Latest Entries »

Raw Ale & Bottle Conditioning

What I discovered through brewing my latest 70 litre batch of 12% Meade Ale is thus:

Abstract:

We spend enormous amounts of energy (in the form of heat & labour) during the brewing process to
basically kill the life-giving fermentation processes that make healthy beer beer.
Then we have to expend even more energy to re-introduce the qualities of beer than every beer drinker
has in her ancestral memory…i.e. a foamy head; head retention; the cascade of tiny nitrogen bubbles;
the creamy texture of a well-made ale that tastes and feels like “food in a glass”, exhibiting “good legs”
up the side of that glass after being consumed…etcetera.

Critique of Process:

As I was kettle brewing this partial mash outside on Xmas Day…after BIAB mashing my Cream Ale
grain bill…there was a point where I looked at the infusion and thought… “Wow…this is the quality and
texture that I want my final product to have.” (I took a picture at that point).
I then boiled the wort for 60 minutes to hit the hot break and supposedly optimize the hop addition
chemistry (as is standard accepted brewing practice). A tiny voice in the back of my head was trying to
protest against this destructive action. (But I ignored it).
Note to Self: Next brew session…omit the wort/hop boil and treat the entire process as an infusion
mash! Observe and record the results for comparison.
Fast forward to the fermentation process. Due to physical equipment capacity limitations (I have a very
confined space to work in which is my bathroom) and a shortage of bottles, I decided to impulsively try
an experiment: Of the 70 litre batch…I obtained and sterilized enough bottles to bottle 40 litres. I was
anxious to have some Meade Ale…as I had been bereft of such and forced to drink store-bought beer
for quite some time. The most vigorous primary fermentation had completed right on schedule within
48 hours…and we were now in the glass air-locked secondaries. Specific Gravity tests revealed that the
Scottish Ale yeast had performed amazingly and that the 12% ABV ceiling had been reached and the
yeast was crawling to a halt and entering the dormant stage.
So, with the beer basically ready alcohol-wise…but the yeast still being in a suspension haze state…I
worked to bottle-condition the 40 litres with honey at a 2.6 volumes of CO2 carbonation level (Cream
Ale).
After 2 weeks, I observed a sizable amount of sediment in the bottles…and would shake them to “force
carbonation” to progress. I couldn’t wait…so I started drinking the bottled product after 2 weeks. As we
moved between 2 and 3 weeks of bottle conditioning…the ale produced was foaming out of the bottles
and was absolutely delicious! I had to clean ale residue off of my ceiling that the opening of one of the
bottles had produced. With a little coaxing (shaking and settling for a minute or two) a thick 2-inch
head was produced in a brandy glass that would settle into a thin one-quarter inch head within a minute
or so. (I had the creaminess that I was aiming for…considering the high alcohol level of 12% ABV!).
The remaining 30 litres was allowed to clear in the airlocked carboy for 3 weeks or so before I
endeavoured to bottle it. I racked the ale off of the lees and into the bottling bucket with again the 2.6
volumes CO2 honey/water solution and bottled it. After 3 weeks I opened a bottle and it is not
exhibiting the same characteristics as the 40 litre batch. It flattens out immediately after pouring and is
not foaming out of the bottle after some shaking. A huge disappointment.

Conclusion:

There is not enough yeast in suspension to produce the desired qualities when brewing a high-gravity
meade ale if the brewer allows that fermented ale to clear before bottle-conditioning is begun.
The best time to bottle is definitely immediately after primary fermentation has achieved the ABV
target percentage…and the yeast is still in suspension. (Otherwise…I conjecture that the brewer would
have to add fresh yeast or slurry to the bottling bucket along with the CO2 honey solution).

Bru Gordon
General Meade Company February 10, 2017

Meade Ale versus Honey Beer

Most beer drinkers don’t know the difference between Meade Ale and Honey Ale or beer. A brewer can add a small amount of honey to a batch (even without fermenting it) and call it a “honey beer”. The generally agreed upon modern definition of “meade ale” (historically known as BRAGGOT in the 13th century) is a fermentation wherein at least 50% of your fermentable sugars are derived from honey. The other 50 % are primarily derived from malts and some fruit sugars or other adjuncts such as rice syrup, for example. Due to the higher cost of honey as opposed to malt and malt extracts…Meade Ale as a finished product naturally cost more than Honey Beer because you are getting a completely different end product with innumerable enhanced health benefits if it is brewed correctly.

Natural Carbonation Versus Forced Carbonation

Today I am bottle conditioning my first 7 litres of meade ale for the first time in 18 years of brewing. (I have previously never carbonated by any method). I find that when I go to my local craft brewpub (where they have a daily cask-conditioned beer), drinking the cask ale leaves me less bloated and gassy and generally happier than if I drink the force-carbonated variety. (One can especially be sensitive to this with advancing middle-age!). Last year I had a glass carboy of Rosemary meade ale explode on me just before I was going to bottle it! The natural carbonation was fantastic (I had already consumed 2 carboys’worth) with smaller bubbles and a great mouth-feel with no ill-effects the next day. I don’t believe in pasteurizing ale, as that destroys the health-giving properties, especially when there is honey involved. I like the yeasty taste and that is added B-Vitamins, but can be reduced by racking and time. Ale is best made the natural way with patience — to me the force-carbonated, pasteurized and mass-produced stuff is just alcoholic soda-pop!

% ABV of Meade Ale

Meade Ale was brewed in the Middle Ages and before, using malted grain sugars and honey. We have no way of knowing what the % of Alcohol By Volume was of these beverages. That would depend on the amount of sugars available to the brewer (ISG or Initial Specific Gravity of the Wort) and the alcohol tolerance of the yeast being used.

In today’s terms, we can brew a meade ale that finishes from roughly 4 to 10% in conjunction with most common ale gravities — or produce a barleywine-like meade ale using high-tolerance yeast that finishes from roughly 10 to 13 % ABV.

“Braggot” (Bragot) becomes “Meade Ale”.

Responding to the modernization of a medieval beverage re-imagined — General Meade Company has decided to switch the term “Bragot” to “Meade Ale” in a bid to offer consumers a more readily recognizable product. “Meade Ale” perfectly describes what “Braggot” actually is and was — in antiquity as well as today. Recent findings from the Danish Journal of Archaeology have vindicated the processes, ingredients and adjuncts used by GMC for the past 18 years in attempting to re-create the historical medicinal and health-giving “grog” of our ancient Germanic Ancestors — going back to 1500 BC in Scandinavia. 

Forced Carbonation of Beverages…

We all know that Carbon Dioxide is a product of respiration. Now what we are doing is to force this gas into our beverages such as beer and soda-pop. Is this a natural thing that we should be putting into our bodies? What are the consequences?  (Thanks to the Dalai Lama and Chrono Sphere).

News Flash!: General Meade Company website up and running!

The very first General Meade Company website has been created and is online! Go to:

http://generalmeadeco.weebly.com/

“Is there ever a day when we don’t want Meade?”

“Is there ever a day when we don’t want Meade?” (Scandinavian Cultural Centre – during the meetings to build the Viking Ship Replica)

Comments on my Meade/Bragot…

To all of you who have tried either my Blueberry Meade or any of my Bragots — I welcome your comments and criticisms here. Please be honest, people: Room for improvement? Always. POST A COMMENT!

I finally broke down and bought a stylus and tablet. It came with a Corel Painter program, and here is the result of monkeying around during the Canucks/BlueJackets game…

He goes into battle behind the Spirit Wing...