Albany Ale: An Annotated Brewing Log From 1834


A bit of a question for you today. Above is a brewing log from just before the world of US brewing learned about lager. I won’t get into the details of whose log it is for now* as I am hoping you may be able to help draw out a few more details than I have. If you click on the image you will see my annotated notes. For the most part, I am clear on the numbers but would like to know more about the techniques involved. You will see that there are three beers made from a single mash but that the two stronger are recombined. That makes for what the brewer calls a double and a single beer. Here is what else I see:

♦ The double seems to have 104 barrels of liquor before the boil. A US barrel has 119 litres. So that is 12,376 litres.
♦ The 190 bushels of malt works out to 6460 lbs at 34 lbs a bushel of malt.
♦ The 220 lbs of hops would be local CNY Cluster hops
♦ The malt would also be local pale malt.
♦ This beer made 7 barrels of small ale and 60 barrels of double ale. I don’t understand how 68 and 36 barrels before boil makes 60 as a result. I ran the malt and liquor through a standard calculator and see the result is a 5.1% beer. But I am missing something. That much concentration should make a stronger beer. Or am I making an assumption.
♦ The notes on the opposing page for batch 140 say this is a Pale Stock NY ale. Also, it is noted that this is a particularly good batch.
♦ Unlike some other brews logged and also comments from the time, no salt is added.

Anyone handy with the abbreviations “HVG” and “HHG” at the tops of columns #10 and #12? I assume the G stands for gravity. Also, note that there are slightly different hand writing. The log is filled in over 9 or 10 days. So, the two numerals “6” in column #10 differ. Also, I am now thinking that the number in column #11 may actually be a “65” when I compare it to other numbers. That might make this a notation from degrees F rather than weight or quantity.

Anyway, all thoughts appreciated. This is part of a bigger project so I am hoping the power of the collective brain effect that the internets always promised will nudge us along. Let’s see.

*OK, it’s Vassar’s log.

One thought on “Albany Ale: An Annotated Brewing Log From 1834”

  1. [Original comments…]

    Stan Hieronymus – July 10, 2012 9:33 AM
    Does it say those are Cluster hops?

    By 1839 NY grew about one third of the US hop crop.

    As well as what they called “English Cluster” there was Grape, Canada Red, Palmer Seedling and Humphrey Seedling.

    Alan – July 10, 2012 9:47 AM
    The note to the right in column #16 is headed “Whose Hops” and I would understand it to mean the supplier. Given this information [] from the next year and then a few decades later, there appears to be more variety noted in the characteristics of the hops than there were actual established varieties. Whether this results from terrior or handling or what I do not know.

    Alan – July 10, 2012 9:58 AM
    Another hop fact. For the brewing season 1833 to 1834, there were 29170 pounds of hops used in making 12,266 barrels of beer or just under 2.4 pounds on average.

    Bailey – July 10, 2012 10:16 AM
    I think column 10 even has the word ‘Gravity’ spelled out at the end, doesn’t it?

    Alan – July 10, 2012 10:18 AM
    Yes – and notice how close the capital “G” and capital “Y” appear.

    Stan Hieronymus – July 10, 2012 10:19 AM
    The usage would be consistent from Matthew Vassar’s records about the same time. Of course that was before cold storage, so the alpha acids and aroma would have degraded quickly. One reason that Cluster was so popular, though, was it was a good keeper.

    (And I would argue that handling is part of t*****r, a word otherwise better left to wine types.)

    Alan – July 10, 2012 10:21 AM
    I don’t know that at all. For example, my parsnips have terrior, reflecting each patch I have planted them in. Why fear the word just because it is a wine word?

    Bailey – July 10, 2012 10:26 AM
    Oh, weird — I actually wrote a new comment and the old one popped up for a second time. What I meant to say was that when I’ve seen the abbreviation V in brewing records before, it’s been ‘vessel’, as in FV (fermenting vessel).

    Craig – July 10, 2012 10:34 AM
    the HHG column is actually H H.G. There’s no dot after the first H. Maybe that’s a hint, too. Maybe not.

    Maybe I just want to join in.

    Someone love me

    Ron Pattinson – July 10, 2012 4:37 PM
    I think column 10 is “”H & Gravity”, i.e. heat and gravity. So 56º F and 34.5 gravity. Presumably at the start of fermentation. So OG around 1096.

    Column 11 is the weight of yeast used: 65 lbs.

    Column 12 “H & CG” : heat and cleansing gravity. 78º F and 12 gravity.

    Jeff Alworth – July 10, 2012 6:21 PM
    If the OG is 1096 and the beer was 5.1%, that was sticky-ass porridge. The FG must have been around 1055.

    Kristen England – July 10, 2012 7:26 PM
    I read this as Ron does. With the heats and gravities. I think you are off on your malt thought. 8 bushels per quarter of malt at ~336lb/quarter = ~8000lb

    If the start is 34.5BP (1.096) and the finish is 12BP (1.033) we’re talking about 8% abv, not the 5% that is listed.

    As for the malt name, its usually listed by either just ‘pale’ or by the malt house. not something thats particularly going to matter to you.

    Alan – July 10, 2012 7:59 PM
    Thanks, guys.

    Kristen, the malt is actually listed by farmer. I have tracked one of them and would, if I was closer, probably be able to find the field. In the Senate records of 1835, there is reference so some darkening of malts but, yes, it would be mainly pales. The brewer seems to have malted his own barley. That is consistent with the experience in Kingston, Ontario, which was settled by Loyalist Hudson valley New Yorkers in the 1780s.

    Jeff, sticky ass malt is one way of pointing out that I have the calculations wrong. No one raised Dutch or British side American would have wanted that. Damn good thing I was not the neighbourhood brewer! The beer, fortunately, would have been beer-like.

    Ron, you have made my brain hurt by picking out that “+”! I need to go read the rest of the book and hunt for the “V” that is an “&” to see if the handwriting is consistent.

    Peter Collins – July 10, 2012 11:55 PM
    I’m hoping to come up with more insight but the first thing that struck me was column #7: The “14” looks a lot more like a “41”.

    I’ll keep exploring.

    Great post!

    Craig – July 11, 2012 10:58 AM
    I thought the V might have been an & as well, but of course, I doubted myself.

    Alan – July 11, 2012 12:00 PM
    Good catch, Peter. Total typo on my part.

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