Home Brewer's Guide to Vintage Beers
Quarry Books, 160 pages
Today's post, for instance, begins with this sentence: "Another day, another set of dodgy Milds from the 1920's." That's typical.
Back in 2007, he started his blog with an admirably clear vision:
Books. I have piles of books. I can provide photographic proof if necessary, but believe me, the piles are just about up to my elbow. I blame the interent. It's just too easy to buy the most obscure publications. Once I have them, I have to read them.Over the course of 3,175 posts, a clip of 1.3 a day, he has documented the details of those books--plus many more, including brewery log books, that he has dug up since. He has revealed many truths about old English, Scottish, and German beer styles, helped clarify some misunderstandings, and correct many myths and legends that have gathered like cobwebs over the years.
But, once you've plucked out the juiciest sweetmeat of knowledge, where's the fun if there's no-one in whose mouth to drop it? The solution is obvious: join with the unemployed and unemployable in the blogsphere. Share with my peers the weird bits up crap I've unearthed.
The problem with 3,175 posts of material is that it's very hard to find succinct information. I know, because I spent hours poring through Ron's archives as I researched history for the Beer Bible (and, full disclosure, Ron agreed to have a look at some of my history to see I'd gotten it right). He has collected his posts together in slightly more digestible books--but these have the appearance of a binder full of loose-leaf pages clamped together (I consulted both Scotland! and Decoction! as well). They lack a through-line.
Now, at last, we have all that Ron has learned distilled down to 160 concise pages. (Complaint: I'd have preferred, say 300.) These include fairly detailed history sections followed by--and again, readers of his blog will find this familiar--recipes for five-gallon batches of various historical beers. He describes two methods of mashing for the recipes, a scaled-back, single-infusion mash, and a multiple mashing system as the pre-sparging breweries used to employ. If you're hardcore, you can learn how to brew like an early Victorian brewery. He mostly covers British styles, but he devotes a few pages at the end to lost German styles like Kotbusser, Broyhan, Grodziskie, and Salvator (precursor to doppelbock).
You should buy it if you're a homebrewer or if you're interested in brewing history. And you should especially buy it if you've wished that someone would collect the information from Ron's blog in a concise, easy reference guide.