hist-brewing: mash temperature control/ reflection off the water
garwood2 at sympatico.ca
Thu Mar 4 08:25:36 PST 2010
Ancient Brewing Methods / Mash temperature control
Back in the 1990's I used to do historic brewing demonstrations at
Montreal's Mondial de la Bière. The project began with my
collaboration with brewing legend Bill Owens.
I had a lot of fun doing this project with Bill, and we both
researched and participated together in the completion of this
project. I did costumes, recipes, and brewed samples to be served
during the Mondial de la Bière. People were able to taste examples of
what we brewed on site at the historic brewing demonstrations. I
collected herbs such as Myrica Gale, yarrow (which I do not like the
taste of), spruce, juniper branches and of course had a few
traditionally used spices, and my home grown leaf hops.
Bill Owens built the wooden mash tun, and wooden coolship which he
shipped to me from California. He also dried yeast slurry in the
California sun for me which ended up looking like strange potato
chips, and we used these leather like chips to start the fermentation
My contribution to the brewing kit was a very large antique cast iron
pot from the USA Civil War era hung on a tripod over an open fire, and
a large wooden barrel to ferment the wort in.
Mash temperature control was achieved by mashing in when I could see
my reflection mirrored on the surface of the water in the kettle, or
the reflection of the sun glancing off the water surface in the
kettle. The surface tension of the water changes as it is heated, and
once you know the concept, careful observation enables you to know
exactly when is the right time to mash in.
Acting the part of an Ale Wife, I would then mash in, stir, put on
the wooden lid of the mash tun and wait. Time is fluid, so I would
then go talk a bit to Bill, play my dulcimer, or an èpinette de voges
for a while and when I thought it was ready, I would begin re-
circulating the run off till it was clear and sparkling. I was able to
control the gravity of my first runnings by recirculating the run off
till I was satisfied by the results. I found that by putting a drop of
this liquid between my fingers and feeling how tacky it was I could
accurately estimate the potential alcohol content by how sticky the
runoff felt between my fingers.
More information about the hist-brewing