Experimental Beer Brewing

We began last week’s experimental day by gathering ingredients, trying to use as many prehistoric resources as possible. Though some tools were still modern (the trough, matches to start the fire, chainsaw to cut firewood, a mesh sieve, and a pot) we used a variety of other resources during the day including:

-Un-malted Barley (already acquired from a local source)

-Rocks for the fire (from the T6 spoil heap)

 

Julie collecting stones

Student Julie gathering stones for firing,

 

-Water & a trough (modern trough, sourced from local farmer, James Brown)

-Elderflowers (gathered from site), and

 

Charlie picking elderflower.jpg

Assistant Supervisor Charlie, gathering elderflowers.

 

-Firewood (fallen deadwood gathered on site)

 

And after talking through the process, we began the beer brewing!

 

Becky teaching.jpg

Super visor Becky, teaching students and volunteers.

 

We started the fire, and heated the rocks for about one hour.

Building a fire.jpg

Fire Starting

 

During that time, we broke the husks of the barley to release the yeast. There was an added level of experimentation in that our barley was un-malted. We’ve had some success with this in the past, and were attempting to replicate those successes in order to test several hypotheses we had developed.

Julie and Ian grinding barley

Students Ian and Julie breaking the barley husks.

 

Grinding barley action shot

Close-up of the grinding process.

 

Grinding barley

The barley after the husks were broken.

 

When the rocks were hot enough (we didn’t verify an exact temperature, just made sure they sat in the fire for an hour), we added water to the trough, added the barley to the water, then added the rocks to the water to heat it up.

 

 

We needed about 7-8 rocks to get a warm temperature. We did not measure the exact temperature, rather we made sure it didn’t get too hot to the touch.

We stirred the mash, and rotated hot rocks in and out of the trough to keep the temperature up.

 

Becky stirring the mash.jpg

Supervisor Becky stirring the mash tun.

 

We had lots of down time while we kept the fire going, kept the rocks hot and the mash tun up to temperature, so we gathered local sedge (tusset grass) & began weaving platters & baskets – a skill we recently learned from a local community member, Paula Constantine who teaches basket weaving.

 

Sophie and Rachel weaving.jpg

Assistant Supervisors Rachel, Sophie and Charlie weaving sedge.

 

We also took some malted barley (leftover on site from previous beer brewing attempts) and sedge oil (created from pounding sedge root into a pulp and adding water), and created a paste which we then put on the fire to bake. We experimented with an different cooking technique than our earth oven from last year.

 

Baking on sedge.jpg

Unleavened bread baking above a fire.

 

After the mash tun brewed for two hours, we began to sieve the mixture into our pot:

Zach and Julie mash tun.jpg

Students Julie and Zac sieving the mash into a pot.

 

And then we added the elderflowers to the mixture.

Stripping elderflower.jpg

Students Zach, Ian and Julie adding elderflowers to the mix.

 

We’ll let the mixture brew while we continually monitor the progress throughout the week.

Next Sunday, we’ll check the ABV level with a hydrometer & let it brew for longer if need be (two weeks or so should be sufficient).

We usually can get an ABV level of 5%, so that’s our goal. If we’ve reached it by next Sunday, we’ll sample it, if not, it’ll brew longer.

Stay tuned for next week’s experimental instalment!

 

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