Ottos English Beer

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Brewer: Otto Gottlieb

Recipe Source: To Brew Beer (recipe ingredients "from a major London brewery"), from "The Customs of London" (about 1503), William Harrison's preface to "Hollinshed's Chronicles" (1587), and Of Brewing Ordinary Beere — from Gervase Markham's "The English Houd-wife" (1615). For convenience, these three recipes appear in the First Quarter 2016 edition of "The Complete Anachronist" (Issue No. 171) features Medieval Brewing, pages 18-20.

Recipe Name: As this is a comparative study of three English sources, I'm simply calling it an English Beer.

Category: Ales, Beer, Braggot, Lambic, Stout

Time/Place Paneled: April 2018, BrewU (Crown Provence of Østgarðr, Canton of Northpass - Peekskill, NY).

Panel Score: 94

Original Recipe

To Brew Beer (recipe ingredients "from a major London brewery"), from "The Customs of London" (about 1503)

X (10) quarters malte, ij (2) quarters wheet, ij (2) quarters ootes, xl (40) lb weight of hoppys. To make lx (60) barrels of sengyll beer. (No further instructions provided.)

Description of Mrs. Harrison's (Marion Isebrand, daughter of Flemish immigrants) beer brewing process as written in William Harrison's preface to Hollinshed's Chronicles (1587)

Having therefore ground eight bushels of good malt upon our quern, where the toll is saved, she addeth unto it half a bushel of wheat meal, and so much of oats small ground, and so tempereth or mixeth them with the malt that you cannot easily discern the one from the other; otherwise these latter would clunter, fall into lumps, and thereby become unprofitable. [Author:, note: An Elizabethan bushel it 56 pounds.] The first liquor (which is full eighty gallons, according to the proportion of our furnace) she maketh boiling hot, and then poureth it softly into the malt, where it resteth (but without stirring) until her second liquor be almost ready to boil. This done, she letteth her mash run till the malt be left without liquor, or at the leastwise the greatest part of the moisture, which she perceiveth by the stay and soft issue thereof; and by this time her second liquor in the furnace is ready to seethe, which is put also to the malt, as the first woort also again into the furnace, whereunto she addeth two pounds of the best English hops, and so letteth them seethe together by the space of two hours in summer or an hour and a half in winter, whereby it getteth an excellent colour, and continuance without impeachment or any superfluous tartness. But, before she putteth her first woort into the furnace, or mingleth it with the hops, she taketh out a vessel full, of eight or nine gallons, which she shutteth up close, and suffereth no air to come into it till it become yellow, and this she reserveth by itself unto further use, as shall appear hereafter, calling it brackwoort or charwoort, and, as she saith, it addeth also to the colour of the drink, whereby it yieldeth not unto amber or fine gold in hue unto the eye. By this time also her second woort is let run; and, the first being taken out of the furnace, and placed to cool, she returneth the middle woort unto the furnace, where it is stricken over, or from whence it is taken again, when it beginneth to boil, and mashed the second time, whilst the third liquor is heat (for there are three liquors), and this last put into the furnace, when the second is mashed again. When she hath mashed also the last liquor (and set the second to cool by the first), she letteth it run, and then seetheth it again with a pound and a half of new hops, or peradventure two pounds, as she seeth cause by the goodness or baseness of the hops, and, when it hath sodden, in summer two hours, and in winter an hour and a half, she striketh it also, and reserveth it unto mixture with the rest when time doth serve therefore. Finally, when she setteth her drink together, she addeth to her brackwoort or charwoort half an ounce of arras, and half a quarter of an ounce of bayberries, finely powdered, and then, putting the same into her woort, with a handful of wheat flour, she proceedeth in such usual order as common brewing requireth.

Of Brewing Ordinary Beere — from Gervase Markham's "The English Houd-wife" (1615)

Now for the brewing of ordinary Beere, your malt being well ground and put in your Mash-fat, and your liquor in your leade ready to boile, you shall then by little and little with scoopes or pailes put the boiling liquor to the mault, and then stirre it even to the bottome exceedingly well together (which is called the mashing of the malt) then the liquor swimming in the top cover all over with more malt, and so let it stand an howre and more in the mash-fat, during which space you may if you please heate more liquor in your lead for your second or small drinke; this done, plucke up your mashing stroame [the tap stick], and let the first liquor runne gently from the malt, either in a cleane trough or other vessels prepared for the purpose, and then stopping the malt-fat againe, put the second liquor to the mault and stirre it well together; then your leade being emptied put your first liquor or wort therein, and then to every quarter of malt put a pound and a half of the best hops you can get; and boile them an hower together, till taking up a dishfull thereof you see the hops shrinke into the bottome of the dish; this done put the wort through a straight sive which may draine the hoppes from it into your cooler, which standing over the Guil-fat [fermenting tub] you shall in the bottom thereof set a great bowle with your barme, and some of the first wort (before the hops come into it mixt together) that it may rise therein, and then let your wort drop or run gently into the dish with the barme which stands in the Guil-fat, and this you shall do the first day of your brewing, letting your cooler drop all the night following, and some part of the next morning, and as it droppeth if you finde that a blacke skumme or mother riseth upon the barme, with your hand take it off and cast it away, then nothing being left in the cooler, and the beere well risen, with your hand stirre it about and so let it stand an hower after, and then beating it and the barme exceedingly well together, tunne it up in the Hogsheads being cleane washt and scalded and so let it purge; and herein you shall observe not to tun your vessels too full, for feare thereby it purge too much of the barme away: when it hath purged a day and a night you shall close up the bung holes wiah clay, and only for a day or two after keeping the vent-hole in it, and after close it up as close as may bee. Now for your second or small drinke which are left upon the graine, you shall suffer it there to stay but an hower or a little better, and then drain it off also: which done, put it into the lead with the former hops and boile the other also, then cleere it from the hops and cover it verie close till your first beere be tunn'd, and then as before put it also to barme and so tunne it up also in smaller vessels, and of this second beere you shall not draw above one Hogshead to three of the better.


To Brew Beer (recipe ingredients "from a major London brewery"), from "The Customs of London" (about 1503)

10 quarters malt, 2 quarters wheat, 2 quarters oats, 40 lbs of hops. To make 60 barrels of single beer.

As noted by the author of The Complete Anachronist (Medieval Brewing), a quarter is a “London quarter”, which is equal to ¼ of a ton or 8 bushels of grain.

Description of Mrs. Harrison's beer brewing process as written in William Harrison's preface to Hollinshed's Chronicles (1587)

With 8 bushels of fresh ground malt, add half a bushel of wheat meal and equal amount of small ground oats. Mix them well to prevent clumps. (A Elizabethan bushel is 56 lbs.) Bring to a boil the first batch of 80 gal of water and pour it softly into the malt and let it sit without stirring until the second batch of water is ready to bring to a boiling. Then sparge until the wort stops flowing or only drips. Meanwhile the second batch of water should be nearly simmering, which will then be added to the mash. Once added, put the first wort in a kettle and bring to a boil with 2 lbs of “best English hops”. Boil for “2 hours in the summer and an hour and a half in winter”. It should develop a “good color” without tart flavor. But before putting the first wort on the fire and adding hops, reserve 8 or 9 gal of wort in a tightly sealed vat, where it will turn yellow, which is then called “brackwoort” or “charwoort”. When added to the beer, it gives it an amber or fine gold color. After the second wort has been sparged and the first wort set to cool, put the second wort in the kettle and bring it to a boil then sparge it again (sparge the second wort twice). Then heat a third batch of water. Put the second wort in the kettle to boil the set aside the first wort to cool. Mash the third batch of water and collect the wort. Boil the third wort with a pound and a half to 2 lbs of new hops for 2 hours in the summer and 1.5 hours in the winter. Reserve until time to mix. Finally, mix the batches together and add the brackwoort, half an ounce of “arras”, half a quarter of an ounce of finely powdered bayberries, and a handful of wheat flour, like you do.

Of Brewing Ordinary Beere — from Gervase Markham's "The English Houd-wife" (1615)

With well ground malt put in your mash vat (also called ‘fat’), and water in your kettle ready to boil, dump with a pail or scoop the boiling water into the malt. Stir the malt well. Top with water over the mash then cover with more malt. Let it stand for an hour or more in the vat. Meanwhile, heat more water in the kettle for a second batch, small drink. Gently sparge the first wort into a clean trough or other vessel. Plug the vat, add the second batch of hot water to the mash, and stir it well. Add the first wort to the kettle and boil it with 1.5 lb of “best hops” per quarter of malt for 1 hour or until the hops fall to the bottom of a dish full of boiling wort. When done, sieve the hops and collect the wort in a cooler, which stands over the “Guil-fat” (fermenting tub). Place a large bowl of barm with some of the first wort (before hops were added) in the bottom of the guil-fat. Let it rise then gently let the hopped wort drain from the cooler into the dish and guil-fat, letting it drain all night and into the next morning. As it drains, if you find black scum or mother rise on the barm, take it off with your bare hand and throw it away. When the cooler is empty, and the beer begins to ferment, stir it with your hand and let it stand for an hour. Stir the barm (top portion of the fermenting beer) really well. Transfer it to hogsheads that were washed clean and scalded with hot water, but do not overfill so as to lose the barm to active fermentation. When it has fermented a day and a night, close up the bung holes with clay, but leave a vent hole for another day or two and seal completely after. For your small drink, mash it for an hour or more and sparge it. Add it to the kettle and boil with the “former hops” (not clear if new or reused and if for an hour). Sieve the hops and cover until the first beer is tunned. Then add barm as before and tun it up in smaller vessels. Of the small drink, you will make only 1 hogshead for three of the better.


  • 8 lbs 2-row barley pale malt (2 cups roasted)
  • 1.6 lbs oat malt
  • 1.6 lbs wheat malt
  • 1 oz. East Kent Goldings hops
  • Ale barm from previous batch of beer

Process and Notes

As suggested by Harrison (1587), the grain bill includes barley malt, wheat malt, and oats. For a 4 gal batch of beer, I used 8 lbs locally grown and malted 2-row barley from Blue Ox Malthouse. I added 1.6 lbs rolled oats and 1.6 lbs pale wheat malt. For a bit of color and roasted malt flavor, I pan roasted about 2 cups of the barley malt. The malt was ground and mixed well before adding to the mash tun, reserving about ¾ lb for topping insulation. I heated an initial 3 gal of 180⁰ water for the first mash. The hot water was added to the mash, without stirring, carefully pouring to avoid dry spots. The mash water was a little above the grain when topped with more dry malt to insulate the soaking mash (Markham 1615). The mash was left to soak for 1 hour. Harrison and Markham describe batch sparging, about 2 gal was collected on the first sparge, of which 2 qts were reserved for brackwoort. Another 2 gal of 180⁰ water was added to the mash and sparged twice, collecting another 1.5 gal of wort. About a gal or so more water was added to collect a third wort.

Each of the three worts were brought to a boil over an open fire. Only the first and second were hopped with East Kent Goldings hops (“best hops”).

For this project, I choose not to risk contamination with the long-period drain from cooler to guil-fat on ale barm in a dish (Markham 1615). However, I collected ale barm from a previous batch of beer and mixed it with some of the brackwoort in a dish at the bottom of the fermenter as a starter. I gave it about 15-20 min to rise before adding the cooled wort (left the dish in the primary fermenter).


I fermented each batch separately but added the remaining brackwoort to each batch equally.

After fermenting (primary and secondary (with oak chips)) I bottled 6 bottles per batch and mixed the remaining beer from each batches to bottle 6 more bottles, for a set of 4 bottles: first wort, second wort (no hops), small drink, mixed. The first and second bottles should be mixed when ready to drink. The purpose here is to compare strengths. For this comparison, I took hydrometer readings and found:


Mixing the first and second worts should yield about 7.88% ABV.

Mixing all three should yield about 6.3 % ABV.

Mashed March 16, brewed March 17, racked March 31, kegged April 1, 2018.

  • William Harrison married Marion Isebrand, who was the daughter of Flemish immigrants. One wonders how much of a Flemish brewing tradition might have come through this brewing process.
  • Normally, one would add the 180⁰ water to the mash tun first and let it sit for 10 min. to warm the tub. Then add the malt and stir well to avoid dry clumps. The Hollinshed article says to do the opposite.
  • Note the reserving of some of the sweet, unboiled wort in both recipes. This is similar to what we see in the Nimweegse Mol Beer with the exception of evaporating the reserved wort and when it's added back in the brewing process.
  • Where one would normally put the lid on the mash tun for the initial hour, I added 3/4 pound reserved malt to top the mash
  • Where Harrison talks about mashing for 2 hours during the summer and 1.5 hours in the winter, this is because Roman timekeeping. Around the equator, there are 12 hours of day and 12 hours of night. It was the practice in far northern regions to lengthen hours in the summer and shorten them in the winter to accommodate “12 hours” (Wikipedia).
  • The ales are bottled for transportation to BrewU, but mixed in a small Bartmann-like jug. This was an "Artisan's Progress" prize won at St. Eligius Arts & Sciences Competition.
  • The beer is served in leather black jacks lined with brewers’ pitch, made by my hand.


Arnold, Richard. About 1503. The Customs of London, To Brew Beer

Harrison, William. 1587. Hollinshed’s Chronicles, description of his wife’s beer. Second edtion.

Markham, Gervase. 1615. The English Hous-wife, Of Brewing Ordinary Beere.

Sibly, B., Gordon, B., and Paton, B. 2016. The Complete Anachronist, Medieval Brewing. Issue no. 171.

Wikipedia. Roman timekeeping. Online at: Accessed February 2018.