Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Introducing...The Dave Line Project

Once upon time, back in the late 1980s, my dad starting making his own beer. Through the hazy fog of time, I can vaguely recall a collection of carboys, airlocks bubbling, as the generally brown liquid fermented away before being racked into large polypins to essentially become cask ale. I don't remember my dad ever really getting beyond the "buying a kit from Boots stage", no doubt something like those still available from Munton's, with a sachet of yeast under the lid, and the kind of thing that was my own first steps into homebrewing.

While I have no recollection of my dad's homebrewing from a taste perspective, I was well and truly underage when my younger brother and I offered to "help" pour beer at dad's 40th birthday bash and indulged ourselves in the illicit nectar when folks weren't looking, one thing that stuck in my brain was a book...

Dave Line's "Brewing Beers Like Those You Buy" was a well thumbed tome during my dad's homebrewing years, and I remember dipping in and out of it as a teenager. There was something intriguing about all these foreign beer recipes, their strange sounding names, exotic ingredients, and in some cases recently revolutionised countries. I couldn't in all honesty tell you what I found interesting about the book, but when I started brewing my own beer back in 2009, I knew I wanted to hunt down a copy of my own, dad's having been lost in any one of a series of moves.

The version that I eventually got my hands on is a revised edition from the 2000s and takes into account changes in the homebrew market in the 25ish years between the original publication and the newer edition. Dave Line himself died in 1980, but I am sure that he would love to see what has become of homebrewing in the 40 years since, and that his books are still available. I also recently bought the the "Big Book of Brewing" for reference, and I love the hand drawn illustrations as well as the wealth of knowledge the book contains. I reveled in homebrew nostalgia, I thought to myself that it would be fun to try and update some of the recipes in "Brewing Beers Like Those You Buy" with a view to actually getting round to brewing again soon (twins, seriously). Thus the Dave Line Project was born, and I am slowly working my way through the book, updating the recipes to modern ingredients and methods.

Being something of a contrary sod (you've all noticed that too right?), I decided to go for a deeply uncool recipe, and what could be less cool than mild? While I was being uncool, I decided that it would be fun to go for a recipe from a much reviled brewery, thus the first beer to get the VelkyAl treatment was Watney Mann Special Mild.

Admittedly I have stuck pretty close to the recipe in the book, though I don't intend on adding hop extracts or saccharin tablets after my boil, and I'll be kegging rather than bottle conditioning. My recipe then is:

  • 77% Golden Promise
  • 17% Invert #3
  • 4% Flaked Barley
  • 2% Molasses
  • 20 IBUs of Fuggles for 90 minutes
  • Safale S-04
For all of that, the aim is to get a beer that has:
  • OG: 1.031
  • ABV: 3%
  • IBU: 20
  • SRM: 8.4° (somewhere between dark gold and pale amber)
I have to admit that I was somewhat surprised by how pale this recipe came out, especially with 17% of the fermentables being from a 50° Lovibond invert sugar syrup. Perhaps I should bump up to invert #4? If anyone reading this recalls Watney Mann Special Mild, let me know what colour it was. My choice of base malt and yeast are simple capricious whimsy, after all the title of the book is "Brewing Beers Like Those You Buy" not "Brewing Beers Exactly The Same As Those You Buy".

If all goes to plan (looking at you twins to cooperate and let daddy find a few hours to get something done for a change), I hope to have the first Dave Line Project beer ready in time for Mild Month, also known as "May". In the meantime, I'll be working on a few more recipes from the book.

Update: based on David's comment about the beer being dark brown, I changed the recipe to use invert syrup #4, and the SRM went to 21°, which is seemingly darker than a red ale, but not as dark as a dunkel, so I think #4 will do the trick.


  1. I well remember the Big book of Brewing from my homebrew days. I also remember Watneys Special Mild from my first year at university in 1972/3. In my mind's eye, it was very dark brown rather than coal black, insofar as when held to the dingy light of The Firs in Norwich it had an amber edge to it.
    Norwich Mild, was lighter, but 1p dearer at 12p/pint.

    1. Thanks for the information! I will go for invert #4 then and see how much of a colour difference that makes in the recipe software.

  2. I look forward to seeing how you reinterpret the recipes. The 'beer clone'-type books always intrigued me, but I've never gotten motivated enough to translate their content from extract syrup to actual grains.


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