hist-brewing: gruit and unhopped ales-stone ale part 3

adam larsen euphonic at flash.net
Wed May 24 13:12:32 PDT 2000

    My last post on the issue of  Vestmanna stone ale will cover a few
practical points in making it at home.


    In terms of equipment i would say that one should have a huge cooler
style mash tun.  I used such a device loaned to me by a state side
brewer to make stone ale last year.  When last in the states i saw 120
quart coolers, they sold for about 40 dollars, converted into
mash/lauter tuns.  All that extra room should make for plenty of places
to place the requisite wood, grist and stones needed for a five gallon
    As for the oven i noted that in several parks found across the
states one could use grills of  heavy stone construction for the
purpose.  I have been told that these have served the task at hand quite
    Also, i see no need for a cool ship/boil vessel as was used out
here.  Instead, i would suggest that one use a wort chiller, you'll get
a better hot break any way, and a standard brew pot.
    As for the rocks to use, well that is a tougher question.  I reckon
that one should talk to a geologist regarding what local stone would be
suitable. Certainly rocks that are porous or that  contain carbonates
would be unsuitable.  It would seem that a two thirds reduction in the
amount of  stones used during the various steps would be called for in a
five gallon recipe.

Safety Issues

    If you attempt to make this style of ale i would strongly suggest
that you wear very heavy gloves, industrial goggles, a rubber apron and
as much protective clothing as possible while handling heated rocks.  I
would suggest that one use well soaked wooden buckets, with no standing
water, when moving the rocks. I would think that an iron pot with wooden
holds would also be all right for transport.  Finally, one must have two
or more sets of  high quality fire place tongs.

Changes to the recipe

    For a five gallon, u.s., batch i would suggest that one reduce the
grain bill from the last post by two thirds. If you want to make things
simpler just use malted oats.  If you do use unmalted oats be sure to
follow PBLoomis's recommendations and use a pound of  malt per two
pounds of unmalted oats when preparing the oats for latter mash stages.
    In so far as spices are concerned i would use same ones mentioned in
the first post.  In terms of elder berries i have found that 12 ounces,
dried,  per five gallons is fine and that twice that amount is better is
one uses fresh.  In so far as century  extract is concerned it simply is
a mater making sure that the ale is not to sweet for one's taste.  Balm
and woodruff should be used in a dried form with an once for the first
and two for the latter being recommended.  However, some folks prefer
less of  the last two herbs so if your not used unhopped ales i would
think that you should use a little less.
    If you don't have a cask i think you could use an open fermenter for
your primary and introduce the sugar covered stones into the green ale
once the foam drops after a couple of days.  I would suggest that final
conditioning prior to bottling be done in carboys or kegs.
    Apparently this ale was consumed flat.  While some of the SCA'ers in
the readership may be willing to drink flat, live ale for the sake of
historical accuracy i for one prefer carbonated ale.  I would suggest
that one prime the ale with gyle or honey and wait two months after
bottling for best results.
    My next recipe is a simple Cornish recipe along with some variants.
Hopefully no one has been put off thinking that unhopped ales are as
difficult to make as stone based ones.
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