Thursday, 18 September 2008

Ale Brewing in the 1830's (part one)

Now I've finished with the light relief of my Copenhagen trip, we can return to the daily drudge. It's back to the 1830's today for a look at Ale brewing. As described by William Chadwick in "A Practical Treatise on Brewing", published in 1835.

The method described used three mashes, which implies that it's aimed at private brewers. Commercial breweries usually mashed four times, the final wort being a "return" used as brewing water in a later brew. Private brewers normally didn't bother with a fourth mash, preferring to use what goodness that was left in the grains as animal fodder.

It's interesting that he describes sparging, which was a peculiarly Scottish technique at the time. Pinning down when it spread to England is another of my outstanding tasks. I wonder if anyone still brews with multiple mashes?

The amount water required to obtain a specific quantity of beer was carefully calculated. Each quarter of malt absorbed 48 gallons of water. Another 20% was lost through evaporation during boiling, cooling and fermentation. So to brew 2 hogsheads (108 gallons) from 1 quarter of malt:

absorbed by malt ___48 gallons
beer ____________108 gallons
evaporation _______ 20% of 108 = 22 gallons
total water required__178 gallons

The mash tun was filled with water at 174º F and the malt then added and stirred until all the grains are wet. Any remaining hot water was then poured in and the mixture mashed, or stirred, for 20 to 30 minutes. The tun was then covered with empty sacks to retain the heat and left to stand for 90 minutes. About half the total amount of water was used for the first mash.

The tap was opened and the first runnings returned to the mash until they run clear. The wort was between 145º and 150º when run off. There followed a second mash with a striking heat of 184º F and a third at 194º F.

To help prevent the wort spoiling, hops, sealed in a bag, were put into the underback. These hops were later re-used during the boil.

A third mash was performed while the first two worts were boiling with the hops.

The hydrometer (or saccharometer as it was then usually called in breweries) was an essential tool for this process. "The saccharometer will thus inform you what strength beer you may expect from your malt, and will enable you in brewing to make two sorts of beer, of different strengths, by mixing the worts of different gravities according to taste or fancy." (Source: "A Practical Treatise on Brewing" by William Chadwick, 1835, page 30.) This method of party-gyling was common amongst London breweries. Whitbread almost never made just one beer from a brew. They usually made either a Porter and a Stout or two different strength Stouts.

This was quite different from the 18th century method of party-gyling, where the wort from each mash was used to make a different beer. The first wort was used for a Strong Ale, the second for a Common Ale and the third for Small Beer. In the 19th century system, each of the beers contained a portion of each strength wort, blended together to obtain the target gravity.

Whitbread were still using this method for most of their brews in the 1950's. It's not uncommon amongst traditional British breweries today. A good example is Fuller's, where Chiswick Bitter, London Pride and ESB are part-gyled in this way.

Chadwick describes the method employed by brewers in Edinburgh. They made just one mash and, once the first wort had been run off, sprinkled water carefully over the grains whilst the tap was still open. This sparge was performed by pouring water onto a board suspended above the mash tun. The board was perforated with holes which spread the water evenly over the surface of the mash, much like the rose of a watering can.

According to the brewing logs Chadwick provides, they were sparging in England, but only after they had already performed three mashes.


Anonymous said...

Mr Anonymous this post wasn't about Germany either. You really are stupid.

Son of Ron.

Jim Johanssen said...

Ron, I find the use of hops in the underback similar to the German use of first wurt hopping (G. Fix) and they even sparged like the do on the continent!

Thomas said...

I assume these guys were triple mashing to get every last bit of extract from the poorly modified and heavily kilned malt. Do you know at what point it could be said that malt quality really improved, reudcing the need for such lengthy mashes?

Today's mashes in some breweries are the other end of the extreme; a 20 minutes mash with modern hammer milled malt will give you 99% of laboratory predicted extract. Hideously efficient.