The Best of the worst award this time goes to the Small Ale experiment. In theory you can preserve an ale wort in a tightly sealed sterilized container, for a later brewing. We purchased a plaster bucket with a sealable lid, and duly sterilized it. Into it went the water from re-boiling one of the brewing barley bags, so we could make a weak ale (Small Ale) in the last week to approximate the daily drink. From our resident brewer:
The small ale however was a failure unfortunately when we opened the container to pour into the fermenter it was covered in slime and stank , I was not going to even attempt to strain or go any further with this.
No Small Ale for us!

And sometimes things are just beyond your control - the Inter-Library Loan of the Dame Alice Breyne's household accounts from the 14th century and all the good Barley action that entails arrived the day after the Pentathlon entry was due... and five weeks after the request was submitted, and four weeks after the other books requested at the same time. Still it was interesting, and there will be useful stuff for our wheat entry.
 
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Sometimes you need a little help from your friends.

In this case, none of us are brewers. But fortunately we know people who are! Master Drakey (Baron Drake Morgan, OL, breaker of women's hearts, member of the 'I ate hemlock and survived' club...) a brewing and cooking laurel used to taking the uninitiated through the brewing, helped us via many skype sessions work on a Barley Ale (including a brew-along-adventure), advising on the malting process and the wine experiment from the last round. Thank you Drakey!

Here is the link to the ale work he did for us on his website Dining with the Khan. This website should be a fabulous resource when he is finished, and we strongly encourage you to check it out.

 
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The vine tendril charcoal
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The cyclamen root and barley chaff
And now for something a little less revolting for your medieval beauty regimen: a leave-in conditioner from Trotula. Remember that charcoalized vine tendril? Well, it's back, this time mixed with some barley chaff, the root of the sowbread (cylclamen for the modern gardener), and some ground liquorice root. This is boiled for 15-20 minutes, strained, and rinsed through your hair. Not sure how it would work for blondes, though.
 
The chicken in ale sauce works well (although the sauce does look reminiscent of a Thai green chicken curry, but you can taste the ale). The ale soft cheese - well I'm now onto my second attempt and so far it doesn't look terribly promising (actually it looks downright revolting), but that's because ale isn't a fantastic starter for cheese. - which we knew. The barley polenta still needs to be made, but I need to get some more (edible) cheese for that. 
 
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Burnt barley bread...
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...ground up...
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...with a little salt...
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... and a bear fat substitute (lard)...
Makes one seriously revolting (and stinky) cure for baldness. Thanks Trotula! Now all we need is a victim...
 
OMG OMG OMG We have sprouts! I think tonight we will be heating it to stop germination and we will have malted barely YAY YAY YAY

-- a short while later--

Grain in oven which is sitting at about 33 degrees which from the few discussions on how to advise is the recommended temp , being around 60 to 125 fahrenheit. Will be in there till tomorrow.n That should dryit and stop the germination without cooking it. 

Here's hoping , it smells quite sweet.

Bottling the Ale

5/4/2013 19:58:14

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An update from our intrepid brewer...
It is bottled it is drinkable at this time. It seems to have worked and we have 4 litres bottles and sitting in the cool gararge along with two jars for cooking.

It's sour but drinkable ,very weak I think , not my cup of tea , has a bit of a cinnamon after taste just a hint. I'm still not a fan but I drank some . I am still living so all good.

The small ale however was a failure...



 
Success! Here is our update:
Soaking and drying the grain for malting step one so far has been soaked and dried four times approx 6hours soak 9 hours drying and ..........


We have rootletts forming! YAY! Success so far. I'm quite happy. Kinda stoked actually.

Well another couple of soaks and hopefully we will have enough rootlets to go to second stage wich should germinate the grain this will be the more tricky bit to prevent mould growing.

Malting - Day One

4/28/2013 20:09:50

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So when we said we would do malting, even our brewing phone-a-friend expert was impressed, as he'd only done it once himself, and it is a fairly long, drawn out process. But our intrepid incipient brewer and barley expert Muigheinn, was not put off. Here is her update for Day One:
Malting process begun so let's hold our collective and hope. I have soaked the grain twice, dried once, and it is drying again now will put back in to soak in the morning . Grain appears to be swelling which is what it's supposed to do prior to sending rootlets, so it seems to be doing the right thing... will keep you posted. 
 
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Barley into flour, via mortar and pestle, then food processor.
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The finished barley loaves. (The bottom ones had double the amount of ingredient.)
Today's exploit was baking bread from barley flour. We tried four experiments:
  1. We tried grinding our own barley flour (quite the chore, verging on the impossible in a mortar and pestle - you can see why they went with a quern).
  2. Making barley leaven (well, actually we made this a few days ago, as it takes a few days to form properly)
  3. Loaves using only barley flour 
  4. Loaves using a mix of wheat and barley flour

The results were quite interesting.

Loaf 1 = Barley with leaven
Loaf 2 = Barley with yeast
Loaf 3 = Barley/wheat with leaven
Loaf 4 = Barley/wheat with yeast

The Barley/wheat combination with yeast was the lightest and sweetest. You can see why it was the high status option!

As well as being denser, the barley loaves went stale and mouldy more quickly too.