Brewing an Historical Beer

By Bill Ridgely

At the start of this year, Wendy and I were contacted about the possibility of participating in a historical brewing project for the upcoming visit by Ron Pattinson, international beer historian, writer, and blogger. Ron was coming to town to talk about his new book, “The Homebrewers Guide to Vintage Beer” (Quarry Books, 2014), which contained recipes designed to enable homebrewers to recreate their own versions of historical beers (mostly British but with a few other historical European styles represented as well). We had met Ron several times during our travels and enjoyed talking with him about a subject we were all deeply interested in. His blog (http :// contains tons of fascinating details on historical recipes and beer styles, and his continually-updated series of European brewery and pub guides

( have been required reading for beer travelers to Europe for many years. BURP has always been on the lookout for educational opportunities, and this project supported our enlightenment goals, so we jumped at the opportunity to participate. Ron kindly sent the club 10 of the recipes from his book as well as some excellent background notes on ingredients and brewing techniques. Six of these recipes were subsequently selected by BURP members to be brewed for Ron’s book signing and lecture scheduled for Sat, March 15. Wendy and I selected an especially intriguing recipe for 1933 Whitbread DB, a beer Ron described as “a Southern brown ale that looks like a Northern brown ale”. There are few remaining commercial examples of the Southern brown ale style outside of Mann’s, brewed just outside of Manchester, UK by the Burtonwood Brewery. Mann’s is not available anywhere in the US, to my knowledge. Wendy and I have been very fortunate to be able to try it during trips to Manchester, where she has relatives. It’s a remarkable beer –low in alcohol (under 3.0% ABV), dark, sweet and smooth, with very low hop flavor and a nice malt and caramel presence. It’s a beer we’ve talked about replicating for some time, so while this was a bit of a hybrid style, it seemed a good match for us. Here’s Ron’s recipe taken from his book (for 5 gallons):


Before I proceed, let me make a quick comment about published recipes. While very helpful, especially to newer brewers, recipes are really just guidelines. Ten beers brewed from the same recipe by ten different brewers will never result in ten identical beers. Every brewer’s efficiency varies depending on a number of factors, including quality of ingredients, quality of the malt crush prior to mashing, temperature control, equipment complexity, etc. So please keep this in mind when formulating a beer using a published recipe. Wendy and I brewed this beer using our old gravity-based all grain system, which is not particularly efficient. We used BeerSmith ( for our recipe formulation as it scales very well and allows for system efficiency to be adjusted with each brew. As we began formulating our recipe, we determined that we would use Ron’s specifications for the beer rather than try to adhere to the specific quantities of ingredients listed in the recipe. Here is how we went about creating our version of this beer.

Malt – Initially, we plugged the exact quantities of malt specified by Ron’s recipe into our version, but the resulting predicted gravity was much higher than intended. Perhaps some of the early malts may not have been as fully modified as modern ones, so extraction of sugar may not have been as efficient. Regardless, we adjusted our malt bill down to achieve the OG specified (1.055). We also eliminated the 6-row malt from our version. There was little need for it since the recipe calls for no grain adjuncts (the main purpose of 6-row malt being to provide increased enzymatic power for conversion of adjunct grains). In addition, nearly all modern 6-row malt available to homebrewers comes from N. America, not the UK, and we wanted to use all UK-sourced malt in our recipe. One final note – Ron did not seem to like Maris Otter malt in pale ale recipes as he felt it was “kilned too dark”. Your opinion may vary on that, but since we were brewing a brown ale, exact color of the pale malt was not a major issue, so we went with what we had on hand, which was Maris Otter.

Hops – Again, using the hops as specified in the original recipe resulted in a much higher predicted bitterness level than the recipe called for, so we adjusted to achieve the IBU’s specified in the recipe (50). Reading through the literature, we found that most of the historical hopping rates were based on “lbs of hops per barrel of finished beer”. This is a bit hard to translate into “ounces per gallon”, and since early brewers had no real concept of alpha acids or IBU’s, bittering potential was really not well understood. We went to Mitch Steele’s recently published book on IPA (Brewers Publications, 2012) for further guidance on this as Mitch did a ton of research on use of hops in early pale ales and IPA’s (including use of quite a bit of Ron’s source material). Mitch noted a couple of interesting facts in his book:

* Alpha acid content of historical hops was probably 25-30% of that found in modern, heavily cultivated hops (This is confirmed elsewhere in Mitch’s book where he indicates that alpha acids in early Goldings hops was “most likely around 3-4%”. Modern Goldings and Fuggles generally come in around 5%).

* Early brewers tended to not boil hops for more than 30 minutes as they felt longer boil times would extract “rough & harsh flavors”. So they would often pull out hops after 30 minutes and then add fresh charges of hops to the kettle every 30 minutes or so.

It was still pretty evident that bitterness levels in the early beers were much higher than today, and we wanted to take that into consideration. But we didn’t want to end up with such a high level of bitterness that it would overwhelm the malt character of the beer. Our compromise was to use two 2 oz charges of 5.2% alpha acid whole Willamette hops (Willamettes are a triploid seedling of English Fuggles and are commonly used as a substitute for Fuggles and Goldings). The first charge went in at the start of the boil and then was removed after 30 minutes. The second charge went in 30 minutes before knockout. This gave us the 50 IBU’s called for in the recipe, but instead of hop bitterness, we achieved primarily hop flavor, along with a bit of aroma.

Sugar – Ron’s recipe called for 20% of the fermentables to be in the form of “#3 invert sugar”. As he explained in his brewing notes, “there were four standard types of invert sugar, identified by the numbers 1 to 4, No. 1 being the palest and No. 4 the darkest. They were extensively used from the 1880s onward. No. 1 and No. 2 mostly appeared in Pale Ales, No. 3 in Mild Ales and No. 4 in Porter and Stout.” Sources for commercially-made invert sugar did not seem to be readily available, so Ron recommended making it at home. The primary ingredient was cane sugar, easily enough found, but the procedure for making #3 invert sugar involved slowly heating a mixture of sugar, citric acid, and water on the stove to above boiling and then simmering at 240-250 degrees F for 150-210 minutes. This seemed like an awfully lot of effort, so we began looking for commercial alternatives. Lyle’s Golden Syrup was readily available, but it was not dark enough for this project, and it was made from a combination of cane and corn sugar. We finally found just what we were looking for with Steen’s 100% Pure Cane Syrup ( From various descriptions, this seemed to be the perfect substitute for making our own invert sugar. We ordered the specified 2.25 lbs (1 KG) from an internet vendor and were very pleased with the quality of the product.

Caramel – According to Ron’s brewing notes, “in the 20th century, caramel was widely used for colouring and for colour adjustments, sometimes as a component of proprietary sugars, sometimes on its own. After WW I, it was increasingly common for brewers to measure the color of their beers and to have a specific colour standard for each one. Beers were often deliberately brewed slightly paler and then coloured up to the exact required shade with caramel.” Wendy and I decided that since our recipe already contained 20% caramelized sugar, adding a commercial food grade caramel coloring agent had little appeal to us. So we compromised using what we felt was the best alternative – caramel malt. We used a mix of 60L and 80L caramel malt in our mash to achieve (along with the color of the invert sugar) the specified 23 SRM final beer color.

Yeast – While the specified Whitbread yeast was readily available from our local homebrew shop (Wyeast 1098 or White Labs WLP007), we had access to a large amount of Fullers yeast (Wyeast 1968 or White Labs WLP002) from a local craft brewery. The characteristics of these yeasts are very similar, so we didn’t feel we were compromising the recipe in any great way. And let’s face it, it’s difficult passing up a free quart of fresh, viable yeast slurry.

So, here’s a quick summary of the modifications we made to the original Pattinson recipe:

* All 2-row Maris Otter malt as the base malt rather than a mix of 2-row and 6-row malts.

* Lots of caramel malt (2 lbs total in our 5 gal batch) to achieve the specified 23 SRM color rather than using commercial food-grade caramel coloring.

* 20% of fermentables in the form of Steen’s 100% Pure Cane Syrup instead of homemade #3 invert sugar.

* Whole Willamette hops (in place of Fuggles & Goldings) added for 30 minutes at the start of boil plus an additional charge 30 minutes from the end of boil to achieve the specified 50 IBU’s.

* Fermentation with Fuller’s (WLP002) yeast obtained from a local craft brewery rather than the specified Whitbread yeast. Our final recipe is as follows (for 5 gallons based on 64% system efficiency): 7.25 lbs Maris Otter pale malt 1.50 lbs Caramel malt (60L) 0.50 lbs Caramel malt (80L) 2.00 oz Chocolate malt 2.25 lbs Steens 100% Pure Cane Syrup 2.00 oz Whole Willamette hops (5.2% AA) Added at start of boil and removed after 30 minutes) 2.00 oz Whole Willamette hops (5.2% AA) Added 30 minutes before end of boil

*Fullers (WLP002) English Ale yeast

* Mash at 151 degrees F for 60 minutes

* Add cane syrup to kettle during boil * Total boil time 90 minutes OG – 1.055 FG – 1.014 ABV – 5.4% SRM – 23 IBU’s – 50

We’ll be pouring this beer at Ron’s BURP-sponsored event next Saturday at 3 Stars Brewing Co. Come on out and let us know what you think of it!