tap on. It's no surprise, given that plenty of landlords cock up handling cask beer, that it was often mistreated in private homes.

"On the management of Beer in private houses
TO begin with, every consumer of beer must fully realise how many advantages pertain to the system of keeping one’s own cask of beer in the house, rather than sending out to the nearest publichouse every time a draught of beer is required, and for the following reasons. First and foremost the price charged by the publican is 25 per cent. over and above that charged by the family brewer; the inconvenience of making such trips, no matter what the weather; whilst the beer so obtained is seldom a family bitter ale at all, and the quantity must be a standard measure either more or less than is required, causing a slight waste in the former, or an unsatisfied appetite in the latter case.

These arguments may be met with some such replies as, “Oh, the beer does not keep in our house," or, “It is thick, and there is always a waste in the bottom of the cask.” To the first of these I would reply, “There are many good brands now offered to the public as near perfection as beer can possibly be." Notwithstanding all Messrs. Lawson, Quilter & Co. may say to the contrary, such beers are guaranteed, and do keep sound, as proved by the large private trades built up by such beers; whilst how many cases of thick beer and out of condition are caused by want of a little care on the consumer's part, which I will now endeavour to explain. Certainly there is no nation or people who appreciate more fully or better understand what a glass of really good beer is than the English, and yet how small a percentage take the least trouble to have their beer in good condition, the majority imagining that with the drayman placing the cask on the stand all need of any further care is at an end, and that what follows is a matter of chance, good or bad.

A little consideration, however, will prove how fallacious such an idea is; for although any amount of care and trouble bestowed will not make bad beer good, yet, with a modicum of attention and a few common sense practices, good beer may be preserved as such, instead of utterly spoiling same and returning to the brewer what has, through carelessness, become a muddy, sour article, very unsatisfactory to both consumer and brewer alike.

First, to begin with, the consumer usually takes in only a small cask, which small bulk is much more difficult to bring into sparkling (gaseous) condition, owing to the smaller amount of normal fermentable matter contained in so small a bulk (generally four and a half or nine gallons); such a quantity will also be more easily affected by temperature—either extreme heat or cold—both of which act detrimentally on beer, the former to force false ferments if present into active life and so set up putrefaction, whilst the latter produces flatness and general want of condition.

The small casks, too, are of such little weight that the least jarring or shake disturbs the whole, whilst the stands on which the casks are placed consists ofttimes of the most primitive arrangements, such as unsteady and shaking boxes, which are continually vibrating; as an extreme case, the beer cask is occasionally placed on a flat surface, such as a board, with the natural rolling and oscillation due from the introduction of a ball to a plain or flat surface. The cellars are very seldom cellars at all, for this useful store connected with the old-fashioned house has been wofully ignored in these days of jerry-building, and in consequence the beer cask is stowed in the most outrageous places, such as the closest of little cupboards, sometimes only separated from close friendship with the kitchen fire by the flimsiest apology for a wall ; and occasionally even the bedroom is made to serve the double purpose of beer cellar and sleeping apartment, which, if it proved of any advantage to the wakeful and thirsty occupant, is certainly not conducive to good beer; whilst, as an extreme case, I may mention that of a laundress who stored her ale on top of the copper lid, and when washing day came had it removed with regularity and precision worthy a better cause, and as a subsequent fact always had thick beer, in consequence of which she gave vent to the usual abuse of the brewer.

In dealing with wine it is possible to rack or fill it quite bright ; not so with beer, which under such circumstances would remain flat and undrinkable owing to the want of a little fermentable matter to keep up a mild discharge of carbonic acid gas, the same gas as soda water and such other effervescing drinks are charged with, which gives to beer its sparkling fresh ness, and which sedimentary matter will subside to the bottom of the cask if properly treated by being firmly set up and allowed a day or two to rest before drawing from for use."
The Brewers' Guardian 1893, page 173.

It's a sign of how little markup pubs made that fetching beer in a jug was only 25% more expensive than buying in a cask.

But I was particularly intrigued by this phrase: "the beer so obtained is seldom a family bitter ale at all". That's implying that what was usually drunk at home was Family Bitter. And what was the classic Family Bitter? AK, of course.

I'm slightly confused by the stuff about it being harder to bring a small cask into condition. Surely the proportion of unfermented sugars would be the same no matter what size the cask? Though it is true that a smaller cask would be more prone to become too cold or to overheat.

I love the complaint about houses being jerry-built. People always seem to moan about the same things, usually harking bacjk to a better past.

There's a part two which I'll post later.

Thursday, 15 March 2018

UK licensed brewers 1870 - 1914

More numbers. I've a whole bucketful of fresh ones I want to consume before they go off. ANd I need to bash out some posts to cover when I'm away in the UK later this week (last week, when you read this).

One of the tables in the Brewers' Almanack that I particularly like is the one that lists the number of breweries by size. It gives a good insight into the structure of the UK brewing industry and how it changed around the turn of the 20th century.

The UK used to have a ridiculous of breweries. Most of them very small. Most the the ones in the under 1,000 barrels a year category would have been brewing well under it. For example, in 1842 26,817 of the 44,208 breweries in the UK brewed fewer than 100 barrels a year. Of those 26,817 8,180 produced fewer than 20 barrels a year.* Bugger all even for a pub brewery.

Even in 1914, the number of breweries producing more than 20,000 barrels a year was only 334. And just 54 more than 100,000 barrels. Meaning that the industry was still very fragmented, with a very large number of small producers. The vast majority of which were pub breweries. 2,357 in 1914, to be precise.**

I'm surprised to see the number in the half million barrels category go up and down in the late 19th century. I'd have expected it to keep increasing.

Number of Persons in the UK licensed as Brewers for Sale
Year ended Sept. 30. Under 1,000. 1,000 and under 10,000. 10.000 and under 20,000. 20,000 and under 100,000. 100,000 and under 500,000. 500,000 and over.
1870 26,506 1,809 210 128 23 3
1875 21,181 1,864 260 194 25 4
1879 17,542 1,863 301 217 27 3
1880 16,770 1,768 272 203 23 4
1881 14,948 1,677 275 183 24 8
1885 12,608 1,537 270 187 27 4
1890 9,986 1,447 274 255 34 4
1895 7,213 1,162 267 256 34 5
1900 4,759 910 262 308 42 9
1905 3,787 832 232 280 40 9
1912 2,868 673 205 266 43 7
1913 2,760 615 210 271 42 8
1914 2,536 580 197 280 46 8
Brewers' Almanack 1922, page 117.

Who were the breweries producing over half a million barrels? Some are pretty obvious, like Guinness, Bass and Allsopp. Others you may not have heard of. I happen to have the numbers for 1884.

Note that all but the top three were based in London.

Largest UK breweries in 1884
Brewery Beer Bands (barrels)
Guinness 1,300,000
Bass 1,000,000
Allsopp 850,000
Combe 500,000
Barclay 550,000
Watney 450,000
Truman 450,000
Charrington 400,000
Reid 350,000
Whitbread 300,000
Courage 300,000
Document ACC/2305/8/246 part of the Courage archive held at the London Metropolitan Archive
Output based on the cost of the brewing licence which was based on bands of output, the figure given is the top of the band into which the brewery's output fell.

Three of the breweries above, Watney, Combe and Reid, took part in the first big merger in 1898. Forming, er, Watney, Combe, Reid. A name which when I saw it on a pub door said "stay away" to me.

* "A Dictionary, Practical, Theoretical, and Historical, of Commerce and Commercial Navigation" by John Ramsay McCulloch, 1844, page 9.

** 1928 Brewers' Almanack, page 118.