hist-brewing: Gervase Markham Strong Ale

Baden,Doug baden at oclc.org
Thu Sep 17 08:42:50 PDT 1998


Eric:
Good Work!  I like how you present things in their context within the
book and the body of Markham's work!

A few small things:
The English medieval gallon is almost exactly the same as the American
gallon.  The English changed theirs later.

See Sambrook, "Country House Brewing in England, 1500-1900", 1997 or
Lightbody, J. (James), "Every man his own gauger ...", 1700.

But, since you use the same volume throughout, it is a wash :).
Interestingly enough, I have switched to using volumes instead of
weights.  I get a more consistent beer and do not have to worry about
the moisture content in the grains.

Lead was used because that is what was available.  Lead does not come
out in hard water, which is what is used in beer.  Soft water will pick
up lead, and that is what we use in the modern world, though not in
brewing.  See Sambrook again.  Pamela tells the story of a brewing house
that poisoned the town using soft water accidentally.  They went right
out of business :).

Gervase was writing for a housewife.  In a Gentleman's brewing house a
copper heating vessel was used along with wood bucks, coolers, and
storage vessels.  Lead sheeting was added in the very late 1600's and
was used until low level lead poisoning was proven to be hazardous.
Lead sheeting was easier to clean.

The paragraph about beating the wort at the end has three purposes.
First, the alebarm also contains hops.  If one skims it off, the beer
will be less bitter..  Secondly, it does indeed increase fermentation
speed.  But this also stops the formation of the cap.  In the quantities
that Markham is talking, the alebarm that rises to the top actually
forms a fairly hard cap that keeps the wild yeast out of the beer.  We
use smaller quantities and so do not get the cap.  I started working in
larger quantities and found the cap formed, to my delighted surprise.

Doug Baden

Doug Baden    My opinions are my own. 
When I see "And it is obvious that" I know that
I have many hours of work to see the obvious...


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