hist-brewing: Gruit and unhopped ales

adam larsen euphonic at flash.net
Wed May 10 11:09:37 PDT 2000

    The following are notes regarding Sykes's  "Best Quality Shavings
Ale".  If any questions arise regarding this ale that are not addressed
in this post please make your concerns known and i'll see if  they can
be addressed.

Miscellaneous Production Issues

    For  some reason unknown to me unhopped ales in general go off  if
great quantities of  slurry are not used.  I their for feel the need to
restate that no less then two quarts of  slurry be used per six gallons
of  ale.  Also, i have noted that when the ale is first racked or
dropped it behooves the brewer to inject pure oxygen, as per modern home
brewing practice, for 30-40 seconds.
    I have noted that this ale should be fermented at temperatures no
greater then 70 degrees F. during both primary and secondary stages.   I
have also noted that the taste of the ale improves significantly when
cask conditioned or via prolonged contact with French oak chips.  I
confess that i am unaware of  the kind of oak used in the manufacture
of  barrels at the time of  the recipe's creation.
    During the production of  this particular ale i noted that that my
starting gravity ranged from 1.072 to 1.080.  The rather low rate of
extraction makes me think that traditional home brewing must have been a
vary expensive proposition indeed.
    When i have bottled this ale i've noted that it best be prime with
gyle or honey.  Corn sugar when used as a priming agent seems to have
resulted in poor head retention.
     I would strongly recommend that the aging guidelines in the last
post be followed.  This ale is rather astringent and harsh when when
young.  Also, after bottling, this ale must sit for no less then three
weeks, preferably four or five.  Although the tannins and other
chemicals extracted from the wood appear to provide natural
preservatives i do not know how long this ale can be kept.  In any case,
the batch has always been consumed within a month after the first bottle
is opened.

Tasting Notes

   This ale does not taste at all like any modern ale i've had.  The fir
contributed a very significant tannin element to the taste profile which
was characterized by a high residual sweetness.  The ale was also vary
malty and full bodied with a slight,but noticeable alcoholic
aftertaste.  Oddly enough, the Carduus, yarrow and century did not
contribute much to the flavor profile.  While they did contribute a
noticeable bitterness that was reminiscent of hops they didn't provide
any taste or aromatics that was perceptible.    The licorice seems to
have added to the aftertaste but certainly was not prominent.
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