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Clibit

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Interesting article if you are one of those people interested in how beer was made in times gone by, and what we can maybe learn from it. There's an extended debate between Graham Wheeler and Gary Gillman in the comments below. I can see it through Gary Gillman's eyes.... 😉


http://barclayperkins.blogspot.com/2011/04/stock-ale-in-early-19th-century.html


Hey, hey, hey as Krusty would say.  I warned you that April was going to be all about ageing. And I don't mean my limbs. Today's text discusses just how old beer needs to be. For it to be perfect to drink.

 
It describes private brewing. That is, brewing for your own use. When the text was written, many still brewed this way. But it wasn't to last much longer. The changes in taxation brought into force with the 1830 Beer Act was hugely disadvantageous to domestic brewers. Taxation was removed from beer itself and places 100% on its ingredients, malt and hops. As a result, domestic brewers paid the same tax as commercial brewers.

The increasing sophistication of commercial breweries also put domestic brewers at a disadvantage, particularly in terms of quality and consistency. In the 18th century, there had been little difference between a large domestic brewhouse and a small commercial one. By 1830, that was no longer true.

What effect did the decline in domestic brewing have? It may well have helped the demise of aged beers. Not having the same commercial constraints as their professional colleagues, domestic brewers could afford to leave beer to mature for extremely long periods. Did drinkers, not having access to fully-matured, home-brewed beer, lose their taste for it? I guess we'll never know.

"The age at which ale is drank, will depend upon a private person's stock; the size of his cellar, &c. but more frequently upon his family habits, and the pecuniary means he chooses to devote to this beverage. Good mellow ale, soft and fine, may be had at a year old; and it is, perhaps, never better than from one year old to two. Some persons never reckon ale to be old, unless it drinks a little hard, or with some, approaches to sharpness, or acidity; but this is a false taste: old ale in this sense, it has been well said, is old ale spoiled.

After all, a hogshead or pipe of ale, that has. been properly brewed and carefully managed, will not always be fine when tapped. Suppose it be a year old, or what is more common, suppose it to be brewed in October (the best month in which to brew good ale for keeping), and tapped at the Christmas twelve-month following; if when tapped it be not fine, it may be corked up again, and stand another twelve-month, when it will probably be found not only fine, but greatly improved in flavour; but if it be wanted, it may be fined as follows: draw off a gallon or two, if the cask be a pipe, and take a quarter of a pound of isinglass, and some fresh hops, and scald them in a clean copper pan, dissolving the isinglass therewith; pour the quantity into a dry pail, and when cool put it into the barrel, and stir the whole together well with a long stick, or such an one as you have head-way to introduce; bung down the cask a few hours afterwards, and in a fortnight the ale will become fine. If the ale drink thin, and incline to be hard, let a pound or two, or more if required, of sugar-candy, bruised, be put into the pan with the hops, &c.
 
The method called marrying ale, we have often seen tried upon a private person's stock with success. It seems to increase its strength, but especially its mellowness and the fulness of its flavour, and consists in tapping a pipe or hogshead of ale in the middle, and when it is drawn as low as the tap, to fill up the cask with another brewing of wort. The particulars to be observed are: to begin upon a sound stock, such as is approved as to colour and flavour; for if there be any approach to acidity it will not do. The next point is to tun the newly-fermented wort upon the old stock, when it has fermented about twelve hours. The third particular, of great importance, seems to be, not to marry your ale in winter, but in autumn (October), for if your cellar be not a vault,the old stock is too chill, and the fermentation may suddenly stop: if this should happen, as in cellars that are not vaults, the heat may increase considerably in spring, the fermentation may be renewed, and the ale may spoil, or mischief happen to the cask by bursting. Ale that is brewed in the usual way will sometimes ferment in summer, and throw up the bungs of the barrels; especially if the fermentation have been hastily conducted, and little or no cleansing have taken place in the barrels after tunning (which is likely to be the case when brewing is performed in frosty weather); where this happens, the danger is that acidity will follow, and therefore the beer should be speedily used. When ale is married, the fermentation will bring away all the old hops, and it is not to be overlooked that the cork will rise that had been driven in with the tap. It is, therefore, requisite to work it out at the bunghole, skimming away the hops, &c. till they and the cork are discharged; then fill up the cask, and take out the top cork for cleansing, as before. It may be filled up several times with fresh wort, as in other cases, until the fermentation stops, and then the cork and bung put in (the latter very lightly) and left so until it is necessary to hop it down. The writer has refilled a cask in this manner five years successively, and had the ale always superior, and always alike in colour and flavour; in continuing this practice for a long period it is necessary to remove the casks for fear of accidents. The excellence of this ale is, that you can never guess at its age; it drinks always soft and mild, without any resemblance to ale recently brewed, and is equally remote from hardness or acidity"
"The London encyclopaedia Volume 1", 1829, pages 503 - 504.

When was beer at its best? Between one and two years old. Patience is what you needed. Brewed in October one year and ready for christmas the year after. I make that 15 months. I love the suggestion that, if it isn't clear the first christmas to just leave it annother year. Few have such pzatience and self-restariant in the modern world. 

Adding hops with the finings is an interesting technique. Presumably the hops are to help clear the beer, rather than for any bittering function. I've seen the adjective "hard" used to describe beer before. I'm still not sure what it means. Could it mean sour? That might explain why adding sugar would help.

The process of  "marrying" sounds very much like a solera system. Fuller's do something similar with Prize Old Ale. They draw off half the beer from the maturation tank for bottling and then fill it up again with fresh beer. They're making a proper Old Ale in a very old-fashioned way. I wonder how many realise that?

"when it has fermented about twelve hours" implies that that the wort being added had only just started fermenting. I can undwerstand why you wouldn't want to seal the barrel until it had finished fermenting. Presumably it was the CO2 produced during fermentation that brought the remnants of the dry hops to the surface to be removed.

I keep coming across all these fascinating techniques. Especially ones concerned with maturation. I'd love to see somehow have a go at them.
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Clibit

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So it seems sourness was used more than hops to counteract bitterness, and it was managed by 'marrying' old beer with new beer, to get the desired balance.

Guinness was soured by adding a soured portion to freshly brewed beer til relatively recently. A different technique, but striving for a similar thing, I think. Graham Wheeler reckons they now add citric acid. Easier, but simpler, less complex. 

It's also similar to the solera idea, where sour beers are made by adding new beer to a portion of soured when a portion of the sour beer is bottled, and different sour beers are blended. 

Maybe I'll have a go at something like this at some point. If I can find a way to sour beer to a small extent that suits me. Which I guess will be about adding small amounts of sour beer to large amounts of unsoured, or vice versa. I've got a lot to learn obviously. But I should have the house to myself by the end of this year!
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Clibit

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And here's an article about a stock ale that was made by Goose Island with Ron P's help. It was £20 a bottle. 

"What is the beer like, 15 months on from when it was brewed? Lovely. This is a big beer, that, like a powerful red wine, I’d recommend opening and then leaving for a while, to let the flavours be drawn out: pour a glass, take a sip, and then leave it for 15 or 20 minutes before you return. The taste and the aroma will cover your tongue and fill your nose: the sourness is perfectly balanced, the bitterness not at all obtrusive, the Goldings contribute tangerine and mandarin, the Brett sweaty leather and earthiness, old dogs and tobacco, there’s raspberries and lemons and a touch of pepper."

Full article...

http://zythophile.co.uk/2016/09/26/stock-ale-answers-from-goose-island-and-ron-pattinson/


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Clibit

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Slow beer: the history of ageing beer. By Ron Pattinson

http://allaboutbeer.com/article/slow-beer-the-history-of-aging-beer/

Barrel-aging may be all the rage at the moment, but giving beer time to mature is nothing new. And it wasn’t done by halves. While a modern lager might spend a few weeks aging and a barrel-aged beer sits a couple of years in wood, in the past, beers could mature for decades.

Stock Ale and Mild Ale

First a little explanation of old brewing terminology is in order. In the 18th and 19th centuries, ale was conditioned in two ways. It could be sold either “mild”—that is, young—usually no more than a week or two after being racked into barrels, or “stock,” aged for months or even years before sale.

Aging wasn’t limited to commercial breweries. Until the middle of the 19th century, much of the beer in the U.K. was produced by “domestic” brewers: that is, brewed in a residence for the use of the family, servants and staff. Unburdened by commercial considerations, the household brewer could afford to let beer mature for what appears today a ridiculous length of time.

A brewer giving evidence before a Parliamentary committee in 1899 identified four classes of commercially brewed beer (see table).

Table: Classes of Commercially Brewed Beer in 1899

TypeEnglish malt (%)Foreign malt (%)Sugar (%)Time aged before delivery
Stock Ale6625 - 340 - 94 to 12 months
Semi-Stock Bottling Beers6025153 months
Light Pale Ales5525202 to 4 weeks
Mild Ale5025254 to 10 days

The witness, though, acknowledged that enthusiasm for stock ales was waning.

“The taste for fresh ales as against stock ales set in some 20 years or more ago,” the brewer said, according to minutes of evidence taken before the committee, “and it has been steadily progressive without any tendency to reversion; and even within the past few years I have known brewers who previously brewed their pale ales on stock principles abandon stock beer brewing, and have found that the ales brewed on running ale lines have given greater satisfaction.”

A few long-aged beers did struggle on into the 20th century, maintaining an ancient tradition. Over the centuries many types of long-aged beer were produced in Britain, both privately and commercially. Here are a few examples.

March Beer/October Beer

Before 1850, when all country households of any importance still brewed their own beer, the local gentry were extremely proud of their special October beer. Throughout the year, household brewers made mild ales, drunk fresh, for day-to-day use. But once or twice a year, they made something stronger, a beer reserved for special occasions and honored guests.

These strong beers were mostly made when the ambient temperature was best for brewing: either March or October. Hence the names March beer and October beer. Many preferred October on account of the several months of cold weather that followed.

The theory behind brewing in October went like this: At the time of brewing, the temperature would be perfect for the initial fermentation. As the weather became colder, the fermentation would slow and eventually stop. When the warmer spring weather arrived, it woke up the yeast and a second fermentation began to complete the job. But the beer still wasn’t ready to be drunk. It was left until at least September before being tapped. A longer wait was recommended for those who could keep their patience.

Without the monetary constraints of commercial brewers, domestic brewers could afford to leave their beer to mature for years. Some wouldn’t touch their October beer at less than three years old. Others boasted of beer kept five or even 10 years, so strong that it could only safely be consumed by the wine glass.

Stock Pale Ale

Today’s drinkers want their IPA as fresh as possible, preferably grabbed directly from the bottling or kegging line and consumed on the spot. Victorian Brits had different expectations. The discerning IPA drinker wanted a properly matured beer, something like Bass.

Bass’ method of maturing pale ale sounds utterly, utterly crazy, but confirmed by several independent sources. It received no careful curation in a cool cellar. After being racked into casks, it was piled up in the brewery yard, open to the elements, with only a little wetted straw in the warmest weather as protection. After a year of this brutal treatment, it was deemed ready to be shipped to India, toughened enough during its time in the yard to survive the long trip and helped by Brettanomyces, which stripped everything fermentable that an infection might feed on.

When East India Company officials and army officers got their hands on a bottle of Bass, the beer inside was 18 months old. Drinkers back in Britain had to make do with a version six months younger.

Russian Stout

Originally brewed for Catherine the Great’s court, Russian stout was always given time to mature properly. During the 19th century, aging a strong stout for a year or two wouldn’t have been out of the ordinary. Even in the 1930s, the Barclay Perkins advertisements still boasted a minimum of two years’ aging in wooden vats, at a time when such long aging had become a real rarity.

Russian stout’s secondary conditioning with Brettanomyces couldn’t be rushed. The wild yeast slowly chewed its way through the less-fermentable sugars, dropping the racking gravity of 1.034 to a final gravity of 1.024 and, in the process, boosting the ABV from 9% to 10.5%.

Aging didn’t end with bottling. With live Brettanomyces still present, Russian stout had excellent protection against oxidation, not just surviving, but improving over decades. I drank a bottle that was over 25 years old and still in excellent shape.

Majority Ale

The heir coming of age was an opportunity for a landowner to show off by entertaining hundreds, or even thousands, of guests. Oxen and sheep would be slaughtered and roasted for the poor, while the higher orders would feast magnificently in the main house.

Beer was central to the celebrations. But not just any beer. At the heir’s birth, a special strong brew was made in the country house’s brew house, using large quantities of the very best ingredients. It was then laid down in a cellar and forgotten, to be drunk when the heir turned 21. Now there’s patience.

Guests appreciated the time and effort spent brewing this very special beer.

“… the poor of the neighbourhood, upwards of 4,000 in number, were liberally entertained with old English fare, under an extensive and splendid marquee in the park,” according to an 1839 edition of the Staffordshire Advertiser. “There was an abundant supply of ‘nut brown ale’— some famous stuff, which many of the partakers declared was far preferable to champagne.”

Majority ale was usually brewed domestically. Surprisingly, though, the tradition was practiced at one large Edinburgh brewer, William Younger, even continuing into the 20th century. In this case it wasn’t just a privilege reserved for the Younger family heir, but rather for all members of the family. At every birth a miniature brew of majority ale was produced in the brewery and carefully stored to be drunk 21 years later.

Sadly, aging beer fell out of fashion toward the end of the 1800s, with just a handful of beers like Russian stout clinging on. Only in the past 20 years has a new generation of brewers rediscovered the delights a patiently matured beer can offer and revived a centuries-old tradition.

Long-Aged Oak Beers

Spending four months or more in wooden foeders.

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Clibit

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http://allaboutbeer.com/article/old-ale/

Old Ale

Anyone who can appreciate things nostalgic need not yearn wistfully when it comes to beer, as today’s brewers are as hip to historical brews as they are to the trendy. That considered, perhaps we are ready to rediscover old ales, largely disregarded over the past 30 years. Old ales are so designated for several reasons: prolonged aging, old brewing methods and recipes, and historical reverence. Though complexity via maturation is requisite for modern offerings, they were once designed to add aged character to younger ales by blending. The line between sibling styles old ale and barley wine is blurry at times. Old ales tend to be darker, sweeter, and hopped in more reserved fashion than barley wines. Others are nothing more than strong versions of mild (the subset known as “winter warmers” may be the best example of this). The style is wide ranging, but that is a blessing in that each brew can express its own unique personality without a stylistic straightjacket. In reality, old ales are a living composite of antiquated British beer archetypes, a modern package with classical allusions.

 

Real Old Ale

We can only surmise what beer must have tasted like before the use of bittering, antiseptic hops. Quickly-fermenting brews that allowed minimal time for nefarious organisms to overwhelm the batch were no doubt common. The marriage of hops and beer in continental Europe a thousand years ago and in England by the sixteenth century was an enlightenment: hopped ales were protected against microbial corruption, and could be kept for long periods of time without compromise.

Within decades of this epiphany, English brewers were making ales of several strengths. Able to withstand prolonged storage, strong ale developed complex characteristics from assorted organisms inhabiting the aging barrels. Aging itself lent some oxidative and vinous qualities to the beer, and residual brewing yeast added another dimension by metabolizing any leftover sugars. Most importantly though, cask-resident Brettanomycesyeast contributed mightily to the desired character with the musty, leathery and barnyard notes synonymous with kept ales, those that had seen a minimum of a year in the cask. Additionally, they were mashed to be under-attenuated and sweeter, perhaps to offer more substrate for the Brett and the acidifying bacteria, Lactobacillus.

They were variously known as old, stock, strong, or stale ale, with stale being interpreted as “stood” and not something undesirable. One key to keeping stock ale was serving it while it still had that delicious depth of mature character, but before it became excessively sour or acidic. Brewing operations were often suspended from late spring through early autumn to shield the fermenting beer from the ubiquitous airborne contaminants during the warm months and to eliminate any possibility of unpleasant byproducts of high temperature fermentation.

Any ale brewed at the end of the spring season could be consumed fresh, or it could be blended with stock ale to roughen the profile and give it that aged impression. Stock ale that was leftover when the brewing season resumed in fall was consumed as “old ale,” completing the cycle. The practice of blending was common practice during the rise of British brewing in the first half of the eighteenth century, and vital in the saga of porter.

New Old Ale

Due in large part to the advancements made in malt production and a keener understanding of brewing science and recipe formulation, blending became less common in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century. “Old ale” came into use more, as stock and stale were no longer needed to describe their condition.

Many strong ales lived on, and newly developed styles such as Imperial stout and Baltic porter were brewed specifically for export. Barley wine, old ale, Yorkshire stingo and Burton ale carried on this tradition on the home front, and all were designed with aging in mind. All of these brews were quite similar, but old ale may be a direct descendent of the darker Burton ale, while barley wine emerged in recent times as slightly stronger and lighter in color, with more attenuation.

Burton ale is of particular interest as an intermediate style in the evolution of modern old ale. Burton-upon-Trent had a rich brewing heritage for hundreds of years before their IPA gained acclaim in the 1700s. During the heyday, both IPA and outstanding strong, sweeter ales were brewed. They contained a small amount of “high-dried” or roasted barley, and were dry hopped prior to aging. The style endured simply as Burton Ale, even into the twentieth century. Sometimes they were called old ale, and blended with mild.

More evidence of their popularity lies in the fact that they were the preferred Baltic export from Burton, and that many brewers across England made them, keeping “Burton” attached to identify the character. Burton ales were widely popular through the nineteenth century, at time when beer styles began to distinguish themselves, and even as pale lager gained a strong foothold throughout Europe.

The first half of the twentieth century saw something of a downturn in the popularity of strong ales, primarily due to wartime taxation and scarcity of raw materials. But the tags old ale, barley wine and Burton ale could be found on many labels, even though collectively they would remain rather similar beers. A surge in popularity occurred again after World War II for a few years as some degree of prosperity and nostalgia returned, but it waned again until the 1970s and 80s, when the current revolution gained momentum. Since then, old ale and barley wine have separated themselves for the most part from historical strong ale, and are now again a significant feature on the beer landscape.

Recreated Old

As mentioned earlier, old ales cover a rather broad set of descriptors, sometimes overlapping with barley wines in character, and at others, sliding down to more modest proportions as seasonal winter warmers. This allows for unique stylistic interpretations among brewers.

The classics are deep amber to mahogany in color. They range from 5.6 to 9 percent in general, but exceed that on either end. The grist is in great measure premium English pale ale malt, mashed to increase residuals and decrease fermentability. Character malts include various shades of caramel, perhaps some chocolate or black, and occasionally some adjunct grain or brewing sugar. Often kettle time is dramatically increased to add intense caramelization and deeper, red-tinted color. This tried and true combination of composition and method imparts notes of treacle, molasses, and raisin or prune, with hints of nuts, chocolate or roast, all over a malty and dextrinous background.

Estery yeast is best employed to supply fruity notes that play well with aging. Classic English East Kent Goldings and Fuggles hops are most likely used, at reserved levels.

Though today’s old ales may lack the Brettanomyces and lactic acid character that defined them in bygone cask-matured versions, aging in itself does impart a vinous quality to those meant to keep. Barrels have largely been replaced by bottle-conditioning. Old Peculier, Fullers 1845, Harviestoun Old Engine Oil, and Sarah Hughes Dark Ruby Mild all can acquire the sherrylike, oxidative profile if cellared, and all are manageable in strength at 5.6 to 6.3 percent ABV. They are, without a doubt, firmly in the old ale style.

More formidable are Gale’s Prize Old Ale, Fuller’s Vintage Ale, Frederic Robinson’s Old Tom, J. W. Lee’s Moonraker, and Kuhnhenn Fourth Dementia. All have intense winey notes, can be kept for multiple years, and require a seasoned palate to fully grasp.

Those that straddle the old ale/barley wine fence have a subdued hop character relative to most barely wines and are worth including in the discussion. They are most suited for prolonged cellaring and contemplative vertical tasting comparison, and include Eldridge Pope Thomas Hardy’s Ale (11.9%), J. W. Lees Vintage Harvest Ale (11.5%), North Coast Brewing Old Stock Ale (12.5%), and Bell’s Third Coast Old Ale (10.2%). Years of aging only make these better. They are surprisingly simplistic in their makeup, generally using only pale malt and protracted boiling times to achieve powerfully concentrated flavors and ruby highlights in the color. Reminiscent of port wine and sherry, they also take on the auxiliary whispers of multi-organism maturation, with a tart and earthy edge. All examples exhibit an engagement of familiar ale and novel age character that untangle seamlessly. Harvest and Hardy’s ales could easily be put squarely in the English barley wine camp.

Seasonal winter warmers, like Sam Smith’s Winter Welcome, St. Peter’s Winter Ale and Young’s Winter Warmer are best enjoyed within several months of release. They are malty and have a fresher hop nose than more burly old ales. American breweries also tender winter seasonals in this vein.

The future for old ales and their ilk looks promising as vintaging and barreling is taking on a new level of appreciation, and brewers are looking eagerly to fill these niches. Even some of those listed above are either relatively new or recently revived to accommodate the emerging market. Take comfort in an old ale.

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Womble

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I have a couple of 20 litre demijohns downstairs ... this could become a project.
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 With a few 20l it could, you could do some long brett aging, im assuming there glass, if you can make a wood stopper with an air lock you can just about replicate a barrel.

 Pesh
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Clibit

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pesho77

 With a few 20l it could, you could do some long brett aging, im assuming there glass, if you can make a wood stopper with an air lock you can just about replicate a barrel.

 Pesh


Do you reckon? Interesting idea. Is there any kind of comparable size wooden barrel you can get i wonder?
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 The problem with barrels is the size to surface ratio, some thing small enough for the home brew scale would have too large of a surface area therefore letting in too much air for a brett fermentation, so these arnt practical, ive been wondering if a portion of the barrel could be coated with wax to reduce the air intake, though this may be going too far, to make it worth while you would need to make some thing special and keep it for a long time / do a solera type beer, either way this could be a long expensive waist of time.

 Pesh
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Clibit

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pesho77

 The problem with barrels is the size to surface ratio, some thing small enough for the home brew scale would have too large of a surface area therefore letting in too much air for a brett fermentation, so these arnt practical, ive been wondering if a portion of the barrel could be coated with wax to reduce the air intake, though this may be going too far, to make it worth while you would need to make some thing special and keep it for a long time / do a solera type beer, either way this could be a long expensive waist of time.
 Pesh


Yes that makes sense. Maybe using pieces of oak from chopped up barrels is a better idea?
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pesho77

 With a few 20l it could, you could do some long brett aging, im assuming there glass, if you can make a wood stopper with an air lock you can just about replicate a barrel.

 Pesh


Wood stopper ... that could be done.  I have rubber bungs at the moment.  Maybe just plain old masking tape would work ?? And yes, they are glass.




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 You want some thing that lets air through, cork and plastic let too much in rubber stoppers dont let any in at all, wood is about right.

 That would be far easier Clib, but if you wanted to use a wood barrel its the only way I can see it being done and it wont be exact any way.

 Pesh
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pesho77

 You want some thing that lets air through, cork and plastic let too much in rubber stoppers dont let any in at all, wood is about right.

 That would be far easier Clib, but if you wanted to use a wood barrel its the only way I can see it being done and it wont be exact any way.

 Pesh


Okay ... I wasn't aware that cork was a bit too much of a "heavy breather". 

Clibit => any news on your first ever lager ?


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I have just seen that Wyeast do an Oud Bruin yeast blend .... I wonder if I can get hold of some ?
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Womble


Okay ... I wasn't aware that cork was a bit too much of a "heavy breather". 

Clibit => any news on your first ever lager ?



My lager is my second ever lager and it's sitting waiting to be racked and kegged or bottled. I think the latter will have to wait til I'm back from Spain. Been too busy. 
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