May 3, 2014

Brewing with wheat, colonial style

1827 brought an abundant wheat harvest in Van Diemen's Land. All these settlers had extra wheat that they couldn't sell for a decent price so suddenly there are lots of homebrewers. It makes sense that homebrewers would use what they had on hand, we've already seen them turn to bran and treacle or molasses when they had to but today we've got something pretty cool because it's tied to a colony-wide event rather than random household  shortages. What else would you do with it all? The savings for brewing beer instead of buying would amount to more than the low price they'd get for selling the wheat. True farmhouse ale.

George Frankland's 'Hobart Town', 1827. Pic pinched
from UTAS

There aren't any recipe details of course, there'd probably be as many recipes as brewers. I think a good place to start would be with something like a wheat version of the burton or strong pale ale style beers that were being brewed in the colonies at the time. 100% wheat malt to 1.070-1.100, the stronger is probably better given we're talking about dealing with surplus wheat. For hops we're ideally after Tasmanian Goldings or something similar with alpha acids in the low range. Probably shoot for 60-100+ IBUs. Chuck in an English ale yeast and you're all set. Really though, any combination of wheat & Tasmanian hops is likely just as authentic as what I've outlined. I wonder if any of the farmers roasted their wheat malt dark to make a wheat porter?

Hobart Town Gazette, 26 May, 1827

It'd probably require all the rice hulls in the land if you're brewing on a 3 vessel system but BIAB brewers can just go for it.


  1. I'm loving these hisotrical posts.

    1. Thanks, Brad! I'm enjoying indulging my inner history nerd and I'm glad others are getting something out of it as well.

  2. Nick, I wonder if Australian colonial brewers did the same as the Americans in using molasses to make a dark beer?

    1. There's definitely evidence for that although it's hard to know just how widespread it was in the commercial breweries. It was very common to use sugar of one kind or another, especially in Sydney and further North where the climate made beer go sour quickly. I posted a homebrew recipe from Hobart in 1823 which calls for treacle or molasses:

      There's also a post which has a recipe and talks about brewing in Sydney and the use of sugar:


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