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Old 08-29-2011, 01:46 AM   #1
MikeICR
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Default How do I brew the old fashioned way?

My last few brews, as well as some of my next, have peaked my interest in traditional brewing techniques. Most of the styles I prefer to brew originate from 16th/17th century Germany and France (and area). I know I can imitate the original brews with modern techniques and technology, but I'd like to know more about how "they" did it back then. I plan to order "Brew Like A Monk" and "Farm House Ales". Are there other resources on the topic? German brewing is a real interest of mine. Please, tell me what to read!!

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Old 08-29-2011, 02:26 AM   #2
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"Early German beers were usually dark brews "mashed" from half-baked loaves of bread made from coarsely-ground barley or wheat. The gentle, moist baking of the loaves probably had a similar effect on the grain as today's malting, that is, of activating the enzymes required for the conversion of starches into fermentable sugars. This "modified" bread was then soaked in crocks filled with water, where it fermented. The result was a murky and sour ale, full of floating husks and crumbs--a far cry from the clean and crisp beers made in Germany today" http://www.germanbeerinstitute.com/history.html LOL thats maybe a little earlyer then you would like to go back :P

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Old 08-29-2011, 02:52 AM   #3
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Randy Mosher's Radical Brewing talks about some historical ways of brewing.

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Old 08-30-2011, 11:42 PM   #4
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There are lots of different resources. How deep do you want to dive into this?

Bob

(who's been practicing historical brewing for more than a decade)

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Old 08-31-2011, 02:59 AM   #5
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Thanks guys!

Great link, ChaosStout. That'll keep me reading.

Radical Brewing is on the to-buy-list.

As for how far I expect to take this... I don't want to make beer from bread (sounds cool though) or make something too far from what is now known as "beer". I'd like to continue brewing with water, grain, and yeast (not home cultured). I know hops were just one of several flowers and herbs used so I'd be interested in learning more about that. Basically, I'd like to explore the origins of what is now known as all grain home brewing. No ph tests, no thermometers, and no hydrometers, except to track my successes and failures.

Bob, what have you been doing? What kind of beer do you make? How do you make it?

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Old 08-31-2011, 03:23 AM   #6
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That's far, far more than can be encompassed in this forum, alas.

I've done everything from plausibly medieval English unhopped ale to 1950s American (Brooklyn) lager, using equipment and techniques appropriate to the beer. I figured out how to look at mash liquor and tell if it's the right temperature, how to redact things like what the hell is a Haarlem achtendeel.

For me, historical brewing is an obsession within the obsession of brewing. There's a lot of it - like figuring out what mash temperature liquor looks like - that's best done learning with someone who knows it through and through. You know, like a medieval apprentice! I did it the hard way, with thermometers and dozens of notebooks full of carefully-scribed charts.

It really is pretty easy - the hardest part is mash temperatures. Once you figure how to do that without instruments, the rest is freakin' cake. Boil. Cool to blood-warm or below. Ferment. When fermentation ceases, package.

It's actually quite refreshing from the really anal-retentive OCD we usually practice, with our refractometers and gram scales and methylene blue stains. Yeah, it's nowhere near as consistent, but it always tickles the hell out of me when I taste a beer I made over a freakin' fire without instruments and it tastes good.

The best place to start is making friends with a reference librarian. The books referenced above aren't even good starts. They're full of poorly understood, uncited misinformation. Know that the further back in time you go, the less well-documented will be your journey. I don't venture too much further back than the 1550s, because it's too hard to find firm data. But there are all kind of master's theses and stuff that can be utterly fascinating glimpses into the brewing industry of, say, the Netherlands in the early to mid-16th century.

Simply put, my advice is to travel back step by step. Go gently, in stages. Visit the early 20th century, then walk through the 19th, and so on. You'll start divesting yourself of technology the further back you go, and gain some valuable brewing XP every time you level.

Check this thread:

http://www.homebrewtalk.com/f14/beer...y-sites-58021/

and Flyangler's Medieval Ale thread:

http://www.homebrewtalk.com/f14/medi...iences-101776/

Try the latter; you won't regret it, even though it's well outside the norm for what we think of as "beer".

Cheers!

Bob

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Old 08-31-2011, 03:35 AM   #7
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One interesting method is one I tried once and it was pretty fun. The method is called "Stein" beer. and refers to how you boil your wort. I believe it was practiced in early Germany. Anyways, everything up to the boil can remain normal. While getting to that point, have a nice fire going with some nice coals built up. Put pieces of granite into the fire until glowing red. Have more in reserve to replace each time. What you do is take a few stones out of the fire and drop them into the wort. Instant boil, it's incredible. When it slows, take them out and fresh hot ones in until you reach your OG. Note; boil off is huge. It is really vigorous.

Next, save those rocks in a sanitized bucket until your primary is done. Rack your beer over the rocks and it's starts a secondary ferm from the carmalized sugar on the rocks.

It is fun, and I made a nice Scotch ale by this method. Great smoked character. I just didn't plan for the intense boil off so it was much more stronger than intended.

Give it a go, but be careful. Use a colander or something to remove the rocks from the wort, and long fire tongs to get them from the fire.

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Old 08-31-2011, 03:53 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob View Post
You'll start divesting yourself of technology the further back you go, and gain some valuable brewing XP every time you level.
Huh. I guess I am not the only one who told their friends that I have "Leveled up to All Grain brewing".
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Old 08-31-2011, 04:25 AM   #9
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Sorry for the hijack.
Bob,
How was brewing done before malting was discovered? Did they just mash for a long time? I raise wheat and barley and have wondered if I could make beer from unmalted grains. Malting and drying as a separate step must be a relatively new invention considering beer has been made from grains for thousands of years.

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Old 08-31-2011, 04:40 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bradinator View Post
Huh. I guess I am not the only one who told their friends that I have "Leveled up to All Grain brewing".
Dude, my first few attempts were this:



Quote:
How was brewing done before malting was discovered? Did they just mash for a long time? I raise wheat and barley and have wondered if I could make beer from unmalted grains. Malting and drying as a separate step must be a relatively new invention considering beer has been made from grains for thousands of years.
Now we're treading dangerously closely to the whole beer vs. bread debate, which, while entertaining, is ultimately pointless, for we'll never know.

We do know that malt of a kind has been around for as long as the process of extracting beverage alcohol from grain. Indeed, as modern brewing science tells us, you can't have booze without malt; the enzymes present only in malt are the only naturally-occurring way to get from grain the sugars yeast require. The arguments revolve around how exactly malting took place. One hypothesis is in the German quote above. The short answer is "Nobody really knows." There are a lot of really, really educated guesses out there - certainly more educated than anything I'm likely to develop - but no rock-solid fact. The process of malting is not technologically challenging. It is labor-intensive, but in pre-Modern cultures that wasn't really a concern.

Suffice it to say, malt had to have existed, or there would have been no beer.

Now I'm off to bed.

Bob
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