Tag Archives: Bitter

Brewing Beer back in the 1960s

The other day, clearing out my office/studio to bring some sort of order out of utter chaos and also make room to store (yet more) kitchen equipment, I came across an old green diary for the year 1970. Within its pages I found some formulas for making home-brew, including my ‘Kingfisher XB Bitter’*,  my first brew, hastily formulated after sampling my mate Ben’s God-awful homebrew, made in the bath using a Boots the Chemists kit and decanted into quart cider flagons. That was back in the summer of ’69.

Craft brewing friends will, I’m sure, laugh in derision, maybe even sneer but, hey, this was radical stuff back in the day…

As Michael Caine nearly said “Not many people did that”.

Below is verbatim, from the diary.


5 gallons

7 lb crushed pale malt

2 lb flaked barley

1 lb crystal malt

1 lb glucose sugar


1 tsp Irish moss

2 oz East Kent Goldings hops

1 oz Fuggles hops

1 tbsp ‘Burton crystals’

1 tbsp salt

2 oz Brewers yeast

‘Copper finings’ (amount unspecified)


From memory ‘Burton crystals’, sold by home-brew shops were for ‘hardening’ the water, or at any rate adjusting the Ph. Burton-on-Trent was the hub of the British brewing industry at the time, renowned for its bitters and India Pale Ales. The flaked barley was in there to ensure better head retention. The Brewers yeast, I remember,was obtained from a mate in the flats who was an accountant at Watneys. Later, when I moved to Berkshire I used packets of dried yeast, usually of the ‘Dark Munchener’ variety and obtained from a home-brew shop in Kingston-on-Thames.

A note tells me I had calculated the alcohol content at 5.7% ABV or “5.2 if measured by drop”. I’m sure these figures must be a tad inaccurate. Another note reminds me to buy a bag for holding the grains while mashing.


I made the first mash in a catering tea urn I borrowed from my mother who previously used it for a “nixer”, selling tea and biscuits to members of The Halle Orchestra on their morning breaks. The urn later made an honourable reappearance dispensing free tea, along with free meat pies donated by a friend who had a catering business, to the striking miners at Orgreave colliery back in the time of Thatcher.


A later note shows that by 1975 I had a purpose-designed ‘Electrim’ fermenting bin/boiler, also a pressurised keg for storing and dispensing from ‘draught’.


The process was initiated because we were spending too much on beer. We would drink, with friends, at The White Hart in Hampton village, probably 3-4 nights a week. At closing time we would buy at least a couple of 4 pint tins (McEwan’s) to consume  at home over a music session or a game of chess. Eventually the four of us decided we would still go down the pub because that’s what we liked doing but we would brew our own beer for consumption at home, cutting out the expense of the tins. The quest was to brew something that tasted “a bit like Marston’s ‘Pedigree”, our preferred ‘tipple du jour.’


In the diary there is a note that (excluding the cost of electricity) the beer cost just over 7p a pint to make!

* Named for the block of flats, Kingfisher Court, East Molesley, Surrey, where i was living at the time.