Medieval Ale - thoughts on a recipe?

Homebrew Talk - Beer, Wine, Mead, & Cider Brewing Discussion Forum

Help Support Homebrew Talk:

adagiogray

Well-Known Member
Joined
Feb 20, 2011
Messages
77
Reaction score
5
Location
Blacklick
OK, wasn't sure if it belonged in the beginner or all-grain forums, as both apply here. :)
I'm still very much a novice brewer, but I like to think I've tried some more challenging recipes out of the gates, and I like to experiment. I'm also a participant in the SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism) events at times. I'd like to go to Pennsic War this year with something relatively authentic to drink.

Pennsic, for those curious, is a 2 week long summer camping event where 10-15,000 mostly-grown men and women beat on each other in full armor with rattan weapons and dance, drink, perform, make merry, do arts and crafts, etc)

I'm shooting for an early medieval period in England, 1000-1200ish as far as timeline.

From the poking about I've done here and elsewhere online, it seems that there are a few common things I've found in a lot of the discussions and articles:

- hops weren't part of the gameplan.
- the grain bill seemed to be primarily barley malt, with some oats and wheat or rye
- a portion of the grain is often toasted
- they didn't boil the wort(no hops!)
- they didn't sparge, they just used a ton of grain and an 'infusion' method.
- no racking to a secondary for clarity, chew on the chunky bits and like it. ;)
- the ale had to be drunk fairly young, during the first several weeks/primary
ferment, as spoilage was much more likely without hops and a boil.

Trying out an ale recipe like this really appeals to me on many levels, one being of good Scottish stock, and two, I am NOT a hophead. I enjoy sweeter beers and strong ales/barleywines.

I have NOT done an all-grain yet, but I've read up on it here, and watched some vids on how a few people have done it.

I'm looking for some insights and tips and thoughts on my plan and process.
I'm shooting for a standard 5 gallon batch, remember, no boil, although I plan to bring the water I use to a boil. Supposedly the proteins left behind by not boiling after mash add to the flavor and nutrition(and spoilage), and the yeast has a tough time chewing on them.

This grain bill is and process are a VERY rough estimation, let me know if you think it is appropriate. I'm shooting for a retro flavor, but using some modern conveniences. ;)

8 lbs maris otter or some other malted barley
2 lbs oat
2 lbs wheat malt
1 lb flaked rye

Keep in mind, I'm looking for a solid old english ale, amber, strongish.

*spread 2 lbs of the maris otter on a cookie sheet, toast in the oven at 225Fx40 mins, then 275F for 20 mins (i read that toasting milled/crushed grain is ok, even though whole is preferable - thoughts?)

I'm an electric stovetop guy, no cool campfire propane setup. I have two 5 gallon stainless pots that I can get to a boil fairly easily if I do 2.5 gallons in each. The process I imagined was a cross between a true 'mash' and a steep.

1. Bring both pots of 2.5 gallons to a boil(not a full rolling boil, just a few bubbles)
2. remove from heat, let the temp drop to 170-180ish, transfer water to sanitized cooler ( I was thinking about getting this 28 quart igloo for only 15.88 at Walmart - http://www.walmart.com/ip/Igloo-Island-Breeze-28-Quart-Personal-Cooler/16437966 )
3. use 24x24 or larger grain bag, toss in grain, actively 'mash' with paddle periodically the first hour, cover, let sit for 3-4 hours minimum.
4. When temp finally drops below 80, draw out the grain bag, transfer the wort to your sanitized primary bucket, aerate, pitch Nottingham.
4. After 1-2 weeks have passed (after the most active bubbling portion of the ferment is done), rack off to a Cornelius keg(my next purchase), which should be able to handle the pressure of additional fermentation, and enjoy right away, or wait for the krausen drop?


Any glaring holes in my nefarious plans?
 

FatherJack

Well-Known Member
Joined
Sep 26, 2010
Messages
500
Reaction score
15
I dunno, I'm kinda tired and I re-read the post a couple of times, but I don't see any bittering agent.

You'll want to get some gruit/herbs in there to push back against the malt or it will be kinda...well...let's just say not palatable.

My apologies if I did miss this element.
 

spagyric

Well-Known Member
Joined
Mar 24, 2011
Messages
52
Reaction score
1
Location
Portland
King Elessar said:
You'll want to get some gruit/herbs in there to push back against the malt or it will be kinda...well...let's just say not palatable.
+1 Stephen Buhner's book about herbal beers might be worth a glance for some ideas. I really like his book, he has some interesting stuff in there.

I would imagine that you're gonna have some wild stuff growing in your beer if you don't boil after the mash, but I also imagine the beer they drank back then had a lot of wild stuff growing in it. I definitely want to hear how this turns out.

Good luck! :mug:
 

unionrdr

Homebrewer, author & air gun collector
Lifetime Supporter
Joined
Feb 19, 2011
Messages
39,136
Reaction score
3,797
Location
Sheffield
they used to heat rocks in a fire till very hot,then place them into the wooden vessel with the water & grains. Something like that was done by Sam over at Dog Fish Head. There's a video on youtube about it.
 

biochemedic

Well-Known Member
Lifetime Supporter
Joined
Jun 6, 2010
Messages
2,525
Reaction score
416
Location
Carnegie, PA
I agree with the above ...you'll be looking towards a gruit ale of sorts. Does your target era allow for use of iron vessels? If so, I think you should consider a boil using some combination of gruit herbs ...I've made two gruits, one of which was a Scottish ale base, and used heather tips and mugwort...can't recall at this second whether or not there was anything else. You might want to check out www.gruitale.com -- this site has lots of great info, and the recipe for the brew I mentioned
 

Revvy

Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc
Lifetime Supporter
Joined
Dec 11, 2007
Messages
41,288
Reaction score
3,725
Location
"Detroitish" Michigan
I've got a bunch of links for the society for creative anachronism and other rennaisaince brewing websites in my Beer History sites thread. As well as links to other medieval brewing links.

Post 5-6-7 have various medieval and rennaisance links in there, including a couple SCA brewing sites.
 
Joined
Sep 9, 2009
Messages
2,996
Reaction score
594
Location
Virginia Beach
While you're on the topic of brewing with traditional herbs, you might want to consider starting a small brewing garden. Check out your local nursery; you might be surprised at what they have. Most of the plants look cool, so even if you don't use them often, they will look good. If you're doing things traditional, there's nothing better than growing your own!
 
OP
adagiogray

adagiogray

Well-Known Member
Joined
Feb 20, 2011
Messages
77
Reaction score
5
Location
Blacklick
I've read in a few places that pine or spruce needles were used, but I've never come across a recipe that specified how much. Anyone here have experience using them?

As far as infection/growing bad critters, while there isn't a full boil, getting in the 155-160ish range is an appropriate temp for pasteurization, yes?

In fact, one person on here that backsweetens ciders recommends killing yeast by placing your bottles in 160 degree water for 10-15 minutes.
 
OP
adagiogray

adagiogray

Well-Known Member
Joined
Feb 20, 2011
Messages
77
Reaction score
5
Location
Blacklick
Revvy - you're always a great source of info. I think I've seen some of the threads listed there, but I'll have a complete look tonight.

I've considered a small herb garden, actually. I'll have to look further into the bittering agents, but from the few recipes/articles I came across, I took away from it that it was just grain.

Biochemedic - I'll definitely have a look at the site!

Has anyone here tried the Alba Scots Pine Ale? I have a couple of friends over in PA that swear it's their favorite beer. http://www.williamsbrosbrew.com/historicales.php?id=44

Also, any thoughts as far as the grain bill? Does that seem appropriate for my brew method?
 
OP
adagiogray

adagiogray

Well-Known Member
Joined
Feb 20, 2011
Messages
77
Reaction score
5
Location
Blacklick
It looks like there wasn't a bittering agent some/a lot of the time. Palatable is subjective and sometimes acquired. ;) I'm just curious what taste was on the tongue for ol' Joe Miller circa 1100, for better or worse.
 

COLObrewer

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 9, 2009
Messages
2,940
Reaction score
85
Location
Pea Green
I've read in a few places that pine or spruce needles were used, but I've never come across a recipe that specified how much. Anyone here have experience using them? . . . . .
When we brew our pine beers, we will line the bottom of the tun with pine bows (This helps with lautering also). And we boil a "loose" gallon of pine twigs/needles (small branches) for 10 minutes. I would think if you're not boiling, just throw some in for the duration.

Some people use only the "new" growth for their spruce beers, we usually don't wait for that, but right now is a good time to gather new pine growth (sprouts?), here anyway.

Also: I believe KingBrianI has done some medievel ale brew (I think they actually drank some without barfing), you may try searching off him or search medievel? Edit: Here's the thread, https://www.homebrewtalk.com/f14/medieval-ale-discussion-experiences-101776/index6.html started at post #58.

Keep us posted, this is interesting:mug:
 

Malintent

Well-Known Member
Joined
May 11, 2010
Messages
377
Reaction score
9
Location
Ceilin
I've read in a few places that pine or spruce needles were used, but I've never come across a recipe that specified how much. Anyone here have experience using them?
not using them.. just drinking them. Yards, in Philli, makes the George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Ben Franklin beers. I think it was the Jefferson beer that was made with spruce. Piny (as you would imagine).
 

BaronWill

New Member
Joined
Jun 19, 2017
Messages
1
Reaction score
0
I am a brewing historian and mostly focus on middle ages and colonial brewing. I read this post and wanted to give you some info. Hops are found in the middle ages. They started to surface around 900 AD but were in more common use towards the 14th century. Having said this, it took a long time for Gruit to go out of fashion. A few reasons for this was first, Hops took a while to grow in England and become available for population to brew with. Secondly, Gruit utilized spices and herbs grown in the garden and the wild. Most folks grew them and they had easy access for them. If you want some references I can send you my research paper on hops in the middle ages. Much of it came from Unger's book, "Beer in the middle ages and Renaissance." Also there is good evidence for the use of Tettnang, Hallertauer and Saaz for use in period beer. Give me a shout if you would like more info.
 

TheMadKing

Western Yankee Southerner and Brew Science Nerd
HBT Supporter
Joined
Jun 17, 2015
Messages
3,886
Reaction score
2,016
Location
Gainesville
I am a brewing historian and mostly focus on middle ages and colonial brewing. I read this post and wanted to give you some info. Hops are found in the middle ages. They started to surface around 900 AD but were in more common use towards the 14th century. Having said this, it took a long time for Gruit to go out of fashion. A few reasons for this was first, Hops took a while to grow in England and become available for population to brew with. Secondly, Gruit utilized spices and herbs grown in the garden and the wild. Most folks grew them and they had easy access for them. If you want some references I can send you my research paper on hops in the middle ages. Much of it came from Unger's book, "Beer in the middle ages and Renaissance." Also there is good evidence for the use of Tettnang, Hallertauer and Saaz for use in period beer. Give me a shout if you would like more info.


I would love to read your paper if you don't mind sharing! sounds fascinating:mug:

In regards to the OP: a few comments:

-I would strongly recommend using a bittering agent, and boiling, or at least heating to 160 after the mash. Reason: I participated in an archaeology field school on the island of Cyprus that was focused on an early bronze age malt kiln for beer making. As part of the reconstruction, we made a crude form of beer with the methods at the time (natural yeast, no bittering agent, hand ground malt on stones, no boil) and to be quite honest it taste like sour vomit and was the worst thing I've ever tasted. Plus it's not unreasonable to think that they had figured out boiling and bittering in the early middle ages, since beer had been made in some form for over 2000 years at that point. Historical recipes are usually pretty dubious as far as accuracy goes, when they are that old.

-Your mash won't be successful if your strike water is 170F. You will denature the enzymes needed to make simple sugars. So you need to make sure your water is in the 147-158F range once you dump the grain in. I wouldn't use strike water that was much more than 162F

-Deschutes Red Chair NWPA used to use spruce tips (I don't think it does anymore), but I made a clone with spruce tips and they are very nice to brew with! I would also highly recommend heather, juniper, and meadwort as brewing herbs.
 

Morrey

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 22, 2016
Messages
3,529
Reaction score
1,378
Location
Coastal, SC
I am a brewing historian and mostly focus on middle ages and colonial brewing. I read this post and wanted to give you some info. Hops are found in the middle ages. They started to surface around 900 AD but were in more common use towards the 14th century. Having said this, it took a long time for Gruit to go out of fashion. A few reasons for this was first, Hops took a while to grow in England and become available for population to brew with. Secondly, Gruit utilized spices and herbs grown in the garden and the wild. Most folks grew them and they had easy access for them. If you want some references I can send you my research paper on hops in the middle ages. Much of it came from Unger's book, "Beer in the middle ages and Renaissance." Also there is good evidence for the use of Tettnang, Hallertauer and Saaz for use in period beer. Give me a shout if you would like more info.
Will, my wife and have been watching several series on Netflix about Vikings and their conquests in Europe, particularly Wessex in England. Not sure of the exact time frame, but Alfred the Great was appx 880-900 AD so this would be close.

They depict the folks speaking of and drinking lots of ale. Would you have any idea what this "ale" would be like? Did they have any way to contain off gasses to make the ale carbonated? Ingredients they may have used? Just curious as this lifestyle seems to depend on ale a great deal.
 
Top