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    Basic Brewing:

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    Basic Brewing:

    Post  Admin on Tue May 31, 2011 6:44 pm

    Meads, Wines, Beers, Cordials, and Exotics

    1. Brewing is Simple!
    2. Brewing is Educational!
    3. Brewing is Rewarding!
    4. Brewing is Fun!

    Brewing has a minimum of cardinal rules to ensure good results:

    1. Keep everything as clean as possible.
    2. When you sanitize glassware, nothing beats bleaching and boiling.
    3. Learn a little patience -- brewing is not fast but well worth any wait.
    4. Don't brew or bottle when you're ill -- it will come back to haunt you.
    5. Take good notes.

    Brewing (meads and beers) requires a minimum of basic equipment to get started:

    1. Large cooking pot (3 to 6 gallons);
    2. Large glass or food-grade plastic jug, which can be made airtight (a 5 to 6 gallon jug can be had for $10 to $20);
    3. 6 feet of siphon tube;
    4. rubber stopper with hole;
    5. bubbler;
    6. some household strainers;
    7. suitable space for the fermenter to sit undisturbed for the duration of the brewing process.

    The first two items can be obtained at a discount department store, like K-Mart or WalMart. The remainder (in fact, all of these items) can be obtained at a brewing supplies store.

    Cordials require substantially less equipment to produce:

    1. One-gallon glass jug, which can be made airtight (such as a cider or juice jar);
    2. large funnel;
    3. sturdy muslin sack for straining;
    4. suitable space for the cordial to sit undisturbed for the duration of the process.

    For brewing meads and beers, the overall process involves 10 simple steps:

    1. Boil honey (or malt) and water;
    2. Skim dross (for honey);
    3. Add flavoring elements (hops, herbs, spices, juices, peels, etc.);
    4. Continue cooking for appropriate amount of time;
    5. Strain into fermenter and allow to cool;
    6. Pitch yeast;
    7. Allow to ferment for a while (normally until fermentation ceases);
    8. Add priming sugars (use malt, corn sugar, honey, corn syrup, etc.)
    9. Bottle;
    10. Age.

    For wines (at least, those that are not produced like meads), the process is somewhat simpler:

    1. Produce juice (usually by squeezing);
    2. Strain into fermenter;
    3. Pitch yeast;
    4. Add flavoring elements (herbs, spices, etc.) in muslin bag;
    5. Allow to ferment for a while (normally until fermentation ceases);
    6. Bottle;
    7. Age.

    For cordials, the process is simpler still:

    1. Place fruit and flavoring elements (herbs, spices, juices, peels, etc.) in jar;
    2. Cover with vodka (normally, vodka or grain alcohol);
    3. Allow to steep;
    4. Strain into bottle;
    5. Age.

    Background -- Meads
    Several different names are used for meads and their cousins. In many cases, we have developed a set of definitions, which we tend to follow more rigorously than in period. Currently, some of the following terms are commonly used:

    1. mead -- honey and water with a minimum of herbs, spices, etc.;
    2. metheglin -- honey, water, herbs, and/or spices;
    3. melomel -- honey, water, and fruits or juices;
    4. pymeth -- honey, water, and grapes (like a cross between mead and wine);
    5. braggot -- honey, water, ale, and spices (traditional Welsh drink).

    Keep in mind, these are examples. A review of period sources indicates that they were often used interchangeably -- especially, mead and metheglin.

    Meads typically fell into two categories: short and long. Short meads, as the name implies, took a much shorter brewing time -- typically, less than a week before bottling. These drinks were low in alcohol -- also referred to as small meads -- and were drunk on a daily basis. They were the period equivalent of a soft drink. Long meads took somewhat longer to brew -- typically, several weeks to several months. In addition, they tended to be aged for a good deal longer. Some period recipes call for as much as three years before drinking! (Remember, I said this took patience!) The alcoholic content of these meads tends to be in the 7% to 15% range, and were drunk more in the manner of wines.

    Background -- Wines
    Like meads, wines have a vast variety associated with them. Unlike meads, however, their variety is drawn from the vast variety of grapes. The cultivation of which is an art unto itself. Wines tend to be classified by the variety or varieties used and its overall performance.

    Wines share a further similarity to mead -- they also fell into two categories: short and long. Short wines, as the name implies, took a much shorter brewing time -- typically, less than a week before bottling. These drinks were low in alcohol and were drunk on a daily basis. These types of wines have been making come back modernly. In period, they were produced on a much quicker schedule than we see today, but their return is marked by what is referred to as `nouveau wines'. More traditional wines took somewhat longer to brew -- typically, several months. In addition, they tended to be aged for a good deal longer. The alcoholic content of these wines tends to be in the 7% to 15% range.

    Background -- Beers
    Historically, we find only two names for malted barley beverages -- beer and ale. (Aside from Welsh braggot, which is a heavily spiced cross between ale and mead.) Initially, these were two separate entities whose distinction has been lost over time. In early England, ale referred to a beverage drunk as soon as fermentation ceased; beer referred to an aged drink.

    Preservatives were needed to prevent aged beer from going bad. The types of herbs used in this process varied from country to country, and included juniper, coriander, rosemary, and other aromatic herbs. Eventually, a mixture called gruit found widespread use in England. Gruit included sweet gale, sage, common yarrow, bay, and pine resin. (Gruitbeer also included wheat and oats in addition to the barley.)

    As you may have noticed, I did not mention the most common preservative in modern beer -- hops. Hops were a German introduction to the brewing process. In fact, the battles fought between the gruit producers and hops farmers -- and the supporting brewers, reflects the most colorful segment of brewing history. Hops were initially introduced to England by Benedictine monks in the 11th century. But the true battles over their use, did not occur until the 15th century with substantial intercession from the English crown. In the end, hopped beer won its place and is the only remaining commercial form -- to the best of my knowledge. (A review of period sources indicates that beer and ale were often used interchangeably.)

    As was the case for meads, beers and ales fell into two categories: short and long. Short ales, as the name implies, took a much shorter brewing time -- typically, less than a week before bottling. These drinks were low in alcohol -- also referred to as small ales -- and were drunk on a daily basis. They were the period equivalent of a soft drink. Long ales took somewhat longer to brew -- though, rarely more than a month. The alcoholic content of these ales tends to be in the 7% to 15% ranges. Today, a person would be hard-pressed to find a producer of small ales!

    Background -- Cordials

    Cordials and liqueurs were made in one of the three following ways: (1) distillation of a brewed product; (2) infusion in a wine or mead, and distillation of the resulting product; and, (3) infusion in a distilled spirit. The first seems to have been used when the desired flavor was honey or fruit; the last was preferred when the desired flavor was herb or spice. While these processes ultimately involved distillation, a fruit cordial was obtained by producing a wine and then distilling it to a brandy, which might then be sweetened or spiced lightly. In contrast, a spice cordial, such as one of cloves, was obtained by distilling a dry wine, such as sack, and infusing the spice in the resulting spirit. As a result of modern statutes, the latter infusion process tends to be preferred today for almost all types of cordial.

    Background -- Exotics
    The class referred to as `exotics' is more of a catch-all class for brewers in the SCA. It includes all those beverages which do not easily fit within the previous descriptions -- meads, wines, beers, cordials. Exotics include such things as kumiss and kefir (produced from fermented milks), brandies, and whiskeys.

    A recipe for Irish whiskey, Usquebath (pronounced Oos-ke-bah), has been included. Of course, the distillation of whiskey is forbidden by law .

      Current date/time is Wed Mar 20, 2019 8:23 am