hist-brewing: historical mashing/new "old ale"

Andrew M. Hartig andrew at butter.ucsb.edu
Thu May 14 13:29:22 PDT 1998


Newbie brewer with a couple of questions:

1) In reviewing early (i.e. 1500-1750) sources (i.e. those found in 
Renfrow, _Sip Through Time_) for beer/ale brewing, the mashing process 
that seems to be called for is bringing the water to a boil (or almost a 
boil?) and then pouring it (softly/gently?) over the malts in another 
tub.  This is then left to sit for 1-3 hours (or until the "second water" 
is ready), and is then "let out" of the tub and off of the grains into a 
boiling vessel where it is then boiled (or gently heated?).

It doesn't seem that the idea of mashing at a controlled temperature 
(i.e. with the use of a thermometer, @ about 160 deg. F) came about until 
1800 or so.  (BTW, when _was_ the invention of the thermometer?)

Does anyone out there have experience with this sort of "infusion" mash?  
I am interested in doing this (after an already failed attempt -- I think 
my water was not hot enough so my wort was really weak [compared to what 
I was expecting], plus an infection crept into the secondary, reminding 
me the importance of sanitation!].  Advice is welcome (and hoped for).

2) (This also relates to #1)  My hope is to do a kind of new "old ale", 
using not any particular early source (1500-1600), but kind of a 
conglomeration of.  Here are my thoughts:

For 5 gallons, use:
	8 lbs. 2-row malted barley
	1.5 lbs. local wildflower honey
	.5 oz. hops (Cascade)
	1 pk. Edme ale yeast

Based on Digby's "Small Ale for the Stone" (and because I don't care too 
much for the bitterness of hops), I am planning on boiling 4 gallons of 
water with the .5 oz of hops for near 1 hour.  Then pouring this mixture 
over the 8 lbs of malt (kept in a mesh bag) into a plastic 
primary/bottling bucket (i.e. has spigot at bottom for racking/bottling), 
letting it sit for 2-2.5 hours (as per Digby), and then racking back into 
boiling vessel (mesh bag helps keep debris out).

Then per later practices, I plan on sparging the rest of the grain by 
pouring two one gallon batches of boiled water over the grains 
(waste-not, want-not).  This should bring total volume of water to be 
boiled in boiling vessel to approx. 5 gallons (my brew-pot only holds 
5.5!).  This will be boiled/simmered for about 75-90 minutes (to get hot 
break), with the addition of the 1.5 lb. honey for taste/higher sugar 
content.

Wort will be slow cooled, transfered to plastic primary, and pitched with 
Edme ale yeast the following day.  After one week, will be transferred to 
glass secondary for two weeks (allowing more sediment to fall), then 
bottled with use of gyle for carbonation.

The 8 lb. of grain is based loosely on the "1577" beer recipe -- figuring 
that through conversions the malt required is just a little over 8 lbs., 
plus oats and wheat equalling about a total of 1.5 lbs.  Honey, being 
about 80% fermentable sugar, is being used instead of the oats and 
wheat.  I am using Edme, only because I have used it in the past, so I 
know more or less what to expect.  All told, I think this could yield a 
maximum (on paper) SG of 1.059, with a maximum possible alcohol of roughly 8%.

How does this sound to others?  I tend to be a bit on the "lazy" (or 
should I say "relaxed"?) side, so I am not interested in keeping a 
careful watch over the mashing process (i.e. thermometers and controlled 
heat), so I would much prefer to brew this using the "infusion" technique 
described above.  I am also hoping to start this on this Sunday (5/17).  
My past experience includes a couple of "ok" meads (the last one not 
having enough honey), and (as I said before) a "practice ale" (which I 
didn't get to try, but followed pretty much this above receipt).  Any and 
all advice very welcome.  Flames too! (even though they should be 
reserved for heating wort)

Thanks in advance,
-A:

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