hist-brewing: keeping of ale

Jeff Renner nerenner at umich.edu
Fri May 7 10:09:45 PDT 1999

>From: Wade Hutchison <whutchis at bucknell.edu> wrote:
>I would suggest this is the difference - Ale was probably not shipped,
>since it lasted at most 4-5 days from the date of brewing.  Beer,
>on the other hand, could last up to a year (e.g. Markham's March
>Beer), so it could be shipped about.

Hops are, IMO, greatly overrated by some as preservatives.  After all,
lambics are hopped, albeit with aged hops.  I think that strong ales would
have been able to have been kept (and aged?) in barrels as well as wine
was.  My unhopped Domesday Ale (50% home malted oats, OG 1.096) is just
fine.  Six days in primary, racked to three gallon carboy for four months,
now three months in bottle, with absolutely no sign of spoilage.  I also
have an unhopped braggot (~1/2 malt, 1/2 honey) that has been five months
in the secondary and is fine.  Of course, I used pure culture yeast and was
modern in my sanitation, but I don't think we should assume that midieval
brewers were ignorant of what made good ale.

Small beer (unhopped) would be an entirely different matter, but due to its
low alcohol.  Beer was a term for weaker fermented malt beverage before it
acquired the distinction of being used for hopped same.  It was reputedly
not all that great fresh, and quickly deteriorated.


Jeff Renner in Ann Arbor, Michigan USA, c/o nerenner at umich.edu
"One never knows, do one?"  Fats Waller, American Musician, 1904-1943. 

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