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flyangler18 02-05-2009 10:59 AM

Medieval Ale- Discussion and Experiences
I was inspired by a conversation that emerged from this thread, and thought it would be better if we gave the topic its own thread.

NQ3X shared the following recipe from his files, and I'm going to brew this as an experiment soon:

70% Oat Malt
15% Wheat Malt
15% Barley Malt

I intend on mashing this between 150 and 152 as a one-gallon batch; what intrigues me is how this resultant ale is not cloyingly sweet as conventional wisdom suggests.

A quick Google search yielded this interesting article:


In England in the middle ages, particularly before the Plague (which first reached England in 1348), the most common drink of the day was ale. Ale, during this time, was a drink made from malted grains, water, and fermented with yeast. Malted grain would be crushed; boiling (or at least very hot) water would be added and the mixture allowed to work; finally the liquid was drained off, cooled and fermented. The ale might have been spiced, but it would not have had hops as an ingredient.

Beer, on the other hand, was made from malted grains, water, hops, and fermented with yeast. Hops added a measure of bitterness to the beer, and also helped preserve it. We will see below that the successful addition of hops required a change in the process that had a profound effect on the resulting product: after the liquid was drained off, it was boiled again with the hops.
Note that the runnings were not boiled- rather, just cooled and fermented; the ale was consumed 'young'.

Judith Bennett's Ale, Beer, and Brewsters in England: Women's Work in a Changing World seems to be the seminal text on the subject; I have several of her other books from my graduate school days. A Sip Through Time: A Collection of Old Brewing Recipes may also prove to be an interesting text, and I'll likely be adding this to my own library.


skadalajara 02-05-2009 11:20 AM

This is a subject near and dear to me. part of my "brewing archeology" fascination.

KingBrianI 02-05-2009 12:30 PM

So are you going to ferment the runnings without boiling? What yeast do you plan on using? It seems like some "bugs" present on the grain might survive the 150 degree mash. Looks to be an interesting experiment though. I'll be very interested in the outcome!

flyangler18 02-05-2009 12:44 PM


Originally Posted by KingBrianI (Post 1113899)
So are you going to ferment the runnings without boiling? What yeast do you plan on using? It seems like some "bugs" present on the grain might survive the 150 degree mash. Looks to be an interesting experiment though. I'll be very interested in the outcome!

I'm not fully committed to doing it one way or another yet; as this ale was consumed fresh right at the end of the ferment, I'm not concerning myself with the possibility of infection. However, I may do a short boil just to improve clarity.

As far as outcome, you'll need to ask NQ3X who I hope will chime in here as he's brewed this recipe before!

menschmaschine 02-05-2009 12:50 PM


Originally Posted by KingBrianI (Post 1113899)
It seems like some "bugs" present on the grain might survive the 150 degree mash.

According to flyangler's historic quote, [near] boiling water was just dumped on top of crushed grain. So, without knowing how much grain, grain and tun temperature (assume cool (50sF?) in England), thermal mass of tun, etc., it's tough to say what the mash temp would be.

But it could be a good thing... I'll bet these ales were somewhat sour anyway. I'm interested to see how this turns out.

flyangler18 02-05-2009 01:05 PM

Here's my scaled-down recipe, assuming a 30 minute boil. This gets me close to the percentages indicated in my first post; I just need to get the oat malt. Northern Brewer and Brewer's Warehouse both stock it.

Medieval Ale (Experimental)
23-A Specialty Beer
Author: Jason Konopinski
Date: 2/4/09


Size: 1.0 gal
Efficiency: 80%
Attenuation: 75.0%
Calories: 193.77 kcal per 12.0 fl oz

Original Gravity: 1.058 (1.026 - 1.120)
Terminal Gravity: 1.015 (0.995 - 1.035)
Color: 4.76 (1.0 - 50.0)
Alcohol: 5.73% (2.5% - 14.5%)
Bitterness: 0.0 (0.0 - 100.0)

6 oz Maris Otter Pale Ale Malt
1.5 lb Oat Malt
6 oz Wheat Malt
.5 ea Fermentis S-04 Safale S-04


00:03:00 Mash-In - Liquor: 0.7 gal; Strike: 164.59 F; Target: 152 F
00:30:00 Sacc Rest - Rest: 30 min; Final: 150.0 F
00:33:00 Sparge - Sparge: 1.0 gal sparge @ 180 F, 0.0 min; Total Runoff: 1.47 gal

Results generated by BeerTools Pro 1.5.2

Revvy 02-05-2009 01:15 PM


Thanks for starting this thread buddy!

menschmaschine 02-05-2009 01:26 PM

For a real authentic touch, develop a way to expose the grain to smoke from straw fire... like spread the grains out onto some metal screening and build a fire of straw under it. That should give it that straw-fired kilned flavor. Just a thought.:cross:

Jolly McStanson 02-05-2009 05:56 PM

Iv heard someplace where they did a full boil with beer. Some of the water back then was full of infection so beer was healthier to drink. Its why most people including children drank it.

I'm thinking out loud but I bet they mixed everything together and slowly brought it up to a boil. This way the wort spent enough time in each temperature rest to make it work. Then eventually they realized that taking the grain out before it boiled resulted in less astringency...who knows.

I love this subject. I wish I could go back in time and watch.

conpewter 02-05-2009 06:08 PM

They did boil beer back then, but this is about Ale which at that time was very different (no hops, sometimes no boil). I like the article that was posted in the other thread, but it seems difficult to get any good answers on exactly how it was brewed, plus the article's facts have been called in to question.

I may do one of these and if so I'll probably boil it for at least 10 minutes, I know that will give me hot break etc and not recreate very well what their ale was like (plus it won't sour as easily as thiers) but I don't want to make any sour beers as I've had issues with infection staying around and getting into other batches. Also the article mentioned that by the 1600's there are records of a university requireing all those making ale for them to boil the ale, so I'll at least be authentic to that era, if not back to the 1300's

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