hist-brewing: What makes an ale "Strong"

Henry Davis henry at henry-davis.com
Sat Jan 13 08:40:25 PST 2001

At 09:54 AM 1/13/01 -0500, OxladeMac at aol.com wrote:
>Maggie has a wildhair to do a recipe she has found in Sir Hugh Platt's
>_Jewel_House _of_Art_and_Nature_ (1594) -


>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?

My interpretation is that the use of the terms strong and small strongly 
suggest the use of three runnings.

My recollection of using Markham's mashing method is that the first running 
was in the 1.070 range. If Geoffrey Dwiggins is on the list I know that 
he'll have the exact gravity. The small beer I think was a pretty weak one 
of about 1.2% ABV.

>In my mind it all depends on the answer to the question:  how strong would
>Platt's definition of "strong" be?

I don't think that the OG of the strong beer is the main point here. It's 
really an issue of being efficient in your use of malt. The third running 
(when extraction efficiency  is poor to moderate) results in a low but 
usable OG. Much lower than the 1.2% ABV makes the drink spoil very quickly 
and taste extremely weak. Better extraction efficiency or less grist may 
mean that you can get a small beer in two runnings. Remember that the small 
beer was served to field hands and others. I find the small beer to be a 
refreshing drink with no chance of getting drunk. It's malty and clean - 
although not as malty as stronger beers. Due to the lower ABV, it has a 
very short shelf life.


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