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.