Historical Beers George Washington's Small Beer

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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
Boiling Time (Minutes)
60
IBU
49.6
Color
5.1
Primary Fermentation (# of Days & Temp)
10 days at 65 °F
Secondary Fermentation (# of Days & Temp)
None
Additional Fermentation
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:



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 Yeat 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

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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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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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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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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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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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.

George Washington Brew in Glass.jpg
 

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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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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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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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I am putting this brew on my "to do" list. Thanks for the recipe and i can't wait to try my hand at it. I intend to do an original batch (as you did) then try a modified version. I am interested in this purely in the historical aspect of it. I'm hoping I can get a better tasting/personal variation figured out, and pour it side-by-side with an original version on the 4th of July, with some friends.
 
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I am putting this brew on my "to do" list. Thanks for the recipe and i can't wait to try my hand at it. I intend to do an original batch (as you did) then try a modified version. I am interested in this purely in the historical aspect of it. I'm hoping I can get a better tasting/personal variation figured out, and pour it side-by-side with an original version on the 4th of July, with some friends.
Cool. Definitely include the changes I suggest based on the tasting notes. Add a little dark molasses to the wort until it tastes about right. And definitely go with low alpha hops, don't try to add just a pinch of high alpha like magnum - it's really easy to overbitter this one.

Still have one more in the cupboard. It will fall clear given time. I think if you do these things you'll wind up with a nice beer.
 

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Cool. Definitely include the changes I suggest based on the tasting notes. Add a little dark molasses to the wort until it tastes about right. And definitely go with low alpha hops, don't try to add just a pinch of high alpha like magnum - it's really easy to overbitter this one.

Still have one more in the cupboard. It will fall clear given time. I think if you do these things you'll wind up with a nice beer.
Sounds great. Regarding hops, is there one that would best fit what *could* have been used "back in the day?" It's pure speculation since it's not mentioned in the recipe, of course. Was considering Cluster (it's got some serious American pedigree), but it may overpower based on what you're saying.

If low alpha seems to potentially be a better fit, considering Fuggles or maybe even Liberty just for the name :p But what's in a name, I want it to taste good.
 
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If you put the hops in for the whole boil, a very low alpha hop would be in order. The intent was to provide bittering and not much else. A low alpha Liberty would be fine.

EDIT: I used Magnum because that is what I had, but it was just too high of an alpha to use even in small amounts.
 

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Was curious to know how 1lb of golden syrup came about in the recipe, when I've tried scaling down from 30 gallons to 1 gallon and I get something like 2lbs of bran and 1.6oz of molasses? Maybe I'm missing something, i'm pretty new to all of this.

Edit: Also decided to do one version with Liberty, and one with EKG. Then possibly a combo of the two. i want to see what I can come up with on this simple recipe for something quite interesting. If GW said "Hops to your taste" then I'm going to take that seriously.
 
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Well, 3 gallons of molasses was added to 30 gallons of wort in the original recipe for a total of 33 gallons. Taking 11 lbs per gallon for molasses:

(3 gallons molasses / 33 gallons beer) X (11 lbs molasses/1 gallon molasses) X (1 gallon beer) = 1.0 lbs of molasses

Note that I'm including the volume of the molasses in the total volume of the beer.

EDIT: On additional consideration, Washington's 33 gallons of beer were probably imperial gallons, as the standard beer barrel at the time was 34 ale gallons (very close to imperial gallons). But as it is a ratio (3 gallons molasses per 33 gallons of beer) the conversion holds, 1 lb of molasses per 1 U.S. gallon of beer.
 

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Well, 3 gallons of molasses was added to 30 gallons of wort in the original recipe for a total of 33 gallons. Taking 11 lbs per gallon for molasses:

(3 gallons molasses / 33 gallons beer) X (11 lbs molasses/1 gallon molasses) X (1 gallon beer) = 1.0 lbs of molasses

Note that I'm including the volume of the molasses in the total volume of the beer.

EDIT: On additional consideration, Washington's 33 gallons of beer were probably imperial gallons, as the standard beer barrel at the time was 34 ale gallons (very close to imperial gallons). But as it is a ratio (3 gallons molasses per 33 gallons of beer) the conversion holds, 1 lb of molasses per 1 U.S. gallon of beer.
Interesting, thanks for explaining the math :)

My scaling went something like this:

3 lbs molasses in 30 gallons of beer (actually you are right, should be 33). <--this was my fatal error. 1 gallon of molasses is obviously NOT 1lb.
3 lbs = 48oz <--- again, incorrect. Reading is fundamental!

48oz/33 gallons should equal the ounces of molasses per 1 gallon. That gives me 1.46oz - which obviously was far less than 1lb of molasses :D

I've got a lot of learning to do on scaling recipes - and I guess reading :) So again I appreciate explaining your method!

Now that I realized my mistake, this is how I SHOULD have calculated it (which confirms your numbers):
11lbs (per gallon of molasses) in ounces = 11*16 = 176oz/gallon of molasses
3 gallons of molasses (for 33 gallons of beer) = 528oz of molasses for 33 gallons of beer
528oz/33 to find ounces per gallon of beer = 16oz. This confirms 1lb of molasses for 1 gallon of small beer.

Formulas were never my strong suit in math, so I thought things out using the above method...just in case anyone else wanted to see my process. However I do like your formula and intend to use it from now on!

Getting some hops on order, and hoping to get this rocking after some seasonal brews get done in the fermenters. Heck I might have to buy another jug just to get this moving...curious to try a pint of it.
 
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Interesting, thanks for explaining the math :)

...

Formulas were never my strong suit in math, so I thought things out using the above method...just in case anyone else wanted to see my process. However I do like your formula and intend to use it from now on!
I teach engineering and work with my students daily on unit conversions, so I'm probably a little more anal about these things than most people. I hope it helps! :mug:
 
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There are a couple of things that I am thinking about regarding this beer:

  1. Does extended boiling of starches break them down into sugars? The original recipe specifies a 3 hr boil, and my 1-hr boil produced a rather starchy sticky wort. I am wondering if there is something about the starch chemistry that makes a 3-hr boil of the bran necessary.
  2. Was Washington likely using a pure Sacchromyces beer yeast, or was Brettanomyces a likely and common contaminant, especially in cask fermented ales? Sacc. doesn't do much with starches, where Brett. will break down and chow on some complex stuff. I'd bet Brett. would chew this bran wort down to nothing, which might actually be desireable. I'm wondering if I can find an example of an old bottled beer that might have been analyzed to determine the strains present.
 
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I am also reconsidering the weight associated with "a large Sifter full of Bran". I'm not sure how I got that to be 60 lbs.

If the sifter was about 1 bushel in volume,this reference puts bran at about 20 lbs/bushel, not 60 lbs per bushel. That would suggest 0.5 lbs of bran per U.S. gallon, not 2 lbs/gal.

The following might be a much better recipe. At 4% it is a small beer.

HOME BREW RECIPE:
Title: George Washington's Small Beer 2.0

Brew Method: All Grain
Style Name: Specialty Beer
Boil Time: 60 min
Batch Size: 1 gallons (fermentor volume)
Boil Size: 1 gallons
Boil Gravity: 1.004
Efficiency: 75% (brew house)

STATS:
Original Gravity: 1.040
Final Gravity: 1.009
ABV (standard): 4.08%
IBU (tinseth): 18.88
SRM (morey): 4.03

FERMENTABLES:
0.625 lb - Wheat Bran (38.5%) This is one 10 oz. bag of wheat bran
1 lb - Lyle's Golden Syrup - (late addition) (61.5%) This is close to one 11 fl. oz. bottle of Lyle's Golden Syrup

HOPS:
0.5 oz - Liberty, Type: Leaf/Whole, AA: 4, Use: Boil for 10 min, IBU: 18.88 REALLY EASY TO OVERBITTER

YEAST:
Danstar - Nottingham Ale Yeast
 

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I am also reconsidering the weight associated with "a large Sifter full of Bran". I'm not sure how I got that to be 60 lbs.

If the sifter was about 1 bushel in volume,this reference puts bran at about 20 lbs/bushel, not 60 lbs per bushel. That would suggest 0.5 lbs of bran per U.S. gallon, not 2 lbs/gal.

The following might be a much better recipe. At 4% it is a small beer.
Yeah wasn't sure about 60 pounds, 20 pounds makes more sense looking at the example of a sifter you posted.

I'll go with the 0.5lbs of bran in my recipe.

Picking up another jug in the next couple of days. Maybe I should get 2 more and try the 3 hour boil thing...

The ABV of 4% fits more into the small beer category, too. The higher ABV had me curious.
 
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I think if you go with a 10 oz. bag of the Red Mill Wheat Bran, that will be 0.625 lbs, close enough. The amount of molasses/syrup is pretty specific but the wheat bran amount is an order-of-magnitude estimate.

I'd like to keep updating this thread as the recipe evolves as there is a lot of information being batted around. If you brew this up and get some tasting notes, either I can update this recipe and attribute it to your brew effort, or you can post a new recipe. I'm not quite sure what the etiquette is about this as this is a rather experimental recipe subject to a lot of research and adjustment.
 

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Good deal. We'll figure out the best way to capture this once I get my effort rolling. I suggest an update to this post, reflecting different recipes/attempts and results.

I'll definitely keep you updated with my results, keep good notes on what I do and use, etc. Once my fermenters free up in a couple weeks, this is next on my list.
 
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Good deal. We'll figure out the best way to capture this once I get my effort rolling. I suggest an update to this post, reflecting different recipes/attempts and results.

I'll definitely keep you updated with my results, keep good notes on what I do and use, etc. Once my fermenters free up in a couple weeks, this is next on my list.
I'm probably going to kick off another English IPA later this week or next week, and I might try the updated recipe with EKG hops and krausen beer from the IPA soon afterward. I think we've gotten through the major adjustments and maybe can start investigating small tweaks and variations.
 

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So, another point that I've been wondering about.

Should the bran and hops be added before the water is boiling, or wait until boiling and then add them? The GW recipe simply says "Boil these for 3 hours" which might mean he got the water boiling, then added them...which I find unlikely. He more likely threw them in the pot and brought it to a boil over the course of 3 hours.

If the bran and hops are brought to a boil over 3 hours time, consider that in order to strain 30 gallons off into a cooler he must have been heating up a lot of water initially - and likely over a wood fire, which would take considerable time. That might roughly equate to a multi-step mash, given the drawn out time of even getting the mash to boil - maybe it allowed for each rest in the process, helping convert the starches.

See the multi-step mash info here (especially the 2nd paragraph after "Do I need a multi-step mash?":
http://beersmith.com/blog/2013/02/08/multi-vs-single-step-mashing-for-home-brewing/

I wonder if the 3 hours time was partly to get the huge amount of liquid to boil, and partly (perhaps luckily) to allow this full multi-step mash process to occur. Though I doubt the exact nature of the multi-step mash was understood, perhaps it simply yielded better small beer when 3 hours were taken to complete the boil step?

A common multi-step mash is 104-140-158F, with 30 minute rests. There's 1 1/2 hours. Then with a 90 minute boil, there's your 3 hours, maybe?
 
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I tend to think not, as it does say "Boil 3 hours". They also did not know about amylase enzymes and rest temperatures either. I also don't know for certain if the wheat bran itself has any diastatic power to convert its starches. Wheat malt does, but I am not sure about the bran. I think if any conversion of the starches does occur, it is due to thermal breakdown, not enzyme activity. With the new recipe, I think the amount of starch is actually desireable for body.
 

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I tend to think not, as it does say "Boil 3 hours". They also did not know about amylase enzymes and rest temperatures either. I also don't know for certain if the wheat bran itself has any diastatic power to convert its starches. Wheat malt does, but I am not sure about the bran. I think if any conversion of the starches does occur, it is due to thermal breakdown, not enzyme activity. With the new recipe, I think the amount of starch is actually desireable for body.
Makes sense. I was thinking the timeframe it took to boil might have serendipitously created the enzymes/rest periods, but you make a good point about the wheat bran and diastatic power. I guess the only way to tell is making a batch and experimenting, which is exactly what 1 gallon batches are for.

So, I found a local shop who sells wheat bran in bulk for 99 cents per lb, and Lyle's Golden Syrup was on sale 2/$7.50 11oz bottles :) I'm set up with ingredients for a couple of batches, including 1oz Liberty and 1oz EKG hops.

This is my plan for my batches. Feedback is most certainly welcome.

0.5lb wheat bran
0.25oz Liberty @ 60min (should I go lower on the bittering?)
0.25oz Liberty @ 10min
1lb Lyle's Golden Syrup @ flameout

I then intend on doing subsequent batches with variations, which I'll take notes on and post/compare the results.

Variations:
-EKG instead of Liberty hops
-1tbsp Grandma's Molasses (Original) at flameout
-Substitute Grandma's Molasses (Original) for Lyle's Golden Syrup
-3 hour boil instead of 60 minutes
-Rest at 104-140-158 and see what difference it makes, if any

Given the relatively cheap nature of making a gallon of this, I think it's going to be fun to try variations until I hit something that's worth gifting around the 4th next year.
 
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Looks like a good plan to me. I'm not sure about the bittering but your times and amounts look fine - the only way to determine if it will be too bitter will be to try it. It should be much better than my Magnum bitter-bomb anyway!
 

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My first attempt is fermenting away. I went with the Liberty hop pellets .25oz @ 60 minutes and .25oz @ 10 minutes.

This recipe is shockingly easy and doesn't have quite the strong aroma typical of boiling wort. As TC mentioned, it smells somewhat like cooking pasta (starchy).

I have some stainless mesh strainer bowls that fit over/into a pot, so I squeezed out the Lyle's into a pot and strained the boiled bran/hops onto the Lyle's syrup.

I find it interesting that Washington made a point of noting to either pour the molasses in the wort, or rather draw it onto the molasses. I like the draw onto molasses option because I'll be straining the bran/hops out anyways, may as well mix the molasses in at the same time and let the boiled stuff help mix it in, right? Maybe the drawing over the molasses part was a way he simplified the process of stirring in the molasses. Since it was an afterthought/specifically mentioned method, I thought I'd go with that approach. I doubt it really matters how the molasses gets mixed in, but I found it interesting that Washington made a point of writing down that variation.

Took a hydrometer reading and it was at 1.061, near what TC had in his attempt (potential alcohol ~8% - pretty high). A sample tasted sweet, and texture was very syrupy. More mead-like texture than wort. Color was a dark straw/almost slightly greenish tint.

Siphoning into the 1 gallon jug revealed that I was about 1 quart or so lower in volume than expected. Perhaps the bran and hops pellets absorbed more than I thought. I allowed the bran/hops to drain thoroughly when straining. I started with 1.25 gallons, so next time I'll start with 1.5 gallons.

So, I boiled some water and cooled to about 87 degrees and topped off the fermenter with exactly 1 quart to get closer to the shoulder of the 1 gallon jug. I shook thoroughly to mix. This brought my hydrometer reading to 1.047 - which means potentially ~6% alcohol. We'll see what it finishes at. This time, a tasting revealed a lightly sweet flavor, very slight hint of hops, and a creamy texture. Color was now more golden.

Pitching the Nottingham at 85 degrees or so made it kick start very fast (used 1/2 of a dry yeast packet). I had some decent foam and bubbling within 20 minutes! The pitching at just more than blood warm must create some interesting flavors/esters from the yeast, too.

It is now bubbling away very happily at around 66 degrees ambient temp. Can't wait to see how it turns out.
 
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Excellent!

Yeah, the bran does seem to pull in a lot of water. How long was your boil? I got a lot of sticky "glue rafts" towards the end of the 1-hr. boil that I tried to skim out, but then again I used the equivalent of 2 lbs of bran per gallon vs. your 0.5 lbs.

I'm really interested to see how yours comes out. I think there is excellent potential for this to be pretty tasty beer.
 

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Excellent!

Yeah, the bran does seem to pull in a lot of water. How long was your boil? I got a lot of sticky "glue rafts" towards the end of the 1-hr. boil that I tried to skim out, but then again I used the equivalent of 2 lbs of bran per gallon vs. your 0.5 lbs.

I'm really interested to see how yours comes out. I think there is excellent potential for this to be pretty tasty beer.
My boil was 60 minutes. I did have a sticky glue-like raft in the center of the kettle. I left it alone instead of skimming it off. I was actually interested to see if it would start to break down at all at some point. I mixed it up occasionally but it reformed within minutes. Toward the end of the 60 minutes it was starting to fold its edges under itself, but not really breakdown. It seemed to get trapped in the strainer and didn't end up in the fermenter.

I agree that this could be an interesting brew! It's cheap and simple. I like that its a part of history. These were like our modern glass of water at meals, and I think it doesn't have to be super complex to be appreciated.

My goal is a refreshing drink with medium body and just a hint of hops and alcohol :)
 

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wow, I love obscure one gallon experiments. I've subscribed to this one. I'm interested to see what you guys come up with. There are a few empty 1 gallon fermenters in my brew room right now, maybe I'll mess about with this one in the next while as well.

Thanks for the inspiration, TC.
 

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Was greeted this morning with a very slow bubbling fermenter, and lots of fluffy trub. I think my small beer is almost ready for bottling! Today marks day 8, right on schedule per Washington's "day Week" estimate. Color is a beautiful vibrant opaque golden yellow. Bottling day is scheduled for Sunday!
 

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Despite my burning desire to apply modern brewing knowledge/techniques to this and give it rests at various times (for enzymes/better starch breakdown), I do agree with TC's perspective that the bran was simply there for body/mouthfeel and that staying true to the recipe itself is probably the most important thing - this is brewing history, after all!

So, my next attempt won't involve adding dark/blackstrap molasses, or any mash rest periods. I think it's time for the full 3 hour boil time :) I think it will get us a little closer to what Washington made (or rather, the recipe he wrote down...still not sure this was something he actually ever made).

Also, that starch raft that forms needs to stay in the boil, in my opinion. The conversion is probably a very, very slow process given the lack of a dedicated enzyme rest. That liberated starch source needs to stay in there with the smaller grain bill, I think. Much of what I read regarding starches and breakdown implies that at boiling temp, the breakdown is a slow process.

I think the 3 hour boil will make the beer less viscous as the starches breakdown, too. I'm going to draw samples of the wort at hourly intervals and taste for perceived sweetness. If conversion is occurring, I'd imagine it would become noticeable. We'll find out soon enough, I guess.

Need opinions - should I boil the hops for 3 hours, too? I would consider only adding them for the last hour, however...Washington specifically says to include the hops to your taste in the boil. So I think I will.

Interesting note from my brewing session - when I added my wheat bran, it was at about 165F (I didn't wait for an actual boil). This is because the water had formed lots of little bubbles and I wondered what someone back in 1757 considered "boiling." Anyways, the moment the bran hit the water, a layer of starchy foam instantly developed. Once I got to a rolling boil, this starchy foam nearly boiled over as I threw in the hops - and immediately upon contact with the hops, the foam largely subsided into a foamy raft in the middle of the boil. Boil over averted! Could the hops contribute to this breakdown process (the acidity in them, maybe)? Perhaps so.
 
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I am actually very interested in the "yeast" part of the recipe. Odds are that it wasn't anything close to a clean strain of Saccharomyces cerevisiae, but not completely a wild brew either. They probably perpetuated the yeast from the last good batch and if it went off they tossed it and found another source of yeast. There was some evolutionary pressure that probably developed a mostly clean yeast pitch, but it probably wasn't a monoculture.

I wonder what would happen if you were to expose your wort to wild fermentation, ferment it out, take some trub and pitch that in new wort, and repeat, and repeat, and repeat...? If your beer turned over fast enough, only the quick growing components would really get passed on.

Also, how long would a mass of 33 gallons of beer in a wooden cask take to cool from "blood warm" to "cool"? Long enough to get some nice lacto sourness going maybe? I wonder how Washington's recipe would do with a lacto/Brett/Sacc. pitch.
 

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I am actually very interested in the "yeast" part of the recipe. Odds are that it wasn't anything close to a clean strain of Saccharomyces cerevisiae, but not completely a wild brew either. They probably perpetuated the yeast from the last good batch and if it went off they tossed it and found another source of yeast. There was some evolutionary pressure that probably developed a mostly clean yeast pitch, but it probably wasn't a monoculture.

I wonder what would happen if you were to expose your wort to wild fermentation, ferment it out, take some trub and pitch that in new wort, and repeat, and repeat, and repeat...? If your beer turned over fast enough, only the quick growing components would really get passed on.

Also, how long would a mass of 33 gallons of beer in a wooden cask take to cool from "blood warm" to "cool"? Long enough to get some nice lacto sourness going maybe? I wonder how Washington's recipe would do with a lacto/Brett/Sacc. pitch.
I've actually been reading about a Spruce beer recipe in "American Cookery," the first American cookbook written by a woman in 1796 (actually, the first truly American cookbook detailing new world ingredients and recipes). She mentions "emptins" (yeast starters) and provides a method of preparing them:

Emptins.

Take a handful of hops and about three quarts of water, let it boil about fifteen minutes, then make a thickening as you do for starch, strain the liquor, when cold put a little emptins to work them, they will keep well cork'd in a bottle five or six weeks.


So, basically, she mentions hops (those would keep bacterial contamination down - of course unknown to those at the time except that using hops probably would provide good reliable results), boiling the water, and then keeping them "well cork'd" - so it's quite possible that the methodology was known for maintaining a "good" strain of yeast through several batches. They might not have understood the why, but I think the method could have been widely known. This emptins recipe was of course in 1796, nearly 40 years after George jotted down his small beer recipe...but reading wikipedia's article about baker's yeast seems to indicate that making this type of starter was known for quite some time. I suspect this is the "quart of yeast" Washington was referring to.

I definitely wouldn't rule out the potential of some of these batches getting soured/infected.

Now that we've talked about this, I'm going to go the colonial route and make a starter from my current batch so I can use it in the next :)
 
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Good point. A handful of hops in 3 qts. is pretty decent bittering. Lactobacillus really doesn't tolerate hops all that well; folks that make sours use aged debittered hops and generally keep the IBUs below 5-10.

It still probably was not a monoculture, but probably mostly yeast, mostly Sacc. and maybe some Brett. Since this beer was high turnover, the Brett. probably was generally beat out by the Sacc. yeasts. If you forgot a bottle for a longish time the Brett. might slowly chew down the last few points of gravity after the Sacc. finished up, but beer probably didn't last that long, especially small beer.

I have to keep reminding myself that beer was made before clean rooms and StarSan was invented.
 

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I did a 3 hour boil batch yesterday. Around the 2 hour mark, the starch rafts started to break down into a foam again, which was interesting. Then gradually over the 3rd hour, they reformed.

My OG was 1.034 - my hydrometer has a guesstimate marking of approximate % of alcohol, which said 4.5% - about perfect for small beer. We'll see how it finishes and compares to the 1 hour boil batch.

I wasn't sure how much water to start with, so I initially used 2 gallons. After almost one hour, I was down almost 1/2 gallon, so didn't want to end up with too low of a volume after 3 hours (was estimating ending up at 1/2 gallon instead of one gallon, based on evaporating 1/2 gallon per hour). I ended up boiling another 1/2 gallon and added that at the one hour mark. In the end, this meant I ended up with nearly 1/2 gallon of wort extra. So, in my experience, the starting volume of water for a 1 gallon batch using a 3 hour boil should be 2.5 gallons to end up with 4.5% alcohol small beer - and plenty of extra wort for starters for the next batch, hydrometer readings, etc.

It was at the point of getting what I did that I realized the recipe from Washington never explicitly states how much water to start with. So, I guess that's part of the experiment too.

I used my extra wort to rehydrate the 1/2 packet of leftover Nottingham I had, and the yeast seemed very happy to be in it. It got started fast...it looked like volcanic eruptions from the bottom of the mason jar.

Can't wait to do a side-by-side and see what 2 more hours of boiling really achieved.
 
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The 3 hr boil interests me. Not sure if there is anything to it, but it would be neat to see if there is any difference in yeast attenuation / FG for that boil. Though since the bran is only ~5-7 ppg, and you're using only 0.5 lbs per gallon, the impact should be minimal. Still, maybe some flavor constituents get modified in some way, or carmelization occurs. It might affect color more than anything.

Very cool experiments. I can't wait to see pictures and tasting notes for the final products! I definitely want to try this again.
 

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The 3 hr boil interests me. Not sure if there is anything to it, but it would be neat to see if there is any difference in yeast attenuation / FG for that boil. Though since the bran is only ~5-7 ppg, and you're using only 0.5 lbs per gallon, the impact should be minimal. Still, maybe some flavor constituents get modified in some way, or carmelization occurs. It might affect color more than anything.

Very cool experiments. I can't wait to see pictures and tasting notes for the final products! I definitely want to try this again.
Actually I did forget to mention that the color of the wort in the fermenter is more yellow and slightly greenish for the 3 hour boil batch. The 1 hour boil was more golden. I also see a lot more trub in the 3 hour boil fermenter - like same level in 24 hours as the 10+ day old 1 hour boil that's about fermented out!
 
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