hist-brewing: What makes an ale "Strong"

OxladeMac at aol.com OxladeMac at aol.com
Sat Jan 13 06:54:52 PST 2001

Maggie has a wildhair to do a recipe she has found in Sir Hugh Platt's 
_Jewel_House _of_Art_and_Nature_ (1594) - "The making of a braggot which is 
many times mistaken as a muskadel by the simple sort of people."  She and I 
have been discussing some of the specifics of this recipe in preparation for 
a redaction, and eventually (i.e. this weekend!) brewing it.

It is quite a fun little recipe - LOTS of steps, and LOTS of complexity.  (A 
challenge?  Did someone say challenge?  :-)  Anyway, in the course of our 
preparation, we came across a topic for some debate.

Platt's recipe calls for the combination of "strong alewort" with "clarified 
honey."  He gives instructions on how to clarify honey, which goes as thus:  
you take equal parts of honey and "small ale wort" and boil it down until you 
reduce it's volume to the amount of honey you originally started with.

Ok, now the discussion:  How strong would strong have been?  1.060?  1.070?  
1.080?  1.090?  It is pretty evident that Platt's intent is to use the 
different runnings off of a batch such as Markham's March beer, or Harrison's 
recipe.  However, would this have been the upper and lower of a two running 
recipe (i.e. similar to Markham's ordinary beer recipe), or would it have 
been the first and third runnings of a three runnings batch?

In my mind it all depends on the answer to the question:  how strong would 
Platt's definition of "strong" be?  If it were in the 1.070 - 1.090 range, 
then you would probably have the three runnings method.  (i.e. they wouldn't 
have wasted anything, and to get a gravity this high, you would make at least 
three runnings.)  If it were in the 1.050 - 1.070 range, you could do it with 
a two runnings method.

Thoughts?  Comments?
Has anyone calculated the OSG for the upper end of Harrison's recipe?

Oxlade Lachlan MacKinnon and Magdalena da Cadamosto

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