Friday, 15 May 2009

Method of brewing at Brussels (1830's)

Just for a bit of variety (and because I'm having arsing issues) today I'm posting another extract from David Booth's "The Art of Brewing". This time the continental town in focus is Brussels. As you must already have realised from the title.

You must be as excited as I am to find such an early account of lambic brewing. And in English, too, so I don't have to piss around translating it. I'll let you be the judge of it accuracy. The bit where pharo is called a strong beer has me wondering.

[The following passage is taken from "The Art of Brewing", by David Booth, 1834, Part IV pages 44-45.]

"The following is the present mode by which they brew their favourite beverage :—

The construction of the interior of a brewhouse in Brussels is very similar to what it is in England. There are two coppers; and the mash-tun has a false bottom, with a trunk which leads the liquor underneath it.

Four quarters of malted barley, and four quarters of raw wheat pretty finely ground, mixed up with a portion of wheat-chaff, are put into the mash-tun; and from those materials (which fill up two-thirds of the content of the tun) are made 19 barrels of strong beer.

The goods, having been completely wetted with cold water, are mashed with about 18 barrels of hot liquor. The mash is very stiff; and the heat, when finished, is 122 degrees. It then stands an hour and a half to infuse; when the cock of the mash-tun is opened, and what runs into the under-back is immediately pumped up into the wort-copper, and mixed up with 56 pounds of very fine hops. It is to be observed, that the wort runs from the mash-tun very turbid, and with difficulty; so that, to get it off with as little delay as possible, they make use of wicker baskets, about three feet deep, and eighteen inches square, which are dipped in the goods, and the worts which filter into them are laded out with brass bowls.

A second mash is then made with ten barrels of hot liquor; and, the mashing being finished, the heat is 144 degrees. This mash is allowed to stand an hour; when the same means of extricating the worts from the grains are found necessary.

Three mashes now follow in succession for the strong beer; but the quantity of hot liquor in each is so small as only to rise to the surface of the goods. The heats of these mashes increase regularly, from 134 to 173 degrees, taken in the tun immediately after mashing.

By the pumping up of all these worts the wort-copper is completely filled. The moment when it began to boil, two large handfulls of unslacked lime were thrown into it, and the boiling continued for eighteen hours. The worts are cast upon the coolers, and cooled down to the lowest possible degree—in winter, almost to the freezing-point. The whole of the worts are then turned into a large tun, where they remain for two days, without the least sign of fermentation; after which, they are drawn off into casks to undergo the spontaneous fermentation described in Chapter 4, Part III.

At the end of the first year, the beer is still foul; at the end of two years, it is clear; and it is still brighter the longer it is kept. The bottoms of the casks that had stood full for two years had very little grounds, and those of a much darker colour than the beer.

The strong beer is called Pharo, chiefly when brewed in the winter season; and Lambic, when it is brewed in summer. The Pharo is kept longest. Both seem to be very strong, but the Lambic is the milder-tasted."

Here's the section on spontaneous fermentation mentioned above:

"The Brewers of Brussels (whose method of brewing will be afterwards more particularly described) also trust to a spontaneous fermentation. Their strong-ale worts, after being cooled as low as is consistent with fluidity, are bunged up into casks of the size of a barrel, and stored in a room, exposed to all the variation of temperature, during twenty-four months of probation. A small vent-hole is bored in each cask, out of which a little froth issues for the first fortnight. These holes are pegged up at the end of about three months ; loosely at first, but closely soon after, when no air or froth is seen to issue. Long boiling is reckoned inimical to this as well as to the other species of fermentation."
"The Art of Brewing", by David Booth, 1834, Part III page 15.

I may continue on my continental theme. Or just as quickly forget about it again. I make no promises.


Oblivious said...

Ron you maybe interested in this podcast from basic brewing Randy Mosher - Belgium Nobody Knows

Some interesting inform from an old 19th century brewing manual

Gary Gillman said...

Useful comments by the always precise Andrew Ure (circa 1847) which address the question of sourness and Berlin's wheat beer. He states that the beer tends to become acid easily, and at its best is "tart":


Anonymous said...

Sticking a wicker basket into the mash to let the wort run into it so it can be ladled into the copper is a very ancient and widespread technique: there's a picture of the sort of basket English brewers used in Beer: The Story of the Pint ...

David Harris said...

What was the plato of "Pharo"?

Ron Pattinson said...

David Harris, a sample of Faro analysed in 1839 had an OG of 13.81 Plato and an ABW of 4.33% (5.45% ABV).

David Harris said...

"The strong beer is called Pharo"

I would have thought that the plato would be higher than just 13.8

Ron, have you stumbled upon any information on lambics up around 23 plato?

Ron Pattinson said...

David Harris, 21.19 Plato. Not as much as 23. But close.