Saturday, 23 August 2008

Stout Butt Beer

If you were wondering, after yesterday's post, how to brew a Butt Beer, you're in luck. Courtesy of "London and Country Brewer" (1736), here is probably the first description of how to make Brown Stout.
"This is the strongest Butt-Beer that is Brewed from brown Malt, and often sold for forty Shillings the Barrel, or six Pound the Butt out of the wholesale Cellars: The Liquor (for it is Sixpence forfeit in the London Brewhouse if the word Water is named) in the Copper designed for the first Mash, has a two Bushel Basket, or more, of the most hully Malt throw'd over it, to cover its Top and forward its Boiling; this must be made very hot, almost ready to boil, yet not so as to blister, for then it will be in too high a Heat; but as an indication of this, the foul part of the Liquor will ascend, and the Malt swell up, and then it must be parted, look'd into and felt with the Finger or back of the Hand, and if the Liquor is clear and can but be just endured, it is then enough, and the Stoker must damp his fire as soon as possible by throwing in a good Parcel of fresh Coals, and shutting his Iron vent Doors, if there are any; immediately on this they let as much cold Liquor or Water run into the Copper as will make it all of a Heat, somewhat more than Blood-warm, this they Pump over, or let it pass by a Cock into an upright wooden square Spout or Trunk, and it directly rises thro' the Holes of a false Bottom into the Malt, which is work'd by several Men with Oars for about half an Hour, and is called the first and stiff Mash: While this is doing, there is more Liquor heating in the Copper that must not be let into the mash Tun till it is very sharp, almost ready to boil, with this they Mash again, then cover it with several Baskets of Malt, and let it stand an Hour before it runs into the Under-back, which when boiled an Hour and a half with a good quantity of Hops makes this Stout. The next is Mash'd with a cooler Liquor, then a sharper, and the next Blood-warm or quite Cold; by which alternate degrees of Heat, a Quantity of small Beer is made after the Stout."
You'll notice the very scientific sticking-your-finger-in method of determining if the water was hot enough for mashing. Each of the five mashes seems to be at a different temperature: a bit more than blood-warm, almost boiling, cooler, hotter, blood-warm. Sounds simple. Why did they ever bother introducing thermometers?

Here's a question for you homebrewers out there. Have any of you ever tried brewing without a thermometer? Yes, I realise it's a crazy thing to do in this modern age. But I'm intrigued as to how tricky (or not) it might be. Brewers did manage without thermometers for several thousand years, so it can't be that difficult. Can it?

Oh, and no butt jokes, please.


Boak said...

great, that's our next brew! A stout butt beer, without thermometer.

Dale said...

Not brewing with a thermometer!
That's sacrilege!
I don't even take a ..., well, ignore that.

Everything by the numbers!
What's the point of being anal-retentive if you can't put it to good use.

Oblivious said...

You might be interested in the Fulacht Fia Beer, bronze/iron age Irish brewing

Warren Pattison said...

I just started all-grain brewing, and I can't imagine doing that without a thermometer.

Although, if I were to make this Stout Butt beer, I may have to opt for a rectal thermometer. :)

Brendan said...

I've brewed without a thermometer twice, the first time through mishap, and the second time through design. The second time I brewed a triple decocted pale lager. My dough in temp was what felt slightly warmer than my hand, nearing discomfort. So by that metric I figured I hit somewhere in the 110-120 range. I then did three decoctions pulling 1/3 of the thickest part of the mash and boiling each for 40 minutes. Normallly I would boil for 30, but without measurement I knew that it would appear to be boiling before it hit 212. I think a more challenging proposition would be brewing without a watch.

Ron Pattinson said...

warren, what did I say about butt jokes?

Jonah said...

I brew without a thermometer, but I have not started all grain. I do keep an eye on the room temp while it is fermenting. I only aim for a drinkable, good beer. Not super or great.

Bill form Oregon said...

I haven't brewed without a thermometer either but remembered reading about someone recreating an ale from Colonial America where the directions for the mash temperature were:

"Bring your water to a boil and put it into the mash tun. When it has cooled enough that the steam has cleared and you can see your reflection in the water, add your malt to the tun"

According to the author, he did this and the water temperature was about 165F and when he added the malt, the temp went to about 148F. So it does seem that people came up with ways to get around the lack of a thermometer. The full article is here:

Ron Pattinson said...

bill, I've seen the same tip for getting the temperature right for mashing in a book dated 1700. Great to hear that iy does work.

Looking at pre-thermometer brewing methods is disconcerting, but fun. I've been researching early-18th century mashing today. I lead such an exciting life.

Carlos said...

Good Job! :)

Barm said...

There is still an expression in modern German: "Da sind Hopfen und Malz verloren". which means the situation is hopeless, and literally it means the hops and malt are lost, and that's a good description of what happens if you mash too hot and destroy the enzymes which convert starch into sugar, you're left with a starchy malt soup which will never become beer whatever you do. A lost cause, in other words.

I suspect that before the widespread use of the thermometer, this must have happened fairly often. The existence of this expression is evidence.