hist-brewing: Re: "Stale" for Braggot

Paul Placeway pwp at cs.cmu.edu
Thu Apr 6 07:16:22 PDT 2000

Randy Mosher writes:

< Regarding the use of the term "stale" in this recipe, it was used up
< until the end of the 19th century to denote a well-aged, or "old"
< ale.  It was not a perjorative. As these were aged in barrels, there
< was a considerable action from brettanomyces bacteria and other
< critters, resulting in an acidic character, which was verified by
< lab analyses of old ales around 1900. This taste can be found today
< in Gales Prize Old Ale, as wellas in lambics and Belgian sour brown
< and red ales such as Rodenbach.

This is fine and accurate for 18th--19th C. ales.  "Ales" that were
boiled after run-off, and particularly including some amounts of hops,
can be expected to last long enough to age.  (Among other evidence,
I've had a "Scotch Ale" from the Digbie recipe, which is boiled after
run-off, last for over 6 months in the bottle just fine.)

On the other hand, there is some evidence that medieval ales were not
boiled after run-off.  [see Bennett: _Ale, Beer, and Brewsters in
England_]  I've tried this for a number of batches, and every single
one of them went sour after 4 to 5 days (but were just fine to drink,
if extremely murky, at 2--3 days).  Judging from the taste after
souring, Lactobacillus isn't killed by the heat of the mashing
process, but takes longer to ferment the lactose than the yeast takes
to ferment the simpler sugars.

On the basis of this, along with the English dislike for sour ale
[again Bennett], I would believe "stale" could mean simply "fermented"
for the earlier brews.

		--Paul Placeway
		  (in the SCA: Tofi)

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