hist-brewing: Gruit and unhopped ales

adam larsen euphonic at flash.net
Wed Apr 26 11:22:31 PDT 2000

    I've a bunch of  recipes that use wood.  Mainly, they refer to fur,
spruce, oak, juniper, cottonwood and uwe.  Your right that each wood
tastes differently,  keep in mind that weather you use wood from the
branches, trunk or bark seems to effect the flavor although i don't know
why.   As soon as i've finished going over production techniques i'll go
over individual recipes  as well as changes i've made that i think give
better results.
    As far as bitter orange is concerned i've found that placing them in
the brew pot while collecting runoff from the mash tun provides the best
results.  I'm a big fan of the use of treacle, especially in unhopped
ales, and have used tea in a method similar to what you describe with
fine results.

Deborah Wood wrote:

> What kind of wood do you think that they used in the shaving ales?
> Every wood would give a different taste, or in my opinion cretain
> woods would be more useful as a flavoring. I have made beer flavored
> with spruce branches, 6 or 7 times, and although not a session beer,
> is a very pleasing beverage. I would be interested
> to know if you have any documentation on what type of woods were used.
> As for adding herbal teas to beer, I am experimenting this month with
> a dark
> amber wheat beer( barly, wheat, small amount of oats, bit of chocolate
> malt and a touch of extra dark crystal 135- 165 lovibond) flavored
> with orange flowers.I steeped the flowers in my beer as it cooled, but
> will add a stong tea to the keg for aging soon.
> I am also brewing strong ales, with treakle added( sometimes I put
> demarra
> sugar as well) I find it interesting that kettle sugars often made up
> 20 %
> of the fermentable material. I boiled my treacle last time, this may
> affect the flavor.
> Deborah Wood
> adam larsen a écrit :
>>     This posting and previous posting show that the production of
>> gruit and other unhopped ales require production techniques that are
>> quite different from contemporary brewing practices.  This time
>> around i'll share a little info i've acquired regarding boil
>> regimens.
>> Boiling Practices
>>     My tinkering, reading and discussion regarding  regarding the
>> preparation of old fashioned ales has demonstrated that that my
>> conventional practice of  boiling  the wort for one to two hours is
>> not necessary or even desirable!  Sykes for instance suggests that
>> ale be steeped, not boiled so that "foul humors not be driven into
>> the ale along with the goodness".  Now i've never quite figured out
>> what steeping entails exactly in terms of  temperature and time
>> according to Sykes.  Nonetheless,  I have leaned that boiling and
>> spicing strike and sparge water is equally important to the
>> production of unhopped ales as is how the wort is treated.
>> Basically, i've been able to separate the techniques into two
>> categories.
>>      Shavings Ales
>>         The preparation of shavings ales require that the wood
>> called for in the recipes be boiled in both the strike water and the
>> water added during the mashing out stage of production. Although
>> Sykes advises that the boil for both be 15 minutes my experience has
>> been that the flavoring and anti-septic qualities are noticeably
>> improved by increasing boil  time in for his recipes to 30 minutes.
>>     I've noticed that the astringent qualities extracted from the
>> wood seem to provide the wort with the anti-septic qualities
>> commonly attributed to hops, though not the bitterness.  Although
>> shavings ales tend to have a harshness that one does not associate
>> with hoped ales this quality can be diminished with only 1-2 months
>> of aging. Also, the astringency of  wood tends to not be a issue
>> when proper attention is paid to the selection of  aromatic herbs.
>> Once again, i'd like to suggest that high mash temperatures be used
>> when making shavings ales.  With the exception of Gottland Drinka
>> i've yet to sample a successful shavings style ale that wasn't
>> characterized by a fairly high level of residual sweetness.
>>     Once the wort has been collected Sykes recommends "1/4 the
>> quantity of the shavings used used thus far be placed along with the
>> kettle sugars and spices.  The admixture should be heated till
>> vapors begin to rise, but not brought to a boil. The ale should be
>> left to steep. "
>>     Although Sykes does not say how long the wort should steep my
>> friend George Donnsby has provided some guidance for me on this
>> matter.  Specifically, he recommend that "the last of the shavings
>> be combined with any bittering herbs once the steam starts to rise
>> from the wort.  Any aromatics should be boiled  separately in a
>> strong tea for five minuets.  Place the tea into the wort after it's
>> steeped for an hour and a half  or  two hours. You ought to cool the
>> wort immediately after adding the tea."  My own experience has shown
>> that the steeping is best done at around 160-180 degrees.
>> Partial Boil
>>     A partial boil is a phrase i use to describe a process described
>> by Suggsden and Sorenson whereby variously sized portions of the
>> wort are drawn off spiced , boiled and then added back to the main
>> body of wort.
>>     Typically, ale recipes that call for this procedure have a a
>> quarter or less of the wort kept warm while aromatic spices are
>> steeped between 10 and 30 minutes.  In a separate vessel , the
>> remainder of the wort  has bittering agents boiled for for an hour
>> or so. flavoring agents are often added for the last third or
>> quarter of the boil.  Finally, both mixtures are combined into a
>> single vessel in which the temperature of the full volume of wort to
>> drops to a warm level.  Kettle sugars, most often a treacle, are
>> dissolved into the wort for roughly 5-10 minutes prior to cooling.
>> I've noticed that Sorenson typically keeps the temperature of the
>> wort during this phase   relatively cool, he guesses about 150
>> degrees. When this method is used the kettle sugars provide
>> typically 20% of the fermentable materials for the resulting ales.
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