Super Stout – a 1976 Russian Stout Recipe

In the November 19, 1976 issue of the Harrow Observer, a home-brewing recipe was published for Russian Imperial Stout. At the time imperial or Russian stout was brewed commercially only by Courage Ltd. of London.

The recipe was part of a series in the paper by Ben Turner. He had made wine and beer at home since the 1940s and authored books, whence the recipe was taken.

He calls it a “super stout” and the recipe is not without interest. For example, it calls for wheat malt, probably to help head retention. One would not see this in a classic traditional recipe for imperial stout.

As to sugar, good old brown sugar is enough – no special invert or other brewing type is specified. Such raw sugar had been used for a long time in Australian brewing, so this rough and ready approach was not quite catch-as-catch-can.

He calls for all-Fuggles hops (a classic English variety), if same can be obtained. I like this. And just “water” – nothing about water adjustment. Keep it simple lad.

His 2 oz per 16 pints of beer works out to about 3/4 lb per standard UK barrel, enough certainly for a drink meant for quick consumption.

Only a half-hour is prescribed for boiling hops, not terribly long. Perhaps he wanted minimal bitterness and maximum flavour.

His original gravity is 1054 so the beer was not terribly strong, not that imperial, really, in historical terms. Courage Imperial Russian Stout was about twice as strong, in fact.

But this recipe should not be read as a history lesson, in general. It is of its time and place, and let’s appreciate it for that.

Turner’s version, it should be noted still, was rather stronger than standard pub beer of the time. His readers would have expected to drink their brew in reasonably quantity, as in the pub, so fair enough.**

Homebrewing in this period had a good following in the UK, and would soon in the US with legalization, which came three years later.* This was certainly part of the group of influences that created modern craft brewing.

Anyone up to brewing this approach to Russian Stout? Extract is via British Newspaper Archive (“BNA”).

 

 

 

Note re image: source is BNA as referenced. Used for educational and research purposes. All intellectual property in source belongs solely to lawful owner. All feedback welcomed.

*See comment on this point added by our reader Arnold Moodenbaugh.

**Turner does state some readers may be satisfied to drink just a half-pint of this stout, but I suggest you take that with a grain of salt.

 

 

 

 

7 thoughts on “Super Stout – a 1976 Russian Stout Recipe”

  1. I started home brewing in 1977. There were many, many books and articles by Ben Turner available. At the same time David Line’s Big Book of Brewing became available and made most of Turner’s recipes and techniques look a bit archaic. Of course since then things have moved on again.

    For a few years the Big Book of Brewing was the go-to source of information for UK homebrewers to be overtaken by Graham Wheeler’s books.

    These days of course we are over done by information and books are starting to look a bit quaint! Mind you I still like a book (but then I’m old!).

    Turner, Line, and Wheeler all have an important place in the history of home brewing in the UK. God bless them.

    Reply
    • Thanks for this, good to have. I do know the other names, had some good discussions with Wheeler on Pattinson’s blog some years past, but mostly on beer history there.

      While each seems to supersede the others, the basics of good beer don’t change, so how do they really vary, is it more a matter of precision of instructions and ease of following (the same) steps? Or do they differ more fundamentally?

      Gary

      Reply
  2. The addition of salt and citric acid is interesting. Homebrewing, especially a few years ago, was heavily driven by a lot of theoretical ideas which turned out to be false in practice, and I’m curious if he just thought they should be there because of some shaky science, or if it was based on actual taste tests.

    The amounts of salt and especially the citric acid are quite high. But obviously it’s possible there was some factor in his own water supply which led him to do this, or maybe there was a commercial brand he was emulating. Malts and yeasts back then were potentially very different from the better stuff available today, so it’s not impossible it made sense to do this back in 1976. And today some people prefer a bit of NaCl in malty beers. I’d certainly be wary about that particular piece of the recipe today.

    Reply
  3. Gary,
    Gary
    It’s interesting that you uncovered this documentation of 70s era homebrew in Britain. Actually homebrew was being fairly openly being made in the US by that time. Living in San Diego in 1973, we shopped at the local homebrew supply store (Wine Art, a branch of a Canadian concern, I think). Once the owner told us that the Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms officers had more important things to do: try to keep track of people stockpiling weapons back in the hills. Our homebrew then was malt extract plus some specialty malt grains and mystery hops. By the early 80s, I was in a club with all-malt brewers who made very professional beers. I see the Turner Imperial Stout recipe as having good ingredients (mostly malt grain and whole hops), but lacking in precision in the extraction process. By the way, I recently tasted some of my bottled malt extract homebrew from the 80s. It survived well. It had no overwheming indication of age and, to my memory, tasted similar to my original drinkable, but not stellar homebrew.

    Reply
    • That’s great Arnold, all good to know. I do recall Wine Art in Canada, yes.

      If you are minded, maybe do a “guest post” I can put up elaborating on those early home-brew days.

      Reply
      • I homebrewed from about 1972 to the mid 80’s, all malt extract. I started with a roommate in San Diego who has the brewing records. I continued in Chicago and Long Island, joining a homebrew club there. One of our members was co-founder (on a shoestring) of Blue Point brewing. I’d have to dig out some of the records that are in the attic somewhere. I could probably make a few contemporary photos of some recently uncapped vintage beer and brew log as well as of my grandfather’s hand-me-down cast iron bottle capper. I don’t know how fast all this could come together.

        Reply
        • Arnold, thanks, of course it’s just a suggestion, but if you have the interest and put something together, I’d be happy to review it with a view to putting up a guest post from you. Images are always helpful. No rush, indeed no timelines of course.

          All best

          Reply

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