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Review

Old British Beers - and How To Make Them

Added: Tuesday, February 1st 2005

It's not only the Belgians who cherish and nurture classic beer styles. In spite of the best efforts of the global brewers to trample on our heritage, a growing number of beer historians and home-brewers are busily digging to discover Britain's brewing past and present it to a new generation.

As long ago as 1976, the Durden Park Beer Circle in Berkshire put together a small pamphlet called Old British Beers and How to Make Them. Led by Dr John Harrison, this group of dedicated home-brewers had compiled a list of recipes for mainly 19th-century ales, including pale, amber and brown beers, along with stouts and porters.

The pamphlet has been updated and reprinted twice, and now appears in a new revision and with an attractive new front cover. For such a humble publication, it has been astonishingly influential. Many of the new wave IPAs, porters and stouts owe their existence to the recipes in the book.

Last year, in conjunction with the British Guild of Beer Writers, Durden Park organised a public seminar on old British beer styles: some of us will long remember a Simonds of Reading Hop Leaf Bitter brewed by James McCrorie with a bitterness that made your eyes water. You don't have to brew at home to enjoy this seminal publication. If you want to know about the ingredients used by the great brewers of yesteryear and their recipes, settle back and wander through the highways and byways of British brewing, and raise a glass to Durden Park.

*Old British Beers and How to Make Them, 6.99 plus postage direct from CAMRA.