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     And with grain make spirits 'gainst the spring
     Which to the bushy eyebrows comfort bring--
          'Book of Ancient Poetry'
     Come hither, O Indra, to our sacrifices!  Drink of the soma,
     O soma drinker!  Thine intoxication is that which gives us
     abundance of cows.  Come hither, O Indra, and intoxicate
          Prayer to Indra in the Indian Rig-Veda
     Their beverage is a wine prepared by them from barley, there
     being no grapes in their country.
          Herodotus writing of the Egyptians in 494 B.C.
     Our victuals were mostly spent, especially our beer.
          The Pilgrims, on landing at Plymouth Rock

The word beer comes from the Saxon word for barley, which was baere. There is a good reason for this derivation. Whereas wine is the result of fermentation of a fruit juice, beer results from fermentations on a wort (pronounced 'wert') derived from grain. The grain most often used in the production of beers and ales is barley, and normally only certain types of barley, at that (6 row barley is the best for malting, with 2 row barley being next -- 4 row barley has a high protein content and is, therefore, less suitable for the production of beer).59

Rice is used in the production of Sake which is a beer (being made from a grain) and not a wine. It is often mistakenly called a wine due to its much higher alcoholic strength than traditional beers (higher, actually, than most wines) and the fact that it is not carbonated, as the modern beer drinker expects his drink to be. Also, in the modern world, at least in the United States, Sake is labeled as a wine when sold commercially for these very same reasons. It is no small wonder that the public is confused concerning this drink.

In modern times, other grains, too, are used in the production of beers, including corn and wheat, but this was not the practice during the Medieval period in Europe, although the American Indians were making a beer from corn at the time that Columbus arrived in the New World.60 For this writing, beer will refer to the fermented wort of barley, and sake to that of rice with no other grains present in either of these drinks unless specifically mentioned.

History of Beer

Beer has been made by virtually all grain producing countries.61 Hieroglyphics show that it was considered an ancient beverage even in early Dynastic Egypt.62 The reason for this is probably because barley is a less finicky plant than grapes and will grow faster,63 in a wider variety of climates and soils. This makes a more reliable crop for conversion to alcohol than would the grape, especially in more northerly climates

Medieval beer or ale was a cloudy drink, full of proteins and carbohydrates,64 making it a good source of nutrition for the medieval peasant and nobleman alike. This was a good thing, as it often constituted a considerable portion of the medieval diet, particularly in the lower classes.

Hops, now used universally in beer, were used as a medicinal plant in Medieval Europe, which, when mixed in beer, made 'medicine that tasted good.'65 Traditionally, English ales did not contain hops. It was only after the English soldiers returned from wars on the mainland during the sixteenth century, where they had sampled German beer, which did contain hops, that they began to demand hops be added to their own English drink.66 Some, however, credit the Dutch with having brought the use of hops to England for use in beer even earlier, during the fifteenth century.67

The actual origins of the use of hops in brewing are unknown68 but probably date back to the early years of civilization. It has been theorized that the ancient Hebrews, during their captivity in Babylon in the 8th and 9th centuries BC, may have learned to use hops in beer.69 If this is so, then the origins stretch even farther back than this, to whenever the Babylonians learned to use hops themselves. Whereas the origins of its use in brewing are obscured in the dawn of civilization, its more modern use can be dated. References to the use of hops in the brewing process can be found from the eigth century onwards.70 Indeed, for these past 1200 years the plant has been used almost exclusively in the making of beer.71

Concerning sake, in the thirteenth century Marco Polo wrote, 'It is a liqueur which they brew of rice with a quantity of excellent spice in such a fashion that it makes a better drink than any other kind of wine; it is not only good, but clear and pleasing to the eye. And being very hot stuff, it makes one drunk sooner than any other wine.'72 Thus, we have the misconception right from the start of labeling Sake as wine. From this, however, it should be noted that emphasis is placed on the clarity of the drink. This was a quality generally lacking in medieval alcoholic beverages, which tended to be rather cloudy and full of sediment. Also note that spices were used at that time. Sake need not be a tasteless drink with little appeal to the average drinker.

Often in beer producing countries, an entire city could derive much of its livelihood and prosperity from the brewing industry. Such was the case of Hamburg which, at the height of its beer producing heyday, boasted over 500 different breweries.73

How Beer is Made

     The basic steps used in making beer are as follows:74
          1. Malting - germination of the grain, allowing for    
        creation of enzymes which will later convert starches    
        to sugars
          2. Mashing - the conversion of starches within the grain
             to fermentable sugars
          3. Fermentation - conversion of sugar to alcohol
          4. Bottling & Priming - the addition of small amounts of
             sugar at bottling time to allow for correct carbon-

The explanation of each of these brewing steps will be put forth in the following paragraphs:

Malting is a very difficult and exacting process and is rarely carried out by the brewer, but, rather, is done by another specialist in his field, the maltster. This being the case, I will not go into extreme details and specifics of the procedure, but will give a simple overview of what the general process is. The grains of barley, after being soaked in warm water, are piled up several inches high in a room where the temperature can be kept warm and constant. These grains are then kept moist and are carefully watched to see just when they germinate.75 At just the right time after germination, the maltster will remove the grains from the malting floor and will heat them in a kiln. The temperature of the kiln76 will vary, depending on the type of malt desired. For a pale malt, the grains will be heated enough to kill them and prevent further enzyme production, but will not harm the enzyme already produced. Various other malts, such as crystal malt which has a slight reddish tinge, chocolate malt, which is a dark brown, and black malt, are heated to higher temperatures, killing off some, or all of the enzyme present. In so doing, these malts will add extra flavor and body, but must be used with a lighter malt which still contains active enzymes.771

Once the malting process is completed, the malt goes to the brewer and the process of turning it into beer actually begins. The first of the brewer's steps in this process is mashing. This is done by mixing the various malts in the correct proportions for the type of beer, or ale, that is desired. Greater amounts of pale malts will produce a higher alcoholic content, while increasing the amount of the darker malts will not much affect the final alcohol, but will increase the flavor, color and body of the finished beverage. Crystal malt, being in the middle range, will increase the alcohol content, as well as adding to the body, color and flavor of the beer. Once the grains are mixed, they are lightly crushed to allow the enzymes, starch and water to more freely mix, and then they are added to hot, though not scalding, water (about 120 F to 130 F) for a period of 30 minutes to an hour.78 This begins to soften the grain and helps proteins, which are undesirable as they will cause cloudiness, to settle out. Once the grain and water (refered to as liquor) have been mixed, the solution is then called the wort. The wort is then heated to a temperature of about 150 F, but not above 157 F79 (sometimes there is an intermediate stage around 140 F, though, if the temperature is increased gradually, this should normally prove unnecessary). These temperatures should be maintained for about one hour.80 It is at these higher temperatures that the starch present in the grain is actually converted to fermentable sugars. Care must be taken at this time, however, to keep these temperatures correct.81 At a too low temperature the conversion will not take place, or at least will not be complete. At too high a temperature, on the other hand, the enzymes will be killed, thus preventing any further conversion unless more malt is added which contains the enzymes. In modern times, these enzymes can be purchased separately from the malt at a beer supply shop. The addition of these enzymes, even to a malt which contains active enzymes of its own will assure a more rapid and complete conversion as long as the correct temperatures are maintained.

Once all of the starch has been converted to sugar, the wort is drained from the spent grains. This is traditionally done by transferring the wort to a lauter tub ('lauter' meaning 'clear' in German) which contains a false bottom. The grains will settle rapidly to the bottom and form a filter through which the wort will pass as it drains out through the false bottom. More hot water is then added to the lauter tub to rinse the last of the sugars off the grains in a process known as sparging.82 The grains, being totally spent are now useless to the brewer, but are often used as livestock feed (nothing being wasted if it can be used for any other purpose).

The wort is then transferred to a large pot where it will be boiled83 for up to two hours. It is at this time that any other additives which might need to be cooked into the wort, such as hops, are added. Hops serve a dual purpose in beer making.84 The obvious result of boiling hops with the wort is the added bitterness which is imparted to the finished beer. The hops also serve as a preservative, allowing the beer to be kept for a longer time and to travel better. Toward the end of the boil, usually during just the last 10 to 15 minutes, more hops are added, often of a different variety than those used initially. These are known as finishing hops85 and are added, not to add bitterness, as they will not be boiled long enough for that, but, rather, for the aroma which they will add. The hops which have been boiled for the full time will long since have lost any aromatic properties which they originally had. The wort is then siphoned clear, leaving the hops behind.

The wort at this time is nearly ready for fermentation. The only thing which remains to be done is to add any further water which is necessary to bring the volume up to that required for the amount of grain which was used. Fermentation can now commence.

Fermentation varies, depending on the type and character of the beer desired. In any case, however, it should take place in a large, non-porous container from which air can be excluded, just as in the fermentation of wine.

One further difference between British ale and German beer and the one that still remains today, is the type of yeast used during fermentation. The yeast used in a German beer was a bottom fermenting yeast.86 Once the initial tumultuous fermentation had ended, the yeast would settle to the bottom of the tank. Fermentation for this yeast takes place at a lower temperature than that of the ale yeast which forms a frothy layer on the top of the fermenting liquor.87 The German beers also were stored for a longer period of time at these lower temperatures than their English counterparts. It is from this storage that we get our name for these beers, lager, which is the German word for storage.88

The final step in the brewing of beer is transferring the beer to bottles and priming these bottles with the proper amount of sugar to produce a reasonable head of carbonation without danger of exploding bottles. The modern home brewer often does this by adding 3/4 cup of corn sugar to each 5 gallon batch of beer just prior to siphoning into bottles. This is, perhaps, the easiest method of priming, but for the purists among us who wish to do things in the most period way possible, there is another way which is not, in actuality, all that difficult. This is a process known as kraeusening, which consist of adding, not sugar, but unfermented wort, known as gyle. The gyle can be removed from the wort just prior to pitching (adding) the yeast at the beginning of fermenta- tion. This gyle should then be stored in a sealed container and kept refrigerated until bottling time. Permit the gyle to come to room temperature before being added to the beer about to be bottled. The obvious question which then arises, is, "How much gyle should be removed for use in kraeusening?" The answer is a not too difficult equation based on the specific gravity of the initial wort prior to fermentation. The equation which follows is taken from The Complete Joy of Home Brewing:

Quarts of Gyle = (12 X Gallons of Wort)
(Specific Gravity - 1) X 1000

For example, for 5 gallons of wort with specific gravity of 1.040:

Quarts of Gyle = 12 X 5
(1.040 - 1) X 1000
= 60
= 1.5

What this means is that for 5 gallons of wort with a specific gravity of 1.040, 1 1/2 quarts should be removed for use as gyle during kraeusening at bottling time.

The Ills of Beer

As with any fermentation, sterility of all containers and utensils is an essential first step to avoiding problems. Beer can be infected by bacteria just as a wine, or mead, can. If silky clouds or gelatinous globs form in your beer, see the section on problems with wine, as the problem is most likely a bacterial infection and can be dealt with in the same manner as for wine. Following are some problems which are more specifically related to beer and are not caused by infections.

Incomplete fermentation and/or hazes can be a problem with the temperature of mashing, or fermentation itself. Mashing will proceed at temperatures above 110 F and below 155 F.89 Some authorities place the upper limit at 160 F, or even 170 F, but I would prefer to err on the low side, as when the temperature gets too high the enzymes are destroyed and no further conversion takes place, even when the temperature has been lowered to acceptable levels. Fermentation will proceed at temperatures between 50 F and 100 F, but it is generally better to keep the temperatures toward the low end of this range. Higher temperatures will hasten fermenta- tion, but will often produce beer of lesser quality. Note that too low a temperature will cause fermentation to stop, but does not harm the yeast which will almost always start again as soon as the wort has been warmed up a bit.

A cidery taste is often the result of the addition of cane sugar to the wort to increase its alcoholic potential. This is not a period practice for beer and, if avoided, should prevent this problem. If a higher alcoholic content is wanted without the addition of extra malt, honey can be added in place of sugar. This produces a drink which might be called Braggot90 or, simply, Ale with Honey.91

A cloudiness which does not appear until the beer has been poured into the glass is probably a simple case of unsettling the yeast which has settled to the bottom of the bottle during secondary fermentation in the bottle.92 The solution is simple. Take care when pouring the beer from the bottle into the glass not to stir up any sediment which may be at the bottom. A good beer yeast will generally pack down on settling and not stir up too easily, but do not count on this.

If the beer becomes cloudy upon chilling this chill haze is generally simpler to prevent than to remove. The use of isinglass, gypsum, or other finings prior to bottling will generally prevent this problem.93 Another method of prevention is to allow the beer to sit a little longer in the secondary fermenter prior to bottling.94 This will allow more natural sedimentation, leaving less particulate matter to cause a haze later.

Exploding bottles are the fault of either bottling prior to completion of fermentation, or the addition of too much sugar or gyle at bottling time.95 There is no solution to this after the fact but to clean up the mess and avoid making the same mistake again. I strongly recommend not making the mistake the first time, as an exploding bottle can cause serious harm, including blinding and death if you happen to be holding the bottle at the time that it explodes! Do not use greater than normal amounts of sugar or gyle at bottling time!

Flat beer is generally the opposite problem to exploding bottles. Not enough sugar or gyle was used at bottling time.96 Another possibility is that faulty caps are allowing the escape of the CO2 which causes the head.97

A beer which seems to have reasonable carbonation, but does not form a good head will probably benefit from longer aging and maturation. Simply allow the remaining bottles to age for an additional month, or two.98 This will create finer bubbles which will retain a head better. Also, be sure that the decanter or glass into which the beer is poured is clean, as dirt and oils will prevent the formation of a full head on your beer.99

Yeasty flavors are usually the result of using an incorrect yeast. Use of proper yeast and skimming of any foam and residue prior to transferring to the secondary fermenter, along with careful decanting from the bottle, should prevent this problem.100

Beer Recipes

The following is a recipe for Sake from Mistress Prisilka od Cervany Kamen:101


*** This will be here after I get permission from the Copyright holder. ***


Mistress Prisilka claims to have found no use for spent rice, but I think that I can provide one, at least to those brewers who also have a vegetable garden. Use the spent rice and raisins as compost in your garden. I can assure you that, mixed with other compost, decomposition will take place quite rapidly (though not without odor).

Shoji yeast contains the required enzymes for converting starches to sugar prior to fermentation. If shoji yeast can not be obtained, the starch in the rice will have to be converted to sugar by means of the enzyme amylase -- which is naturally obtained from malted grains -- in the manner used for mashing in the making of a normal beer.

The next two recipes are those mentioned previously for 'Ale with Honey' and 'Braggot' and are taken from The Closet of Sir Kenelme Digbie Opened... on pages 104 and 108 respectively.

Ale with Honey

               Sir Thomas Gower makes his pleasant and
          wholsom drink of Ale and Honey thus.  Take
          fourty Gallons of small Ale, and five Gallons
          of Honey.  When the Ale is ready to Tun, and
          is still warm, take out ten Gallons of it;
          which, whiles it is hot, mingle with it the
          five Gallons of Honey, stirring it exceedingly
          well with a clean arm till they be perfectly
          incorporated.  Then cover it, and let it cool
          and stand still.  At the same time you begin
          to disolve the honey in this parcel, you take
          the other of thirty Gallons also warm, and Tun
          it up with barm, and put it into a vessel
          capable to hold all the whole quantity of Ale
          and Honey, and let it work there; and because
          the vessel will be so far from being full,
          that the gross foulness of the Ale cannot work
          over, make holes in the sides of the barrel
          even with the superficies of the Liquor in it,
          out of which the gross feculence may purge;
          and these holes must be fast shut, when you
          put in the rest of the Ale with the Honey:
          which you must do, when you see that the
          strong working of the other is over; and that
          it works but gently, which may be after two or
          three or four days, according to the warmth of
          the season.  You must warm your solution of
          honey, when you put it in, to be as warm as
          Ale, when you Tun it; and then it will set the
          whole a working a fresh, and casting out more
          foulness; which it would do to violently, if
          you put it in at the first of the Tunning it. 
          It is not amiss that some feculence lie thick
          upon the Ale, and work not all out; for that
          will keep in the spirits.  After you have
          dissolved the honey in the Ale, you must boil
          it a little to ski, it; but skim it not, til
          it have stood a while from the fire to cool;
          else you will skim away much of the Honey,
          which will still rise as long as it boileth. 
          If you will not make so great a quantity at a
          time, do it in less in the same proportions. 
          He maketh it about Michaelmas for Lent.


               To make Braggot, He (Mr. Webb) takes the
          first running  of Ale, and boils a less pro-
          portion of Honey in it then when He makes His
          ordinary Meath; but dubble or triple as much
          spice and herbs.  As for Example to twenty
          Gallons of the Strong-wort, he puts eight or
          ten pound, (according as your taste liketh
          more or less honey) of honey; But at least
          triple as much herbs, and triple as much spice
          as would serve a quantity of small Mead as he
          made Me (For to a stronger Mead you put a
          greater proportion of Herbs and Spice, then to
          a small; by reason that you must keep it a
          longer time before you drink it; and the
          length of time mellows and tames the tast of
          the herbs and spice).  And when it is tunned
          in the vessel (after working with the barm)
          you hang in it a bag with bruised spices
          (rather more than you boiled in it) which is
          to hang in the barrel all the while you draw

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