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Thursday, June 14, 2012

I Wonder Why We Abandoned the Practice of Purifying Beer With Pig's Feet?

Richard Unger's Beer in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance (Penn, 2004) is one of my favorite books about beer.  As I turn my attention to Germany and lagers, I have found it indispensable as an overview of the literature.  Plus, it has passages like this, referring to technological advances during the renaissance:
"Brewers resorted to a number of options to eliminate impurities and unprocessed vegetable matter.  They tried a pig's or ox's foot but also burned salt, clean sand, ground oak bark, and the more modern option of dried fish membranes as finings to make for a clearer beer.  Bruges brewers skinned the feet of oxen and calves, boiled them to get rid of the hooves, and then hung them along with other items like berries or an egg, in a bag in the brewing kettle."
I just wonder if we haven't all been a little hasty in dispatching with the use of feet and eggs in the purification of our beer.  (Eggs, it turns out, were a regular feature in brewing across Europe during the late middle ages and renaissance.)

12 comments:

jessibeaucoup said...

I wonder about the thought process of the first brewer to think that a pig or ox foot would be a good addition to the brewing process. But that's just me...

Brad said...

I know homebrewers still use gelatin to clear beer, which may or may not be from the feet [hooves], but often is made from meat & pork byproducts.

Jeff Alworth said...

I'm sure they experimented with various--innumerable, probably--additives. For this recipe to have been written down, it must have been successful enough to have been a regular practice. Though it's HIGHLY gross, it probably works.

I still have no idea what they were using eggs for.

Alan said...

I understand egg white is still used in finer wine making. Gelatine is definitely mammal based but it is really no different than Jello other than in beer the gelatin drops out but not, you know, when you eat the Jello. There is also Irish moss finings as well. Seaweed.

Rob Fullmer said...

Carageenan aka Irish Moss aka seaweed is used as finings for beer AND is also a personal sex lubricant. TMYK


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carrageenan#Sexual_lubricant_and_microbicide

Alan said...

Ice cream and tooth paste, too. It is primarily from Denmark and Prince Edward Island off Canada's east coast where I used to live. Seaweed Pie: http://www.museevirtuel-virtualmuseum.ca/sgc-cms/expositions-exhibitions/recoltes-harvests/moss_e/25.html

Andy said...

My understanding is that egg shells, animal connective tissue, swim bladders are all items rich collagen.

As the collagen proteins precipitate, the unique shape of the collagen proteins (triple helix) and their positive electrical charge cause them to attract and retain other haze-inducing proteins and yeast cells, and as the particle grows bigger & bigger it drops faster and faster.

Because lots of gross things are full of collagen, lots of gross things could be be used to fine beer.

Andrew said...

I use fish bladders. What, you think thats weird?! #ISINGLASS

Patrick Emerson said...

This is Portland man, soon some hipster brewer will be making Pigs feet beer made with the feet of locally raised pigs fed with organic slop and serenaded to sleep every night with music from a live lute...

Van Havig are you reading this?

Anonymous said...

I had a friend in HS that was always asking: "What do you want?...Eggs in your beer?". Now I finally know what he meant!

Jeff Alworth said...

Andy, you definitely get the award for most educational comment.

It is also worth praising the Bruges brewers who boiled the pig's feet. Although it sounds gross, removing those hooves acted to purify them.

Barm said...

Pigs' feet are much better used to make jelly for pork pies, so that's that question answered.

Eggshells (and oyster shells) are calcium, like antacid tablets, therefore help prevent beer becoming too sour. I suspect this may have been the origin of oyster stout.

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