hist-brewing: Hi

Beth Ann Snead ladypeyton at yahoo.com
Thu Jan 7 16:01:02 PST 1999


> but my question is this.  Do you all use this information in actual
brewing,
> or is this of a more theoretical nature?  

As a member of the SCA I use as many period methods as are practical
to someone living in a one bedroom condo.  So, although I don't as of
yet have oak barrels large enough to mimic period storage methods
without oxidizing the contents (a minimum of 11 gallons when one is
making wine) I follow my period recipes strictly while avoiding those
recipes that are foolish and dangerous. (I have not made a mead with
wormwood as an ingredient and don't forsee doing so in the future) 
Sometimes my period recipes result in something that is undrinkable. 
At which time I try to ascertain whether it is my modern sensibilities
coming into play or if something went wrong.  If something went wrong
I try to ascertain if it was because of error on my part or part of
the hit or miss nature of the period brewing and vinting trade.  At
which point, I then break from my recreationism.  If something is
undrinkable I try again.  In period, most likely, the brew would have
been drunk no matter what it resulted in unless it caused physical
illness.

> what I make, but my (very) unlearned impression is that before Pasteur
> and knowledge of hygeine came along, a lot of what our forebears drank
> was pretty sketchy stuff. 

In the case of beer and ale I am not the person ot talk to, but when
making wines, ciders and meads; Pasteur didn't affect the nature of
the beast in any way.  Most pre-1600 recipes for these items stress
choosing clean, sound ingredients free of mold.  Since the fruit used
is usually fresh, pasteurization isn’t isn’t an issue.  After
fermentation the alcohol content will take care of any problem that
might cause infection.   Honey would have been boiled anyway to remove
the residual wax and bee bits that were inevitably in period honey.

There are many references in de Villanova's _Booke of Wine_ to
sanitation measures that echo methods used today, down to the use of
sulfur strips, which are used to sanitize oak barrels.  We modern
people sometimes underestimate the sanitation used in medieval times. 
I once had to count the number of times de Villanova mentioned
cleaning either ingredients or equipment while in a discussion on
rec.craft.winemaking.  In a 37 page translation the idea of
cleanliness came up over 20 times.  This in a book that was originally
published @ 1347. 

Even so, there is no guarantee that what I am making in my back room
tastes like it would have in period, but I try to get as close as
possible. 

I've rambled enough.

Beth Ann
Lady Lettice Peyton in the East Kingdom of the SCA


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