hist-brewing: stone ale part 2

adam larsen euphonic at flash.net
Tue May 23 17:23:07 PDT 2000

    PBLoomis had comments on the recipe which were quite insightful,
kind and interesting.  It's my hope that a little attention given to odd
styles meet with the kind of interest that has been generated.  I have a
few points worth boxing about up in this little follow up.
    The comments regarding the amylase content is correct.  Certainly
the statement regarding  the short soak being unable to start
germination is also completely right.
    I suppose that my assumption regarding the oats being unmalted stems
from two points.  First, i have never found any historical reference to
Danish oats being malted prior to the 1500's.  Secondly, i have, and
have seen, plenty of references to a short soak "proving" oats.  I am
certain that the readership is familiar with Watkin's oat ale recipe of
1770 which makes a similar reference. I think that unmalted cereals were
also used because of the expense of purchasing malt and perhaps a
limited pool of available expertise and equipment.
    Which raises the question why soak unmalted oats if they can't
germinate?  My guess, a wild one at that, is that the intention was to
help set the stage for latter steps meant to break down gluten content.
While i have yet to read any serious study regarding the effectiveness
of such a  method i can see why it may seem reasonable to some.  Further
more, the mashing process described in the first post relating to this
subject was a rather complex one similar to several lowlands techniques
that often deal with poorly modified or unmodified cereals.  I admit
that such evidence is tenuous but i simply can't think of any reason why
one would "prove" malted oats.
    As for the bittering root the answer is yes, it really was
unspecified.  The lack of  specific information in this regards makes me
think that the root's use was thought to be so common as to be as
Americans often state" it goes without saying".  I have had my
antiquarian compatriots poke about long and hard to reach some
conclusion regarding what bittering root was used.  Presently i have
several prospects but no clear candidate.
    Certainly the ale does have similar characteristics to English
dredge ale.  Although i think that such ales derived their character
primarily from factors other then the mash technique. I have seen
recipes for Dredge ale that call for a single stage infusion mash. Which
makes me suspect that the long standing English superiority in malting
techniques is what resulted in Dredge Ale using malted oats.  The
Northern peoples lagged behind the English in so far as malting was
concerned for quite some time.  Making me think that the Vestmanna
recipe used unmalted or perhaps poorly malted oats.
    Finally, i think that the most important and interesting thing about
this recipe and the methods used to simulate it is the mash sequence.  I
have noted that when one makes this ale it  tastes quite different from
German stone beer or homemade ale versions of  the German approach to
the general  method.  I think that to a large degree this is a result of
the mash process and the use of poorly modified or unmodified cereals.

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