hist-brewing: Gruit and unhopped ales

adam larsen euphonic at flash.net
Fri Apr 21 23:57:00 PDT 2000

    This first posting is meant to provide an introduction regarding
sources and techniques used in the home based production of  unhopped
and gruit based ales.
My experiences in attempting to brew these exotic drinks have only
recently come to fruition after roughly 3 years of , mostly,
disappointing experimentation.  My intention is that my postings will
encourage others to attempt to use the methods & recipes described.  I
also hope that others will help me locate the rather esoteric
ingredients required and share their own experiences.  I will provide
installments as frequently as time permits.

I.   Sources

     My information on these ales have been taken from two sources.
First among these are several old German and English texts listed
below.  Secondly,  the kindly advice and family recipes/ techniques
provided by friends from the Isle of Man, George Donnsby,  and Matti
Sorenson from Gottland.  Both are  friends I've acquired over the past 4
years as a result of shared interests.


"The Historical Companion to House Brewing"  by Clive La Pens'ee (1990)
G.S. Amsinck's "Practical Brewing"   (1868)
Roy Suggsden's "The Curious &  Quaint Ales of  Our Forefathers" (1912)
J.G. Hahn's "Die Hausbrauerei" (1804)
L. Fuchs' "Kreuterbuch" (1543)
R.K. Sykes'   "Instructions For  Thrifty Ale Wives" (1797)
    My forays into producing ales from these recipes has depended upon
others for translating quantities, measures,  terms and techniques into
modern english equivalents.  Hence, I feel the need to warn the reader
that that i can't vouch for the historical accuracy of my renditions of
the recipes and methods beyond a rudimentary level.
    My descriptions of methods used will be based upon my actual
experiences at making these  ales.  The originators of  recipes will be
stated as either coming from one of  the books listed above or from
advice offered by my more experienced brewing friends mentioned earlier.

Mashing and Lautering  Methods:

    Please note that all of my successful attempts at making unhopped
ales have required mashing and are unsuitable for extract brewing.  Two
mash methods have proven themselves applicable to my attempts at  making
unhopped ales.
    First,  when making Juniper based, ex. Sahti and Gottland Drinka, or
various shaving ales I've had best success with an extremely gradual
increase in the mash temperature.  This method was described to me by
Matti Sorenson as follows:
    "Start with a thick mash of  one to one and one quarter  liters of
water per half kilogram of grist.  In the beginning the mash should be
warm to the touch, although not hot enough  for modern mashing."  He
guess that the temperature is 120-130 degrees Fahrenheit at this stage.
"The temperature should be gradually increased over the course of the
next  three hours by drawing off roughly 750ml of wort and combining it
with about 400ml  of water every half hour or so.  The mixture is
brought to a boil and mixed back into the main mash.  After continuing
in this fashion for three hours the mash is held for one hour.  Lastly,
5 liters of boiling water is added for each 3500 grams of grist  prior
to drawing off the liquor."
    The second method is a no sparge single stage infusion method. My
efforts using this technique are taken from Suggsden's recommendations.
Generally,  I have found that mashing temperatures for antiquarian style
ales are very high by modern standards. Following the instructions found
in his book the single infusion method results in the  rests ranging
from 155 to 160 degrees Fahrenheit.  Rests are usually 2 to three hours
    Suggsden's  recipes call for 1.5 to 2 quarts of  water per pound of
grist. with one pound per ten of the grist ground to flour like
constancy with the remainder being courser.  A mash out is then
recommended with one quart of  boiling water per
pound of  grist.
    Both forms of mashing are followed by the wort being drawn off
slowly over a period of  one to three hours depending upon the grist
composition.  Typically,  some portion of the hop substitutes are placed
in the collection vessel during this phase of the process.  The
collected wort is not recirculated.
    My experience has been that these procedures result in a low yield
of  high gravity wort.  Extraction is typically around 70%.  In order
to  collect enough wort to produce my customary 6 gallon batches my
grist bills are typically 50% to 70% higher then would be the case for
modern ales of comparable gravity.
    Finally,  these methods are typically used to produce high gravity
ales (1.060 to1.100 O.G.).  The resultant ales range from medium to very
thick with great mouth feel.  They also have a pronounced sweetness.
The high residual sweetness tends to counter the sourness often present
in hop free ales.

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