One guy's quest to reengineer rare beers in his own dirty kitchen


I’ve occasionally had beers go “sour” on me. Two have been “pour it out” bad, two have been “shrug, drink, serve something else to guests” alright. My kitchen does not have a terroir that is likely to become highly sought after, apparently.

Four times in thirteen years of brewing - that’s not a bad record, I guess.


I’m continually worried that I’ll get a bad batch given the amount of drinking I do when brewing the stuff or the lack of OCD-level attention paid to the cleanliness of the brewing area. As my buddy likes to say, if people could do this 1,000 years ago without formica countertops or specific gravity measurements, then I should be just fine.

I saw a medieval recipe for mead - the specific gravity was measured by putting an egg in the must, and checking that the part exposed to air was the size of a particular coin. Apparently this was a common method of measuring gravity - calling for coins of various denominations depending on the strength sought.


man, i need to unpack some boxes of books so i can give you the recipe you are talking about :slight_smile: i don’t think it is a Dover book, but there is a very old one that is reproduced that has that recipe. the other advantage of egg whites in mead is it clears sediment similar to how a lot of producers use isinglass or gelatin today.

and on that note, lambic porn.

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the worst i had (i.e. pour it out bad) was a 15 gallon batch that got severely, and i mean really severely oxidized. i still can’t figure out how it happened, but it was basically rotten cardboard. i like sour and i like lightly oxidized, but this was like a symphony of everything that could possibly go wrong.

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I’m happy to say that I’ve only had two batches that I didn’t want to drink because I thought they tasted horrible, and even better, I’ve got exactly two friends who seem more than happy to drink anything I brew, despite how bad I might think it tastes.
@dragonfrog’s note about measuring SG is fascinating, though. I do like to consider the set of events that led to the perfection of brewing–it’s the ancient version of “You got your chocolate in my peanut butter!”


Wait, that thing that looks like a cookie sheet - have I got the scale right, that it’s a fermentation tank / tray the size of a large room (and so probably actually a couple feet deep)?

Yep. There are a couple of styles (mostly.Belgian and British). The big ones are four to five feet deep and made of stone. There is no practical way to keep the wort properly sanitized, so beers made in these containers are always a bit… Tangy.

In Britain it was a common practice to mix older, stronger and more sour beers with lighter younger ones. The practice was known as ‘bringing forward’. And interestingly the ancient yeasts used in these fermenters have mutated so that they need at least four or five vertical feet, making them unsuitable for most home brewers (Protz and Wheeler).

Aaand because I have beer on the brain, oblig images of the Great London Beer Flood.

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