The recipe




Volume 12 litres 55 litres
Original Gravity 1125 1125
Final Gravity 1030 1030
Alcohol 12.8% 12.8%
Pale Malt 6.8kg 26kg light liquid malt
Amber Malt 1.7kg
Goldings hops (start of boil) 55g cones
175g pellets
Fuggles hops (start of boil) 65g cones
250g pellets
Styrian Goldings (last 15 mins) 25g cones
120g pellets

*Thomas Hardy's Ale recipe from Brew Your Own Real Ale at Home.


  • Boil ingredients for 1½ and preferably 2½ hours, reducing the volume to 55 litres.
  • Cool the wort and adjust original gravity in fermentation vessel to 1125.
  • Aerate the wort and pitch a high-quality English ale yeast.
  • Monitor fermentation carefully and if fermentation gets stuck (i.e. stops before SG 1035) rack the beer into another fermenter and pitch a wine yeast.
  • When the fermentation has abated, rack into a barrel, add a sachet of wine yeast, fit the lid and store for three months.
  • Rack into a sterilised fermentation vessel with 230g sugar and a sachet of wine yeast. Mix well, ensuring a minimum of air is admitted.
  • Bottle and cap. Leave for at least a year. Reputedly at its best after five years. (We're hoping it will still be great after 100 years.)

The reaction to the recipe

When Oliver told Geoff the proposed recipe, this was Geoff's reaction:

Where the Hell did you get this recipe? I struggle to come to terms with the immensity of it all. My predicament reminds me of one of Descartes' Meditations in which the philosopher addresses the question of the limitations of our imagination. R.D. points out that whilst we are capable of comprehending the idea of an object with one million sides, our minds are not able to picture what such an object would actually look like.

More information, please!!!

The Preparation

Oliver and Geoff had been contemplating brewing a millennium ale since 1999. Despite the talk, they had not got around to it. But they decided, as the new millennium began, that the time was right. (Of course, despite common belief and the media hype surrounding the "new millennium", 2001 was the first year of the third millennium, not 2000.)

There was much planning involved, including obtaining 110 500ml bottles for the beer, buying a 60-litre fermenter, obtaining a boiler, making a cooling coil, and designing and producing labels (the labels didn't eventuate, sadly).

We needed a boiler because of the large volume that was to be boiled. The wort that will be fermented to become beer is best boiled as close as possible to its final gravity to extract the hop bitterness. Fifty-five litres of liquid (we planned to make 110 bottles to cover in case of breakage) takes a long time to cool to the temperature at which yeast can be pitched, so we needed a cooling coil.

THE FERMENTER: On February 23, 2001, Geoff bought a 60-litre plastic fermenter from Geelong Home Brewing. This was the first item obtained for what was now officially the Millennium Ale Project.

THE BOILER: On March 2, Oliver bought an old 50-litre stainless-steel keg from a scrap-metal merchant in Melbourne. Armed with instructions from the book Brew Ware, he ventured to a metal fabrication firm in outer Melbourne on March 15 and had them plasma cut a 275mm-diameter hole in the top. (It was decided that plasma cutting was the way to go, as it is quicker and more accurate than using an angle-grinder.) The result was perfect; a hole that is perfectly round and the bit that was removed can be used as a lid, provided something is attached to it to prevent it falling into the keg. A file then a bit of wet-and-dry paper had any rough edges smooth in no time.

Oliver also bought a 3/8” stainless-steel ball valve and some fittings so the valve could be attached to the keg.

Oliver knew that stainless steel was tough, but didn't realise just how tough. It took about three hours to drill a 3mm-diameter hole through the 2mm-thick keg. Once this pilot hole was through, it was fairly easy to progress one drill bit size at a time until it got to the 5/8" bit bought especially for the job. The hole still wasn't quite big enough to fit the ball valve, so a bit of filing did the trick. Perfect. A bit of wet-and-dry and we were set.

WORT-COOLING COIL: Armed with some drawings produced by Oliver, Geoff boarded a plane at Melbourne Airport bound for Mildura, in northern Victoria. His destination was Red Cliffs, not far from Mildura. Geoff planned to discuss the idea of an immersion cooler constructed of copper pipe with a local plumber (and his now father-in-law), Patrick “Rico” Hunt. Rico and his brother Newton were the third generation of plumbers in the family business, H.S. Hunt & Sons, a name that had been synonymous with plumbing, roofing, tank building and the like in the district longer than living memory. Sadly, the business has since closed.

Rico studied the drawings closely for a couple of minutes and then promptly announced, “No worries, we'll knock that up in the morning." As it transpired, Rico had some experience in this type of job: producing copper coils for local Italian immigrants for use in their grappa stills.


INSTRUCTIONS: The diagrams that Oliver drew for Geoff and Rico.

The job was completed in less than three hours on March 12, 2001, in the workshop of H.S. Hunt & Sons.


LANDMARK: The workshop of H.S. Hunt & Sons, a Red Cliffs
icon where the wort cooler was created.

First Rico made a template of suitable diameter around which to wind the half-inch copper pipe. That done, the tube was wound and bent into shape.


FABRICATION: Geoff and Rico shape the copper pipe. Rico made the template
to measure using aluminium and metal-working tools from antiquity.


Finally, it was welded and supporting lugs were attached to enable the cooler to hang from the top of the brew pot. The finished result — a bloody work of art.


CRAFTSMAN: The Master at work.


a hand as the wort cooler takes shape.


AAAAAAH! The finished product. Now, what about that beer …?

The wort cooler was carried back to Melbourne as hand luggage on the plane, much to the consternation of fellow passengers, crew and airport security.

BOTTLES: We decided to use 500ml bottles, for the simple reason that using bottles any larger would require such an immense quantity of beer that it would almost put the Millennium Ale Project out of the realms of homebrewing and into micro-brew territory. We set our hearts on bottles from the Czech beers Radegast and Kozel. The bottles are sturdy, made of brown glass and have a crown seal, as a real beer bottle should.

Oliver somehow knew that the Czechoslovak Sokol National House (aka the Czech Club) in North Melbourne served Radegast and Kozel. After a couple of phone calls, he got on to the very helpful bar manager, Paul, who told him to drop some boxes in on March 17 because there was going to be a big function. He did so, and the following Friday picked up five boxes containing 81 bottles. The bottles were rinsed thoroughly and packed back into boxes. Three empty boxes remained at the Czech Club.

Oliver's fears that the label glue would not be water-soluble (imagine the horror of getting the bottles clean!) proved ill-founded, and after a test soaking of three bottles the labels slipped straight off.

Two boxes, containing a further 31 bottles, were collected from the Czech Club the following Friday night, cleaned and packed up. We now had 112 bottles for the Millennium Ale. All that was left was to soak them in a bath overnight and scrub them clean. Considering the Millennium Ale takes about 14 weeks from boiling to bottling, we put this job on the backburner.

GAS BOTTLE: We used Geoff's from his BBQ.

BURNER: On July 11, 2001, Geoff went to his local outdoor centre that was having a 22½ per cent off sale and bought a three-ring burner.

INGREDIENTS: On July 18, 2001, Oliver ventured to Southern Home Brewing in Maidstone, Melbourne, (this became Grain and Grape, and is now located in Yarraville) to purchase the ingredients, mainly because the store sold Coopers malt in 29kg pails, supplied Wyeast liquid yeast (it was agreed that a liquid yeast was the way to go because of the extraordinarily high original gravity. Anything else may not have fermented out well) and could offer Styrian Golding hops, which at the time were fairly hard to come by.

John, the guy at the homebrew shop, seemed bemused at our plan but was supportive nonetheless. He even had a full bottle of Eldridge Pope's Thomas Hardy's Ale (that the Millennium Ale recipe is based on) that he showed Oliver.

There was a concern that not enough time would elapse before brewing to culture up a yeast starter, so John gave us two for the price of one Wyeast Scotch Ale liquid yeast packs. Wyeast packs are a sachet containing yeast that floats inside a yeast nutrient. To start the yeast, you pop the inside sachet, releasing the yeast into the nutrient so it can start to multiply. As this happens, the pack swells. Ours took a while (three days) to show any real sign of swelling and so we didn't have time to make a yeast starter. One of the reasons for it taking so long was that Oliver had a hard time keeping it at the recommended 24 degrees. Eventually, he filled a fermenter with water, adjusted it to 24C and dropped in the sachets. This did the trick and the packs started to swell.