hist-brewing: strength of small beer

Will H w_hanrott at yahoo.co.uk
Wed Dec 5 02:07:52 PST 2012

Hi Wade/Gille,

Thank you. That answers the question nicely. It sounds as if 3.5% isn't 
outlandish but the range for small beer would have contained much 
variability, depending on who and when it was produced. I've seen 
allowances of a gallon or more per day for relatively senior people (I 
can't provide references though). Perhaps they kept a number of people 
on that volume.

I'll take a look through Harrison in due course.

Many thanks

On 04/12/12 14:37, Wade Hutchison wrote:
> In brewing the beer described in Harrison's Description of England
> (1577) http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/1577harrison-england.asp#Chapter
> VI
> Which is a 3 beer party-gyle brew, I've found the third, small beer
> comes out at 2% ABV, or just below that.    Remember, this is with
> modern, well-modified malts.   Harrison's home-made malt may have had
> lower modification, and produced an even lower level of alcohol.   For
> comparison, the first wort comes out at about 8%, the middle (or
> ordinary) comes out at about 4.5%.   Note that Harrison describes the
> third runnings to "reserveth it unto mixture with the rest when time
> doth serve therefore."  so it wasn't even consumed by the servants at
> that low a strength.    Even with modern, careful sanitation and
> bottling the small beer goes sour in just a couple of weeks.    Hope
> this helps,
>       -----wade hutchison, aka Gille MacDhnouill
> On Tue, Dec 4, 2012 at 5:36 AM, Will <w_hanrott at yahoo.co.uk> wrote:
>> What was the strength of small beer?
>> I was watching an /entertaining/ tv programme (The Supersizers
>> <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Supersizers...>) which repeated the
>> claim that small beer was about 3.5%abv. This seems rather high, more
>> like a table beer.
>> Amsinck
>> <http://prism.talis.com/brookes/items?query=author%3A%28Amsinck%2C+George+Stewart%29>'s
>> recipe for Oxford Ale (1868) uses a triple infusion mash and party-gyle
>> mix. The 3rd mash made small beer. My impression is that this method was
>> in use over quite a long period until sparging became popular. Obviously
>> the definition of 'small beer' is going to be a range of OGs.
>> Perhaps restrain the information to the UK in the early modern period
>> <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Early_modern_period>. The claim about 3.5%
>> was made in a programme about Restoration England.
>> This question is for personal rather than scholarly interest. I've had a
>> look at the Hist-Brewing archives but couldn't find anything which
>> answered my question.
>> Many thanks
>> Will
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>> hist-brewing at pbm.com
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