Picture An Advert for Bock Bier – a traditional German strong beer, covered in my book, The Historical Companion to House-Brewing.
For decades, brown beers have been the most talked about but least purchased of the traditional ales. Now that seems to be changing. Perhaps it’s time to reappraise the beginnings of the genre.
They were most popular, before brewers realised that dark malts didn’t yield the extract one had assumed. Now this realisation occurred in the mid 1700s. Some clever unknown brewer hit on the idea of weighing a bucket of brown beer wort and an equal volume of water. And in that moment the idea of wort density, now called OG, was born. By subtracting the water weight from the wort weight, one knew how much extract was present.
Pale Beers have it.
The moment someone did the same with a pale ale wort, the truth was out. Brown malts don’t maximise profit potential. That didn’t mean the end of brown beer popularity. There were other reasons to keep colour. Drinkers wanted them, brown beers are most forgiving of a poor quality gyle, and ingredients, can be brewed very bitter using burnt malt and thus save on hops, and can be made from stale pale malt, which has absorbed too much water (slack). One simply roasted a second time. Here is one method.
Historical Companion to House Brewing as e-book
Here is a charming picture of the Stopes Malt Roaster, which enabled slack malt to be up-cycled as brown malt.
The Historical Companion contains detailed descriptions of malt making in the small house brewery. It is the perfect partner hobby to craft brewing and allows one to brew authentic ales and lager beers, using the correct malt.
Unfortunately, we don’t know so much about the colour and extract from the early days, nor that much on the bittering potential of hops. That said, my Stout and Porter text allows one to have great fun in the brewery and as all my books are now available for your iPad or tablet/PC, Android or iPhone, there need no longer be soggy pages of recipe books flipping shut.