hist-brewing: spontaneous ferment mead

PBLoomis at aol.com PBLoomis at aol.com
Tue Jan 16 17:42:04 PST 2001

In a message dated 1/16/01 5:11:03 AM Central Standard Time, 
polrena at hotmail.com writes:

> I have read in a variety of books that the old brewers would get lots of 
>  lousy batches until they got a "good" one....when they did, they'd put a 
>  stick of wood...I believe it was ash?...in the fermenting brew.  When they 
>  emptied their barrel, they'd dry out the stick, and then add it to their 
>  next batch!  The wood was supposed to "teach" the new brew how to ferment 
>  properly.
    I knew about collecting the ale yeast on a broom and drying it for 
re-use.  And putting the broom out over the door while drying to show 
you had fresh ale for sale.  But I never heard of using a plain wooden 
    Those of you who are cooks probably know about the Great Wooden
Cutting Board Controversy.  For years, people have been advocating
replacing your wooden cutting board with a polystrene one, because 
it's obvious that the pores in the wood are impossible to clean properly,
so germs would be bound to breed there.  Eventually, someone who 
too dumb to believe the Conventional Wisdom ran an experiment.  Lo
and behold, the germs did just fine on plastic, but couldn't survive on a 
plain wooden surface.  Killed 'em dead in no time flat!  Mommy Nature
has been taking care of us all these years.
    I wonder about that wooden staff.  Did it preferentially kill the 
Bad Germs, but allow the good yeasts to survive?  And is this a specific
property of the ash tree?  Or is it that yeasts are somehow different 
from other, nasty microorganisms?
    "Age cannot wither, nor custom stale, her infinite variety."

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