hist-brewing: Racking beer in period

Charley Atchley Charley at lcc.net
Mon Nov 26 03:42:47 PST 2001

>> 2.  How much racking was done historically?
>Frankly, I dunno.  Any takers on this one?

It depends on when and where the historical brewing was occurring. The
Germans were the first Europeans to become try to clarify their beers. Keep
in mind that until Louis Pasture came along, most brewers thought that it
was magic, or an act of God that caused fermentation. They had no clue what
all the goo in the bottom of the barrel even was. Once a barrel became
inoculated, it was used over and over as long as it produced good beer. Most
early period beers were decanted straight off the yeast. As far as aging, in
Scandinavian countries they drank a lot of their ales while they were still
vigorously fermenting. If you go back to some of the oldest surviving
European beer recipes, they didn't even sparge the wort off of the grain.
They added grain and all into the fermentor. The problem for racking ales
historically, came from a lack of ways of getting one large barrel higher
than another large barrel so that the beer could run out of a tap. A
container with beer residue from 1100s England had grain husks still in it.
They have also found husks in between the slats of some of the old pub
barrels when they have reconditioned them. This would probably indicate that
little racking was done. Early period beer was probably fairly nasty by our
standards. It would have been flat, warm, yeasty and hazy. In resent posts
the issue of using a hydrometer to gage spg was addressed. They also did not
have any thermometers. I think that this probably caused more consistency
problems than any thing else they did.

I also noticed that my last post had a word left out.

It read:
>I couldn't if I wanted to because I use a 6.5 gallon glass

It should have read:
>I couldn't skim if I wanted to because I use a 6.5 gallon
>glass fermentor.

Athaulf Sweinbrothar
If you must choose between two evils, pick the one you've never tried

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