homebrewing recipes

Starkey, Knight & Ford Family Ale, 1938

Detail from Starkey, Knight and Ford brewing log, 1938.

We’ve been meaning for some time to formulate a recipe for mild based on the 1938 Starkey, Knight & Ford brewing log we photographed at the Somerset local history archive.

The recipe is below, but getting there proved rather frustrating.

SK&F Brown Ale label, 1948.1. Which one was the mild?

We spent a little while working on something we thought was logged as ‘M3’ only to realise, with help from a few people on Twitter, that it was actually ‘MS’ — Milk Stout. (The inclusion of lactose ought to have been a give away. D’oh!)

Based on the ingredients, another called something like ‘JA’ looked more likely. That some of each batch was also bottled as ‘brown ale’ made us feel more certain.

Then we worked out that it was actually ‘FA’ (stupid old-fashioned handwriting…) which probably stands for ‘family ale’ — not exactly mild, but close enough.

2. Ingredient puzzles

Proprietary brewing sugars — grrr! How are we supposed to know what ‘MC’ is? Our best guess is that it’s some kind of caramel… or is it ‘maltose caramel’? Or ‘mild caramel’? Or something completely different? For the purpose of our recipe, we assumed it was a dark sugar with some fermentability, which got us to the correct original gravity (1036). We’ll probably use something similar to Invert No. 4.

The original recipe used some ‘Oregon’ hops: we’ll try to get hold of Cluster, but, for the small amount used, Cascade will probably do the job.

3. Too bitter?

With around 1lb of hops per barrel, this beer seemed to be too hoppy ‘for the style’, but there are milds in Ron and Kristen’s 1909 Style Guide (notably Fuller’s X ale) which appear similarly heavily hopped.

* * *

So, with those caveats, and with questions and corrections very much welcome, here’s what we’ll be brewing next time we fire up the kettle.

Recipe: SK&F ‘FA’/Brown Ale

[beerxml recipe= metric=true]

  • Assumes efficiency of c.85%.
  • We don’t know much about Starkey, Knight & Ford’s yeast so we’re going to use whichever standard British ale yeast we have at hand.
  • Though this was brewed in Tiverton, we do know that the sister brewery in Bridgwater used water blended with stuff from a well at Taunton which was harder than anything from Burton.

4 replies on “Starkey, Knight & Ford Family Ale, 1938”

All hops in the recipe are being used for bitterness, rather than aroma (as you would expect in a 1938 Mild). Using Cascade instead of Cluster (or indeed the other way around) for bittering won’t make much difference, and Cascade will give you a very good clean bitterness, without grapefruit.

On the point of the U.S.-sourced barley, I would suggest using 2-row U.S. malt, not 6-. Today primarily 2-row is grown in California:

I recall reading that there was a variety of malting barley grown in the past in CA that was 6-row, however, it was a particularly fine variety that had the characteristics of 2-row meaning in part it lacked the “husky” (tannic) qualities of typical 6-row malt. Also, when Anchor Brewing recreated an 1800’s style of lager made by the long-disappeared Boca Brewery, it used 2-row malt grown in CA, suggesting either that this variety was known in the period in CA or it is similar to the choice 6-row that was once available there.

In the Brewer’s Journals placed online in the last couple of years, there are some articles in the 1890’s that go into more detail on the types of California barley brought in to England to make malt. This is another option for study, but all in all I think 2-row U.S. from the West Coast at least would make an excellent material.

I agree with Rod about Cascade although still I feel Cluster would be more authentic.


Gary — oops! Think we meant two row. Will have to check how it impacts on our calculations.

I can’t make head or tail of the gyling in those records. You’ve got HB – presumably Home Brewed – PA Bottling and BB 6d all racked from the same. At the very least they were doing some creative priming.

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