Sunday, March 15, 2015

Otto's Cock Ale - Analeda's Fault

This project was done in 2011.

Originally conceived as a joke, this ale was Baroness Aneleda’s idea. In early February, Aneleda posted a message on Facebook asking our group of brewers what projects they might be considering or working on. Her post included a link to the Cock-Ale Recipe from The Closet of the Eminently Learned Sir Kenelme Digby Kt. Opened, 1677 on I read through it and decided it didn’t sound that complicated and thought it might be surprisingly good, or at least not disgusting. I mean, would Digby really put his good name on something awful? I resolved to try brewing it. Only a short time later did I learn that we would be hosting a Brewers’ University. Perfect! 

The original recipe is: 

To make Cock-Ale. 
Take eight gallons of Ale, take a Cock and boil him well; then take four pounds of Raisins of the Sun well stoned, two or three Nutmegs, three or four flakes of Mace, half a pound of Dates; beat these all in a Mortar, and put to them two quarts of the best Sack: and when the Ale hath done working, put these in, and stop it close six or seven days, and then bottle it, and a month after you may drink it. 

Redacting this recipe is fairly straight forward. For ale, I used Lord Tofi Kerthjalfadsson (Paul Placeway) redaction of the Elizabeth de Burgh Household recipe (circa 1335) in Judith Bennett's book, Ale, Beer, and Brewsters in England (1996). His work is well documented and includes several trials. I have used his most successful recipe. I boiled a 2 lb 3 oz., free-range, organic chicken from Sunnyside Farm, Linneus, Maine in the ale wort until it reached an internal temperature of 165° Farirenheit, which took about 30 min. I continued the boil for another 30 min.

The ale fermented vigorously for several days.

I racked it and added the additional ingredients. For Sack I used a 750 ml bottle of semi-sweet, organic mead from Shalom Orchard Winery in downeast Maine. I use ½ a lb of raisins, ¼ lb dates, 1 nutmeg, and a food processor. The mead/spice mixture sat for a few days before racking the ale.

I added the mead solution, and as much as I could pressed through a sieve, to the racked ale. The ale continued to ferment for several more days before bottling.

The ale ingredients are: 
8 lbs., Crips two-row (UK)pale malt 
1 1/3 lbs., additional malt, roasted 30 min. at 225 ° F followed by 30 min. at 300 ° F. 
3 lbs., rolled oats 
5 gal., water 
1 pkt, Danstar brand Nottingham ale yeast 
1 pkt, Danstar brand Windsor ale yeast

Original Gravity: 1.092
Final Gravity: 1.030
ABV: 8% + amount from the mead
Timeline: Brewed ale on March 4. 
Racked &added additional ingredients March 8.
Bottled March 11.

At 8+ % ABV, this qualifies as a strong ale. My theory is that unhopped ales could achieve longer shelf life with higher alcohol content. The label art work is by comic book artist, Bob Raymond, who I gladly trade computer support for. 

Since 2011, I made this recipe a couple more times; once with a "cock" (rooster) and once without a chicken.  I've learned a lot over the years and have several theories and tweaks I'd to make.  

Tudor Monastery Farm Reviewed

As a Medievalist, who doesn't love Tales of the Green Valley, Tudor Monastery Farm, or Secrets of the Castle with Ruth Goodman, Peter Ginn, Alex Langlands, Tom Pinnfold, and others?  Don't even get me started on Time Team!  And as an amateur ale/beer experimental archeologist,  one of my favorite episodes is Tudor Monastery Farm, episode 3, which first aired on November 27, 2013.  Part of the episode was dedicated to making a gruit ale.  Here are the highlights:

Calories & Ale (0:48 - 2:26)
  • workers consumed a 2 lb. loaf of bread & 8 pts. of ale per person per day
  • 80% of daily calories from bread & ale
    • Pint of ale equals half a loaf of bread
  • Drank ale because well water was contaminated
    • Alcohol (and boiling) killed any bacteria
  • 6 acres of wheat & barely per person per year
Yeast Collection (07:50 – 08:50)
  • Yeast is not bacteria.
Malting (10:13 – 12:01)
  • Farm with 10 workers drinks 300 gal. per month?!
  • Didn’t mention:
    • Barley is to Europe as grapes are to the Mediterranean
    • 2 row (Hordeum distichum L.) vs. 6 row (Hordeum vulgare L.)
      • 2 row: less protein, more fermentable starch
      • 6 row: more protein, less fermentable starch
    • Growing, cutting, drying, beating, winnowing, storing
Kiln Drying, Ale vs. Beer, Brewing Part I (20:36 – 22:21)
  • “Next, the malted barley is boiled in water to release the sugars.”  WHAT?!
  • “…come up to the boil and simmer for about half an hour.”
  • “Boiling sterilizes the water and alcohol keeps it sterile.”   (Duck Pond Ale anyone?)
Brewing Part II (32:51 – 34:34)
  • A neolithic recipe?  I was kinda hoping for a Tudor period (1485 - 1603) recipe.
  • So much for manic sanitation!
The Butt (36:20 – 37:05)
  • Storage (for a fortnight, maybe).
Barm (37:56 – 38:14)
  • Not how you thought it worked?  Brewers often claim that yeast was obtained from the baker, not the other way around.
I shared this video and discussion at BrewU, Great North Eastern War (GNEW), and Pennsic War in 2014.  

Future Blog Topics

I am sooo behind in blogging.  There always seems to be some other project I want to work on and don't make time to blog about it.  Searching and reading always seems to take far longer to do than the project itself.  It's really fun to get a lead on something then pickup new leads along the way.  Before I know it, there are 10 or more browser tabs open and I've forgotten what it was I was meaning to lookup.  Anyway, I figure if I make a list of topics I'd like to write about, maybe I'll actually do it. In no particular order, here's my list:
  • Brewing competitions vs. EKBG panels vs. IKBG panelling 
  •  How to get a high EKBG score 
  •  Potus ypocras & mulled red wines 
  •  William Harrison's Engliſhe Beere 
  •  Tap signs 
  •  Medieval brewing biblography  
  •  Cock ale (surprised I didn't already do this) (Done)
  • Sahti 
  •  Braggot 
  •  Fermentation, bottling, and carbonation 
  •  Tudor Monastery Farm reviewed (Done)
  •  Growing barley, harvesting, beating, winnowing, and malting

Wow.  I have a lot of writing to do.   Many of these are old brewing projects.  I'll date them accordingly.  Who knows.  Maybe I'll update my research and brew some of these again.


Thursday, May 8, 2014

Brewing is Meditative, and Fun

I'm brewing a "West Coast IPA" this evening.  It's supposed to be pretty hoppy.  I hope it tastes something like Baxter Brewing's Stowaway IPA, my current favorite beer.  Mmm, yummy.

So between waiting for things to warm up or hop additions, I like to let my mind wonder about brewing.  Styles that sound interesting.  Projects I'd like to do.  A blog I should write...   Sometimes it's just free association.  One thing that crossed my mind was the enjoyment of brewing.  I didn't brew much last year and only once so far this year.  I'm only now realizing what I've been missing.  Extract brewing is pretty easy.  Warm water to 150 F, put the adjuncts in a brew sock and toss it in, wait 20 min., warm to near boil, add extract, wait for hotbreak, stir, add bittering hops, wait, add flavor hops & Irish Moss, wait, add aroma hops, wait, run wort chiller, wait, transfer to fermentation bucket, add yeast, put the lid on and wait a week.  Not much to it really.  Besides the wonderful smells of malt and hops, the waiting gives you time to think.  I like to think about brewing beer.  It's very relaxing.  

It's easy to get caught up in the challenges of brewing historical ales.  Finding good sources, redacting the recipe, figuring out unit conversions, considering ingrediants, process, equipment, etc. It can really pysch you out.  All the project challenges seem to stack up and before you know it, brewing becomes a burden.  You start to avoid it.  It hangs over your head like something you have to do.  You forget to enjoy brewing.  I'm beginning to see the wisdom in pacing yourself.  Brew something modern then something historic.  Remember, brewing is fun.  It's fun to make an easy, yummy beer and share it with friends.  Relax, don't worry, have a homebrew.  (Thanks Charlie.)

Friday, April 25, 2014

BrewU 2014

Yep, you read it right.  BrewU 2014.  There was no cell reception at the BrewU 2013 site and I didn't have the best experience there.  Major wake-up call to improving my documentation.  Not that it was bad.  I just needed to document more and include more references.  To be honest, I lost interest and momentum with further research and projects.  Repeated some previous brew projects and made some  modern beers, but not much else.  But now I have committed myself to teaching a class and panelling a brewing project with the Kingdom brewing masters.  Nothing like getting your butt in gear with project deadlines!

So I'm on my way to BrewU 2014 in the Barony of Stonemarche with Baroness Sylvia and Lady Elspeth.  I'm super excited that Lady Elspeth is going because she have been a member of our local SCA group, and brewer, for a long time.  Life has been in the way of her playing in the last few years.  It's great to catch up on brewing and life in general. There are some great people in the SCA. She is certainly one of them.

So I'm leading a discussion on the Tudor Monistary Farm ale episode compared to modern brewing ingredients and techniques.  It has been something I've always wanted to thoroughly investigate anyway.  I'll post the notes next week, after the class.  There were a few surprises that are worth further study.

For the brewing project, I went with Potus Ypocras from Curye on Inglish (1390).  Scaling proportions, ingrediants, and specific preparation were a challenge.  It was fun to dig in and learn everything I could about hippocras.  Doing the research was more work than making the brew, which is frequently the case in period brewing.  Again, I'll post the work next week.  Hopefully I'll have had a much better experience.

Preparing for BrewU was a bit of work, but worth the effort. I hope others get something out of it too.

Friday, April 19, 2013

BrewU 2013

Well, I'm packed and ready to head down to BrewU in the Shire of Frosted Hills. Just waiting for Lord Finan and Lady Sylvia. Hope I didn't forget anything. I'm super excited to see Master Ludwig and other brewing friends, take some classes, and see what others are doing for projects. I'll blog about it when I get there. Here are the event details:

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

East Kingdom Mapping Project (Take 2)

Wow.  I've really learned a lot about ArcGIS Online since my last post.  There is a private/subscription (paid) version and a public (free) version of accounts.  The public version is far more limited in what it can do, but in some ways, it makes an administrator much more concise with the data.  For example, there is a feature limit and file size limit, both of which I was well within.  However, there is also a limit to feature geometry.  In other words, a polygon cannot exceed a certain number of nodes or vertexes.  I discovered that the hard way.  I pretty much ended up deconstructing coastal features and replacing them with maritime zones.  Basically, I merged these zones with the coast line and islands features.  Oy.  What a job that was.  It simplified the geometry A LOT.  I then generalized the vertexes down to 10 meters which made it possible to upload the polygon files.  Anyway, the map link in my previous post is now dead and this is the new one:  I don't plan to change it anytime soon.  Enjoy!  =)