Category Archives: homebrewing

The Temperance Spectrum

Triggering tipsiness is one much-valued feature of beer, but not the be-all-and-end-all.

A first, beer and ale were thought preferable to gin because gin made you bad at holding babies, while on beer, you could simultaneously catch up on some reading, spend quality time with your other half, and balance fish on your head:

Details from 'Gin Lane' and 'Beer Street' by William Hogarth.

Then, in the 19th century, people got excited about lager because there was a belief that, unlike British beer, it didn’t really get you drunk, or make you rowdy.

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Kegronomicon: Watney’s Brown, 1965

The 1965 Watney’s quality control manual we’ve borrowed contains recipes for two brown ales: Watney’s and Mann’s.

Both have rather different recipes, perhaps surprisingly, given their similar specifications: for example, Watney’s contained black malt for colour, while Mann’s got most of its from caramel. The water was also treated very differently. (And, by the way, bottled Watney’s Brown was also quite distinct from their draught mild.)*

Because Mann’s is still in production, we’re a bit twitchy about sharing the details, but the following information should enable you to produce at home something resembling Watney’s Brown as it was in 1965.

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Brewing Watney’s Red (not Red Barrel), 1971

As we’ve noted several times before, Watney’s Red, launched in 1971, was a rather different beer to Watney’s Red Barrel, whose place it usurped.

The Watney’s quality control manual we’ve been lent was printed 1965 but contains typewritten inserts on how to brew Red, issued in August 1971.

There are some obvious omissions in the otherwise quite thorough information supplied. For example, no original gravity (OG) is specified. External sources of information, however, seem to confirm that gravity figures were approximately the same as for Red Barrel, which makes us think that these special instructions (reproduced in full, beneath the table, below) were intended as updates to the detailed instructions already included in the manual. Obvious, really, after all the time, money and effort that had been spent perfecting the process across multiple plants.

Continue reading Brewing Watney’s Red (not Red Barrel), 1971

Session #92: I Made This

Home brewing books.

Pintwell is hosting this month’s Session and Jeremy has set out the question for home brewing bloggers as follows:

How did homebrewing change your view of beer? Do you like beers now that you didn’t before? Do you taste beer differently? Does homebrewing turn you into a pretentious asshole?

We have previously given this topic some thought, concluding that, as a result of brewing at home:

…we’re much harsher in our judgements of ‘craft beer’… we’ve also learned our own limits, and come to respect really expert brewers all the more.

A couple of years on, that’s truer than ever: we resent paying for beers that are no better than we could turn out ourselves and, unfortunately, quite often find ourselves saying of beers we’ve paid several quid for, “Ugh! If we’d brewed this, we’d have written off as a failed batch.”

Has it made us like beers we didn’t like before? Actually, yes — we were baffled by saison until we read Phil Markowski’s book Farmhouse Ales, at which point it snapped into focus: it’s all about the subtly funky, distinctive yeast. We’ve since brewed several batches which have not only been among the best beer we’ve ever produced but have also helped us understand and appreciate commercial examples.

In fact, more generally, one of the great benefits of home brewing has been getting to know different yeast strains, and coming to appreciate its contribution in a world where hops hog all the attention. We’re much more sensitive to yeast character, or its absence, than we ever were before.

We’ve gained huge amounts of pleasure from reading books about home brewing, which are among the best writing on beer, full stop. We’ve also enjoyed dabbling in advice and recipes, and researching its history — it wasn’t as important in the the rebirth of British beer as in the US, but it certainly played its part.

But, sadly, we didn’t need any help from home brewing to be pretentious assholes.