Wednesday 18 December 2019

Let's Brew Wednesday - 1851 William Younger XXS Stock Ale

In the early part of the 19th century, William Younger brewed a crazy number of crazily strong beers. They had half a dozen beers with gravities over 1100º in their range. That XXS was neither the strongest nor the most heavily hopped of the set tells you a lot.

One unusual feature of William Younger’s brewing methods is that they didn’t much go in for parti-gyling. While this isn’t so odd in the case of standard-strength beers like Pale Ale or the weaker Milds, it’s very unusual to brew super high-gravity beers like this single gyle. For a simple reason: it wasn’t very economical.

The method most breweries employed to produce very strong beers was to parti-gyle them with something much weaker. The strong beer would get all first wort and the weaker beer a blend of first and later worts. When brewing something strong single-gyle, either you’d need to boil the buggery out of the later worts to make them stronger, or you’d waste some extract.

Given this beer had a very short boil, the first of those wasn’t an option. Which begs the question: where did the weaker worts go? I don’t believe for a minute that they’d just throw away extract. Perhaps they used them as return worts. That is, they’d use the wort to mash another brew.

Not only is this beer very high gravity, it’s also hopped like mad.

This being a Stock Ale, it would have undergone an extensive maturation, probably in vats. Whether it took place in vats or in trade casks, one thing would have remained the same: the action of Brettanomyces. The secondary fermentation the beer underwent while ageing would have been accomplished by Brettanomyces slowly eating away less fermentable sugars, drying the beer out and producing the highly-valued, vinous aged character.

I’d recommend ageing this at least six months with Brettanomyces. By which time the FG should be down in the 1020’s.

1851 William Younger XXS Stock Ale
pale malt 24.25 lb 100.00%
Goldings 70 min 6.00 oz
Goldings 50 min 6.00 oz
Goldings 20 min 6.00 oz
OG 1125
FG 1050
ABV 9.92
Apparent attenuation 60.00%
IBU 137
Mash at 154º F
Sparge at 184º F
Boil time 70 minutes
pitching temp 55º F
Yeast WLP028 Edinburgh Ale

The above is an excerpt from my excellent book on Scottish brewing:


Phil said...

A nip bottle of that would keep out the cold very nicely. Is anyone currently brewing (and ageing) anything similar, to your knowledge?

Ron Pattinson said...


good question. And one I'd like to know the answer to myself.

Yann said...

This is along the lines of what I would love to homebrew, but I have no idea when I will get around to it.