hist-brewing: The "Old English" ale

Bryan Maloney bjm10 at cornell.edu
Thu Sep 18 06:58:34 PDT 1997

>Actually, I am finding yet another excuse to brew!  I agree that the

I'll buy that.  Any excuse to brew is a good excuse.

>Anyway, can you give me directions for roasting in the oven?

This takes two things:

An oven with very good low-temperature control.
Time and patience to watch the malt.

It is helpful to have a little bit of Munich or dark Vienna malt on hand
and/or have a good knowledge of malt darknesses.

Preheat oven to roughly 175 degrees Fahrenheit--you may need to find a
thermometer to help get this temperature.
Take your malt and spread it out evenly on shallow pans.
Heat the malt for about an hour, pull it out and turn it over with a pancake
  flipper or similar implement.
After each turning, break a few grains and examine the color of the innards.
Repeat heating and turning until it's the color you like.

I believe that "Old English Beers" has a different set of instructions that
works just as well.

>Having therefore groond eight bushels of good malt upon our querne, where

>These quantities converted into pounds would be:

I am very leery of converting bushels into pounds, for a few reasons:

1:  Wheat, barley, and malted barley all have significantly different
volumes at a given weight.  Thus, using a "standard" value for wheat would
give an erroneous conversion for barley malt.

2:  Moisture content can significantly affect weight per volume for all
types of grain--and it could still appear "dry".  I worked for two years in
a grain storage laboratory, so I speak from direct experience.

3:  Volume to volume conversions are *very* simple to do if you brew
all-grain.  It's pretty darn easy to calibrate a coffee can to "X quarts"
and then use it as your volume measure.  Now, it just so happens that not
one, but *two* official bushel measures survive, one from the 15th, and one
from the 16th century.  Both are within a couple percentage points of the
modern US bushel (yes, somebody recently measured their volumes).

As an aside, the same sources that directly measured the official bushels
state that, while the Troy pound might have been the "legal" pound of
England, its actual use was restricted to  metals, stones, and some other
precious items.  There were two other pounds in common use in England from
the 14th-16th centuries.  The "Tower" pound was slightly larger than the US
pound, and the Avoirdupois pound, our own pound.  Agricultural goods,
especially, seem to have been measured in Avoirdupois.  I'll try to
remember to bring the citation with me tomorrow.

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