hist-brewing: Gruit and unhopped ales-stone ale

adam larsen euphonic at flash.net
Mon May 22 10:26:12 PDT 2000

    This post deals with a vary obscure style of  Nordic ale that uses
heated stones for both raising mash and wort temperatures.  A rather
sketchy recipe was made know to me by in a set of documents from the mid
1400's in Vestmanna. It would appear that documents are in fact copies
of  earlier documents, mid 1000's, which were from Denmark.
    My translations efforts humbled me and forced me to consult with my
betters.   Translations were quite difficult, even for them,  but in the
end were well provided by the kindly assistance of  Prof. Mina Lojala
and Pele Jacobsen.  I'll post more information about the recipe itself
when i send it in.
    Because the recipe is rather hazy at points, as is everything this
old, i looked into production methods after hearing vague reports of
stone ale from Finland and Latvia.  I was only able to find out any
thing useful after talking to Anne Neystabo, of  Fuglafjorour,  who went
to the trouble of showing me how to make what she calls "old style jute
ale".   This ale is not commercially produced, it may never have been,
and only a few local home brewers make it, most don't even know about
it.  What follows is a description of  the mash, boiling and
fermentation processes.  I'll give the recipe and recommendations for
simulating it the Americas in the next post.

Old Style Jute Ale Production


    The mash tub i saw was made to produce roughly 15 gallon batches
although it seemed to be able to hold over three time times more
liquid.  It was constructed out of  Baltic Oak and was rectangular in
shape.  Across it's bottom lay a tightly woven layer of  weathered  and
new pine branches.  Upon this sets the grist and a couple of  handfuls
of crushed elder berries.  On top of the berries and grist lay a 3/4" or
so thick pile of  baltic birch bark and shavings.
   A second wooden tub, made of  oak,  served as a boil vessel, yes a
boil vessel, and as a cool ship.  Both vessels have a spigots and were
stacked on a large wooden frame similar to American three vessel home
brewing rigs.


    An enclosed earthen oven with a heating surface made of  stone was
used as a heat source.  The oven has heavy doors made of  what appeared
to be surplus boiler plate  which provide access to the  fire.  The
cooking surface lay about 2 feet above the base of  the oven where the
fire is built.  The fire used hard wood initially until a strong heat
was built up.  Fuel used to maintain the fire was principally moss and
scrub with a fair portion of hardwood.  About a foot above the base lay
a thick iron lattice.
    Upon this lattice a few  rocks, each roughly the size of a  fist,
were placed. I don't know what kind of rocks were used as i know nothing
about geology.  The rocks were heated until they glowed with heat.  They
were transported to the mash tub in well soaked buckets and handled by
two pairs of  tongs.

Mash Technique:

    Nine heated stones are placed into the  mash tub roughly eight
inches apart  from each other in lines.   Three quarts of  water per
pound of  mash are poured slowly over the rocks after the top layer of
shavings catch fire and smolder a bit.  The mixture is allowed to prove
for roughly half an hour before being stirred.  A  second batch of  six
stones are placed into the mash tub at this time.
    After half an hour wait, three gallons of  wort is drawn off into a
barrel containing an equal amount of cold water.  Three heated stones
are placed into the barrel containing the mix.  After fifteen minutes
the wort is returned to the mash tun and the whole mash mixed.  The
aforementioned procedure is repeated two more times with the wait times
increased to 3/4's an hour.  The stones used during these phases are set
aside until fermentation.
    At this time the wort is allowed to set for the final hour of the
mash. During this final hour of mashing a few handfuls of elder berries
are flung into the wort.  Also,  several stones are removed from the
mash tub and placed back into the oven during this period.


    The  wort is drawn of  into a wooden tub roughly fifty percent
smaller then the mash tub.  The wort is raised to a boil by  placing six
heated stones into the vessel.  After a wait of  a quarter hour or so an
additional four stones are placed into the wort    This procedure is
repeated twice before the stones are set aside to cool .


    The ale is racked to several casks into which  a couple of  sugar
coated stones are placed along with birch shavings.  After a day the
young ale is racked into a second set of  casks along with the remainder
of  the sugared stones, more shavings and century extract where
fermentation continues for 10 days.  The ale is racked a last time into
casks containing woodruff and/or balm to condition for two months prior
to consumption.

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