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Brewing Beer
Sat, Feb 9 2013

This blog is no longer updated regularly. You can find all I have learned about brewing beer by starting on:

Posted Charlotte O'Neil at 8:51 AM GMT
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Sat, Jan 17 2009
Poor Richard's Ale
Topic: Ale

January 17 is Benjamin Franklin's birthday, when homebrewers' fancies turn to thoughts of re-creating "Poor Richard's Ale", mentioned by Ben in his pamphlet, "Poor Richard's Almanack". Nobody know for sure what was in it -- nobody thought to write down the recipe at the time -- but most people agree it was probably based on corn and molasses, as the colonists did not have hops and barley at the time. I add some sugar, partly for modern tastes and partly because I think that molasses was probably sweeter back then because they would not have the modern refining capability that we have today.

My Rendition of Poor Richard's Ale
makes 1 pint

• 1 1/2 teaspoons of cornmeal (polenta or maize meal)
• 2 cups or 450 mls warm water
• 1/4 cup sugar syrup
• 1/4 teaspoon crushed spice
• 1 teaspoon molasses
• 1/4 cup of yeast starter

Mix cornmeal in 2 cups of warm water.
Pour water and cornmeal into a baked enamel saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until it comes to a boil and thickens and forms a thin gruel. Turn off heat.
Allow it to cool to lukewarm and then transfer to a glass jar.
Add 1/4 cup of sugar syrup into the water and cornmeal
Add 1/4 teaspoon crushed spice, a teaspoon of molasses and 1/4 cup of yeast starter.
Cover with an airlock and leave in a warm room-temperature place. Shake once a day to disperse sediment until it has begun to ferment.
After it has begun fermenting, allow it to ferment for 7 days, or wait until it has stopped fermenting.
Filter through a cotton flannel jelly bag (or a pillowcase will do). [optional]
To the strained liquid add 1 teaspoon of sugar syrup, honey or maple syrup. Reserve 1/4 cup to use as a yeast starter for the next brew, and then transfer the remaining 2 cups of liquid to plastic soda pop bottle(s) and screw cap(s) on tightly.
Ale is ready when bottle is firm to the touch and cannot be squeezed.

This stuff isn't bad. Not fancy, but okay, bit of a root-beery finish. Needs more experimentation with different spices, but this does the job for an easy, inexpensive plonk made from corn.

There is also an uncooked version of this recipe at

Before the Middle Ages, all beer was brewed raw and was called "ale". Boiling a "wort" didn't begin until hops were introduced in the 16th century. Raw beer is real ale and does not have hops. I can't decide which I think is more authentic for this ale. Boiling has a more rustic, "colonial" feel to it, but raw is more nourishing. With the cooked version, you do not have to strain out  the cereal, but can drink it with the ale. If Franklin had Poor Richard's Ale for breakfast, as a child, the cooked version might be more authentic while the raw version is more palatable.

I'm sure Ben would think well of my efforts in either case, though. As he said, "He that drinks his Cyder alone, let him catch his horse alone."

Peace and love,


Posted Charlotte O'Neil at 12:01 AM GMT
Updated: Sun, Jan 25 2009 10:29 AM GMT
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Sat, Dec 27 2008

Welcome to my blog. If this is the first time you have looked at it, you probably arrived here from a search engine. They favor blogs and apparently rank this one pretty high even though it's no longer active and I keep it mostly as an archive, to retain the account of the trials and errors of my early experiments is making low-tech beer. My active, up-to-date recipes are on websites. I have a wide variety of pages and a forum on brewing ales simply and there is probably one that should include the topic you were looking for.

The forum is at:

The beer-related pages are: and (efficient microbe tea) (where to get/how to harvest wild yeast)

Index (all my pages, including non-beer related)

I hope you find what you were looking for.

Best wishes,

Posted Charlotte O'Neil at 10:01 AM GMT
Updated: Sat, Dec 27 2008 10:40 AM GMT
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Tue, Jun 10 2008

Ground ivy is now growing abundantly where I live. This plant was used to brew beer and as a cure-all. I don't know if it adds any flavoring to the beer -- I must pay more attention to what beer brewed with ground ivy tastes like. But it's good for whatever ails you so now is a good time to keep your eyes on the ground and bring home a handful of ground ivy for your beer or teapot whenever you go out for a walk.

Posted Charlotte O'Neil at 3:14 PM BST
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Wed, Oct 24 2007
Topic: Soda pop/fizzy drink

I have become interested in the methods for lacto-fermenting, using  old traditional (no hops) brewing but adapted to modern situations. I made several lacto-fermentation tests. They all came out varying degrees of fine after varying amounts of time.

I would suggest to anyone interested in lacto-fermenting beverages do the following:

Make a cup of tea and add 2 Tablespoons of sugar. Stir until dissolved. (If you make kombucha, use your sweetened tea. If you are an herbalist, add any herbs from your garden that you like.)

Mix the tea with an ale starter and a lacto-fermenting starter. If you make kefir, the simplest way to do this is to mix it with some kefir whey. If you don't have kefir, make some whey from some yogurt by putting yogurt in a clean cotton flannel bag (like a jelly bag) or 4 layers of cheesecloth/muslin and let it drip overnight. Take the yogurt whey and mix it with a little ale starter  and add this to the sweetened tea. I have also used plain yogurt whey with no ale starter and it fermented the brew but it took a lot longer. I don't know if the entire fermentation was from the lacto-bacteria or if there was some yeast contamination in the bottle. But the end product was OK.

Next, put the liquid in in a clean plastic soda (pop/fizzy drink) bottle and
screw the cap on tight.  Set it in a warm place and wait.  When you can't squeeze the bottle, it is ready to drink.

After you drink it, you can make your own adjustments to taste for  your next batch. If you want it sweeter, add more sugar, for a beer-ier taste,  add malt extract to the sugar. For more alcohol -- and you can make a fairly potent tipple here to almost the amount of alcohol in commercial wine -- see my page on adjusting alcohol. If you want more flavors, add some more herbs and spices to the tea next time. Whatever you have in your kitchen and garden will probably do because they are what you like best.

 Some observations:

Kefir whey carbonated sweet tea in 3 days; yogurt whey took about 7 days.

Using leftover beverage as a starter for the next bottle works fine, but I suspect it is mostly a yeast ferment. I don't know if there is a way to keep the lacto-bacteria in balance or I will just have to use new whey every batch. Of course, the yeast-heavy brew tastes just fine, too.

I also have some brew started using sauerkraut/kimchi liquid that was started with whey (and thus didn't need salt). I don't know if it was kefir or yogurt whey. I'll have to start paying attention. The brew seems to be coming along no problem.

Adding a teaspoon of malt extract to the sweetened tea adds an extra layer of creaminess to the final product.

Adding extra sugar or malt and not screwing the cap on tightly but letting off gas (burping) for 2 or 3 days before setting cap on tight would increase the amount of alcohol in the drink.

The only real purpose of fermenting it first in a vented carboy would be to increase the amount of alcohol in it, and if you fermented it in a unvented carboy (to begin carbonation immediately) you run the risk of the carboy exploding (why I always carbonate in plastic).


Posted Charlotte O'Neil at 5:49 PM BST
Updated: Tue, Oct 30 2007 7:04 PM BST
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Wed, Dec 6 2006

Topic: Ale
The more beer I make the more I am amazed at the gaping chasm between how easy it is to brew ale and how complicated all the instructions to make it are.

Elephants can make beer by knocking down palm trees, stomping on the trunk to make a depression so the sap collects in it, and then waiting for it to ferment. That is how simple it is to make beer.

I now have a "perpetual beer" brewing in my kitchen. I mix the sediment from a bottle of ale with more water, sugar syrup, malt extract and some fineground flour and let it ferment for a few days. I then pour it into plastic soda pop (fizzy drink) bottles. When the bottles are firm to the touch, it's ready to drink. I refill the larger bottles with more water, sugar, malt extract etc. and the process continues.

This bottle is not ready to drink yet.

I had originally started to make an "ongoing" batch, (directions at ), where I would start one batch with the sediment from the previous batch, but I found it was easier to just keep one single batch going and bottle from that. I use two 2-liter bottles and transfer from one to the other so the brew will ferment a couple days in those and then a few more days in the smaller bottles. I suppose it is a lot of pouring from one bottle to the other. Its main convenience is that I don't have to keep track of how long it has brewed or which batch is which.

I have also begun flavoring the water with wood and other spices. I have used sassafras (the flavor behind root beer), birch, maple and oak. Right now I am using hawthorn, and it gives the final brew a very nice, smooth taste. I just cut some branches off the tree, break it into smaller pieces so it will fit in a heat-proof glass jar, fill it with water and set it on a hostess warming tray for a couple days until it turns a beautiful, deep reddish brown. I can re-use the same wood about 2 or 3 times. When it no longer colors the water, I go out for a walk in the woods to gather some more. I also add some spices like whole cinammon, ginger, nutmegs, cloves and anise to the water.

Posted Charlotte O'Neil at 8:23 PM GMT
Updated: Sat, Dec 9 2006 9:14 AM GMT
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Mon, Jun 5 2006

I keep the sum of what I learned about how to make beer as a beginner on my page at , but I prefer to call what I brew "ale" now, rather than "beer". Beer is a product with perservatives (hops) in it, designed for long shelf life. Once I eliminated the hops and aging, other aspects can be done differently when brewing, too. Many of the beer-brewing methods are designed for preserving and standardization, rather than good taste or nutrition.

Posted Charlotte O'Neil at 4:19 PM BST
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Fri, May 12 2006

Topic: Malt Extract
I started my 7th batch of malt extract beer on May 1, using a pound of malt extract and 3 quarts of water, along with 1 teaspoon of cream of tartar and 300 mls of a sugar syrup made of sugar and water in a 2:1 proportion.

I am using the proper ale yeast for the first time in this brew. It foamed up right away with a beautiful, creamy foam, but then the next day it died down.

I decided to add some other grains. I put 6 Tbls of ground barley into a quart of water, brought itt to a boil and boiled until the barley flour was cooked. I took it off the heat and added another quart of cold water to it so it wasn't too hot and poured it into the brew, along with another 1/2 tsp of cream of tartar.

That worked great. By the next morning there was a solid layer of foam on top of the batch and I could hear it fizzing when I walked into the room. I will definitely use that formula for making beer from now on: malt extract + mixed ground grains + sugar + cream of tartar.

The fizzing/fermentation lasted until May 10, longer than usual because it was interrupted in the middle. I decided to bottle right away as I am out of beer at the moment and in a hurry to get more. I poured it into another container, leaving behind the sediment, and let it set for a few hours. Then I poured it into pouring jugs to pour into bottles. This is not "regulation" procedure as you're supposed to do a whole lot more siphoning and clarifying, but it gets the job done. And if the beer is a little bit cloudier for it, the cloudiness is caused by yeast that will probably add flavor to the final product and are good for you anyway. (That's my story and I'm sticking to it. :-) )

I put 1/4 tsp of granulated white sugar into each pint of liquid as a primer, still using the plastic soda pop bottles. Screwed the caps on tight and put the bottles in an out-of-the-way place.

Final recipe:

1 pound malt extract
150 mls 1:1 sugar syrup
6 Tablespoons of ground barley
1 1/2 tsps cream of tartar
5 quarts of water

Posted Charlotte O'Neil at 8:41 AM BST
Updated: Fri, May 12 2006 8:57 PM BST
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Sun, Apr 30 2006

Topic: Hops
I bought a bag of dry hops this week. They look like little green pine cones when they are on the vine, but these are dry and flat. I am going to add them to the current batch of malt extract beer brewing.

I will not add them to the beer now because I want to keep the yeast sediment for food after I have poured off the beer, and hops taste very bitter. It is what makes beer bitter. Brewer's yeast actually has a rather sweetish taste, if it's brewed without additional hops.

I also bought a packet of real ale yeast. The bread yeast has been doing fine, but I understand bread yeast turns out *more* alcohol than yeast specially made to brew beer or ale. The beer yeast should turn out a beer that is 9% (18 proof) alcohol, while the bread yeast is supposed to be capable of making a beer that is 12% (24 proof) alcohol. I don't have any way of testing it to determine what the alcoholic content of the beer made with bread yeast is, but I can certainly vouch for it that it _feels_ like it has a good kick to it, and I would actually be glad to have it be less alcoholic so I could enjoy more of it.

Posted Charlotte O'Neil at 12:01 AM BST
Updated: Tue, May 2 2006 3:36 PM BST
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Sat, Apr 29 2006

Topic: Raspberry Framboise

The Raspberrry Framboise has a lovely deep pink color and looks clear enough, so I bottled it. I put some in small bottles so that I can test it, and most of it in liter bottles (a little bit bigger than a quart)and will save it until summer.

Posted Charlotte O'Neil at 8:54 AM BST
Updated: Tue, May 2 2006 3:13 PM BST
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Fri, Apr 28 2006

Topic: Malt Extract
I started another batch using Malt Extract (batch #6) and cane molasses. This will be the first time making a large brew with malt extract and adding lots more water -- more than double -- than what I had originally thought would be the correct amount to use.

For this batch of beer, I used:

12 quarts of water
1 pound of malt extract
almost a pound of molasses
yeast from raspberry framboise

I put the malt extract and molasses into about a quart of water and brought it to a boil. Then I added the 7 more quarts of tepid water, so it brought the temp down to lukewarm. Then I added the yeast sediment from the raspberry framboise. I'll cover it with an airlock (meaning a piece of plastic and a rubber band) and wait 8 days.

Posted Charlotte O'Neil at 9:01 PM BST
Updated: Sat, Apr 29 2006 8:33 AM BST
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Thu, Apr 27 2006

Topic: Raspberry Framboise
I filtered out the raspberries in the raspberry framboise and moved it into secondary containers.

Posted Charlotte O'Neil at 8:18 AM BST
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Wed, Apr 26 2006

Topic: Barley Flour Beer
I have been drinking the barley flour beer. I had thought I would not like it because I used raw barley flour, but it tastes very nice, in a lighter, more fruity-like way. Perhaps I will continue to use the uncooked flour after all.

Posted Charlotte O'Neil at 8:21 PM BST
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Tue, Apr 25 2006

Topic: Watershed
I tried some of the malt extract beer that I had added the water to after I had already made and bottled the beer with too little water. I was hoping that it would at least be OK, but it was great. It was fantastic. I am amazed.

Now I have found out that I was doing something similar to what is called "high-gravity brewing". I had accidentally calculated a recipe that was too high in fermentable stuff and sugar, and too low in water. That is what you do for "high gravity brewing", and then you add the water later. The recipes and instructions for figuring out the proportions seemed a little complicated, so I will have to save them in case I ever want to do it again on purpose.

Posted Charlotte O'Neil at 2:47 PM BST
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Mon, Apr 24 2006

Topic: Barley Flakes
Now that I have found out that I have to add so much more water to make beer, I have to calculate how to make much smaller batches. We only drink less than a quart a day and I have run out of bottles to use.

Here's the recipe and directions for a quart of beer I am making out of barley flakes:

Beer, 1 quart
4 Tbls barley flakes
2 Tbls sugar, and later 1/2 tsp sugar
1 Tbl molasses
1 quart (946 mls) water
active yeast
I put the barley flakes, molasses, 2 tablespoons of sugar and water in a non-metallic saucepan and brought it to a boil. Continue at medium boil for 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly. Cover, set aside and let cool. Afterwards, it occurred to me that I could have used only a cup of water to boil with, and then added the rest of the water to cool it down so I wouldn't have to wait so long. I'll do that from now on.

When it had cooled down to warm, I transferred it to a glass jar and added some yeast sediment.I covered the jar with a piece of plastic cut from a grocery bag and secured it with a rubber canning ring.

Posted Charlotte O'Neil at 8:58 PM BST
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Sun, Apr 23 2006

Topic: Mead
I want to try to make a "mead" using table sugar as the main fermentable, and adding honey for flavor after most of the fermentation has taken place.

200 mls sugar (13 Tablespoons and 1 teaspoon) white sugar,
a quart of water (946 mls),
a drop of lemon juice (for acidity)
yeast sediment from another batch.

I poured the "mead" (sugar water) into a wine bottle with a bubbler airlock on top to watch the fermentation, rather than relying on just the amount of time it has been fermenting, as I had been doing with everything else. In the end, it will probably come out about the same. When the bubble shows 3 bubbles a minute coming out of the airlock, that is when it is considered to be ready to bottle.

Posted Charlotte O'Neil at 9:18 PM BST
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Sat, Apr 22 2006

Topic: Chocolate Oatmeal
I bottled the Chocolate Oatmeal beer.

Posted Charlotte O'Neil at 4:15 PM BST
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Fri, Apr 21 2006

Topic: Raspberry Framboise
I added the raspberries to the framboise. 400 mls frozen, reduced to 200 mls when they thawed out, I mixed it with 200 mls water. I was going to boil it, but then I changed my mind and added them raw

Posted Charlotte O'Neil at 7:26 AM BST
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Thu, Apr 20 2006

Topic: Raspberry Framboise
I want to start a Belgian Raspberry Framboise to have this summer. I won't be able to keep it in bottles the full 6 months it needs, but such as may be... it's either that or not have it at all.

Raspberry Framboise, 1 gallon
1 gallon water
7 Tablespoons, 1 teaspoon whole wheat flour
5 Tablespoons, 1 teaspoon barley flakes [*1 cup of flaked cereal = 2/3 cup of flour]
10 Tablespoons of sugar

active yeast

I'll give it a day to start fermenting, and then I will add the raspberries tomorrow.

Posted Charlotte O'Neil at 9:32 PM BST
Updated: Sun, May 7 2006 9:07 AM BST
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Wed, Apr 19 2006

Topic: Bread Beer
I bottled 3 pints of the bread beer. I added 1 teaspoon of cane molasses for each pint bottle, and added a small bit of yeast sediment left over from the Rice Beer (Saki) that I bottled yesterday.

Posted Charlotte O'Neil at 9:06 AM BST
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