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22-03-2011, 11:00
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One of the great joys of being a cheap skate is that it leads to places you can be “educated” into believing are rather naff if you are the type of person that cares what others think is naff, all in search of a bargain. A bargain is a wonderful feeling. Getting something for less and sticking one on those that believe in paying top dollar. It can lead you from Wetherspoons pubs, along the aisle of Aldi, along market stalls or even into charity shops and it is in a charity shop I found my latest bargain.

Don’t be fooled into thinking charity shops have anything to do with charity, that’s just a con. Most established charities spend more on there underfunded pension arrangements and paying the head honcho a “going market rate” than they do on whatever unfortunates they purport to benefit. A charity shop has only the following functions and that is to give old biddies the idea that they are still useful and somewhere they can stay warm and have a cup of tea with other old biddies whilst talking to each other in a manner they don’t believe is racist as it was by all accounts acceptable to talk about black people in that manner in 1950. That means it is perfectly morally acceptable to pick up an old second hand book, ask the price and when told it is 50p say “I’ll give you 20p for it, it’s quite tatty”

“Brewing beers like those you buy” by Dave Line is a fascinating book and worth every penny of that 20p. It is clearly a book of the 70’s and all the more fascinating for it. The book offers the home brewer the opportunity to brew a beer like their favourite brand. It doesn’t offer an exact formulation of commercial brews, but a recipe and method to enable the creation of a beer similar to the brand mentioned, using equipment available to the home brewer.

The book being a little dated is a little weak on equipment, advising the reuse of plastic pins that you might have bought ale in, when these days you can get plastic kegs of all sizes from a homebrew shop. Much of the equipment is arguably just as relevant as the process of brewing hasn’t changed, even if brand names have. Dave Line takes you through the equipment, ingredients and brewing process not just as a step by step guide but with an explanation in a well written format that leaves the reader really informed not just on what to do, but with all the whys and wherefores. Many of the illustrations are his own doodles but even so, they are clear and understandable. The book takes you through brewing a Guinness Extra Stout to get you started and contains recipes involving adapting a malt extract brew kit with hop tea and additional sugars, to full grain mashing. It’s a fascinating book, I love the detail including the idea that if a brewer has a beer with sediment in it, you can feed the sediment to reactivate the yeast and have a living example of that brewery yeast to add to your version of the grog. The book is packed with knowledge.

The recipes are firmly rooted in the brands of the 70’s which makes the book more of a “brewing beers like your Dad used to be able to buy”, but even so many contemporary brands are present. There is a recipe for Carling Black Label under the brewer “Bass Charrington”, alongside Carlsberg, Skol, Tuborg & Harp. Many real ales are present that you can still buy including Fullers London Pride, alongside some you can’t. Interestingly the book has recipes for long forgotten Keg beers like Double Diamond and recipes for global brands like American Budweiser, Pilsner Urquell, and Chimay. The recipe for Foster’s sits in the beers of the world section indicating the beer presumably was a specialist import of the day rather than a familiar brand and the Original Gravity of the recipe suggests a stronger strength than the beer is sold at in the UK. Dave’s description of Stella as “beautifully brewed” is sublime. I love this guy. The back of the book informs me he died in 1979. The beer world lost a gent of sanity and reason.

There are a number of features of the book that I have fallen in love with. Firstly the book makes no judgement on any of the beers in it. There is no “crap” beer. The author clearly loves his beer and loves it all and is interested in helping the reader create the brand the reader likes rather than impose his own likes. If the reader likes a Keg Bitter, here’s the recipe and the author thinks it’s a lovely hoppy brew. If it’s a real ale the author is as equally positive as a keg lager. You the drinker get to like what you like without someone telling you what to like.

Second off I like the authors obvious enthusiasm for saving a few bob. The clear intent of the book is to allow the reader to brew something decent at home and not have to pay pub prices. Interestingly people in the 70’s thought pubs a rip off too. It makes me realise the love of cheap grog is a universal one that transcends generations.

Maybe you didn’t have supermarkets pilling slabs of cheap lout high and flogging it cheap back in the days of power cuts, flares & union power. No fear, you can make your own. Maybe you couldn’t drive to France and fill up the car with cheap lager either. The ingenuity of man finds a way to achieve cheap grog whatever the market conditions and that I find heart-warming. There is a genuine philosophical connection between the home brewing in Dave’s book to the growing cooking lager enthusiasm of the 21st century. This isn’t home brewing to knock up an innovative black IPA with an unsavoury IBU; it’s knocking out cheap neckable grog.

I’m going to have a go at one of the recipes too. The recipe for San Miguel looks simple enough. It’s a lager kit with brewing sugar (dried malt extract) instead of white granulated sugar with an added hop tea. Looks simple, requires the least equipment, and reads quite tasty. Handy as well if the joyless that campaign for minimum alcohol pricing get their way, the path of cheap lout can continue unabated with Dave Line as an inspiration and Godfather.

A cracking beer book, if a new contemporary edition came out I’d pay full whack for it, and I have no higher praise for anything than saying I’d pay full whack for it.



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