Tuesday, 26 August 2008

18th century mashing techniques

I'm such a populist. Who isn't interested in brewing methods from 300 years ago? You'd better be if you intend reading this blog in the coming weeks. There's going to be more. So much more. Yes, I'm still on chapter one of my book, 1700 to 1750. Getting to a period with thermometers will be such a relief.

In the 18th century, to claw as much extract as possible from the grain, several mashes were performed. These were at variety of heats, usually alternating between hot and cold. It was believed that hot water opened up the grains and made it easier for the cold water which followed to extract and goodness. That was the theory, at least.

For stronger malt liquors, generally only the first two worts were used. The third, fourth and even fifth worts were used to make Small Beer. A small amount of fresh malt was usually added after the second mash, that is before the start of the Small Beer mashes.

When making a very strong malt liquor, for example an October Beer, only the first wort would be used. From the second a standard-strength Ale or Beer would be made and from later worts Small Beer. Making just one beer from a single set of grain was almost unknown. Intire Guile - combining all the worts to make a single brew - was only employed when making a better-quality Small Beer. Party-gyling, making several beers from a single brew, is still commonplace in traditional British breweries.

Private brewers could afford to be a little more extravagant and used just the first three runnings. The first wort for strong Beer or Ale, the second for common beer or Ale and the third for Small Beer. The spent grains were then either used as fodder or given to the poor to make very Small Beer from. The argument was that the later runnings contained just a small amount of poor-quality extract that would add little strength to a strong Beer or Ale but damage its keeping qualities.

Without the help of a thermometer, achieving the right mashing temperature must have been a bit hit and miss. This is one quaint method of telling when the water in the mash tun was hot enough:

"you must let your Liquor remain in your Mesch-Fat till the Vapour from it be so far spent, that you can see your Face in the Liquor:" "Directions for Brewing Malt Liquors" (1700)

Opinions as to whether it was better to add the water to the grains or vice versa, varied. When the grain was put into the mash tun first, more advanced breweries added the water from below. The aim, however the water and grain were mixed, was prevent the malt clumping together. Once they had been combined, they were stirred with large wooden oars or paddles for the duration of the mash.

The London Method of brewing
This is how "London & Country Brewer" describes the process of brewing in the capital.

Water for the mash was heated in a directly fired copper. A couple of bushels of the coarser parts of ground malt were thrown onto the top to cover the water and help it boil more quickly. The water was heated, but not allowed to boil. When the impurities began to rise to the top, the temperature of the water was tested with a finger or the back of the hand. It was warm enough when it was almost to hot to bear on the skin.

The fire under the copper was then dampened and enough cold water added to make the water in the copper "blood-warm". This water was pumped into the mash tun and mixed with the malt. Workers stirred the mash for half an hour while more water was heated in the copper. The second batch of water was at near boiling point when added to the mash. This was stirred for another half hour, then covered with a couple of baskets of fresh malt and allowed to stand. After an hour, the wort was run off into the underback. These first two mashes were for strong Beer or Ale.

There were then three further mashes for a Small Beer. First with cooler water, then warmer, then with either blood-warm or cold.

If it all sounds a bit vague, that's because the original instructions are. Those above are for brewing with brown malt. The method was slightly different when using pale or amber malt. For these, it was recommended to start with a higher temperature for the first mash. After the second "scalding mash" the water for each subsequent mash was cooler, until by the last mash it was "quite cold".


Dale said...

Makes you wonder:
1) What did these brews taste like, and
2) What was there level of consistency and repeatability.

Oblivious said...

Dale if your interested Durden Park Beer Circle provide a load of recipe if you want to try them (corrected for modern malts)


Fatman said...

'Party-gyling is still common'. Well it isn't exactly common but it still goes on. SN Spitfire & Masterbrew differ only in the volume of water employed. It's a very economical way of brewing and where it is done, you can bet other 'economical' practices occur, not necessarily to the betterment of the beer.

Ron Pattinson said...

dale, question 1 should be answered answered at some point (when I can get then recreated)

I suspect that they were more consistent than you might imagine. Remember that they brewed most days.

fatman, I suspect party-gyling is more widespread than you imagine. Arkell's and Bateman's do it, to name just two. I disagree that it's a sign of dodgy pratices. There are plenty of reasons for it, not necessarily connected with cutting corners.

oblivious said...

I could be wrong but I have heard Fullers do a form of Party-gyling?

Dale said...

Oblivious, according to the most recent Zymurgy, Fullers does party-gyling for all their brews.

Ron, I imagine that they were very consistent in their brewing, which makes it completely intriguing!

Anonymous said...

Fullers do party-gyle. Golden Pride,ESB,London Pride and Chiswick to be exact. All other beers are single gyles. At one point Hock and Strong Ale were also a party-gyle. This was discontinued around 1981 with the loss of SA. This was when I joined the company as a junior brewer with no experience in these old fashioned methods. However I learnt very quickly to appreciate that the old fashioned way was sometimes better!

Pary-gyling is ideal when you have a family of beers. Single gyle brewing of strong beers is quite wasteful of extract unless you find a use for the weak worts.

The practice has nothing to do with watering down beer and has no
negative effect on quality and IMO is far better than high gravity brewing.

cheers John Keeling Brewer Fuller,Smith and Turner

Ron Pattinson said...

John, I agree that party-gyling makes sense. At least it seems to, to an amateur like me.

I've looked at brewing logs from 1805 to 1955 and at least 50% of all brews were party-gyles. It's a very British way of brewing.

Not heard of SA before. What sort of beer was it? Hock was wonderful, if you could find it in good condition. Bit of a Mild fan, me.

The beer historian in me now takes over. Do Fullers have an archive of their brewing records?

I have a thing about London breweries.

Anonymous said...

We do have an archive of brewing books. You may view them whenever you want.

Just phone me to make arrangements.

I have been inspired by your writing to think about trying to recreate some old beer styles.
Do you think there would be any interest?
Our minimum volume is 160 barrels.

Cheers John Keeling

Ron Pattinson said...

John, that's brilliant. I should be in London in October. I'll get in touch then about dropping by.

There is an interest in historic recreations. De Molen had no trouble selling all the old Whitbread beer they brewed for me, though the volumes were quite modest (just 600 litres of each beer).