Campaign for Real Ale
soft cover, £8.98, 176 pp.
There is almost no limit to the tinkering mind of a homebrewer. Among the flavored, classic or hybridized brews, there is yet another subset: historical beers. Until now, homebrewers had little guidance at the ready to produce some of these antique brews.
The modern history of English brewing starts with porter and its counterpart, stout. Three hundred years ago, porter launched a brewing revolution in England that dictated much of the industry’s future. Clive La Pensée and Roger Protz bring that history to the homebrewer.
Homebrew Classics, Stout and Porter is published by the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA), an organization that has no equal in the preservation of historical brewing. Roger Protz is on a very short list of outstanding beer and brewing historians. Clive La Pensée’s résumé is equally impressive with a homebrewing and writing career that spans 25 years. It would be hard to imagine a more eclectic and expert pairing to explore the historical English beers.
Protz handles the historical text and does an excellent job of untangling the roots and branches of this seminal beer tree. Sorting through centuries-old brewers’ documents, anecdotes and commercial ledgers, Protz presents the information in straightforward fashion, and with his usual flair. The designations of the individual beers are sometimes familiar, but just as often strange and enlightening. The book’s many sections are short, so the topics don’t get bogged down or overdrawn. They are fascinating as well.
La Pensée is the architect of the brews. He has created—or reproduced—27 recipes for the book. Each has a brief preface with the author’s own take on the recipe, interspersed with historical notes and references. The tabular recipes are presented for 23- and 25-liter batches, as well as 5 gallons US and UK. Water hardness, based on brewery location, malt and hop requirements, and original gravity are in the table. Each recipe is followed by a “Brewing Methods” and “Comments” briefing, explaining the technical peculiarities and reasoning behind the brew, respectively. All are concise and informative. The book finishes with a useful table of ingredients for some modern classics and appendices of actual brewers’ documents.
La Pensée and Protz have expanded on a subject that has, until now, been ignored as it pertains to homebrewing. They lead the reader through England, Ireland and Scotland through the eyes of the brewers of yore. As a history text, this book is on par with Protz’s other superb publications. The technical contribution by La Pensée shows the homebrewer how to build these obscure brews from the ground up. This book allows the homebrewer to take a trip through time, and more important, scratches that itch to brew something different. Here’s to the authors: Cheers!