hist-brewing: Domesday ale

hdavis at ix.netcom.com hdavis at ix.netcom.com
Fri Feb 13 09:35:36 PST 1998

On 02/13/98 10:20:30 you wrote:
>On Thu, 12 Feb 1998 hdavis at ix.netcom.com wrote:
>> "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."
>> from the Domesday Book (1086)
>> One quarter weighs 256 pounds. Depending on your assumptions for 
>> efficiency, the OG should be in the neighborhood of 1100 or higher.
>A quarter of dry unmalted wheat weighs around 256 pounds.  A quarter of
>barley is different, a quarter of malted barley is different from both of
>the preceding.  I would say that malted wheat has a different weight per
>quarter than does unmalted wheat. 

Depending on the source, the "old" quarter of grayne was 3lbs 8ozs (1/4 
stone), while the more modern and better known quarter is 28lbs ( one 
quarter of a hundred weight). [from out of copyright material transcribed by 
Colin Hinson, who has provided the transcription to the UK & Ireland 
Genealogical Information Service] This use of quater as a measure of 
weight also agrees with primary sources provided to me by Judith Bennett Ph. 
D. and author of Ale, Beer, and Brewsters in England: Women's Work in a 
Changing World, 1300-1600. The use of "quarter" as a unit of weight is also 
suuported by a wide variety of dictionaries including American Heritage and 
Websters 1936 edition.  I haven't gone back to the original Domesday source, 
but this may be a case of translators converting to then-current measures - 
the "quartern or quarterne" being a unit measure of weight originally.

Most of my original in-period sources use a measure of "sacks" or bushels, 
each being a dryweight (volume) measurement. Unfortunately, the "sack" 
measure meant different things at different places and times - sometimes 
vastly so. For example, in 1544 the measure of a sack in Haarlem depended on 
the grain being measured. A sack of barley was 34.36 liters and wheat was 28 
liters. [Jaques van Loenen. De Haarlemse Brouwindustrie vor 1600. 
Universeitspers, 1950]. I have no sources for sack measures in England for 
similar time periods that indicate different volume measures based on the 

As a contradiction to the 256 pound measure, de Clerk in A Textbook of 
Brewing vol I; 587 and Hough in The Biotechnology of Malting and Brewing 
Cambridge University Press  define moden quarters as 448 pounds of barley or 
336 pounds of malt. For most economical assessments of grain usage, authors 
use a single specific gravity (generally 0.8) to represent all grain types 
since moisture content would play a fator in volume/weight ratios.
>The differences are significant between wheat and malted barley, that much
>I can remember.  And oats?  I would venter again more differences.  A
>quarter is a unit of VOLUME, and it is not possible to convert a unit of
>volume to a unit of weight willy-nilly, regardless of the material being
>measured.  Anybody who tells you otherwise, I'll make a bet with.  We'll
>take a quarter of molten lead and see if it weighs 256 pounds, and we'll
>take a quarter of gaseous hydrogen at 1 Atm pressure and see if it weighs
>256 pounds.  If they both weigh around 256 pounds at 1g, standard
>pressure, standard temperature, I'll pay you $1,000,000 dollars.  Of
>course, I'd never have to pay that on any honest measurement. 

I agree with you completly about not converting willy-nilly. Unfortunately 
that appears to be what the translators did. In the 11th century "quarter" 
was a unit of weight, NOT volume. Not to take you up, but if we use the 
Middle English definition of quarter(ne) as a unit of weight, I await your 
check. ;>

>However, there *is* a way to convert the quarter to units that we 
>understand today.

I believe that this is where many translations and redactions go wrong. As I 
look at many articles and books, the modern reference is that a quarter is 
"about 8 bushels" while the historical use of the term meant a quarter OF 
SOMETHING. A stone, a gill, a hundredweight, etc. In the Domeday context I 
don't see any reference that would suggest that we should use any measure 
other than weight. 

I'll look for a copy of Zupko. Who was the publisher? 

>For flavoring?  I recommend some kind of gruit, but I'm real short on 
>gruit recipes.  Precious little evidence of hops for flavoring ales in 
>England of the 11th century.

Do you have any sources that document the English using hops in ale before 
the 13th century?


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