The Complete Family Brewer

Editor’s Note – This is from a pamphlet of 1789. I’ve tried to maintain the original spellings and punctuation.




Best Method of Brewing or Making any Quantity


Good Strong Ale and Small Beer,

In the greatest Perfection, For the Use of PRIVATE FAMILIES; From a Peck of Malt to 60 Bushels.

Together with Directions for chusing good Malt, Hops, Water, Brewing-Vessels, &c. – Cleaning and Sweetning Foul, Dirty, Musty, or Stinking Casks, Brewing Vessels, &c. – Brewing Strong Beer, China Ale, and Alder-bury Beer, and to make excellent Purl. – To make new Malt Liquor drink Stale; with Directions for  bottling. Also the most proper Time for Brewing.

To which is added, The Method of making a Cheap and Wholesome Beer, from Treacle or Molasses. Being much Better Drink than the Small Beer usually sold, though it will not cost one third the Price; Besides which it is so easy to make, that a Child of Ten Years of Age may learn to do it in five Minutes.




Particularly Addressed to all Lovers of Home Brewed B E E R.

I hope the following calculation will be thought a sufficient apology for publishing this book.

One bushel of Malt will make fix gallons of strong Beer or Ale , and twelve gallons of small Beer.

Now strong Beer costs, if bought at the public-house, at least Threepenee-halfpenny per quart, which is Fourteen-pence per gallon, and the small Beer (which is small enough too, both in strength and measure) one Penny per quart, or a groat a gallon.

Six gallons of strong Beer at Fourteen- pence is        –           –           –           7s

And twelve gallons of small Beer at Fourpence, is      –        –           –           4s

Total                                          11s

So that Six gallons of strong, and twelve of small Beer, will cost Eleven Shillings; on  the contrary, one bushel of Malt in general costs            –           –           –              4s

And one pound of Hops                   – – – 1s

Total                                                      5s

Which makes a saving of Six Shillings out of Eleven, for your trouble of Brewing, &c. a very valuable consideration to some Families in these Times, when all the necessary Articles of Life are sold at such an extravagant Price. Besides the advantage of knowing what you drink is really good and nourishing which is more than can in general be said of the Liquor that is purchased ready brewed to your hands.

Note. I have not added the Coals, as the sale of the grains, yest, &c. will fully pay for them, The malt I have set down at a full price, and few people use more than three quarters of a pound of hops, and some half a pound; and besides that small Beer is generally retailed out at five farthings per quart.

As to the Treacle Beer, I shall say very little; but let it speak for itself, only this, it is preferable to that fold at the Chandlers’ Shops in London; I am persuaded they would have more custom if they were to, sell it instead of the rot-gut stuff, imposed on them by their Brewers under the name of small Beer; and with this advantage too, they may make it themselves for half the Price.





THIS Book being intended principally for the use of private families, it will be necessary to begin with Directions.

How to chuse good Malt.

MALT is chosen by its sweet smell, mellow taste, full flower, round body and thin skin. There are two sorts in general used, the pale, and the brown; the former is most used in gentlemen’s houses, and private families; the latter in public brew houses, as seeming to go further, and make the liquor high coloured: Others again mix one third brown with two thirds pale; but this depends upon the liking of the drinkers. The sweetest Malt is that which is dryed with coak or cinders.

In grinding it, see that the mill be clean from dust, cobwebs, &c. and set so as to crush every grain without grinding it to powder; for you had better have some small grains flip through untouched than have the whole ground too small, which will cause it to take together, so as you cannot get the goodness out of it.

Of Hops.

HOPS are chosen by their bright green colour, sweet smell, and clamminess, when rubbed between the hands.

Of water for Brewing,

WATER out of rivers or rivulets is the best, except polluted by the melting of snow or land water from clay or plowed lands. Snow water will take near one fifth part more of malt to make the beer good. If you have no river water, a pond that has at bottom not over muddy, and is fed by a spring will do; for the sun will soften and rarefy it. Very hard water drawn from a deep well, into a wide cistern or reservoir, and exposed to the air or sun, in two or three days has been brewed with success, by the addition of malt. Rain water comes next to river for brewing, in short, all water that will raise a lather with soap, is good for brewing.

Of the Brewing Vessels.

TO a copper that holds 36 gallons, the mash-tun ought to be at least big enough to contain six bushels of malt, and the copper of liquor, and room for mashing or stirring it: The under back, coolers and working tuns, may be rather fitted for the conveniency of the room, than to a particular size; for if one vessel be not sufficient to hold your liquor, you may take a second.

Of cleaning and sweetening Casks and Brewing Vessels.

IF a cask, after the beer is drank out, be well stopt to keep out the air, and the lees remaining in it till you want to use it again, you will need only to scald it well, and take care of the hoops before you fill it; but if air gets into a foul empty cask, it will contract an ill scent in spight of scalding. A handful of bruised pepper boiled in the water you scald with, will take out a little musty smell; but the surest way is to take out the head of the cask, and let the cooper shave and burn it a little, and then scald it for use; if you cannot conveniently have a cooper to the cask, get some stone lime, and put about three pound into a barrel, (and proportionally to smaller or bigger vessels) and put to it about six gallons of cold water, bung it up, and shake it about for some time, and afterwards scald it well: or for want of lime, take a linen rag, and dip it in melted brimstone, and fasten one end to the bung, and light the other, and let it hang on the cask. You must give it a little air, else it will not burn; but keep in as much of the sulphur as you can. Scald it afterwards, and you will find no ill smell. If you have new casks, before you fill them, dig places in the earth, and lay them half their depth with their bung holes downward, for a week; and after well scalding them, you may venture to fill them. Another way to proceed, if your brewing vessels are tinged with any ill smell, is to take unslacked lime and water, and with an old broom scrub the vessel whilst the water is hissing, with the lime; and afterwards take all this lime and water away, and put fresh water into the vessel, and throw some bay or common salt into each, and let it stand a day or two; and when you come to brew, scald your vessels, throw into them a little malt – dust or bran; and this will not only finish their sweetening, but stop them from leaking. But since there is so much trouble in getting vessels sweet after they have been neglected, you ought to make all thorough clean after brewing, and once a month to fill your vessels with fair water, and let it off again in two or three days.

Of Mashing or taking your liquors.

SUPPOSE you take six bushels of malt, and two pounds of hops, and would make of it one barrel of strong and two barrels of small beer. Heat your first copper of liquor for mashing, and strew over it a double handful of bran or malt; by which you will see when it begins to boil; for it will break and curl, and then it is fit to be let off into the mash-tun, where it must remain ’til the steam is quite spent, and you can see your face in it, before you put in your malt; and then you begin to mash, stirring it all the while you are putting in the malt: but keep out about half a bushel dry, which you are to strew over the rest, when you have done stirring it, which will be as soon as you have well mixed it with the liquor, and prevented it from clodding.

After the dry malt is laid on, cover your mash-tun with the sacks or cloths, to prevent losing any spirit of the malt, and let it so remain for two hours. Meanwhile have another copper of liquor hot; and at two hours end begin to let off your first wort into the under-back. Receive a pailful of the first running, and throw it again upon the malt. You will find that the malt has sucked up half of your first copper of liquor: and therefore to make up your quantity of wort for your strong beer, you must gradually lade out of the second copper, and strew bowl after bowl over the malt, giving it time to soak through, and keeping it running by an easy stream, till you perceive you have about forty gallons, which in boiling and working will be reduced to thirty-six.

If you throw into the under-back (whilst you are letting off) about half a pound of hops, it will preserve it from foxing, or growing sour or ropy.

Your first wort being all run off, you must soften the tap of the mash-tun; and take a copper of hot liquor for your second mashing, stirring up the malt as you did at first, and then cover it close for two hours more. Mean while you fill your copper with the first wort, and boil it with the remainder of the two pounds of hops, for an hour and a half, and then lade it off into the coolers.

Contrive to receive the hops in a sieve, basket, or thin woollen bag that is sweet and clean; then immediately fill your copper with cold liquor; renew your fire under it, and begin to let off your second wort, throw a handful of hops into the under back, for the same reason as before: you will want to lade a few bowls full of liquor over the malt to make up the copper full of second wort; and when you have enough, fasten the tap and math a third time after the same manner, and cover it close for another two hours; and then charge your copper with the second wort, boiling it for an hour with the same hops.

By this time you may shift your first wort out of the coolers into a working-tun, to make room for the second wort to come into the coolers; and then your copper being empty, you may heat as much liquor as will serve you to lade over the malt, or, by this time, rather grains, to make up your third and last copper of wort, which must be bottled with the same hops over again; and then your coolers are discharged of your second wort, to make room for the third and when they are both of a proper coolness, they may be put together before you set them a working.

If you would extract almost all the goodness of the malt in the first wort, by way of making October beer, you must begin to let off soon after you have mashed, (by a small stream) and throw it upon the malt again pail after pail, for an hour, stirring it frequently in the mean time, and then let it all run off, by a very small stream. But when you have your quantity of strong beer, you must proceed in your second mashing, as before.

During the time of shifting your liquors out of the copper, it is of consequence to take care to preserve it from receiving damage by burning: you should always contrive to have the fire low, or else to damp it at the time of emptying, and be very expeditious to put in fresh liquor.

Of Working the Liquor.

IN this, regard must be had to the water: liquor naturally grows warm in working; therefore in mild weather it should be cold before it be set on, but a little warm in cold weather. The manner of doing it is, to put some good sweet yest into a hand-bowl or piggin, with a little warm wort; then put the hand-bowl to swim upon the wort in the working-tun, and in a little while it will work out, and leisurely mix with the wort; and when you find the yest is gotten hold of the wort, you must look after it frequently; and if you perceive it begins to heat and ferment too fast, lade some of it out into another tub; and when grown cold, it may be put back again; or if you reserve some of the raw wort, you may check it leisurely, by stirring it in with a hand-bowl. The cooler you work your liquor, the better, provided it does but work well.

If you happen to check it too much, you may forward its working, by filling a gallon stone bottle with boiling water, cork it. close, and put the bottle into the working tun. An ounce or two of powdered ginger will have the same effect.

There are a variety of methods in managing liquors whilst they are working. In the North they beat the yest of Strong Beer and Ale once in two or three hours, for two or three days together.

This they reckon makes the drink more heady, but withal hardens it so as to be drinkable in two or three days; the last day of beating it in, (stirring the yest and beer together) the yest, as it rises, will thicken; and then they take off part of the yest, and beat in the rest, which they repeat as often as it rises thick; and when it has done working, they tun it up, so as it may just work out of the barrel. Others again do not beat it in at all, but let their strong drink work about two days, or ’till they see the ferment is over; and then they take off the top yest, and either by a tap near the bottom, let it off fine, or else lade it out gently, to leave the sediment and yest at the bottom. This way is proper for liquor that is to be drank soon; but if it be to keep, it will want the sediment to feed upon, and may probably grow stale, unless you make artificial lees: This you may make of a quart of brandy, and as much flour of wheat or beans as will make it into dough; put them in lumps into the bung hole as soon as it has done working. Or else take a pound of the powder of oyster shells, or of fat chalk, and mix it with a pound of treacle or honey, and put it in soon after it has done working. It would add to the goodness, as well as fining of your malt liquor, if you took two quarts of wheat or beans, and make them very dry and crisp in an oven, or before the fire, and boil them in your first copper of wort. They would train off with your hops, and might be put with them into the second copper. 

Of the fining of Malt Liquors.

IT is most desirable to have beer fine of itself, which it seldom fails to do in due time, if rightly brewed and worked; but as disappointments some-times happen, it will be necessary to know what to do in such cases. Ivory shavings boiled in your wort, or hartshorn shavings put into your cask just before you bung it down, will do much towards fining and keeping your liquor from growing stale. Isinglass is the most common thing made use of in fining all sorts of liquors; they first beat it well with a hammer or mallet, and lay it in a pail, and then draw off about two gallons of the liquor to be fined upon it, and let it soak two or three days; and when it is soft enough to mix with the liquor, they take a whisk, and stir it about ’till it is all of a ferment, and white froth; and they frequently add the whites and shells of about a dozen eggs, which they beat in with it, and put all together into the cask: then with a clean mop-stick, or some such thing, stir the whole together; and then lay a cloth, or piece of paper over the bung-hole, till the ferment is over; and then bung it up close, in a few days it will fall fine. 

But if you want to fine only a small quantity, take half an ounce of unslacked lime, and put it into a pint of water, and stir it well together, and let it stand for two or three hours, or ‘till the lime settle to the bottom; then pour the water off clear, and throw away the sediment; then take half an ounce of isinglass cut small, and boil it in the lime water ’till it dissolves; then let it cool, and pour it into the vessel, &c.

Of Recovering and Preserving Malt Liquors.

STORMY weather, but especially thunder, will greatly affect your beer, and often ferments it, though brewed six months before. In such weather you should examine your cellar, and draw your vent pegs; and where you perceive it upon the fret, draw out the bung, and let it remain some days till you are sure it is quiet. ‘Tis a fault to be too hasty in bunging up liquor; it had better be a week too long out, than stop an hour too soon. Were it not for preserving the colour of the liquor, some cherry brandy thrown into the bung-hole would stop it from fretting, If your strong beer grows flat you may quicken it by drawing off one gallon out of every ten, and boil it with as many pounds of honey, as you boil gallons; and when it is cold, put it to the rest and stop it close.

A spoonful of the juice of the herb hore-hound, strained into a pitcher of stale beer, (and cover it close for two hours) will make it drink like new.

Or, if you would bottle beer that is stale and flat, you should contrive to do it when you have liquor working in your tun; and leave room in every bottle to hold the quantity of a coffee-cup, and fill them up with new drink out of the tun, and cork them, and in three days it will be very brisk, and drink pleasant; but you must not propose to keep it long, for it will burst the bottles.

Of the Season for Brewing.

THE season for brewing keeping-beer is . certainly best before Christmas, for then your malt is in perfection, not having time to contract either a musty smell, dust or weavels, (an insect that eats out the heart of the malt) and the waters are then seldom mixed with snow; and then four pounds of hops will go as far as five in the spring of the year: For you must increase in the quantity of hops as you draw towards summer. But, in short, chuse moderate weather as much as you can for brewing, and if you have a kindly cellar besides to keep your liquor in, that will not be much affected by extremity of heat or cold, you may reasonably expect great satisfaction in your brewery. Avoid as much as possible brewing in hot weather; but if you are necessitated to brew, make no more than for present drinking, for it will not keep.

To make Elderberry-Beer, or Ebulum.

TAKE a hogshead of the first and strong wort, and boil in the same one bushel of picked Elderberries, full ripe; strain off, and when cold, work the liquor in the hogshead, and not in an open tun or tub; and after it has lain in the cask about a year, bottle it; and it will be a most rich drink, which they call Ebulum; and has often been preferred to port-wine, for its pleasant taste, and healthful quality.

N. B. There is no occasion for the use of sugar in this operation; because the wort has strength and sweetness enough in itself to answer that end; but there should be an infusion of hops added to the liquor, by way of preservation and relish.

Some likewise hang a small bag of bruised spices in the vessel. You may make a white Ebulum with pale malt, and white Elderberries.

To make improved and excellent whole-some Purl.

TAKE Roman wormwood two dozen, gentian-root six pounds; calamas aromaticus (or the sweet flag root) two pounds; a pound or two of galien-gale-root; horse raddish; one bunch; orange peel dried, and juniper-berries, each two pounds; seeds or kernals of seville-oranges cleaned and dryed, two pounds.

These being cut and bruised, put them into a clean butt, and start your mild brown, or pale beer upon them, so as to fill up the vessel, about the beginning of November, and let it stand till the next season; and make it thus annually.

To brew Strong Beer.

TO a barrel of beer take two bushels of wheat just cracked in the mill, and some of the flour sifted out of it; when your water is scalding hot, put it into your mash-vat, there let it stand ’till you can see your face in it; then put your wheat upon that, and do not stir it; let it stand two hours and a half; then let it run into a tub that has two pound of hops in it, and a handfull of rose-mary flowers; and when it is all run, put it into the copper, and boil it two hours; then strain it off, setting it a cooling very thin, and setting it a working very cool; clear it very well before you put it a working; put a little yest to it; when the yest begins to fall, put it into your vessel, put in a pint of whole wheat, and six eggs; then stop it: Let it stand a year, and then bottle it.

A good Table-Beer may be made, by mashing again, after the preceding is drawn off; then let it stand two hours, and let that run, and mash again, and stir it as before; be sure to cover your mashing-vat well; mix the first and second running together.

To make China Ale.

TO six gallons of Ale, take a quarter of a pound or more of china root, thin sliced, and a quarter of a pound of coriander seeds, bruised, hang these in a tiffany, or coarse linen bag, in the vessel, till it has done working; and let it stand fourteen days before you bottle; though the common sort vended about town, is nothing more at best than ten shilling beer, put up in small bottles, with a little spices, lemon-peel and sugar.

To make Ale, or any other liquor, that is too new, or sweet, drink stale.

TO do this to the advantage of health, put to every quart of Ale, or other liquor, 10 or 12 drops of the true spirit of salt, and let them be well mixed together, which they will soon do it by the subtile spirits penetrating into all parts, and have their proper effect.

To recover foul Ale.

SCRAPE fine chalk a pound, or as the quantity of liquor requires, more; put it into a thin bag into the Ale. To recover liquor that is turned bad. IF any liquor be pricked or fading, put to it a little syrup of clay, and let it ferment with a little barm, which will recover it; and when it is well settled, bottle it up, put in a clove or two, with a lump of loaf sugar.

Directions for Bottling.

YOU must have firm corks, boiled in wort, or grounds of beer; fill within an inch of the cork’s reach, and beat it in with a mallet; then, with a small brass wire, bind the neck of the bottle, bring up the ends, and twist them over with a pair of pinchers.

To make a quarter of a hogshead of Ale, and a hogshead of beer, of coaked malt.

TAKE five strike of malt not ground too small; put in some boiling water, to cover the bottom of your mashing-vat, before you put in your malt; mash it with more boiling water, putting in your malt at several times, that it may be sure to be all wet alike; cover it with a peck of wheat bran then let it stand thus mashed four hours; then draw off three gallons of wort, and pour it upon that you have mashed; so let it stand half an hour more, ’till it runs clear; then draw off all that will run, and take two quarts of it to begin to work up with the barm, which must be about a pint and a half; put in the two quarts of wort at three times to the barm; you need not stir it till you begin to put in the boiled wort. You will not have enough to fill your vessel at first; wherefore you must pour on more boiling water, immediately after the other has done running, till you have enough to fill a quarter of a hogshead; and then pour on water for a hogshead of beer.

As soon as the ale wort has run off, put a third part into the boiler: when it boils up, take off the skum, which you may put upon the grains for the small beer: when it is skummed, put in a pound and a half of hops, having first sifted out the feeds, then put in all the wort, and let it boil two hours and a half, afterwards train into two coolers, and let it stand to cool and settle, then put it to cool a little at a time, to the barm, and two quarts of wort, and beat it well together: every time you put the wort in, be sure you keep the settling out.

Suppose you brew early on Thursday morning, you may tun it at nine or ten on Saturday morning. Do not fill your vessel quite full, but keep about three gallons to put in, when it has worked twenty four hours, which will make it work again. As soon as it hath done working, stop it up; put the drink as cool as you can together; thus it will work well.

To make Treacle Beer.

BOIL two quarts of water, put into it one pound of treacle or molasses, stir them together till they are well mixed; then put six or eight quarts of cold water to it, and about a tea cup full of yest or barm, put it up in a clean cask or stein, cover it over with a coarse cloth, two or three times double, it will be fit to drink in two or three days.

The second and third time of making, the bottom of the first Beer will do instead of yest. If you make a large quantity, or intend it for keeping, you must put in a handfull of hops and another of malt, for it to feed on, and when done working, stop it up close. The above is the best and cheapest way of making treacle Beer, though some people add Raisins, Bran, Wormwood, Spices, such Fruit, &c. as are in Season, but that is just as you fancy. Indeed many pleasant, cheap, and whole-some drinks may be made from Fruits, &c. if they are bruised and boiled in water, before the Treacle is added.


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