hist-brewing: Domesday ale

Scott Mills Scott_mills at hp.com
Thu Feb 12 22:20:44 PST 1998

At 09:40 PM 2/12/98 -0500, you wrote:
>Somewhere in one of my brewing books, in an note which I can't seem to
>relocate, I read of a list of a year's production of so many units
>(barrels?) of ale produced in England in the early 11th C from so many
>quarters each of barley, wheat and oats.  I think it was likely from the
>Domesday book.  Can someone help me out with amounts or at least
>proportions, and the source?  I hope to brew a strong (maybe as high as OG
>1100, unhopped ale) from first runnings and perhaps a braggot from second
>runnings.  I hope I've tracked down a source of malted oats, but if I
>haven't , I may malt my own or just use flaked oats.

I actually when at this once before.  I malted my own oats since I was
unable to find any commercially. I tried using flaked oats.  DONT DO IT.
When I used the appropriate amount of flaked oats all I had in my mash
vessel was oatmeal mush and a stuck mash.

Here is where I started.

The Domesday book of 1066 says that "The monks of St. Paul's Cathedral 
brewed 67,814 gallons of ale using 175 quarters of Barley, 175 quarters of 
wheat, and 708 quarters of oats."

Well, a quarter is defined as a unit of weight equal to 2 stones (28 
pounds).  It is also defined as a unit of dry volume equal to 64 gallons.  
Since 1 gallon of grain weighs about 4 pounds, you can guess that a quarter 
of grain would weigh about 256 pounds.

Using the first definition for a quarter we would have   

67,814 gallons of ale brewed from 4900 pounds of Barley, and 4900 pounds of 
wheat and 19824 pounds of oats.  

Well, if I convert that down to a 5-gallon batch that I could work with you 

5 gallons of ale from .36 pounds of Barley, .36 pounds of pounds of Wheat, 
and 1.46 pounds of Oats.  (please check my math for me).

This isn't enough grain to do anything.  The result would be hardly more 
than colored water.  Therefore I assume that this definition of a quarter 
is not the one being used.

Using the second definition of a quarter we would have

67,814 gallons of ale brewed from 44,800 pounds of Barley, 44,800 pounds of 
Wheat, and 181,248 pounds of oats.

Once again I'll covert down to a 5-gallon batch and I get...

5 gallons of ale from 3.3 pounds of Barley, 3.3 pounds of wheat, and 13.36 
pounds of Oats. (please check my math once more)

Now that's a beer!!!  This is going to beer a good, strong, high-gravity  
beer right up there around 1.085 or better depending on your extraction.  It
seems likely that a small beer would have probably been made from the second
runnings.  This is definitely a workable recipe.  It will be unusual from
the start because it is made mostly from oats but I don't know that this is
necessarily bad.

To make the beer even more authentic it could be fermented and aged in Oak 
and never see a glass or plastic fermenter.  I feremnted in glass but tossed
in some oak chips for good measure.

Unfortunately, we don't know if any of the malts are roasted or not so we 
have no idea how dark a brew it would be.  In my experiment I didn't roast
any of the malts.  

Also, at this period they would probably not have been using Hops in England
yet so there would have been a weird bunch of spices thrown in or nothing at
all. In my experiment I used Costmary, or Alecost which I planted in my
backyard specifically for this brew. It grows like crazy and has a nice
spearmint aroma and is sufficiently bitter to offset the sweetness of this
high-gravity brew.    
My first and only shot at this brew wasn't bad but it wasn't all that good
either.  My OG was 1.087 and I used the Wyeast British Ale yeast.  I was
very sweet and acoholic but lacked at real character that you could wrap you
palate around.

I plan to try the brew again this summer perhaps more than once and add
various amounts or roasted grains and play with my Alecost additions to see
if I can get a little more complexity.  Just for grins I also want to do all
of my mashing and boiling in a copper kettle, outdoors, over a wood fire,
and ferment in wood. I have even considered filtering the mash through
barley or wheat straw since I have heard that was sometimes done (I just
gotta figure how exactly I would do that).  I also think that I have a
brewer that can provide me with some yeast that was cultured from a bottle
retrieved from a 17th century English shipwreck.

If you try the recipe or some variation thereof, I would love to hear how
yours turns out.

Have Fun,

Scott Mills
scott_mills at hp.com

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