Brewing Old British Beers


It is comparatively easy to reproduce Durden Park Beer Circle’s “Old Beers” recipes if recipe and ingredients are followed closely.

picture of Barley

It is also assumed that the brewer who intends to make these beers is familiar with mashing, and with brewing in general, as this is the only way these beers can be produced with any success.

Unless otherwise stated, the recipes and ingredients are for 1 Gallon  (English measure) and can therefore, be scaled up as required, or converted to other National measures.

English Measures

    1 kg = 2.2 pounds (abbreviation = lbs)

    16 ounces (ozs) = 1 pound (lb)

        1 Gallon = 8 pints (pts)


Providing your mashing techniques and malt qualities are reasonably good, the yield should produce the intended original gravity for the beer.


Hops BineThe hop varieties should be adhered to as far as possible to those stated in the recipes, or at least calculate similar alpha acid content for use of different hops. Hop aroma, hop flavour and alpha acid content, have all been chosen, to reproduce the beer as close as possible to how we believe the original beer would have been. Fuggles and Golding hops are traditional hops used extensively in English brewing history. To achieve a reasonable copy of the beer, it is necessary to use traditional mashing methods with quality malted barley and other grists. A good quality ale yeast should be used for fermentation.


Temperatures are given in degrees Fahrenheit (F), as this was the temperature  scale used in the original archives. Brewers with Centigrade (C) thermometers will have to convert.

Generally a mash temperature of 150F 2F, or 66C 1C is suitable, since temperature measurement from the historical era of these beers was not considered particularly accurate.

Malt and Hops

Produce a stiff mash at 150F (66C) and maintain this for 3 hours then raise the temperature to 170F (77C) for 30 minute.

Mash time. We often get queries regarding our mash times of up to 3 hours. It may seem strange at first, but it's all to do with quantity of scale.

Commercial brewers use very large volume mash tuns. They appear to mash for up to 2 hours and then start sparging with a very fine spray. Because of the time it takes for the spray to percolate down through their large mash volume, this is in fact a continuation of the mash for a further 1 or 2 hours, albeit at a higher temperature (170degs F).

We however, are only using comparatively small quantities, and the effective height of our mash is such, that the sparging liquid goes through it very quickly. So consequently we have increased the mash time, to imitate the length of time the grist is in contact with the sparge water. Sometimes we also suggest raising the mash temperature for the last hour, again to imitate the higher sparge temperature.

Although our archive research shows that commercial brewers had a much shorter mash time than the mash time given in our recipes, in order to re-create these beers as close as possible to how we believe they were, we devised this longer mash period for our small scale brewing.

Sparge slowly with water at 180 - 185F (82 - 85C) to the required pre-boil volume. Boil with hops for 90 minutes. Strain and rinse the hops and cool rapidly.

Ferment with a good quality ale yeast.

Bottling high gravity old ales has to be done with care. Priming sugar should be restricted to a quarter or a third of normal ( oz per gallon). The safest type of bottles to use are those that can be checked for the development of excessive pressure by rapidly opening and resealing. Swing-top bottles similar to those used for some continental lagers are suitable. DO NOT USE thin glass, non-returnable bottles (explosion danger!).



Whilst some of the recipes may appear simple in their number of ingredients, the quality of the final product is often only obtained by long maturation times. In particular, many of the higher original gravity beers will not attain the intended result if drunk earlier than the suggested maturity times. When these beers were made in the original breweries they may not have been matured for as long as we suggest. However experience has shown us the length of maturing time considerably enhances the finished product. All these beers are intended to be bottled. Use of casks will obviously change the character.


We have included just a small selection for you to try, ranging from 1750 to 1897 from the dozens of brewery archives we have researched from all over England and Scotland. They include Pale Ales or Bitters, (some of the higher gravity beers would be classed as Strong Ales today). There are also some recipes for old Stouts and Porters.

The fininshed beer



If you decide to try out the recipes please let us know what you think of the results. We are always pleased to hear of successes (and failures!). Send us an email!.



If you wish to experiment further, you can obtain a copy of our book 'Old British Beers and How To Make Them', details of which can be found elsewhere on our website.

Please bear in mind, all recipes published by Durden Park Beer Circle are copyright, and may not be republished without our permission and the conditions imposed by the breweries who allowed us into their archives.

Happy Brewing

Chairman  (Durden Park Beer Circle)