Ale, beer and ... hops.

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peebee

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An argument on another thread (CAMRA at it again) hi-lighted a problem I was having with one of my "projects". First a little bit of "history" (now, don't fall asleep!):


In a history repeated by many beer historians: By the end of the Georgian period most (if not all) "ale" was hopped. A few years into Victoria's reign the term "ale" meant nothing special and was used interchangeably with "beer". There was one remaining example of "ale" left: Pale Ale, which was served unaged or "mild", and was increasingly popular at the expense of "Porter" ("ale" also suffered a final indignity with "pale ale" now referring to a "beer" - the last remnant of true "ale" became "Mild Ale"). "Mild Ale" became the most popular "beer" in England until after the World Wars (and much of it had become dark brown in colour too).

At some point between the introduction of hopped "beer" by the Dutch in the 15th Century and well into the British Industrial Revolution (end of Georgian period), "ale" became widely hopped. But before the Industrial Revolution there is a lot less surviving evidence of what went on. My "project" was to come up with a typical ale during the English Civil War (@Dyke Busters; yeap, I'm still at it!). But in trying to find conclusive evidence I came up with this colourful character instead: The Ex-ale-tation of Ale by John Taylor, the Water Poet (1580-1653) (that's just a sample of his vast catalogue of work). He was very much a campaigner against hops and beer.


So, I want help! Can anyone point me at good information supporting the existence (or not) of hopped ales during the English Civil War (1642–1651)?


Some other useful background: This article provides some useful snippets on hops in beer/ale: Hops - Wikipedia. "Eric" (Jim's forum) pointed out that many ale breweries wouldn't be able to cope with large quantities of hops; this probably explains why ale, even when it was hopped, had much lower hopping rates to beer, and why in the 19th Century there was still "ale breweries" and "beer" (porter) breweries?
 
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Dyke Busters

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peebee

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I would go with this one, but you already know that
Thanks! I haven't seen it yet. It'll knock me back £14 off Amazon (used). Is it worth it?

I've not attempted anything earlier than 1800 and recent attempts suggest to me that I need to tweak my historical malt emulations. Write up on Jim's forum. Should move quicker reaching the target of mid-17th Century (there's not as much ale-y or beery going on between those times to distract me).

The link @Hazelwood Brewery posted above is illuminating. As is Martyn Cornell's work that @chthon posted; Shakespeare might be 50 years before the Civil War but it's pointing towards how things with "ale" was progressing reaching that period. John Taylor (the "Water Poet") appears to be representing a dwindling campaign against hops and "other" factors were creating a leaning towards hops. So some hops in mid-17th Century ale seems okay?

Unless something else crops up?

But ale in that time may have still been sweet and "nutritious" whether hopped or not. So the work I've been doing to attain high FGs remains valid. I'm still using Saccharomyces for fermentation, though Eric (Jim's forum) has dug up some evidence (beer bottles from 19th Century ship-wreaks) pointing towards using yeasts that are anything but Saccharomyces (but I'm no experimental archaeologist and wont make anything, intentionally, that I wont enjoy drinking).

Cheers!
 

peebee

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I thought it might be days before you resurfaced! 😂
What? I haven't resurfaced yet asad.. Just making bumps in the road.

I've got hours of that flippin' dissertation to get through yet! Plus a copy of that "Tipplers Guide" on the way. What do I do it all for ... oh aye, the beer drinking is no bad reward.
 

Sadfield

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But ale in that time may have still been sweet and "nutritious" whether hopped or not. So the work I've been doing to attain high FGs remains valid. I'm still using Saccharomyces for fermentation, though Eric (Jim's forum) has dug up some evidence (beer bottles from 19th Century ship-wreaks) pointing towards using yeasts that are anything but Saccharomyces (but I'm no experimental archaeologist and wont make anything, intentionally, that I wont enjoy drinking).
I've never really understood why brewers (home and commercial) always stop short of this step in recreating historical beers, knowing how important yeast is to the final flavour, and the likelihood it will be the most authentic of all the ingredients. Like recreating medieval food, but using a microwave to avoid any charring or wood smoke flavours. Adding the 'British fungus' to a Porter makes a dramatic difference to the final product.

Even more so when it potentially provides the answer to a problem.

"There is a highly genetic diversity between strains of Brettanomyces species, both in a genotypic and phenotypic sense [36]. Not all species are capable of consuming the same types of sugars. For example, B. anomalus (aka claussenii) are generally able to ferment lactose, but B. bruxellensis is generally not. Different strains within the same species may not be able to ferment the same types of sugars [78][79]. For example, some strains are not able to ferment maltose (often B. anomalus strains), which is almost half the sugar content of wort [80]. Such strains would not be a good choice for 100% Brettanomyces fermentation."
 
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chthon

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@Sadfield : time and inclination, possibly the fear of failure.

But where would you get them, and how would you split them off?

E.g. I once did a beer with yeast I got from a sourdough ferment. But then you need to take time afterwards to grow the yeast from the remains.

You could go the spontaneous fermentation route with several test brews, hope something comes off and grow the yeast again.

One should have to be a bit monomaniacal to pursue such an endeavour.

The idea appeals to me, but the practical implications put me off.
 

peebee

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I've considered Brettanomyces as it is something we can get. But only for experimenting with some late 18th. early 19th Century porters and the like. Going back further ... who knows? Brettanomyces (the ones we have access to) seems unlikely in beers/ales that are to be drunk relatively quickly. They require large numbers to be effective in short periods and are capable of "hyper-attenuation" which will not fit with the clips of evidence from way back (un-hopped ales would have been sweet*, and I guess early hopped ales were too?).

The article from Eric was studying bottles from a late 19th Century shipwreck. Debaryomyces (whatever that might be) was outnumbering Saccharomyces, along with lactobacilli and pediococci bacteria. This sort of evidence doesn't provide enough information to confidently apply to earlier 19th Century beer let alone 17th Century.

So for the time being, I'll stick with low-attenuating Saccharomyces yeasts (<70%, or "dextrin adverse" as I like to put it). The high FGs probably masked a lot of yeast features anyway? And mucking about with such old recipes is hard enough as it is without risking that hard work (at this moment at least) to bacteria inoculations (or non-saccharomyces yeast) for uncertain gain.

Using those "dextrin adverse" yeasts, I know that combined with old "landrace" barley varieties (of which we are fortunate to have "Chevallier" as an example, even if it was selected for first use in 1820) I can achieve FGs of 1.025-1.030 if I want them.



*"Sweet" as in Ale was treated as an important foodstuff alongside bread back then. No idea what that meant for tooth decay in those days.
 
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I think the reason you might brew an ale/beer with an atypical yeast would be interest in a specific recipe, perhaps a family recipe. It would certainly not be representative of the vast majority of ales/beers brewed by the brew houses or even the masses in England at the time.
 
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The article from Eric was studying bottles from a late 19th Century shipwreck. Debaryomyces (whatever that might be) was outnumbering Saccharomyces, along with lactobacilli and pediococci bacteria. This sort of evidence doesn't provide enough information to confidently apply to earlier 19th Century beer let alone 17th Century.

Debaryomyces is another of the yeast family that's known for being somewhat salt tolerant, it's typically found around estuaries but is also found in Harvey's aged beers.

But I wouldn't draw too many conclusions about the relative abundance of yeast in these shipwreck bottles, it's more a question of differential survival rates. I'm sure that Saccharomyces did most of the original fermentation of these beers, it's just not as tough as some other yeasts.
 

Sadfield

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Debaryomyces is another of the yeast family that's known for being somewhat salt tolerant, it's typically found around estuaries but is also found in Harvey's aged beers.

But I wouldn't draw too many conclusions about the relative abundance of yeast in these shipwreck bottles, it's more a question of differential survival rates. I'm sure that Saccharomyces did most of the original fermentation of these beers, it's just not as tough as some other yeasts.
Only if you assume they are counting viable cells.
 

Sadfield

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But where would you get them, and how would you split them off?
Both Brett and Debaromyces hansenii are available from White Labs


Brettanomyces (the ones we have access to) seems unlikely in beers/ales that are to be drunk relatively quickly.

This isn't true, brettanomyces can be used as a primary yeast in much the same time scale as saccharomyces if the pitch rate is correct. It ferments much more cleanly, too.
 
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Only if you assume they are counting viable cells.

...which for part of the study they are, and the only live ones Brewlab got from the Wallachia shipwreck bottles (assuming that's what we're talking about) were the salt-tolerant Deb and in one case the (known to be hardy) Brett-B. But DNA degrades as well after death - and if a yeast dies soon after the shipwreck, its DNA will have more time to degrade and so there will be relatively less of it than of species that take longer to die. It's pretty clear if you look at the paper, they have three bottles of presumably the same beer from the shipwreck but only one of them had cerevisiae DNA along with a bunch of others that weren't in the other two bottles, and the one with high levels of chloride (presumably from seawater ingress) had DNA from fewer species (two Debs and Brett-B) than the other. Which is consistent with a Deb and Brett-B being the only live organisms recovered from the best-preserved bottle.
 
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