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Monday, June 20, 2011

That Old Timey Beere and Ale

What's the new sour? (Since there's always the new something, and since the last couple years everyone's been saying sour is the new hoppy, it must be that we're due for a new new.) Old. Anyway, among certain small brewers and homebrewers here in Beervana.

Hot on the heels of my encounter with Burton, I read about Kevin's flirtation with mumme. Mumme, as you know, is an extinct style of malt porridge tinged very lightly with alcohol. You didn't know?
Mumme being a treacle-like dark beer with a massive starting gravity and very low attenuation. Think 3-6% ABV with a final gravity over 1.200. No, not 1.020, 1.200; we’re talking moderately alcoholic malt syrup here.
This level of attenuation makes Burtons look like ultra-dry saisons. Kevin cites Pattinson (whom we'll deal with soon), who cites a clutch of 19th century writers who peg mumme's attenuation between 8% (!) and 20% (dry mumme). Keep in mind that most modern beers finish out with attenuations in the 70-80% range. I found a German Wikipedia entry on the style that cites older sources, but doesn't seem to contradict Pattinson (seem, because I'm working with the Google translate version of the page). In any case, it sounds like a ghastly style, one the world is surely better off to be rid of. I urge you to remember that during the great mumme epoch, people bathed twice in their lives, lived to be 13, and believed some of the womenfolk of the villages to be witches.

The British Connection
The catastrophe of mumme aside, the interest in authentic recreations is a great trend. The historian/bloggers Martyn Cornell and Ron Pattinson are major instigators. They would no doubt be surprised to learn how many people in remote Oregon are inspired by their studies of lost styles. Yet I keep encountering late-stage beer geeks who are planning to brew--or have brewed--a beer based on their research. I can't say how much it has influenced the pro ranks, but I think somewhat. Brettanomcyes is slowly creeping into English styles, a trend I imagine goes back to the research of aged British styles--all infected with brett.

I doubt very many of these lost styles are likely to gain broad popularity. Yet gose has shown surprising resiliency, so you never know. Yet brewing things like gratzer, broyhan, koyt, Burton, or brown-malt porter are all extremely useful to understanding the evolution of brewing--not to mention a fun trip down memory lane. (Personally, I'm hoping for an Adambier recreation--that's a style with legs.) The aspect I find most encouraging is that Oregon brewers (home and pro) are among the most activist tinkerers. The future of beer is the past. And we're on the cutting edge.


  1. One of the interesting things about studying old beers is that you realize how few new things there are in brewing. We think we invented extreme hopping here on the West Coast, but then you discover English brewers hopping the snot out things in the 19th Century. Export porter was the original CDA....

  2. Jeff,

    Another thing about Mumme (which I didn't address in my post); it sat in barrels for long periods of time while being shipped all over Europe. With all that residual sugar, you can assume that all manner of Brett and bacteria went to work on it while it sloshed around at sea.

    I don't think this did a lot to thin out Mumme's tar-like consistency. But, it probably transformed it from malty sludge to tart, funky malty sludge.

    Also, after checking the gravity of a couple malt extracts over the weekend (~1.450), I have some revised thoughts for brewing a Mumme:
    • Mix equal parts dark malt extract and water (OG ~1.225).
    • Boil "wort" with some bittering hops of your choice, replacing any evaporated liquid as you go.
    • Cover fermentor with cheese cloth and place on porch.
    • Wait.
    • Enjoy on pancakes.

    Beer and Coding in Eugene

  3. Hey Jeff,

    You've had a recreation of Adambier in your own back yard for over a decade: Hair of the Dog Adam. I'm not sure how accurate it is (stylistically speaking), but it's a damn fine beer.

    From Alan's description:

    "Adam is a recreation of a historic beer-style, originally made in Dortmund, Germany and was the first Beer ever released from this Brewery. He is made with Northwest hops, organic pilsner malt, and a variety of specialty grains. The beer is rich and smokey, with notes of chocolate and dark fruit. Best served as a dessert beer. It is great with cigars, or just a warm fire and good company."