When Dave Line wrote Brewing Beers Like Those You Buy in 1978, hobby home brewing was at the beginning of a great revival. Retail home brew supply stores were cropping up, making quality hops, grain, and brewing equipment readily available where bread yeast and white sugar had been standard a decade before. Publishers were just beginning to turn out new books sharing information and resources for amateur brewers. In turn, the innovation and exploration pursued by home brewers were setting fire to the craft brew industry that would assert itself within ten years, and shape the world of commercial brewing as we know it today.
In that late-70s generation of beer press, Line’s book was a significant addition to the field. The brewing techniques he laid out for fellow home brewers improved on conventional wisdom. The equipment and ingredients he recommended were a perfect reflection of the transition into the age of home brew retail. And at the time, a brewing book consisting entirely of “clone brews” of popular beer styles was perfectly normal, since the world of home brewing hadn’t really asserted its own vocabulary and independence from the beers available at local pubs. Line composed a fine work on brewing, and a wonderful slice of his era of British beers. Then, tragically, he died in 1979.
Brewing British-style Beers is a re-titled and minimally updated reprint of Line’s original work. The editor has added some lovely photographs of British pub signs and a couple of relevant websites, while leaving the content of a profoundly 1970s brewing book essentially untouched. Brewing British-style Beers recommends outdated equipment – electric kettles for brew pots, polystyrene cubes for primary fermenters – and ingredients – white sugar as a brew component, which will almost always produce a cidery aftertaste and undesirable fermentation. Hobby brewing has undergone thirty years of progress since Line’s death, and the editor of this work couldn’t be bothered to reflect it. That said, this work does have historical interest for home brew enthusiasts – many of the British commercial and pub ales described in this work are now unavailable, their breweries closed or subsumed into larger brewing concerns. It’s undeniably pleasant to see this picture of an earlier age in a beloved hobby, despite some minor flaws.
Brewing British-style Beers should be most appealing to readers who already have a solid grounding in home brew literature. Titles like Ray Daniels’ Designing Great Beers, Marty Nachel’s Homebrewing for Dummies, and Michael Jackson’s seminal New World Guide to Beer are recommended reading before picking up this title.