[Sca-cooks] Fwd: Brown Ale

Elaine Koogler kiridono at gmail.com
Thu Jun 11 06:56:13 PDT 2009

I also received information from another of Atlantia's brewers who has
specifically researched the Hanseatic League:

"Well, there's obviously going to be differences in grain species.
Czech/Moravian malt is generally considered lighter-colored than German or
French, which is in turn lighter than English or American.  But the
difference there is really minor--the flavor would vary more than the color
(I can make a fine-looking pils out of American pale ale malt--it just won't
taste quite right).  "Degree of roasting," in the instance we're talking
about below (medieval grains) would include accidentally over-kilning the
grains.  That would be most of it.  Ooh--rye malt would darken things a
little, but I haven't seen much on that yet.

Near as I can tell, the red beers are all-barley (or only a *little* wheat),
while white beer is nearly the opposite proportion.  A buddy of mine who a)
speaks German and b) married a nice German girl is going to do a better
translation for me--but it'll be "in his copious free time," and we all know
how that goes.

Interesting bit that I'm trying to track down; don't know if I mentioned it
earlier or not.  Apparently, the Dutch (particularly around Haarlem) brewed
and exported a gruit-ale.  Also apparently, they were fond enough of their
recipe to *set it down in their laws*--which should be publicly available
somewhere, if only I can figure out how to get to them.  There are also
(apparently) still in existence recipes for Dutch beers from 1401 (a gruit)
and 1507 (a "hoppenbier").  Still digging--I'm going to send out a few
emails to some folks, see what I can wheedle from them."

Hope all of this helps...


---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Master Rhys Terafan Greydragon <terafan at greydragon.org>

  There is some minor confusion (or perhaps mis-understanding) in the
original note about the process.  The grain is soaked in water until it
starts to germinate.  The germination *must* be stopped (through some method
of drying) or the grain will continue to sprout (and all the starches/sugars
will be converted to roots, stems, and leaves).  The sprouting seeds won't
"spontaneously ferment".  You don't get fermentation until the malted grain
is dried, cracked, and then re-introduced to water.  The water has to be an
adequate amount or it won't "ferment" because the sugar to liquid ratio is
too high (although it may certainly rot, mold, or mildew).   This is the
same reason that honey doesn't "spontaneously ferment".

In the surviving texts before 1700, "malt" is listed with no further
description, neither "pale" nor "brown" nor "chocolate" nor any other
descriptor, just "malt".   Prior to the development of coal and coke as
fuels in the industrial age, the pre-industrial malt had to be dried some
other way.  You could certainly take the natural option of drying it in the
sun, which would produce a very pale malt, however this technique would have
been somewhat limited to the warmer months of the year.  Certainly the
wetness of English weather would have made it difficult to count on, (not to
mention probably not possible from Oct thru April or so).

Drying in some sort of kiln must have been used to some regular extent
(although probably not "always").  Various sources discuss the use of wood,
straw, and fern as fuel for the kiln, and they each bring different features
and end results if applied to malt.

As for the smokiness that might have been imparted to the malt, no matter
what the color was, there is some evidence that it was not desired.  Corran,
in his "History of Brewing" states that Andrew Boorde, in 1542,
described the desirable properties of ale as "It must be freshe and cleare,
it must not be ropy nor smoky." (1)  Corran also notes that during the
sixteenth century, "Wood or straw was used for drying, the latter being
preferred." (2)

Williams Harrison's "Description of England", 1577, has some information on
malt and malting.  A description of malt quality and dryness is described
as: "The best malt is tried by the hardness and color for if it look fresh
with a yellow hue, and will write like a piece of chalk after you have
bitten a kernel asunder, you may assure yourself it is dried down".(3)  A
description of the making of malt is: "The straw-dried is the most
excellent.  For the wood-dried malt, when it is brewed, beside that the
drink is higher [darker] of color, it doth hurt and annoy the head of him
that is not used thereto, because of the smoke." (4)

 Gervase Markham's 1615 work, "The English Housewife", describes a 'French
kiln' that burns "any kind of fuel whatsoever, and neither shall the smoke
offend or breed ill taste in the malt, nor yet discolor it, as many times it
does in open kilns."(5)

These quotes certainly lead to an understanding that malt was dried in kilns
in the 15 and 16th century, although it was probably smoky and added a
unique flavor to the beer and ale.  The smokiness undoubtedly was dependent
on the type of fuel used, how wet the fuel was, how efficient the kiln
was, etc.  It does seem that straw probably created the least amount of
smoke and burned the cleanest.   I would never quote a "brown ale" as being
12th or 13th century, but depending on how dark it was, you could certainly
stretch that into the 15th or 16th centuries.   Really dark beers (porters,
stouts, etc) weren't brewed until the 17th century or later (mostly because
we needed a more efficient kiln to roast the malt rather than
burn/smoke it).

(1) H. S. Corran, History of Brewing, (David & Charles PLC, 1975) pg. 32

(2) Corran, pg. 96

(3) William Harrison (edited by Georges Edelen), "The Description of
England: the Classic Contemporary Account of Tudor Social Life", (Dover
Publications, 1995)

(4) Harrison

(5) Gervase Markham, "The English Housewife", (re-print McGill-Queen's
University Press, 1986)




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