RECIPE: BARCLAY PERKINS

Lager brewing had a stuttering start in Britain. Many new lager breweries of the final decades of the nineteenth century had a lifespan measured in months, not years. Only a couple of the pioneers were able to forge a long-term business. Many lost their shirts.

So it’s odd that one of London’s big porter breweries would invest in such an uncertain venture. But in the early 1920s, Barclay Perkins built a shiny new lager brewhouse and brought in a Danish brewer to run it.

Barclay Perkins seems to have gotten the idea a few years earlier during World War I, when foreign supplies of lager were cut off, not just from Germany and Austria-Hungary, but also from Denmark and Holland. The war at sea made exporting a highly risky business, even for neutral countries. In 1915 and 1916, Barclay Perkins experimented with decoction mashing in their pilot brewhouse, brewing lager and mild with this mashing technique. 

When Barclay Perkins rolled out their lager, they eschewed faux-Nordic names (unlike brewers of British lagers of the 1960s) and went for a simple and honest “London Lager” brand. Judging by the style of its advertising, it was meant to appear classy.

Our Brew

Munich- and Vienna-style lagers were the first bottom-fermenting beers to arrive in Britain in the 1860s. The lager featured in our recipe is obviously meant to be in the Munich style and has a pretty decent gravity for 1920s Britain when the average gravity was about 1.043. The grist for our recipe is simplicity itself, consisting of just pilsner and crystal malt, roasted barley, and Saaz hops. Neither the roasted barley nor the crystal malt is very authentically Bavarian, but it seems Barclay Perkins didn’t care about that.

Learn to create crisp, cold-conditioned lagers at home with CB&B’s Introduction to Lagering online class. Sign up today! 

One frustrating feature of most brewing records is the absence of information about hops additions, which reduces me to guessing. Happily, Barclay Perkins is an exception. In this particular case, guesswork would never have worked out this hopping schedule. Additions later than 30 minutes were very rare, but in this recipe, two-thirds of the hops are added late. The 0-minute addition that I’ve listed was actually added in the hopback.

I’ve spent a lot of time arguing that Scottish brewers didn’t really boil down first runnings to get a syrup. But based on the brew sheet, Barclay Perkins did with this lager:

“6 brls [barrels] bright runnings boiled for 3 hours or more for carmelisation”

At the scale we’re brewing, six barrels is the equivalent of about a half-gallon.

The original beer was racked off into lagering tanks after a 10-day primary fermentation. It had a gravity of 1.021 when transferred and had a temperature of 46°F (8°C). For our recipe, I suggest doing something similar, transferring the beer to a temperature-controlled secondary when you hit a gravity of about 1.020. Then drop the temperature down to about 35°F (2°C) for a few weeks to knock off the rough edges. 

The longer you can keep your hands off this beer, the better. The old rule of thumb of one-week lagering for every degree Plato of the wort seems like a good recommendation to me. In this case, that would mean fourteen weeks.

1926 Barclay Perkins Dark Lager Recipe

ALL-GRAIN

Batch Size: 6 U.S. gallons (22.7 liters) 
Brewhouse efficiency: 72% 
OG: 1.057 
FG: 1.016 
IBUs: 15 
ABV: 5.4%

MALT/GRAIN BILL

10.75 lb (4.9 kg) Pilsner malt 
2.25 lb (1 kg) crystal malt 
0.25 lb (113 g) roasted barley

HOPS SCHEDULE

0.5 oz (14 g) Saaz at 60 minutes 
0.5 oz (14 g) Saaz at 30 minutes 
1.25 oz (35 g) Saaz at 10 minutes 
0.75 oz (21 g) Saaz at 0 minutes 

DIRECTIONS

Mash at 154°F (68°C). Sparge at 175°F (79°C). Boil for 60 minutes. Pitch the yeast when the temperature falls to 48°F (9°C).

YEAST

White Labs WLP838 Southern German Lager Yeast

BREWER’S NOTES

If you fancy doing a full reconstruction of this recipe, try the original mashing scheme (raising the temperature with steam): Protein rest at 122°F (50°C) for 1 hour. Saccharification rest at 154°F (68°C) for 20 minutes. 
Mash out at 168°F (75°C).

EXTRACT

Batch Size: 6 U.S. gallons (22.7 liters) 
Brewhouse efficiency: 72% 
OG: 1.057 
FG: 1.016 
IBUs: 15 
ABV: 5.4%

EXTRACT/SPECIALTY GRAINS

9.25 lb (4.2 kg) Pilsner liquid extract 
2 lb (907 g) crystal malt 
0.25 lb (113 g) roasted barley

HOPS SCHEDULE

0.5 oz (14 g) Saaz at 60 minutes 
0.5 oz (14 g) Saaz at 30 minutes 
1.25 oz (35 g) Saaz at 10 minutes 
0.75 oz (21 g) Saaz at 0 minutes 

DIRECTIONS

Steep the specialty grains at 160°F (71°C) for 30 minutes. Bring the wort to a boil, then turn off the heat to avoid scorching the extract. Add the extract, stirring while you add it. When the extract is fully dissolved, turn the heat back on, and bring the wort to a boil. Boil for 60 minutes. Pitch the yeast when the temperature falls to 48°F (9°C).

YEAST

White Labs WLP838 Southern German Lager Yeast

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