Home Page

Stefan's Florilegium


This document is also available in: text or RTF formats.

small-beer-msg – 10/28/06


A weakly alcoholic beer made using the mashed grain from a previous batch of beer.


NOTE: See also the files: beer-msg, beverages-NA-msg, wine-msg, mead-msg, cider-msg, hops-msg, herbs-msg.





This file is a collection of various messages having a common theme that I  have collected from my reading of the various computer networks. Some messages date back to 1989, some may be as recent as yesterday.


This file is part of a collection of files called Stefan's Florilegium. These files are available on the Internet at: http://www.florilegium.org


I  have done  a limited amount  of  editing. Messages having to do  with separate topics  were sometimes split into different files and sometimes extraneous information was removed. For instance, the  message IDs  were removed to save space and remove clutter.


The comments made in these messages are not necessarily my viewpoints. I make  no claims  as  to the accuracy  of  the information  given by the individual authors.


Please  respect the time  and  efforts of  those who have written  these messages. The  copyright status  of these messages  is  unclear at this time. If  information  is  published  from  these  messages, please give credit to the originator(s).


Thank you,

    Mark S. Harris                  AKA:  THLord Stefan li Rous

                                          Stefan at florilegium.org



Date: Mon, 6 Jul 1998 09:38:22 -0500

From: "Decker, Terry D." <TerryD at Health.State.OK.US>

Subject: RE: SC - alcohol content in beer


> As beer was drunk daily by children, pregnant women, and nursing

> mothers, one hopes it had a very low alcohol content

> Caroline


Barat FitzWalter Reynolds produced a period small beer based on some

monastery records.  It was very low in alcohol and sour tasting.

Convenience store Coors has more alcohol and tastes better.





Date: Thu, 01 Jun 2000 11:28:38 -0400

From: "Jeff Gedney" <JGedney at dictaphone.com>

Subject: Re: SC - Small Beer?


> Is "small beer" a lighter, lower-alcohol version

> of what would have been drunk later in the day?  


Small beer, as I understand it, was made form the second sparge run from the

mash. (Today it is made from a comparativly diluted wort.)

The process of getting fermentable sugar from grain, involved three steps,

Malting, mashing, and sparging.


Malting starts the sprouting process, to release the plants own enzymes that

converth the grain's starches into maltose and other sugars.


Mashing takes the Grain, crushes it, and adds heat and water to allow the

natural enzymes to do a more complete job of converting the sugars than

would be possible otherwise.


Sparging ( lautering) is the process of running hot water through the mashed

grain to rinse out the sugars.


The rinse water then is called "wort" and is used as the base to make the beer.

The sugars come out strongly at first, and as the process continues there

is naturally less sugar in the grain, so the wort contains less sugar as you

go along.


The first, strongest, runs take longer to brew, and make heavier and stronger

ales or beers. After these are boiled and flavored with spices or hops, they are

innoculated with yeast and put aside to ferment and age. The grain is

washed again to get as much sugar as possible. this much weaker liquid

ferments and finishes quickly. (it is still boiled first, which is why it was so popular as a "common" beverage for all ages, because the natural yuckey

stuff from the effluvia of the village upstream was killed in the boiling!)


So if a very diluted malt beer is made, usually put up the same day or soon

after and drunk within a week, before the ferment really finishes. this results

in a lightly fizzy, and somewhat sweet drink. Kinda the "soda" of it's day.


<snip – see beer-msg –Stefan>





Date: Fri, 2 Jun 2000 00:17:15 +0200

From: "Cindy M. Renfrow" <cindy at thousandeggs.com>

Subject: Re: SC - Small Beer?


From: "Jeff Gedney" <JGedney at dictaphone.com

> Is "small beer" a lighter, lower-alcohol version


[OF SMALL BEER] - 1631

This recipe uses the malt and hops left over from the following recipe, and

was very likely originally part of that recipe.


Now for your second or small drink which are left upon the grains, you

shall suffer it there to stay but an hour or a little better and then drain

it off also; which done, put it into the lead with the former hops and boil

the other also, then clear it from the hops and cover it very close till

your first beer be tunned, and then as before put it also to barm and so

tun it up also in smaller vessels, and of this second beer you shall not

draw above one hogshead to three of the better.  Now there be divers other

ways and observations for the brewing of ordinary beer, but none so good,

so easy, so ready, and quickly performed as this before showed:  neither

will any beer last longer or ripen sooner, for it may be drunk at a

fortnight's age, and will last as long and lively. (From The English

Housewife, etc., by Gervase Markham, 1631, pp. 205-6.)




Now for the brewing of ordinary beer, your malt being well ground and put

in your mash vat, and your liquor in your lead2 ready to boil, you shall

then by little and little with scoops or pails put the boiling liquor to

the malt, and then stir it even to the bottom 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 hour and more in

the mash vat, during which space you may if you please heat more liquor in

your lead for your second or small drink; this done, pluck up your mashing

strom, and let the first liquor run gently from the malt, either in a clean

trough or other vessels prepared for the purpose, and then stopping the

mash vat again, put the second liquor to the malt and stir it well

together; then your lead 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 boil them an hour together, till taking up a

dishful thereof you see the hops shrink into the bottom of the dish; this

done, put the wort through a straight sieve, which may drain the hops from

it, into your cooler, which, standing over the gyle vat, you shall in the

bottom thereof set a great bowl with your barm and some of the first wort

(before the hops come into it) mixed together, that it may rise therein,

and then let your wort drop or run gently into the dish with the barm which

stands in the gyle vat; 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 find that a black scum or

mother riseth upon the barm, you shall with your hand

take it off and cast it away; then nothing being left in the cooler, and

the beer well risen, with your hand stir it about and so let it stand an

hour after, and then, beating it and the barm exceeding well together, tun

it up into the hogsheads being clean washed and scalded, and so let it

purge:  and herein you shall observe not to tun your vessels too full, for

fear thereby it purge too much of the barm away:  when it hath purged a day

and a night, you shall close up the bung holes with clay, and only for a

day or two after keep a vent-hole in it, and after close it up as close as

may be.)


Cindy Renfrow/Sincgiefu

cindy at thousandeggs.com

Author & Publisher of "Take a Thousand Eggs or More, A Collection of 15th

Century Recipes" and "A Sip Through Time, A Collection of Old Brewing





Date: Thu, 01 Jun 2000 19:35:42 -0400

From: Philip & Susan Troy <troy at asan.com>

Subject: Re: SC - Small Beer?


Christine A Seelye-King wrote:

> More questions for my Breakfast class:

>         I taught my new "Breaking the Fast, or, What Did They Eat For

> Breakfast?" this weekend, and it went very well.   We started talking

> about the references to beer and wine in many of the listings of what

> people were allotted for breakfast, and the question about the SCA not

> giving out alcohol came up.  What I am wondering is, what kind of beer

> would have been served?  Is "small beer" a lighter, lower-alcohol version

> of what would have been drunk later in the day?


As Brandu sez, small beer is often made from the second running of

liquor (i.e. water) from a batch of malt, usually by boiling the malt

(since the conversion from the original mashing has already taken place)

with freshwater and any spent hops or other gruity herbs (and how come

nobody on this list warned me valerian stinks so bad???). It can also be

made in the more standard manner, in weaker form, but it's probably more

economically feasible, in terms of things like fuel usage, to make

regular ale or beer, then use the spent malt for a smaller brew. It is

smaller, by the way (and here's where the name comes in, I believe)

because you get less of it than of the original brew. I believe Gervase

Markham speaks of two grades of ale from one batch of malt used to make

regular ale, but from the ingredients used to make strong ale, you can

get both a second-grade and a third-grade ale, in decreased quantities.  


> I have a recipe for a

> lemon-beer, three days, 10 lemons, some sugar, a package of baking yeast,

> water, and voila!, you have a fizzy lemon drink, not enough fermentation

> to have much alcohol (and just how much is another question, when does it

> cross that line and become too much to be used for our purposes) but just

> enough to be fizzy.  I don't think this is a period recipe, but it is a

> very simple, easy to make beverage.  I am wondering if we are dealing

> with something similar when the sources refer to these as morning

> beverages.  I know that wine was often drunk watered, and again, I wonder

> at what point the alcohol level is low enough to be considered null and

> usable.


Okay, rather than tell you again all about SCA funds, let's try another

way to put this in perspective. You know drinks like Malta Goya, or the

various near-beers, which are theoretically non-alcoholic, at least for

practical purposes? Once upon a time, these beverages (before

pasteurization of beers) logged in at under 1% alcohol. Modern, crappy

American beer, that awful pseudo-pilsener made with lovely stuff like

unmalted rice and corn, measure in at something like 5-6% or less. I

would guess, very rough estimate, y'unnerstand, that small beer gets you

something like 2%. Of course it varies greatly depending on how the malt

was mashed, for example, if it was a hot mash and there are a lot of

dextrins, and therefore fewer fermentable sugars, the ale is lower in

alcohol, and a second running will be commensurately lower.


> Christianna


> "Breakfasts in Lent:

> My Lord and My Lady -- a loaf of bread in trenchers, 2 manchets, a quart

> of beer, a quart of wine..."


> "...THE KYNG for his brekefast, ...dim' gallon of ale. " (A demi-gallon?)


> "Queen Elizabeth's breakfast was 'manchet, ale, beer, wine and a good

> pottage made of mutton or beef'."



Date: Fri, 02 Jun 2000 07:48:38 -0400

From: Philip & Susan Troy <troy at asan.com>

Subject: Re: SC - Small Beer?.


Hey, here's a thought that I don't think anybody has mentioned in detail

yet. If you _really_ want to serve a perod ale at breakfast, you could

simply brew it on site. Work it into the event as a hands-on

teaching/research project. You could probably do it on, say, Friday

night in the case of one of the Meridien weekend-long events. Somewhere,

there's a record of a law on the books in Oxford (Cindy can doubtless

provide details) that says a brewer/tavern owner may not sell ale that

has not sat and settled for at least six hours prior to sale. This

suggests that the practice of selling new ale was probably pretty

widespread. What you'd be serving would be, essentially, unfermented

ale, with virtually no alcohol, but just the taste of the malt and any

flavorings you chose to add, which might or might not include hops.

Would it taste like Guinness Stout, Heineken, or my own favorite,

Chimay? No. Would it taste bad? No, because the only way it might suffer

is in comparison to certain modern beers and when modern criteria are

applied, which is clearly unfair. Not bad, just unlike a modern beer, as

anybody who's done any perod brewing knows. It actually tastes more than

a bit like sweetened, iced tea, especially when you cool your wort in an

oak vat. Would it have any alcohol? None to speak of. And it is a good

representation of a period beverage? Absolutely!


Adamantius, Sometime Evil Period Brewer



Date: Mon, 29 Sep 2003 05:39:56 -0500

From: "Terry Decker" <t.d.decker at worldnet.att.net>

Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] Re: Small beer, was period beverages

To: "Cooks within the SCA" <sca-cooks at ansteorra.org>


> Aellin wrote:

> Small beer has been mentioned a few times, but I don't know anything

> about it but the name. Is there anything like it currently available? I

> was wondering about Malta, though that's totally a wild guess... I'm

> not familiar with that, either. Anyone know?


Coors at 3.2%.  I would recommend one of the "alcohol free" beers, like



A friend who is a good brewer extrapolated a small beer recipe from some

moestary accounts.  The result was drinkable but not very tasty.  It

was easier to drink after you got accustomed to it.





Date: Mon, 29 Sep 2003 22:18:10 -0400

From: John Kemker <john at kemker.org>

Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] Re: Small beer, was period beverages

To: Cooks within the SCA <sca-cooks at ansteorra.org>


My message on the SCA_Brew list:


*From:*  "John" <john at k...


*Date:*  Mon Oct 7, 2002  6:43 pm

*Subject:*  "Small Beer"


This last weekend, The Barony Of The South Downs

(http://www.baronyofthesouthdowns.org) held their 30th Red

Tower Tournament, an event older than the Kingdom of Meridies in

which it is held. It was my privilege to contribute to both the

Dayboard (lunch buffet) as well as the Feast. The Dayboard was not

notable as far as SCA_Brew is concerned, but for the Feast, I

prepared a "small beer" for the enjoyment of our guests. I am happy

to say that it was well received.


This was NOT a period "small beer." The Cuisiner, Mistress

Christianna McGrain, approached me to help her provide a non-

alcoholic beer-like beverage for the feast, since we had a problem

with both the Society's injunction against SCA funds being used to

provide alcohol and the site being as dry as the Mojave at high

noon. (It's a church camp in the Deep South.)


I learned a few lessons from the experience that I thought I might

share with the list:


1) Keep the specific gravity low. (Thanks, Nathi!) This beer came

out close to 1.015, which would be what we would expect a fermented

beer to finish at.


2) Lightly hop.


3) If you can, filter the beer before kegging, otherwise you lose

about a gallon to "mud" runoff.


4) Force carbonate like a soda.


5) Watch for clogs in the dip tube if you don't filter. About

halfway through the feast, the beverage captain called for me, as the

beer had stopped flowing. We had been pumping at 5lbs. pressure to

push the beer out and had to raise it to 15lbs. to get past the clog.


My recipe was pretty simple:


2.5 lbs. 2-Row Muntons&Fisons Pale Ale malt

0.25 lbs. Carafoam

0.25 lbs. Special B


3 quarts water, mash for 90 minutes at 155F

Mash-out for 10 minutes at 176F

Sparge at 176F to get 5 quarts total


Boil for 90 minutes with 1/4t Irish moss and two handsful of Cascades

(Use your favorite hops. I used what I had.) in a hopsock. Chill by

pouring hot wort directly into keg filled with ice, add cold water to

bring up to 5 gallons. Start forced carbonation immediately, pushing

all oxygen out by venting once CO2 is applied. This is where I would

probably transfer to another keg under pressure through a filter to

clear the final product.


KEEP COLD AND SERVE WITHIN TWO DAYS! There is NO alcohol and very

little hops to prevent an infection.


Comments ranged from "Eww! It tastes like beer!" (non-beer drinkers)

to "Not bad, for a non-alcoholic beer." to "Tastes better than

American beer!" to "Very refreshing. Doesn't have the heavy malt

taste that a lot of 'small beers' tend to have."



Date: Thu, 6 Jan 2005 08:01:39 -0000

From: "Melanie Wilson" <MelanieWilson at dragonflight.co.uk>

Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] brewing and small ale

To: "Cooks within the SCA" <sa-cooks at ansteorra.org>


Small Ale


1.5 kg..,Brupacks Pale Malt syrup (www.thehomebrewshop.co.uk )

1 kg., porriage ots

12 litres, water

1 pkt,  English Ale Yeast

1 pkt, 24 Turbo Yeast (optional I don't use this now)


Sterilize a food-grade plastic bucket with lid Also sterilize a strainer to

separate liquid from grain later.


Boil water, I use electric kettles. mi malt, with the oats.


Open Bucket and place it on the floor near the rayburn (solid wood cooker)

(or somewhere nice and warm if no rayburn airing cupboard perhaps ?) Pour 2

litres of water into the bin from a reasonable height, fairly slowly.


Slowly pur 3 more litres of boiling water over the grain. Don't stir. Put

the cover on the bin and let it stand for 10 mins. Then add another 1 litre

of boiling water. . Put the lid back on and wait 20 more mins.


Take the lid off and stir. It should be the conistency of thick porridge.

Put the lid back on and wait at least an hour and a half.


Open up the bucket and stir in 3 more litres of boiling water, and stir.

Close up again and wait 25 more mins.


Finally, add remaining boiling water Stir well.


Strain iquid into another sterilized bucket for the fermentation. (This

liquid is the wort)


Close the fermenting vessel and let the wort cool overnight.


Add the yeast into the wort, and shake, stir, agitate the wort in order to

get air into it


Let the ale ferment for about 3-4 days; the yeast should have started, and

alcohol production well under way. After that start drinking it. I usually

pour into a period style vessel for serving. Barrel or crock. Sterilized

well. Do not strain, siphon off or otherwise et modern about it !



As the days of camp goes on it gets slightly more alcoholic.


It tastes quite yeasty and is weak not like British beers so can be drunk

easily and frequently (except if you are driving of course)


<the end>

Formatting copyright © Mark S. Harris (THLord Stefan li Rous).
All other copyrights are property of the original article and message authors.

Comments to the Editor: stefan at florilegium.org