Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Making Beer in 19th-century America

New Yorker John Nicholson wrote about early American beer in The Farmer's Assistant in 1820,

"To make Spruce beer. Boil some spruce boughs with some wheat-bran till the water tastes sufficiently of the spruce; strain the water, and stir in at the rate of 2 quarts of molasses to a half-barrel; work it with the emptyings of beer, or with yeast if you have it. After working sufficiently, bung up the cask, or, which is better, bottle its contents.

"To make Molasses beer. Take 5 pounds of molasses, half a pint of yeast, and a spoonful of powdered ginger; put these into a vessel, and pour on 2 gallons of scalding hot soft water; shake the whole till a fermentation is produced; then add of the same kind of water sufficient to fill up your half barrel...Let the liquor ferment about twelve hours; then bottle it, with a raisin or 2 in each bottle.

"If honey instead of molasses be used, at the rate of about 12 pounds to the barrel, it will make a very fine beverage, after having been bottled a while.

"To make Beer with Hops. Take 5 quarts of wheatbran and three ounces of hops, and boil them 15 minutes in 15 gallons of water; strain the liquor; add 2 quarts of molasses; cool it quickly to about the temperature of new milk, and put it into your half barrel, having the cask completely filled. Leave the bung out for 24 hours, in order that the yeast may be worked off and thrown out; and then the beer will be fit for use. About the 5th day, bottle off what remains in the cask, or it will turn sour, if the weather be warm. If the cask be new, apply yeast, or beer-emptyings, to bring on the fermentation; but, if it has been in this use before, that will not be necessary.

"Yeast, particularly the whiter part, is much fiter to be used for fermenting, than the mere grounds of the beerbarrel ; and the same may be observed, in regard to its use in fermenting dough for bread.

"To recover a cask of stale Small beer. Take some hops and some chalk broken to pieces; put them in a bag, and put them in at the bunghole, and then stop up the cask closely. Let the proportion be 2 ounces of hops and a pound of chalk for a half-barrel.

"To cure a cask of Beer. Mix 2 handsful of beanflour with one handful of salt, and stir it in.

"To feed a cask of Beer. Bake a rye-loaf well nutmeged; cut it in pieces, and put it in a narrow bag with some hops and some wheat, and put the bag into the cask at the bunghole.

"To clarify Beer. For a half-barrel, take about 6 ounces of chalk, burn it, and put it into the cask. This will disturb the liquor and fine it in 24 hours.  It is also recommended, in some cases, to dissolve some loaf-sugar and add to the above ingredients.

"We omit going into any description of the method of making strongbeer, as the necessity for it among Farmers, as a household beverage, seems to be greatly obviated by that of smallbeer, which is much less intoxicating, and by cider, a stronger drink, which is readily afforded from apple-orchards, which are more or less natural to almost every part ot the United States, except a little of its southern border, where the grape can be cultivated to advantage...

"It is indeed true, that many Farmers in Great Britain brew their own strongbeer; but there is but little of that country where apple-orchards are natural...It is an expensive liquor tor the Farmer to make much use of, as it requires 4 bushels of malt to make a barrel, even of common ale, and 8, for a barrel of beer ot the strongest kind."