Brew Day: 1905 Holiday Ale (Pre-Prohibition Amber Ale)

I was extremely happy with how my Hot Stove Porter came out last year. I actually still have a few bottles left. I recently popped one open that had been in my beer fridge. The hop aroma was gone, there was still some hop flavor, but the malt flavor was much more prominent. The beer has aged nicely.

For some reason though I felt like brewing something different for the winter this year. I am also downsizing the amount of beer that I brew. That I still have bottles of last year’s Hot Stove Porter demonstrates that I have been brewing too much beer.

In September I came across this article on the Brew Your Own website with two Pre-Prohibition recipes from a brewery in Connecticut. Prohibition was certainly a cataclysmic event in American brewing. There has been a perception that Pre-Prohibition beers made in America were bold and flavorful, unlike mass-produced lagers that dominated after Prohibition and into the second half of the 20th Century.

There is a romance to Pre-Prohibition beer, the notion that we have a lost history of brewing flavorful beer in America. When I came across this recipe for 1905 Holiday Ale, I wanted to try it. Eyeballing the recipe I expect the beer to have no hop flavor or aroma. The high volume of corn sugar in the recipe makes me think this beer will finish dry and harsh. The high amount of dark caramel malt must be where the balance comes from. The fact I am so unsure of this recipe makes it perfect for a one gallon batch. If the beer is terrible, I am only out a few dollars and I can dump the beer.

In the article the author said he used an English yeast, which seemed like a solid choice given the British influence on American ale makers of the time like Ballantine, but he said he wished he used an American yeast like 1056. I used the dry version of Chico, S05. I brewed this at the same time I brewed my Celebration clone. It was easy to hydrate the dry yeast, pitch most of the liquid in the Celebration, and the rest in this beer. My first choice would have been to use Old Newark Ale, or 1272 American Ale II. For a one gallon batch the dry yeast was easier and cheaper.

On brew day I noticed I only had 0.1 oz of Cluster hops. I used some leftover Perle and Liberty hops from Pa’s Video Board Lager. These German-derived hops are two hops that are not entirely dissimilar to the hops that were available back then. As it is, the beer should have little to no hop flavor.

Historical beer recipes were records for the brewer at that time. They tend to have a lot of short-hand making them not always easy to read and decipher for a modern brewer. Ingredients also change and evolve over time. For example, the brown malt used to make London Porter in the late 1700s no longer exists. Replicating the flavor of a historical beer involves a certain level of conjecture and comprimise. I am curious to try a taste of re-created history!

See the full recipe here

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