Exhibit 1: Winemaker magazine, December 1971

Amateur Winemaker, December 1971 -- bright orange cover design.

All of the memorialising last week on the tenth anniversary of the death of Michael ‘the Beer Hunter’ Jackson gave Alan McLeod an opportunity to revisit one of his favourite challenges to the consensus: was Jackson really more influential than, say, Dave Line?

We heard Alan when he made this point a few years ago which is part­ly why we spent time track­ing down Mr Line’s wid­ow, Sheila, and inter­view­ing her for Brew Bri­tan­nia, where we devot­ed sev­er­al pages to pro­fil­ing him. In a lat­er arti­cle for CAM­RA’s BEER mag­a­zine we reflect­ed in more detail on his influ­ence:

While Dave Line was mak­ing a name for him­self as arguably the world’s fore­most home brew­ing writer, else­where, what we now know as micro-brew­eries were pop­ping up all across Britain. Most were found­ed by pro­fes­sion­als who had pre­vi­ous­ly worked for large com­pa­nies such as Watney’s or Courage but a hand­ful came from a home-brew­ing back­ground and it’s hard to believe they wouldn’t have had what were then the defin­i­tive texts, Dave’s two books, at hand. Cer­tain­ly Bren­dan Dob­bin, who start­ed home brew­ing as a stu­dent in Belfast in the late 1970s, began his career by work­ing through the recipes in The Big Book of Brew­ing.

In Amer­i­ca, where the ‘craft beer rev­o­lu­tion’ was very much more dri­ven by home brew­ers, Dave’s books were even more impor­tant. Jack McAu­li­ffe, who found­ed New Albion Brew­ing in Cal­i­for­nia in 1976, learned to brew from kits pur­chased at Boots in Glas­gow while on naval ser­vice and has fre­quent­ly cit­ed Dave’s Big Book of Brew­ing as a key text. Oth­er famous names from the first wave of Amer­i­can craft beer such as Greg Noo­nan, Dave Miller and Ken Gross­man, the founder of Sier­ra Neva­da, also men­tion The Big Book as a key text in their ear­ly devel­op­ment – worth remem­ber­ing next time you hear an over­ly-sim­pli­fied account of the influ­ence of mod­ern US brew­ing on the British scene.

One con­crete exam­ple of Dave Line’s influ­ence can be found in Scot­tish brew­ery Harviestoun’s Old Engine Oil, a ‘black ale’ at 4.5% ABV in cask. The brewery’s founder, Ken Brook­er, con­ceived the beer using a Dave Line recipe as his start­ing point, as he told Michael Jack­son in 2000.

So we cer­tain­ly acknowl­edge Dave Line’s impact on a gen­er­a­tion of home-brew­ers and, by exten­sion, micro­brew­ers, but main­tain that Michael Jack­son was (a) a bet­ter writer (a mat­ter of opin­ion, of course) and (b) more influ­en­tial in the broad sense in that he inspired brew­ers to look beyond basic domes­tic styles and to explore ‘world beer’. He also © basi­cal­ly invent­ed the pat­tern for mod­ern beer writ­ing.

Last week, though, Alan clar­i­fied his argu­ment help­ful­ly:

No. As I said above, my ques­tion is the influ­ence of AW group on ear­ly micro brew­ers, not about ‘mod­ern beer writ­ing style’

For some time he has been urg­ing some­one, any­one, to dig up the archives of Ama­teur Wine­mak­er mag­a­zine (for which Line and oth­er ear­ly home-brew­ing gurus wrote) and renewed his call. We asked (not snark­i­ly, only to clar­i­fy the mis­sion) what he expect­ed or hoped to be found there:

Sub­scribers lists? Read­ing the columns to see what was dis­cussed in the ecosys­tem before key dates? Who wrote let­ters to the edi­tor?

All of this (as Alan’s hec­tor­ing often does) got us think­ing – per­haps, even acknowl­edg­ing Dave Line as we did, we’d still not giv­en him and his col­leagues their due. We test­ed the water by email­ing anoth­er pio­neer­ing UK brew­er, Sean Franklin. When we spoke to him back in 2013 he talked glow­ing­ly of Michael Jack­son, at length, but did­n’t men­tion Dave Line at all. But per­haps (as Alan sug­gest­ed in anoth­er Tweet) that’s because we failed to prompt him. So we prompt­ed him. He replied (this light­ly edit­ed):

Like all home-brew­ers, I looked at those books but for the main part my days at Bor­deaux Uni­ver­si­ty put me fur­ther ahead. It was most­ly malt extract in those days. I did a recipe from Dave Line’s book as one of my first beers – the first one was hor­ri­ble (my fault for using an old can of extract) but the sec­ond was much bet­ter. Fuller’s ESB, as I remem­ber. I’d worked in Lon­don so I knew what that tast­ed like. After that I switched to full mash.

We can’t make it to the British Library just now but we were prompt­ed to order a cou­ple of copies of Ama­teur Wine­mak­er from the 1970s by way of test-drilling. One order fell through but the oth­er worked out and a copy of Wine­mak­er (the mag­a­zine’s actu­al title, it turns out) came through the door yes­ter­day.

Ted Wade.

Here’s what it con­tains that strikes us as being of rel­e­vance to Alan’s argu­ment:

  1. Some sur­pris­ing­ly sophis­ti­cat­ed brew­ing kit adver­tise­ments list­ing spe­cif­ic vari­eties of hops, var­i­ous types of malt and even odd addi­tives such as lic­quorice sticks for liven­ing up stout.
  2. Some debate over a then top­i­cal news sto­ry about a Glas­gow home-brew­er who may or may not have con­tract­ed ‘ero­sive gas­tri­tis’ from con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed beer.
  3. A fea­ture arti­cle by Ted Wade called ‘Design­ing a Beer’. This is a fair­ly sophis­ti­cat­ed piece sug­gest­ing that, by 1971, home-brew­ers had already moved beyond plas­tic dust­bins and gravy brown­ing. Hav­ing said that, hops (he says) should smell hop­py, and that’s it. The accom­pa­ny­ing recipe is for a New­cas­tle Brown Ale clone.
  4. A recipe for Was­sail Bowl that includes three pints of brown ale.
  5. An arti­cle with anoth­er recipe for Was­sail Bowl and sev­er­al oth­er sea­son­al beer punch­es.
  6. An arti­cle about the var­i­ous risks of home beer- and wine-mak­ing (fines, chil­dren drink­ing your stash, etc.).
  7. A pho­to­graph of D. Haynes receiv­ing a tro­phy for best bit­ter (light or dark) from the Rom­sey Wine­mak­ers Cir­cle.
  8. Branch reports: most­ly wine but a cou­ple of men­tions of beer, and of a trip to the Bel­gian beer fes­ti­val at Wieze from the Bas­ingstoke crew.
  9. An Index for 1971, repro­duced in part below.
  10. An advert for North­ern Brew­er hops from ‘Wine and the Peo­ple’, a firm based in Oak­land, Cal­i­for­nia.

The rest of the mag­a­zine (about 60 out of 84 pages) are about wine, as are all the read­ers let­ters.

Index for December 1971, beer section.

You’ll see from the index above that there’s not much that seems to her­ald the com­ing of the age of craft beer, but of course it’s hard to tell from only two or three words per arti­cle.

But 1971 is still ear­ly and there’s enough here to make us think it might at least be worth look­ing at issues from, say, 1974 (when CAMRA was mak­ing seri­ous waves) and 1976 when Michael Jack­son’s World Guide to Beer was still a work in progress.

It goes with­out say­ing that if you or any elder­ly rel­a­tives have copies of this mag­a­zine knock­ing around in the attic, we’d love to see scans or pho­tos – do get in touch.

PS. The mag­a­zine also con­tains a let­ter from some­one apol­o­gis­ing for an anti-Semit­ic joke in a pre­vi­ous issue, but point­ing out that he has many Jew­ish friends, and, any­way, as a Scot he has to put up with worse. Yikes!

5 thoughts on “Exhibit 1: Winemaker magazine, December 1971”

  1. Many thanks! The only thing that I would add to my help­ful inces­sant hec­tor­ing is that the backs of two pre-Jack­son AW books claim they have achieved 310,000 and 650,000 in sales respec­tive­ly. What­ev­er was going on was very pop­u­lar. Plus, has any oth­er beer book sold 650,000 copies?

    1. We had a bit of think about that the oth­er day.

      1. Those AW books are *still* the default option in gener­ic hard­ware stores along­side the home-brew­ing sup­plies, even though they’ve long been sur­passed. Dave Line’s book (40+ years old, with­out updates) is still in print and on sale in our local hard­ware store in Pen­zance. Is it in print because it’s a best-sell­er, or a best-sell­er because it’s *there*, as it has been since 1974?

      2. There weren’t many (any?) oth­er books avail­able before about 1978. If you want­ed a man­u­al to go with the kit you’d bought, it was those or noth­ing. They were often bun­dled with off-the-shelf com­plete brew­ing kits, too, which per­haps counts towards the remark­able total.

      So, I don’t know, those num­bers are inter­est­ing, but box office isn’t always a good indi­ca­tor of which films are seen to be impor­tant in the long run, nor chart place­ment with records.

      Does any­one have sales fig­ures for the World Guide? In var­i­ous edi­tions, that’s prob­a­bly done some­where above a mil­lion copies.

      1. My edi­tion of the CJJ Berry book is from 1984 with anoth­er from 1970. So the 650,000 fig­ure for that one book is as of thir­ty years ago. Which under­mines the “no one was writ­ing about beer before Jack­son” argu­ment and also con­firms he was mov­ing into a par­tic­u­lar­ly well-tilled field. Not to men­tion that he nev­er wrote about how to brew these beers and in fact until per­haps the mid-80s was focused more on import­ing as the response to WOB than micro brew­ing. None of this dimin­ish­es his role, just con­tex­tu­al­izes it. I have no idea how many copied WOB has sold. But I would want to have a cita­tion before I sug­gest an enor­mous fig­ure like 500,000 com­pared to an enor­mous fig­ure like 2,000,000.

  2. I’ve still got a copy of both Dave Line’s excel­lent books. They were an essen­tial ref­er­ence for a for­mer keen home-brew­er like myself, and you couldn’t help but like the author’s infor­ma­tive style and sense of humour. Fol­low­ing Dave’s sad part­ing, I moved on to the books writ­ten by Gra­ham Wheel­er, and pub­lished by CAMRA.

    I’ve still got most of the equip­ment up in the loft, and if I can ever afford to retire, then I might take up the hob­by again.

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