Last year I added a fly tent to my presentation and this year in my quest to create a truly authentic 18th Century brewery, I have six new upgrades:
This does not mean I am abandoning the 5 and 10-gallon coppers, these are very useful for demonstrations as they come to a boil in a much more reasonable time but as soon as I can find a space willing to permanently host the Regimental Brewmeister, I will be switching to this one as its more authentically scaled. Beer was consumed by everyone and all day in the 18th Century so lots was needed. A one-barrel brewery is more realistically matched to the scale need by a typical tavern.
My new copper (copper kettle is redundant) has a ring stand so it can be used over an open fire or at a hearth. Using it will be complicated as you can’t build a fire under an empty kettle and you can’t lift (250 lbs) a full kettle into position over the fire.
I am presently presenting field brewing as it would have been done in most homes. Malt is placed in a loosely woven bag and then dipped into the hot water to make a mash. This can then be hoisted (its heavy) above the kettle to lauter. While this approach is effective is not terribly inaccurate, tavern brewers used a more sophisticated approach.
A Kieve is a tub or vat used to mash and subsequently lauter wort. It is akin to a modern mash/lauter tun. The term comes from the German word kübel which means bucket and my kieve is just that, a large (30 gallon to match the copper) bucket with wooden sheathing to keep in the heat. This set-up has the advantage of allow me to immediately brew “small beer” as a follow up to the major brewing of the day. The kieve is also about twice as efficient at extracting sugars from the malt so the beer will ultimately be stronger and better.
Transfer ladle and mash paddle
Okay, these seem like small things, and they are, but they are hyper critical to our process. My kettle is a German style kettle with no drain. This means that all the hot water for the mash and all the hot wort from the brew must be manually moved from the kettle to the next tun by hand. For this we use a transfer ladle.
The primary advantage of the keive over the brew bag is efficiency. In the brew bag, my brewhouse efficiency runs about 40%. A proper mash/lauder tun typically has a brewhouse efficiency of over 80% because the malt is constantly stirred and circulated. This requires a mash paddle.
Kühlschipp (aka Koelschip)
Now the real reason I have keep the 18th Century brewery at the 5–10-gallon scale for so long is really an issue of heat exchange. Bringing water to a boil is easy, you just make a big fire but cooling it to “blood temperature” before you inoculate the wort with yeast is quire another matter. Modern brewers use all manner of active heat exchangers, the most common being a coil through which chilled water is run, but in a time before electricity and running water utilities such a device could not be made. Some breweries had the advantage of nearby streams where the heat of brewing could be shed but most brewers had to rely on convective cooling. They used a kühlschipp.
The wort must be cooled to blood temperature in less than 2 hours if we don’t want bacteria to start growing in our wort. This requires more than just letting the kettle sit without a fire under it. The kühlschipp is a broad, open-top, flat vessel in which the wort cools by convection. The high surface-to-mass ratio allows for more efficient cooling. While the most common use of a kühlschipp today is in lambic (sour beer) brewing, where the wort is cooled and airborne yeasts and bacteria present in the brewery are allowed to inoculate the beer naturally, creating spontaneous fermentation, in the 18th Century this would have been a critical component of any brewery larger than 10 gallons.
The yeast ring or gjarkrans is a piece of traditional brewing gear from medieval Sweden and Denmark. This tool resembles a complicated wreath of small pieces of whittled wood. Because it has a very high surface area with lots of nooks and crannies, yeast can easily be adsorbed onto the surface of this wreathlike structure in a very thin layer making drying easy. This allows the brewer to safely store their yeast in much the same way modern homebrewers and bakers store lyophilized yeast.
Okay, technically this is a retort but I am using it as an alembic. At several events I have been asked, even pleaded with, as to whether I make rum or gin. As with beer, most households and every tavern would have a small still where they would create distilled spirits. I now have a small demonstration still similar to what would be used at the time. In most cases, these would not be made of metal as it was cost prohibitive so I have an ordinary glass retort for the purpose.
Distilled spirits will NEVER be offered by the Regimental Brewmeister even as samples. The regulatory hurtles to for this are practically and economically prohibitive. This is just for demonstration purposes.
The next big improvement needs to be a permanent facility. If anyone wants to host the permanently host (either as a guest of with a lease), I am ready to set up a fully functioning brewery analogous to what you would encounter in 1770’s Philadelphia or Boston. Give me a call. You won’t be sorry!