Madrone Arts and Science Competition, AS 33

Mr. Webb's Small Bragot

By Lord Frederic Badger


Quick Glance Summary

Original base beer recipe found in OED.

"To brewe beer x. quarters malte. lj. quarters wheet ij. quarters ootos/ xl. ll weight of hoppys.// To make lx barrell[es] of sengyll beer

arnold chron. (x-um 20), fol.xciv.r/b (r.i.r/b)"

Translation:

"To make 60 barrels of single beer, use 10 quarters of malt, 2 quarters of wheat, and 2 quarters of oats, with 40 pounds of hops."

- Richard Arnold, "Customs of London", 1503

The rest is based on two entries in Sir Kenhelm Digbie's book "The Closet Opened..." one for Mr. Webb's Ale and Bragot, and the other for Mr. Webb's Meath. The recipe and source slightly outside our scope, but the beverage, and its ingredients are all period. This beverage uses the second running of a previous recipe to create a "small bragot".

Recipe: (to make 5 gallons)


 

Mr. Webb's Small Bragot

By Lord Frederic Badger

The redaction came about as part of another experiment that I was doing on recreating a 1503 English ale. The original redaction called for two separate running of the same grain, and the second one was to be called a small beer. But as the focus of my original work was the first, or strong beer, I would have a leftover batch of small beer. I discovered on reading through Sir Kenhelm Digbie's book "The Closet Opened..." from the year 1669 a interesting recipe from his friend Mr. Webb that added honey to an ale, and spices. Since in true style of the period, it was a two running batch, I decided to use the second running from my first experiment, and make this Bragot as a second experiment, therefore not wasting a perfectly good beer.

A Bragot or Braggot, or Bragawd is defined as a "Welsh drink brewed from ale, honey, herbs and spices" by Cindy Renfrow. The Bragot is known throughout period, is also mentioned in Chaucer in 1386, and there are references as far back as the 12th century in Ireland. Cindy Renfrow also has a reference to a 1594 braggot recipe that has a similar listing of spices and herbs, all the spices and herbs used in this recipe have been found in alcoholic drinks in period, and although this recipe is just out of period, it has enough roots in period that I feel it is good enough for the purpose.

Since I already did all the work on the other recipe, and explained in great detail all my methods, and ingredients, I will merely summarize later in this paper. This information is gone over in excruciating detail in my other paper "A 1503 English Beer". The original recipe was found in the Oxford English Dictionary Online. And reads thusly...

"To brewe beer x. quarters malte. lj. quarters wheet ij. quarters ootos/ xl. ll weight of hoppys.// To make lx barrell[es] of sengyll beer

arnold chron. (x-um 20), fol.xciv.r/b (r.i.r/b)"

Translation:

"To make 60 barrels of single beer, use 10 quarters of malt, 2 quarters of wheat, and 2 quarters of oats, with 40 pounds of hops."

- Richard Arnold, "Customs of London", 1503

Add to that the following information related to us by Digbie (relevant portions cited)...

"Mr. Webb's Ale and Bragot.

... To make Bragot, he takes the first running of such ale, and boils a less proportion of Honey in it, and then when he make his ordinary Meath; but dubble or tripple as much spice and herbs. As for Example to twenty Gallons of the Strong-wort, he puts eight to ten pound (according as your taste liketh more or less honey) of honey; But at least triple as much herbs, and triple as much spice as would serve such quantity of small Mead as He made Me ...

Here was the part that got me to thinking of using the same batch of grain to produce two distinct beverages.

...He makes also Mead with the second weak running of the Ale; and to this He useth the same proportions of honey, herbs, and spice as for his small Mead of pure water, and useth the same manner of boiling, working with yest, and other circumstances, as in making of that."

So using the second running, and following all the directions I can make this beverage. But what spices to use? Fortunately enough for me, in the same book, there is an entry for Mr. Webb's Meath that has spices listed in proportions. Here are the relevant portions of the recipe...

"... Boil in it about two Ounces of the best Hopp's for about a half an hour...

...Half an hour before the end of your boiling, put into it some Rosemary-tops, Thyme, sweet-majorame, one sprig of minth, in all about a half a handful, and as much Sweet-bryar-leaves as all these; in all, about a handful of herbs, and two ounces of sliced Ginger, and one ounce of bruised cinamon. He did use to put in a few cloves and mace; but the King did not care for them...."

Hmm... Lets do some math, and figure out some of the measures used in this recipe, not forgetting to triple the use of herbs, and spices.

Hops: 2 oz. is used in 1 hogshead of mead. Equating hops with batch size, and doing some simple algebra we can approximate the amount. 2oz hops to 72 gallons (a hogshead) = X oz. hops to 5 gallons. Doing the math yields 0.1389 oz., and then tripling this gives an amount of 0.417 oz. which can be safely rounded up to 0.5 oz. which the portion that the hops I had for this recipe came in.

Ginger, Cloves, Cinnamon: Using the above logic and math we can derive the amounts to use for these ingredients as well. After a bit of figuring I came up with 0.5 oz. ginger, 0.25 oz. each of Cinnamon and Cloves.

Herbs: As I have no standard measurement for a "handful", and not wishing to put to much in, I chose a measure I could use again, and erred on the side of caution to make sure I did not over herb the brew. In retrospect, I feel I may have been too cautious as the tastes did not show up as much as I would have expected, but now I know for future reference. The measure I chose was a 0.25 teaspoon. Also, for this recipe I was unable to obtain " Sweet-bryar-leaves" which my research (using Cindy Renfrow's Book, "a Sip Through Time") shows to be the leaves of the rose-hop bush.

So after all that we can finally lay out the recipe which was used to make this Bragot.

Recipe: (to make 5 gallons)

Ingredients: (see "A 1503 English Beer" for more details)

Water: Treated water with salts to harden it up to approximate English water hardness.

Malt: Used a combination of modern grains of various levels of roasting and smokiness to approximate malt used in period.

Hops: Used oldest known low bittering English hop strain.

Yeast: Used multiple strains to approximate theoretical mixture.

Methods: Based on writing by Gervase Markham, 1615

Mashing: Poured boiling water bit by bit over grain, and rested 1 hour.

Boiling: Boiled the resulting liquid with hops for one hour

Fermentation: Cooled, and added yeast to glass carboy. First break with period method.

Casking: Since proper oak casks impossible to obtain, used modern kegs to force carbonate. Biggest break with period methods.

Notes: Since the hops in Digbie's recipe were not boiled with the recipe, but rather with the water before hand, it is my theory that he used them for their preservative qualities rather than their flavoring qualities. I decided to instead add them to the boil as I normally do when doing modern brewing to save the extra half an hour of boiling time, and because the flavor added for that small amount is minimal. The other spices and herbs were added half an hour before end of boil, and strained out when putting into the fermentor.

Bibliography

  1. The Complete Anacronist:
  2. Renfrow, Cindy. "A Sip Through time: A collection of Old Brewing Recipes", 1994
  3. Markham, Gervase. "The English Housewife", 1615. edited by Micheal Best, 1994
  4. Harrison, William. "The Description of England" (reprinted from Hollinshed's Chronicles published in 1577.)
  5. Digbie, Kenhelm Sir "The Closet of the eminently Learned Sir Kenhelm Digbie, Kt. Opened", 1669. (from a photocopy in the Cariadoc compilation of cookbooks, Vol. 1)