Sunday, 21 September 2014

Brew Day: Stock Ale

Following on from the sour red ale I brewed last week, today I brewed a strong brown beer based loosely on nineteenth century recipes for stock ales.  The grist and hopping rates are based on the recipe for the 1887 Fuller's XXK in Ron Pattinson's book, but I decreased the amount of invert #3 slightly, and added a small percentage of dark crystal to imitate the effects of kettle caramelisation,  The beer will be fermented out with  a large pitch of Wyeast 1318, and I'm also planning to add the dregs from a bottle of my brett-fermented wit later this evening, which should consist of lactobacillus, brettanomyces trois and brettanomyces clausenii.  The high hopping rate probably means I won't see much contribution from the lactobacillus, but hopefully the two brett strains will be well enough established to ensure a long slow secondary fermentation.

When I was picking a recipe for this beer, one thing I kept wondering about was how far back I'd have to go to find a recipe for something that was likely to have had undergone a secondary fermentation of this sort.  In Principles & Practice of Brewing (Walter J. Sykes & Arthur R. Ling, 1907), there is a description of the long slow secondary fermentation that took place while stock ales were stored in vats or casks.  They state that during this fermentation "maltodextrins are gradually and slowly degraded by the hydrolytic action of the special yeasts" and "certain compound ethers or esters are also formed" that are "much concerned in the fine flavour characteristic of fully ripened and mature ales".  But having described this slow conditioning, the authors go on to complain that it is falling out of fashion:
"[T]he demand for beers of this class seems to be gradually passing away; the tendency nowadays is towards less ripe and mature ales, and consequently the period of storage is often reduced to weeks, or is even omitted altogether."
They were writing at the beginning of the twentieth century, but it seems that at least some aged beers survived this trend.  In Amber, Gold, and Black, Martyn Cornell mentions a beer called Colne Spring Ale which was deliberately infected with brettanomyces, and which seems to have survived with secondary conditioning well into the twentieth century (Cornell mentions that it survived the 1957 takeover of Benskin's by IndCoope, and states that it was pasteurized after this point rather than bottle conditioned).  These 1958 tasting notes from Andrew Campbell are worth quoting in full:
"[Colne Spring Ale] is probably the strongest of all the commercially available bottled beers available in Britain today.  Matured for seven years, it is dark, mellow, and pours like wine, very slightly carbonated.  It is rich and luscious in flavour, in no way edulcorated [sweenteened] ... beer that should be treated with the very greatest respect."
The beer I brewed today is part of an ongoing effort to try to recreate some of these older brettanomyces-influenced British beers.  So far I have the Keeping Porter, the Stingo, and this strong stock ale.  In the next few months I'm planning on brewing a nineteenth century IPA, and perhaps also an Imperial Stout, both again to be inoculated with brett (in fact, I'll probably keep using the dregs from the last remaining bottles of the wit beer to do this).  With any luck, in a year or so all of these beers will be tasting pretty good, and stable enough to bottle (though I'll probably bottle the darker ones flat, or with very low carbonation, so continued fermentation shouldn't be a problem).But even if they dry out too much or gett too funky, I'm sure they'll make a good basis for blending with each other, or with young beers in the glass.


Measured O.G: 1.076 (Aiming for 1.080)
Measured F.G:

Mash: 153.5°F:


43.3%  Paul's Mild Malt
33.7%  TF Golden Promise
2.9%  Medium Crystal
1.9%  TF Dark Crystal II
18.2% Invert 3#


Fuggles          60          45.7 IBUs
EKG              30          37.4 IBUs


Wyeast 1318

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