A Good Beer Blog


Have you read The Unbearable Nonsense of Craft Beer - A Rant in Nine Acts by Alan and Max yet? It's out on Kindle as well as Lulu.

Maureen Ogle said this about the book: "... immensely readable, sometimes slightly surreal rumination on beer in general and craft beer in particular. Funny, witty, but most important: Smart. The beer geeks will likely get all cranky about it, but Alan and Max are the masters of cranky..."

Ron Pattinson said: "I'm in a rather odd situation. Because I appear in the book. A fictional version of me. It's a weird feeling."


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Max -

Three gallons of molasses per thirty gallons of water would come out to a starting gravity of around 1.030. Even if the beer attenuated 100% that still only makes a beer of around 4% abv. I don't know where they got 11%.

Gary Gillman -

The gallon then was the old British gallon, which is still the U.S. gallon, i.e., based on a 16 ounce pint - so 32 oz. per quart, 4 quarts to the gallon of course, so 128 oz. to the gallon, not 160. Did you calculate the 4% ABV based on these figures?

Also, I wonder if the bran (the covering of a cereal grain) might have produced some extract. Probably not since if it has starch there would have been no conversion via barley malt unless they let the bran soak for a while before use, in which case it might have mashed on its own.

I think though the reason bran was used was to give a cereal flavour to the beer - in effect he was doing a "beer concentrate" and then adding it to molasses to get the fermentable capacity.

I wonder what that beer was like? Which Ontario craft brewer will have a go?


Joe Stange -

In the original document "Bran" and "Hops" are on different lines... It's possible or even likely that a comma between them offers a better reading.

I suppose the sifter would have been used to make flour, and then... what to do with the sifter full of bran (which is what would be left after sifting the flour)? Well hell, why not make some beer with it? Martha, woman, run and fetch 30 gallons from the Potomac!

I suppose Gary is right about fermentables in the cereals. Not much. Maybe if he added it to cold water and heated it to boil (he doesn't say whether he adds it direct to boiling water), there would be some conversion?

Jeff Alworth -

I should have known you'd beat me to this story.

Martyn Cornell -

"Bran hops" may be "brown hops", I suspect - porter brewers, certainly, used old hops that had gone brown, to give the beer the preservative and bittering qualities still available in older hops, without the aromas only fully available in fresher hops. See, eg, this mention of brown hops from 1767.

Gary Gillman -

Here is a similar recipe, for bran beer, from England which gives more information as to extract. Clearly bran has extract that can be converted, possibly it contains enough enzyme to do this if slowly heated to the right temperature.


clay -

I agree, likely a sifter of Bran, Hops to taste, strain back through the sifter onto the molasses. I personally don't see anything unsanitary about it, the molasses is only 10% so even if it was cold, the resting temp would still be above 70F for the 20+ minutes needed to pasteurize.

@gary it's irrelevant the size of the gallon used as it's the same percentage of sugar by volume, so ABV will be the same. I would say this is about a 2.5% to 3% beer aka Small Beer. Keep in mind the yeast used back then was pretty low attenuation too. And, most sifters were about a quart.

Assuming all of that, I would say that most likely the real recipe is:
1 pound of wheat bran (most common kind around then and there)
3 gallons of Molasses
12-16 oz of hops (they had pretty low yield and they took a long time to get from plant to brewery)
29 - 30 gallons of water.
Low attenuation yeast, 5 vials or 4L starter.

That's 33gal or a full barrel.
Only thing I'd do is reduce the boil to 90, 1oz Cascade at
90, 1oz at flame out, use oat bran and wheat bran, boil the
molasses for 5 min.

Gareth -

I read an article about this on Huffington post, they said the term "Bran" was used often back in the 1700s to mean "small flakes". Maybe the current translation means a sifter full of small hop flakes (just dried hops?)

Looks like that's all the recipe really calls for then. Hops, molasses and yeast. Bare bones by today's standards.... But I'm curious. Didn't know that it was possible to make beer that simple and without various grains.