The term ‘Three Threads’ is often thought to have referred to the result of barmen blending old stock ale, with younger, fresh beer, a skilled practice common in the 1700 & 1800s London. This is often purported to be the origin of Porter, which was said to be a pre-blended ale, saving the barman the task of blending the threads at bar.
However there is no real evidence for this, and a more plausible story involves a change in brewing methods around the late 1700s. At this time, the method of sparging (rinsing the grain after the mash to extract all the sugars and reach the brew volume) was not used. Instead, several mashes would be conducted over the same grain bill, resulting in a number of different beers. This is known as the ‘parti-gyle’ method, and is still used by a small number of breweries today. Porter was born, so the story goes, when these separate runnings, or threads, were combined after boiling, and were treated as one beer (this is also a plausible explanation of the name ‘Entire’, which is also often sighted as a pre-cursor to Porter).As far as we can tell, this is one of the earliest recorded methods of Porter brewing, and as such, it became our approach to our 100th brew, The Three Threads.
Put simply, we mashed three times over the same grain bill, drawing off the runnings and boiling them individually after each mash. While each boil was happening, we re-mashed the grain by adding more water, breaking up the grain bed and stirring thoroughly. This was actually pretty difficult as after an hour’s mash, the grain gets pretty compacted making it increasingly hard to draw wort from the bottom of the mash tun! Each boil was conducted over the same single hop addition, meaning the poor East Kent Goldings were boiled for 3 hours!
Whilst it was a rather long brew day, (Now we know why sparging a mash caught on!)it felt great to be employing methods that those who laid down the foundations of what we do today developed. The resulting beer is fantastic. The malt character is rich and complex, with a good expression of the speciality malts used. The hops give a delicate bitterness to compliment the roasty character of the malt, and add faint earthy and minty aromas. The history behind this beer along with its significance as our 100th brew made this an incredibly satisfying beer to brew, and indeed to drink!
We will be launching The Three Threads at our Birthday Festival of Beer at the brewery, Friday 27th February – Sunday 1st March. This is a very limited edition brew (we’ve got less that 400 bottles), packaged in 750ml wax dipped bottles. We’ve also filled a couple of casks (it felt wrong to keg it!) which we will send out over the coming months, so watch this space! Paul Anspach