Thursday, September 8, 2011

My Latest Project: The War Series

I'm going to warn you, this is going to be nerdy—I mean, nerdier than usual. You lot are pretty nerdy, but I might take the cake on this one.

I've been on the fence about writing about my own home brewing adventures. Honestly, why would you care about what I'm brewing? This time however, it's different, and I'm really excited about it. Any of you who know me, know that I'm as obsessed with World War II, as I am with beer. I've got a number of U.S. Army uniforms, original equipment, scale models, posters and maps for the first half of the 1940s—everything from an M-7 rubberized gas mask bag, to maps of Tarawa Atoll. But what really interests me is the day-to-day life, of the men who sacrificed of both sides of the globe. As much as I love studying the situation maps and reading first person accounts of fighting in the French bocage or fending off banzai attacks on Saipan. It's what happened between those moments of carnage and excitement that intrigues me. What did those fellows talk about during long, dark, nights in the middle of a jungle; what did they drink, while on pass, down to pub, on foggy English nights. The invasion would come, and bullets would fly, but in the meantime, life went on.

Wartime burton, bitter and mild hand pumps
For a while now, I've been looking for a way to combine these two interest and it finally hit me. Brew WWII era beer—specifically London made, GI drunk ales. Along the course of my research, I've realized that as a home brewer, trying to exactly recreate a specific beer, from a specific moment in time, from a specific 1940s full-scale, brewery is a Dr. Who-esque task—and one that I'm not up for. What I can do is develop a number of beers "in the style of," with quite a bit less work. Plus, I get to give things my own little touches.

Before I go any further, I have to mention that none, and I mean none of this would have been possible without the amazing work that Ron Pattinson has done researching historic brewing on his site Shut Up About Barclay Perkins. Along with Ron, the venerable beer writer Martyn Cornell, webby proprietor of Zythophile, has done a phenomenal job of explaining to me, the ins and outs of, in some cases now defunct, British beer styles. Amazing work done by both of these gents—and I officially am in their debt. By the way guys, expect a couple bottles in the mail. I have one more "thank you" to dole out later, but I still have a tad more background to get through.

Okay, so what to brew?  I want to do a single style to represent each year of the war. I'd guess that most American would assume that of those six beers, both IPA and a Brown Ale would be among the logical choices. They'd be wrong. The amount of those two styles brewed and available was minuscule compared with the big four—Burton*, Bitter, Mild and Stout. All four of those beers would have been available both bottled and on draught, at any given time between 1939 and 1945. So, what I've come up with is: Two Milds (1939 and 1944), two Bitters (1940 and 1942), two Burtons (1943 and 1945) and one Stout (1941). Since I bore easily, I've decided to do 2-1/2 gallon batches rather than a more standard 5 gallon batch. It gives me less of the same style of beer to drink and more incentive to brew! I'm also going split the batch and bottle some and cask-condition the rest in mini-kegs. I'll have no problem consuming a full 1.3 gallon mini myself, and still have 12 bottles to give away or pop open as I see fit.

The ingredients for all six beers, are essentially the same as what is used today. British Two and American Six row malts; dark crystal malt and invert sugars of varying degrees of color; Kent Goldings and Fuggles with the occasional American hop thrown in for good measure—All pretty standard British ale components. There is one ingredient, arguably the most important, that is not the same—the water. Not only has the London Metropolitan Water Supply, been filtered and altered since the 1940s, but I live 3,000 miles away from London in Albany, NY. However, thanks to the good doctor Pattinson and his ubiquitous charts,** I can—with a little distilled water, chalk, baking soda and gypsum—make Albany tap water, for all intent and purpose, into mid-twentieth century, London brewing water. Here's the other thank you I mentioned—even with Ron's info I couldn't have figured any of this water mumbo jumbo, without the help of Jim Malkiewicz, Lab Director for the City of Albany's Water and Water Supply Department—thanks again Jim!

In case you're curious here's the the comparison of LMWS to altered Albany:

1940s London Metropolitan Water Supply Water - 5.2  gallons

Calcium - 108 pm
Magnesium - 5 ppm
Sulphates - 70 ppm
Sodium - 29 ppm
Chlorides - 22 ppm

Modern Altered Albany Water - 5.2 gallons - diluted with 35% distilled water

Calcium - 109 ppm
Magnesium - 3 ppm
Sulphates - 70 ppm
Sodium - 29 ppm
Chlorides - 21 ppm 

The estimated pH and residual alkalinity are is 5.9 and 70.4 

So, the next question is what to brew first? In my mind it has to be one of the Burtons—1943 to be exact. I'm totally excited about creating a beer that hasn't been brewed for quite a long time—let alone a style I've never had! So, first off, more water tweaking. Since Ron supplied me with water alterations from Barclay Perkins in the mid 1940s, I adapted and altered those to fit my styles. It seems that BP brewers boiled their Burton water overnight, I assume to concentrate it's mineral content. Since I'm doing a much, much smaller batch, I'm going to treat my adjusted, 7 gallons with a 1/4 tsp of canning salt and a 1/2 tsp of gypsum, cold, and then boil it for a full hour. I have a boil off rate of 1.8 gallons per hour, so I should end up with about 5.2 gallons as I go into the mash.

Onto the grain bill. Because the batch is so small, I'm going to go the brew-in-bag method. No fuss no muss.

1 lb 4 oz British two-row pale malt (probably Maris Otter)
1 lb 2 oz Mild malt
8 oz No. 2 invert sugar (Homemade—do it yourself, it's easy)
6 oz flaked rye
3 oz British dark crystal malt -70–80º L
2 oz flaked maize

The maize and rye are a nod to the mid-war, Ministry of Food barley rations. Everything mashes in at 150º for an hour and then a no-sparge at 172ºish. After all that fun, I'm estimating an OG of 1.047.

On to the boil.

I'm planning on a 90 minute boil with hop additions at 90 minute (just over  a 1/2 ounce, 4.5% AA East Kent Goldings) and another at 20 minutes (1/3 ounce, 4% AA Fuggles.) That should land me somewhere in the 33 or 34 IBU range, giving me a BU:GU of about 0.72. At the begining of the boil, according to BP's chart, I'm going to add a little more canning salt, just about 5/8 of a teaspoon. One other boil addition that tips the hat to 1940s British brewing, is caramel coloring. As I mentioned, barley was restricted so brewers used other methods of achieving color. An easy and cheap way to make beer darker was to add non-traditional brewing stuff to it—like coloring. Along with the Fuggles, at 20 minutes, I'm adding 7 ounces of coloring, which should bring my SRM from a pre-boil 11, to around 20—dark, but without the roasty note from any additional dark malt.

Things get a quick chill, via my wort chiller (down to 58—60º). Then everybody goes in to the proverbial pool for fermentation (open fermentation I might add), with a bit of Wyeast 1028, and were off to the races. The standard two weeks, plus or minus, for fermentation, then a short secondary with and additional 1/2 ounce of East Kent Golding for the nose, and it'll be time for the bottles and mini keg. Hopefully, if everything goes according to plan (which it probably won't) I'll end up at with an FG of 1.012ish and an ABV around 4.7ish%

That's it—my dark, bittersweet, 1943 Burton Ale.

If anybody who knows anything about either brewing or WWII has any comments or questions, I'd love to hear them. Other than than, expect some updates on the project throughout late September and into October.

See, what did I say? Nerdy.

UPDATE: I've made a few adjustments to the original posted recipe, I expect that to happen until I brew. I'll continue to update this post with any additional changes, as I tweak the recipe. 

*If you're unfamiliar with Burton, again, please go to Martyn's site—Zythophile answers all. 

**If you'd love to see endless charts, chock full of all sorts of brewing related numbers, and or learn more about the amazing history of beer, check out Ron's site, Shut Up About Barclay Perkins—just be prepared to stay a while.

No comments:

Post a Comment