hist-brewing: Sources...

OxladeMac at aol.com OxladeMac at aol.com
Sun Apr 4 08:03:10 PDT 1999

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In a message dated 4/3/99 7:12:00 PM Central Daylight Time, badger at nwlink.com 

<< the group around here consideres Digby a primary source.  Its best to
 have a supporting documentation from in period, usually Harrison, or
 Markham are used.
 On Fri, 2 Apr 1999, Mike Fuchs wrote:
 > Cheers,
 > Recently, I found out that Digbie is considered a secondary source, so
 > my question is, does anyone know of any primary sources??  I would be
 > interested in finding out what people are using as sources - primary,
 > secondary, or tertiary.  Any help, info, or websites would be greatly
 > appreciated.
 > Carrick 
 > [ Editor's note: This fellow is obviously a SCAdian, and thus probably
 > is most interested in brewing before 1600. Digby is from 1669, but
 > some people claim that he was writing about older techniques, since he
 > was really old when he wrote his book. I think that discussing "Is
 > Digby relevant to pre-1600 brewing" in terms of whether Digby is a
 > primary or secondary source for pre-1600 brewing is extremely
 > confusing, and should be avoided at all costs. Digby is obvious a
 > primary source for the brewing that he personally did. -- Greg ]
 >  >>

I agree.  Markham (1615ish), Harrison(1577), and Digbie(1669) are about the 
best we brewers can do for detailed descriptions.  Getting info prior to 
Harrison requires serious digging - like tax records and small quips from 
various documents.  The Domesday book comes to mind....  (If this isn't the 
case, and there is prepackaged info (like Markham and Harrison) prior to 
1577, somebody please tell me!)  

I would ignore the date on Digbie and consider it late period.  If you're 
doing meads, I would assume its accuracy even further back.  (I mean, come 
on.  How much documentation do you need for mead?  Honey, water, yeast - any 
questions?)  If anyone from the Laurel's circle hassles you about it, ignore 
them - They're probably overlooking other blatently modern aspects of your 
projects.  (Do you bottle like most of the modern world, or do you keg?  Are 
the kegs Oak?  American oak (not period) or French/English Oak?  How did you 
prepare your kegs?  Ect.....)  Fact is you've done your best to document a 
topic that is not trivial to document.  If you've gotten Digbie as a source, 
you've done your homework.

My theory about dates goes something like this:  Read Markham (or Digbie, for 
that matter).  Compare the techniques he describes to modern homebrewing 
techniques.  Convince yourself that only a few things have changed (like 
sparging) in the 384 years since his book.  Then ask yourself "is it 
reasonable to assume that if things haven't changed much in 384 years since, 
that things were probably the same for 50-100 years prior?"   

[ Editor's note: This is not the best justification I could think
of. There are many things which have been pretty contant for the last
384 years but were wildly different before that. Music, for example,
in many ways has changed much less in the past 384 years than it did
in the 100 years before that. Also, non-SCA readers on this list have
no idea what a Laurel is, and your friendly list owner doesn't
appreciate the implications you make about them. -- Greg ]

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