hist-brewing: Re: Domesday Ale

Jeff Renner nerenner at umich.edu
Fri Feb 13 20:23:58 PST 1998

Historical Brewers

I'm tickled by the discussion that my question has set off, as many
questions as answers, which is fine.

I like bjm10 at cornell.edu's suggestion that we use volume measures and thus
not have to worry about converting to weights.  The unknown conversion
factors drop out.  I agree that different grains have different densities.
I just called the local feed mill:

wheat is 60 lbs./bu.
barley is 48 lbs./bu.
oats are 32 lbs./bu. (why are oats always plural?)

I believe that density is reduced a bit by malting.  But none of this
matters if we just use volumes.  Thanks for that suggestion.   It does
mean, however, that we are dealing with a lot less grain than we thought.
So, wheat:barley:oats is not 1:1:4 by weight, but rather approximately 3:2:8

One thought that none of us has mentioned, the total of ~67,000 gallons
could represent the total of as many as three beers from each brew - strong
ale, table beer, and small beer from first, second and third runnings.
I've read that these could have been OG 1100+, 1045 and 1020 respectively.
So we could easily get some OG 1100+ wort from the amount of grain we are
speaking of, perhaps something like 20,000 gallons of the total.

>Harrison's 16th-century "Description of England" mentioned that light
>malts were preferred to dark ones.  I would say that malts may have been
>more uneven, but not necessarily uniformly darker than modern malts.

While pale malt was well have been preferred, I believe that other than
wind malt, even a pale malt was likely to be somewhat more highly colored
than modern pale malt, and brown malt was likely by far the most common.
It's my understanding that the "new" pale ale of several centuries ago was
pale only in contrast to older brown ale.  Brown ale was esteemed because
it was an indication of strength, "the Beste and Brouneste that the
Brewsters sullen..." (Piers Plowman, 14th Century).  So I will include some
dark malt.

Second and third runnings would have been increasingly paler due to their
being weaker.  Small beer was likely rather astringent (from extraction of
tannins and other phenols) as well as weak, and would have had very poor
keeping qualities as well.  It was apparently distained ("I will make it
felony to drink small beer...when I am king, as king I will be -- " says
Dick in Shakespeare's Henry VI, Part Two.)

I remain open minded as to hops, but will leave them out.


Jeff Renner in Ann Arbor, Michigan c/o nerenner at umich.edu

"I have found that alcohol taken in sufficient quantity produces all the
effects of drunkenness."  Oscar Wilde (1854-1900), Irish author, playwright
and wit.

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