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 thoughts on “Starkey, Knight & Ford Family Ale, 1938”

  1. 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.

  2. 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.


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

  3. 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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