May 20, 2014

1860s Australian pale ale recipe outline

I’d been sitting on yesterday's post about wheat malt and the beginnings of a distinctive Australian beer for a few weeks. I was hoping to find information about hopping rates to go with the information about malt and sugar so that I could produce a recipe outline. So of course the day after I gave up and posted it I stumbled across exactly what I had been searching for. I don't know how I managed to miss it but only two weeks later the same author wrote about the use of colonial hops. So much for my searching skills.

Anyway, now I've got enough information to sketch out a 1860s Australian pale ale. There's lots more to the article and I'll try to get back to it soon but the snippet below contains the gold for my purposes today:

The Star (Ballarat),  31 December, 1863

4 pounds per hogshead is described as the ‘low average’ hopping rate, that's about 7.5g/L or 170g in a 23L batch. We’re not given any details on how or when these hops were added but from the 8-10 homebrew recipes I've found from the time, the hops were often added as one giant first wort hop addition and that's exactly how I would do it here. Whenever I've used the FWH technique I've found that it has given a softer bitterness which would probably be a good thing when making such a large addition of hops. We're talking about roughly 90 IBUs by my calculations. That might sound excessive but if you've seen some of the recipes on Shut Up About Barclay Perkins, you'll know that it's not unusual. There's not enough information to be dogmatic about it though so add the hops as you see fit.

So based on that and the information I posted yesterday, if you want to brew a reasonably authentic mid-19th century Australian pale ale:

A starting gravity in the range of 1.045-1.055 made up of:
  • Australian barley and/or wheat malt in any combination up to 100% wheat
  • Sugar worth up to 25% of the gravity points

7.5g/L of hops, both colonial and UK hops were used so go with East Kent Goldings. Unfortunately I think Tasmanian Goldings are a thing of the past so until I can grow my own, the UK ones will have to do.

As discussed above, it's probably worth making it a first wort hop addition but the lack of specific information means you should use your own judgment. You might also want to adjust for the age and lack of cold storage of 19th century hops but I'm not sure how to go about that.

It seems that Australian brewers were using yeast from imported beers and ales so the best way to go would be to use something descended from a Burton, London or Edinburgh brewery or use the Coopers strain. You can probably get away with any UK strain though.

My shortlist would probably be cultured up Coopers dregs, WLP009 or WY1028.

So there you have it, I just need to find the time and energy to get brewing. I'd love to hear from anyone else who gives it a try.


  1. I will definitely be brewing something within those parameters, probably go for a 50/50 split with the barley and wheat, and use invert #1 for the sugar source. I can get hold of the Coopers strain, so that'll be the yeast.

    1. Awesome! Invert #1 should be good. I'm looking forward to hearing how it turns out.

  2. Will probably try to get some Pride of Ringwood hops as well, as I believe they are the older Australian hop, should add some more authenticity. I image it will be quite light bodied with the wheat and the sugar.

    1. Pride of Ringwood was only developed in the 1960s so EKG is actually more authentic for a 19th century version although POR have become a distinctive part of the style since then. The article that gave me the information about hops was arguing that Victorians grow more of their own hops instead of importing from the UK. All the hops being grown in Tasmania at the time seem to have been from Kent or Sussex from the mentions I've been able to find.

      A think you're right about the light body. That's why this was such an exciting find for me. It's evidence of how a whole region had adapted their practices to climate and agricultural conditions.


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