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Old 08-28-2013, 04:56 PM   #1
Thunder_Chicken
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Default George Washington's Small Beer

Recipe Type: All Grain
Yeast: Nottingham
Yeast Starter: Krausen beer from another batch
Batch Size (Gallons): 1
Original Gravity: 1.050
Final Gravity: 1.005
IBU: 49.6
Boiling Time (Minutes): 60
Color: 5.1
Primary Fermentation (# of Days & Temp): 10 days at 65 F
Additional Fermentation: None
Secondary Fermentation (# of Days & Temp): None
Tasting Notes: Drinks like a starchy iced tea, dry mild hop bitterness and tannins, mild and dry.

This was my original (bad) swipe at the recipe (see posts below for results)

1 gallon batch
60 minute boil

FERMENTABLES:
2 lb - Wheat Bran
1 lb - Lyle's Golden Syrup - (late addition) (33.3%)

HOPS:
0.20 oz - Magnum for 60 min, Type: Pellet, Use: Boil (AA 9.2)

On further review, tasting notes from this recipe, and additional experiments by Stonecutter2, it seems that the following is a far better recipe and is far more faithful to the original brew:

George Washington's Small Beer Recipe

1 gallon batch
180 minute boil Washington specifies a 3-hr boil, and Stonecutter2's experiments seem to confirm that an extended boil improves this beer.

FERMENTABLES:
0.5 lb Wheat Bran This amount seems more consistent with the mass of bran in a bushel and produces a 4% ABV brew more fitting to a 'small beer' description.
1 lb Lyle's Golden Syrup (late addition) One 11 fl. oz. bottle of Lyle's Golden Syrup contains 15.4 ounces (by mass) of syrup. Close enough to 16 oz. or 1 lb.

HOPS:
A total of 0.5 oz per gallon of an low alpha English or noble hop variety seems appropriate.
Stonecutter2 did 0.25 oz additions of Liberty at 60 min and 10 min remaining in the boil.

YEAST:
Danstar - Nottingham Ale Yeast

Boil 2.5 gallons of water to boil.
Boil 0.5 lb of wheat bran for 3 hours hours.
Add 0.25 oz. Liberty at 60 minutes and 10 minutes remaining in boil.
Strain wort into second pot at flameout.
Add Lyle's Golden Syrup to hot wort.
Cool to about 90 F, pitch yeast.
Ferment 7-10 days, bottle still.

Stonecutter's experiments suggest extended aging (a few months) greatly improves this brew. Serve chilled.

STATS (from Stonecutter's 3 hr brew, 10/13, post #38 below)

Original Gravity: 1.034
Final Gravity: 1.003
ABV (standard): 4.07%


The History

George Washington had a house "Small Beer" recipe that has been bounced around these and other homebrew forums. Some historical interpretation is required to derive a modern day version from George's handwritten recipe:



Quote:
To Make Small Beer

Take a large Sifter full of Bran [,] Hops to your Taste.

Boil these 3 hours then strain out 30 Gall[ons] into a cooler put in 3 Gall[ons] Molasses while the Beer is Scalding hot or rather draw the Melasses into the cooler & St[r]ain the Beer on it while boiling Hot.

Let this stand till it is little more than Blood warm then put in a quart of Yea[s]t if the Weather is very Cold cover it over with a Blank[et] & let it Work in the Cooler 24 hours then put it into the Cask - leave the bung open till it is almost don[e] Working - Bottle it that day Week it was Brewed. F for 7-10 days. Cool and consume.
A couple of notes on terminology:

Sifter

A Sifter is one of these things, used to separate grain, likely wheat.



So a "large Sifter full of Bran" was about a bushel of grain. If the sifter was about 1 bushel in volume, this reference puts bran at about 20 lbs/bushel. That would suggest 0.5 lbs of bran per U.S. gallon (my first attempt at this brew used 2 lbs/gal. based on a questionable earlier assumption). Bran was a common grain used in house beers as malted grains like barley could only be obtained from Britain at high costs. Wheat bran and molasses from the southern colonies and the Caribbean were cheap and plentiful.

BRAN

Using bran apparently was a peculiarity of early American brewing as malted grains had to be imported from England and were therefore pricey, and such malted barley that was available was reserved for distilling (a higher value added use of the limited malted grain). The habit was to make due with locally produced unmalted grains in homebrewed beers. There is a good discussion of this in this BYO article.

http://byo.com/stories/item/1324-revolutionary-brewing

There are also references to similar "bran beers". There is a recipe in a book called Mackenzie's Five Thousand Receipts, written in 1854.

http://openlibrary.org/books/OL17982722M/Mackenzie's_five_thousand_receipts

Quote:
Bran beer.

Good fresh table beer may be made with sound wheat bran, at the rate of 2d. per gallon, beer measure, estimating the price of bran at 4s. per cwt, and the saccharine density of the wort еxtracted, at 15 lbs. per barrel; but the use of the instrument called saccharometer, in domestic practice, is not necessary, the process in brewing with wheat bran being sufficiently known to every good housewife, especially to those of labourers in husbandry, as well its that for this purpose nothing of apparatus is needful, but such as ought to be in common use with every cottager in the country. A few pounds per barrel of treacle, or the coarsest Muscovado sugar, would be a cheap improvement as to strength, which indeed might be increased to any degree required.
I'm not sure what the ppg of wheat bran is, but this recipe provides some clues (if it is correct).

15 lbs of sugar in a barrel (assuming a 34 imperial gallon beer barrel) is a fair amount of sugar. I get a gravity of 1.017.

The amount of grain is given in terms of cost - 2 pence per gallon, and the cost of bran being 4 shillings per hundredweight. 12 pence to a shilling...

(100 lb/cwt) × (1 cwt/4 s) × (1 s/12 d) × (2 d / imp. 1 gallon) × ( 1 imp. gallon / 1.20095 U.S. gallon) = 3.5 lbs/U.S. gal

So 17 points/3.5 lbs per gallon ~ 5 ppg. This is in rough agreement with the gravity measurements that I made during the boil, about 7 ppg.

Boil or Mash?

3.5 lbs/gal from the Mackenzie recipe is approximately 1.1 qt/lb, a pretty thick mash. In George's recipe, approximately 20 lbs per 33 imperial gallons of wort produced, so this is a much runnier boil of nearly 8 qts/lb, not accounting for grain absorption and boil-off. In my original recipe I used 2 qt/lb, based on dubious estimates of the amount of bran in a bushel.

Molasses

Molasses did (and still does) come from a process of refining, each boiling producing vastly different flavors and colors. The "molasses" referred to in the recipe was likely first boil or light molasses, which is best described as pale treacle or invert sugar. Lyle's Golden Syrup is probably the closest commercial version to the intended "molasses" in Washington's recipe. The dark and blackstrap molasses familiar to us today, made from later boilings of the cane juice, would make a brew the color of roofing tar and would have a flavor inappropriate for a "small beer". It may be more accurate to use a mix of mostly Lyle's syrup and some dark molasses for some additional flavor.

Hops

Traditional low alpha English hops were probably intended for this brew as they were grown in the Americas. Fuggles or EKG or any hops with clean bittering would be fine as it is only going to provide bittering. "Hops to your taste" is about right.
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Last edited by Thunder_Chicken; 09-26-2013 at 11:10 PM. Reason: Updated estimates of bran amount based on sifter size.
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Old 08-28-2013, 04:57 PM   #2
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Brewing

First, I went to three stores and could only find two 10 oz. bags of wheat bran. So I scaled the recipe down, to 0.625 gallons (2.5 qts). However, I made an error in the Lyle's syrup addition, using 15 oz. (the entire bottle) vs. 11 oz, so the OG was quite high (1.068).

For bittering, I used some Magnum hops that I had in the freezer. I started with a approx. 1/8 oz, but as the boil progressed I tasted it and it needed a boost, so I used approximately 1/4 oz total. On this small scale the fractional ounces get a little hairy, but the recipe does say "Hops to taste".

Accounting for grain losses and boil-off for one hour, I started with 1.25 gallons of water. I just threw the bran and hops in a pot and boiled it for an hour. After an hour I poured it into a second pot with a paint strainer and got rid of the husks and the hop gunk. I had about 3 qts of wort at this point, so I boiled down a bit more, shooting for 2.5 quarts. The boil smelled like cooking pasta, and I kept getting very sticky chunky wheat glue rafts that I skimmed off. In the future BIAB using a muslin bag (because of the boil on heat) would work fine.

Once I got down to about 2.5 quarts I added the golden syrup. Once I did this, the wort really began to taste and resemble decent beer wort. OG was 1.068, quite a bit higher than I had expected, but I decided against diluting. I chilled it in the pot in the sink to about 90F. I didn't want to blow a whole sachet of yeast on 2.5 quarts of beer, so I borrowed a short cup of krausen beer from my pale ale that I had pitched with Nottingham. I pulled the pot out of the sink, wrapped it in a towel, pitched the krausen beer, closed the lid and waited. The yeast started showing activity in about 12 hours and were in high krausen about 18 hrs later.
george-washington-small-beer-001.jpg   george-washington-small-beer-002.jpg   george-washington-small-beer-003.jpg   george-washington-small-beer-005.jpg   george-washington-small-beer-006.jpg  

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Old 08-28-2013, 05:10 PM   #3
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The Ferment

The attenuation was much higher than expected, approximately 90%. I had originally thought that the bran would be mostly unfermentable starch contribution, but it seems that the bran does provide some sugars that can be fermented by the yeast.

The krausen was rather sticky and chunky with wheat paste rafts. The wort was actually rather creamy. Gravity leveled off between 7 and 10 days, consistent with Washington's original notes.

The color was nice and golden, but always retained a starchy haze, much like a hefeweizen.
gw-small-beer-002.jpg  
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Old 08-28-2013, 05:12 PM   #4
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Bottling

This beer was not carbonated, merely bottled, cooled and consumed. I simply funneled the beer into some Belgian and one 12 oz. bottle and capped them. One short glass of the dregs was retained for Day 0 tasting.
george-washington-small-beer-bottled.jpg  
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Old 08-28-2013, 05:16 PM   #5
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Tasting Notes

It's beer. It is definitely not horrible; it is actually rather nice if you aren't expecting a modern day carbonated hop-bomb. It's pretty mild.

As you might expect, the hops come across as a straight bittering, no flavor or aroma contributions. The flavor is a bit bland - drinks like a somewhat starchy glass of black tea. Mostly hop bitterness with a hint of tannins. It's pretty dry. The 8+% ABV really isn't apparent when cooled. I expect if you brew this with the correct amount of syrup and let it cool and settle properly it would be pretty quaffable, kind of like an alcoholic iced tea. I definitely wouldn't carbonate this - beyond the fact that it probably wasn't carbonated originally, I think carbonation would make this a strange beverage. I think it is best left flat.

The golden syrup fermented completely away and there is no real lingering molasses essence. I definitely think using golden syrup is much closer to the original intent of "molasses", but I think a mix of golden syrup and some conventional dark molasses, or turbinado sugar, might help with the flavor. Sticking with the original recipe, a tablespoon or two of blackstrap molasses might add enough flavor to make this really interesting. This will take some experimentation.

For those attempting this brew, I'd definitely do this as a BIAB, and perhaps decrease the OG by increasing the water/decreasing the amount of syrup. I think some small dark molasses additions to taste during the boil would be a worthwhile improvement. Rack carefully as there is a lot of fluffy trub. Be patient and let it settle out.
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Old 08-28-2013, 08:11 PM   #6
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I decided to crack the 12 oz. bottle today. It was in the fridge overnight so it is nicely chilled.

Cold flat starchy tea. Very thick mouthfeel. I very much doubt that it will clear. It's very easily drinkable but not something I would want a keg of.

I am wondering if there is something about the initially stated 3-hr boil and the starches in the bran. Some of the bran fermented out, to my surprise. I am wondering if an extended boil might somehow improve the fermentability of the bran? I can't find a whole lot of information on bran fermentation.

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Old 08-28-2013, 08:56 PM   #7
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Very interesting, I would like to brew something historic, is there an online resource for that sort of thing? I know Washington made rye whiskey so I wonder if he also made rye beer, also I know he loved porter but I'm not sure if he ever made it.

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Old 08-28-2013, 08:59 PM   #8
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The history that I am aware of concerning this beer is in the first post of this thread. If you find anything that sheds some more detail on this brew, please post it here, it would be most welcome.

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Old 09-01-2013, 02:50 AM   #9
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Cracked another, 3 days in the bottle. This bottle had much less trub in it and had a lot of time to settle, so the creamy starchiness is much reduced. Still opaque and cloudy like the above picture, just thinner.

The hop bitterness is now through the roof. Go easy on the hops when you brew this, really easy. There isn't any place for the hop bittering to hide now, so it is very apparent. Go for some low alpha noble or English hops, and not too much.

Not quite as pleasant as the first bottle, but that is mostly due to the extreme bitterness. Looking past that, the body is starchy and thin, but not unpleasant. The base of this beer is extremely mild.

If one were to simply boil the bran as indicated, and then throw a decent amount of EKG in as a single flameout addition along with the syrup, that would be about right I think. I still think a few tablespoons of conventional dark molasses would go very well with this. The Lyle's golden syrup is good as the main sugar source, but add in just enough black molasses to get some interest and flavor, to help with the "maltiness". This brew has wheat in it of course, but I think one might look through the gluten-free forums on the use of molasses and sorghum for this application.

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Old 09-04-2013, 01:04 AM   #10
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I checked on the remaining bottles today and noted that the beer does seem to be falling clear. I am going to let the settle completely out before I crack another.

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