SCA Life, Vinegar


Currently I am sitting on 20 barrels and I will be adding about half a dozen more.

The Medieval Period was definitely one where the barrel was king. Or I should say, cask. The barrel was a specific kind of cask with a specific measure. The following graphic will give you a sense of the measures. Eventually, the barrel is defined as 36 imperial gallons. Smaller casks also existed, the kilderkin was ~18 gallons, the firkin at ~ 9 gallons, and the pin at 4.5 gallons.

Now, casks are mostly defined as liters. The “pin” is about 15 liters.

Modernly, hobby brewers can get barrels from 1 to 20 liters. Professional distilleries and breweries can get them much larger, up to 200 liters.

Before use, the cask needs to be cleaned out. Fill with clean water and rinse until it always runs clear. Most likely, there is some loose wood to be removed. This will not hurt your liquor but it might clog your spigot.

Most casks are toasted to varying degree. Toasting converts some of the wood chemicals to vanillin and removes some of the more harsh resins. It also imparts a darker color to the liquor. It is why whiskey and bourbon are brown in color. But after a few agings, the chemicals and color will fade. The cask is considered “neutral” at that point. It is fine for storage but not for imparting flavor to the liquor.

Because smaller casks have a higher surface area to volume ratio, their equivalent “year” is less than the standard 200 liter (53 gallon barrel).

For the most part, I am aging in 2L barrels. My “year” is 4.5 times as fast as the normal year. This is fine for a hobbyist but not for someone who wants to produce enough to sell.

cider, Persona, SCA Life, Vinegar

Making a Vinegerie – part 5 The mottos

When I was eligible for my arms, I really wanted mottos as well. So I have been paying attention to things I said often or things I wish I said and testing them out. I settled on three.

Raedas gewillum fiðraþ literally is “(Wise) Counsel gives feathers to my will/wish. In Old English, the word for feather and wings are the same, fithrath. What I am trying to say is “Plans gives wishes wings.” It was the closest I could get. I like to plan and by planning, I can make my wishes come true.

Sanguinum Facit Ars is Blood makes art. Again, what I say as a glass artist is “it isn’t art until you bleed on it.” Pithy in English; torturous in Latin. This is much more simple.

Lastly, I wanted a motto for my pub. When I was researching Medieval Guilds, I came across the Worshipful Company of Vinters.

This was perfect! They are responsible for the swan-upping so that fits. The Vinters are responsible for all wine and wine products so vinegar falls in that. They were formally established in 1363 and are among the 12 great liveried companies of London. Oswyn Swann surely was a member.

Above is the full coat of arms for the Company. Much of it was granted later than SCA period but it is perfect but I certainly didn’t want to steal it. Pay homage though, that I can do.

The motto of the Company is Vinum Exhilarat Animum – Wine Gladdens the Spirit.

Since my device is a swan already, I went with this.

The Azure Swan as the pub name and Swann’s Sundries for the store front.

The motto Vinum Exhilarat Amici – is in homage to the Worshipful Company. It is Wine Cheers (our) Friends!

The canvas banners will be finished this weekend and I will start on the silk banners shortly.

SCA Life, Vinegar

Making a Vinegrier – Part 4 the burn it with fire part

The wood burning supplies came in so time to do that part of things.

I had to adjust the diagrams as the wood is much lighter than I expected. No point is painting things white.

I then printed out my diagrams.

A nice sheet of graphite paper between each then we burn.

The diagrams are traced on to the wood.

I still need to finish burning some and then paint them.


Persona, SCA Life, Vinegar

Making a Vinegrier – Part 3, the WFH edition

It has been a while since I posted and Goddess help me, things got weird! But never fear, the project moves forward.

I ordered and got a new doublet. I got a new haversack. So I have the clothes for the persona!

A good friend is helping to make the wheelbarrow. With the shelter in place, he is mostly making it now. Red Oak. So that is moving forward.

My barrels arrived. The wood blanks arrived. I took David of Lochmorrow’s class on pokerwork. Here is what the barrel heads will look like

Designed the banners I need. Some will be in silk and some will be from Spoonflower

The 5 gallons of vinegar is moving along.

Next step: order wood burning supplies, order silk banner supplies. Do those things. Do enameling.

I also ordered a new outfit from Aveline. And working with Kitsune on a new outfit as well.

Big plans. It will come together eventually.

Persona, SCA Life, Vinegar

Making a Vinaigrier – Part 2

In Pennsic Project, I started telling you about what I am going to do. Now to tell you about what I AM doing.

If I am going to portray a vinaigrier, I need a product to “sell”. I will be giving it away. So, step 1, make 5 gallons of vinegar.

I spoke to two woodworkers. If I end up with two wheelbarrows, great! But my local friend at least thinks he can do it. He found a nice piece of 14 ft, 2″ x 2″ red oak to make the frame of barrow out of. So that is coming along.

I started the wine. As Coresande asked, can’t you just go straight to vinegar? Alas no. There are inorganic ways of making acetic acid but the preferred way is changing alcohol to vinegar. Starting with a wine we will.

I purchased a wine kit box for ~$85. It makes 6 gallons of wine. That is almost 23 liters or 23000 ml. Or more to the point, ~30 750ml bottles of wine. On a good day, (no Trader Joe’s nearby), I can get Pinot Noir for $5.00 per bottle. More like $6 any more. That is ~$150 to $180 of wine. While the bottles are sometimes nice, it is about twice what the wine kit costs. When it is in season, I use Alexander’s Sun Country WIne Concentrate at ~$30 to make 2.5 gallons but it isn’t in season and I need to make this now. So you use what you can get.

Most of the stuff in the box is not useful to me. I am not going to “fake” oak my wine with chips. I don’t care if it is clear. And I am just turning it into vinegar anyway so potassium metasulfate isn’t needed either. But the juice. That is what we are after.

As with all brewing, sanitize your equipment. Pour the juice in the 6 gallon ale pail, add water, add yeast, add a little yeast nutrients, and it goes in a sort of warm corner for a few weeks. My starting SG was 1.1. In a few weeks, we will have wine. Then about a month after that, we will have vinegar. More of that when we get to that stage 🙂

Persona, SCA Life, Vinegar

Pennsic Project – Making a Vinaigrier

In The Short of History of Vinegar and Oswyn Swann , I start with the whys and wherefores of this. Here are the nuts and bolts.

To do this project, I need the following: a costume (garb), a wheelbarrow, a barrel, vinegar, and probably some way to tell people what I am doing.

I ordered a new doublet because I am like 30 lbs heavier than I was 20+ years ago when we all dressed in Ren Faire garb for a friends’ wedding. The old one is a little tight. But I have a flat cap, white shirt, venetian pants, tights, socks, and shoes. Garb is good enough.

I have ordered a 20L barrel and will learn to do some pyrography on the barrelhead. I just received the wine grape juice to make into wine to then make into ~5 gallons of vinegar. So that is done.

I have reached out to a few people about the wheelbarrow. That is moving forward.

I wrote this: What is going on here?

I will make a little carrier so people can pull the sheets out and learn what I am doing.

I need to make some banners. And if I am going to do it, I might as well make all the rest of the banners I need/want too.

The square is more representative for Oswyn of Baðon: Raedas Gewillum Fiðraþ – Plans Gives Wishes Wings. Literally, in Old English is says Counsel (Wise) gives feathers to (your) will. Close enough 🙂

Then Sanguinum Facit Ars. I really wanted it to say “It isn’t art until you bleed on it” but in Latin that is really awkward. So it literally says, Blood Makes Art. A bit vampiric but understandable. I do glass work. I cut myself frequently.

Lastly, Vinum Exhilarat Amici. The Worshipful Company of Vinters is a real thing. They are an old English “guild”. Their motto is Vinum Exhilarat Animum – Wine Cheers the Soul. Given that they are a real entity, I didn’t just want to “steal” or claim membership where I do not have it. That didn’t feel right. But I wanted something that echoes it. So Wine Cheers Friends. I like it.

The Azure Swan will be the name of my bar, an adjunct to Verena’s Drunken Duck. There may be times when I haul my own bar out but if the Duck is there, the Swan is part of the Duck.

Lastly, the tankards and tun are taken from the Wurmwald Brewers and Drinkers Guild.

I will post updates as they happen. I will likely start that wine next week 🙂

Persona, Vinegar

The Short of History of Vinegar and Oswyn Swann

I am excited. I have two personae. Oswyn of Baðon is who I am most of the time. He is a 10th century Englisc (Anglo-Saxon) from Bath. Through him, I do my service and Anglo-Saxon history. Oswyn Swann has been swimming (pun intended) around in my head but I couldn’t settle on who he was. Was he a wine merchant? That was my first thought. Was he a paper merchant? That didn’t work out. Was he a ciderman who runs a tavern? Maybe.

All this time, I am discovering what I love. I wanted to love paper but no. I love glass but I don’t do period glass and have no real desire to do so. I made cordials and had all of this leftover alcohol. What to do? I started making vinegar. And I resisted loving it, shamefully in darkened rooms grew to love it, and finally accepted my alcohol problem in the daylight. I do love it.

But let’s back up. I made a lot of cordials. For three straight years, I made every cordial I could think of. I have a four class series on making cordials. Most people were willing to take a cordial but occasionally, someone didn’t want one. They didn’t like sweet things. They didn’t drink. They preferred beer or wine. At one point, a good friend, somewhat joking (or maybe not) told me I wasn’t a brewer. And they were correct, I didn’t brew anything. And cordials, as we understand them, aren’t really period. Distilling is rare and difficult. There are few “period” cordials that aren’t medicines, etc. I needed to do something more period. I hit on vinegars. Then I decided that I would make my own wines and ciders to turn into vinegar. I had become a brewer and in my own terminology, an anti-brewer 🙂

In looking at into the history of vinegar, I learned it became “industrialized” in the 1380s in France. I then found an etching from the 1630s with a vinegar seller. I could do that. 1630 is just out of period but it is likely that this particular means of selling vinegar, door to door with a cask and wheelbarrow, had been true for a while. 1630 is close enough 🙂

Oswyn Swann is a vinaigrier (not sure the English had their own term). Swann is also a descendent of Baðons. Oswyn of Baðon starts a family somewhere around Bath. The first born male of each generation is named Oswyn for luck. There are about 600 years between the two Oswyns. The family maintains an estate in the countryside where their apple orchard is. So the Swanns grow apples on the estate, other family members make it into cider and Oswyn and his side of the family make it into vinegar. Now, French vinegar is all the rage as is French wine (had been for centuries and would continue to be for more centuries). Oswyn imports these things as well and sells them out of his shop on High Street in Bath. See map below. Some where near where the B is.

So I am excited that the persona is taking shape.

A brief history of vinegar

Vinegar probably existed nearly forever. Wild yeast turns sugar to alcohol; wild bacteria turns alcohol to vinegar. We have evidence of vinegar in Ancient China, Babylonia, and Egypt.

Helen of Troy is rumored to have bathed in vinegar to maintain her beauty. The Spartan made a blood soup made with vinegar. Hannibal supposedly broke rocks with heat and vinegar. Interestingly, Alexander is said to have done the same thing with heat and wine. Both stories are believed to be false because vinegar could only dissolve limestone and wine can’t dissolve anything. The doubters forgot about thermal shock. The liquid wasn’t important; only that it rapidly cooled the stones down and maybe got into cracks. But I digress.

Since Roman legionaires drank posca, a vinegar drink, and because this is Rome, there was probably a vinegar industry of some sort. We don’t know exactly. Agricultural manuals from Roman times tell us a little bit but we don’t have great information. We do know that the Romans valued the wine regions of Gaul. Burgundy becomes a major wine region from then on and where there is wine, there is vinegar.

Additionally, where this is wine, there is mustard. Mustard grows almost everywhere but it is purposely planted as a cover crop and as a companion crop to help reduce pests. To help protect their wine crops, mustard was also planted. This will be important in a moment.

Vinegar is also connected to alchemical practice.

Almost all alcohol can become vinegar so we get a lot of regional vinegars and it is easy to make at home. Whether it was another Roman industry collapse, we may never know. We do know around 1380, in Orleans France, they develop a process called the Orleans process to make vinegar on a large scale.

Again we back up a bit though. Prior to this, in Dijon, French wine becomes very popular and is a major export. They also start making mustard on a large scale. Orleans is on the Loire River which flows to Nantes on the coast. Orleans is also a little south of Paris with fairly flat terrain between the two. While it is certainly possible to go straight to Paris from Dijon, Orleans became a popular trading spot for both international shipping and for Paris. Land routes were favored until the early 1400s when Nantes was considered a favorable port. French wine would make its way to Orleans to be evaluated for where was the best place to ship it. Good wines might go on to Paris or to Nantes; lesser wines could be made into vinegar and then sent on those routes as well. Orleans became a center of vinegar manufacturing in Europe.

In 1394, the vinaigriers of Orleans form a guild which included mustard makers. The moutardiers of Dijon had their own guild by this point. By 1580, the vinaigriers of Orleans are allowed to form a corporation with a monopoly on vinegar. They are granted a coat of arms with a barrel, funnel, and cooper axes on it. Coopers were part of that corporation briefly until the next year when they are granted their own corporation. The vinaigriers were required to use barrels from the tonneliers (coopers corp).

By 1594, this corporation grew from 4 vinaigriers to 33. We get our first quality control law.

“if, the house of a master vinaigrier, are found barrels of vinegar which are slimy, rancid, or moldy, they will be seized and broken and the offender will pay a fine of one ecu (gold coin).” A jury of 4 members of the corporation were responsible for this inspection.

The inspections were needed because counterfeits were on the rise.

This is from 1630. This is how vinegar was sold to the public, door to door from a wheelbarrow and cask. Royalty would have contracts with the corporation for barrels delivered differently. As would large customers using vinegar on a “industrial” basis. But the average person in France, and presumably elsewhere in Europe, got their vinegar this way.

Swann is an English, not French, vinaigrier. His family makes vinegar but he imports wine for the Church and nobles and vinegar as well.

Things I need to make this work:

Wheelbarrow – working on it
20L barrels – have a source; just got to buy them
Pyrography for barrels – I know a guy 🙂
20 L of vinegar – I know a guy
a Shrub – I know a guy
A banner – just got to do it; I know some people
A Sign – just write on paper; explaining what I am doing
Costume – I have an inaccurate one I barely fit it; I will work on that.


Feedback – Miscellany and Conclusions – Part 6

In Part 1, I talked about me and how people need to want your feedback. In Part 2, I talked about the sandwich method and that feedback needs to focus on substance, not form. In Part 3, I introduced SMART feedback as that substance. In Part 4, I talked about the Halo Effect. In Part 5, I talked about Mistress Gianetta Andreini da Vicenza (Jen Small)’s Get The Most Out of Judging and Entering A&S class. Time to wrap up.

Good leaders give good feedback. And if you give good feedback, you have the potential to be a good leader.

Always on

There is an SCA story, I don’t know if it is true or not, about some king at Pennsic. In the evening, there would be a big ceremony, “the Crown is going to bed.” The King would remove his crown and the Crown would be placed on a pillow and escorted away. The idea being that without the Crown, the “King” was just a man and could act as he wanted without it being construed as the “king” acting that way. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way.

As I said in Part 1, we are always giving and evaluating feedback. The point of the “crown” story is that you can’t stop being yourself. Taking the crown off doesn’t mean people aren’t going to judge you. Or perhaps more directly said, leadership and whether someone trusts you enough to want your feedback isn’t a hat. You are always on. You are always being evaluated.

Since you are always on, the best course is to be who you truly are. And if you discover who you truly are is not someone who is a leader or someone who gives valuable feedback, you need to work on that. You need to reflect on who you are and who you want to be. Then make steps to move in a more positive direction.

Substance not structure

I really want to drive this point home. The research is clear and this will sound like a contradiction. How you say it is more important than what you say. That sounds like structure is more important, right? No. The attitude, the empathy, the connection is the how, not the formula of the feedback.

Whether you give direct statements, a sandwich, or whatever your favorite method of feedback is, what is important is that the feedback be sincere, actionable, and meaningful. Even if all you give is a negative feedback, it can be done with empathy. Even in a performance review or a termination hearing, you can state what needs to improve, what went wrong, or why someone is fired, in a way that acknowledges a shared connection, that the problem is with the work/facts/etc and not the person.

Basically, consider if someone had to give you the feedback you are about to deliver, how would you like that to be delivered? Do that.

Be open to learning

I am pretty sure Gianetta would agree with me on this. Since mostly what I am talking about is giving feedback in a formal judging situation, you as the judge need to be open to learning. Listen first. Be curious. Even if you are an expert, maybe this person found something you didn’t know about or has a perspective you didn’t consider yet.

Too often in the SCA, we hear that stereotypical story of the hostile judge or person who criticizes the newcomer’s garb. That story comes from a place where the critic assumes they know more than the other person. And what is then worse, chooses to act from that place of superiority. You don’t know why the newcomer did what they did. It may be that are trying this out and therefore did a low buy-in thing in case they didn’t like the experience. Be the kind of peer (either capital or lowercase p) you wish greeted you on your first time.

I still have a photo collage on my wall. “We were all new once.” This applies to feedback as well. We all have tried that new art for the first time. We have all thrown our first weapon strike. We have all shot an arrow for the first time. At some point on that journey, someone gave you feedback that encouraged you to keep going. They probably pointed out things you did well. They probably pointed out things you need to improve on. Be like that person.

Feedback is not criticism; it is encouragement. It is understanding and then giving advice. It is part of being a good leader and being a good person. You are always giving feedback; make it feedback others want to continue to get from you.

More in this series
Feedback and Leadership- Part 1
Feedback – The Sandwich Method – Part 2
Feedback – Being S.M.A.R.T – Part 3
Feedback – The Halo Effect – Part 4
Feedback- Getting the Most out of A&S – Part 5