Sunday, June 1, 2014

Beer in Europe ~ le quatrieme part

Enlightenment is at hand.  Truly.  It is.

... the Half Man Quadruple... at 11 percent ETOH...

I consulted The Oracle.  It is he I must thank for bringing my mind back to What's Important.

The Oracle happens to be a good friend and former colleague from the Software Engineering Wars we engaged in at a company we used to work for.  It is this trained in physics (as in science) Oracle who suggested that wherever you retire is where you'll put down roots.  Wise Man he is.  So it was natural that I would ask Don about beer.

Don has brewed beer for many years and shared a bottle or two of the delicious stuff.  His kind suggestions and comments have Cleared the Mind, as it were.  I can more clearly see the Lay of the Land of Beervana.  With these words -  I am no authority, but I have no objection to your passing my comments along - we begin.

... um... the year 1062?  Really??... WOW!...

First, a reminding comment about present styles of beer -
Beer, at least in modern times,  is generally divided into two main categories: Lager and Ale.

These are based on the type of yeast that is used.
Lager is generally fermented slowly at fairly cool temperatures.
Ale is generally fermented more quickly at normal room temperature.

Some people distinguish a third class of beers, Spontaneous.
This would be like one of the Belgium beers that is fermented by whatever happens to fall into the vat.
... what can a brewer learn in only
eight hundred years...?
Second, a few comments about hops and why they are used in present times -
Again over the millennia, preserving the fermented juice has always been problematic. An unimaginable variety of herbs and spices have been used in an attempt to preserve the product.  Hops are a relatively recent (in the grand scheme of things) solution to preserving the beer.  

Various styles have evolved often in response to conditions.  Scottish Ale for instance, brewed in a cooler clime, is high in malt and low in hops with a balance towards sweetness.
India Pale Ale, intended for shipment to the troops in sunny climes, is high in alcohol and was hopped very strongly to help preserve it before the days of refrigeration.
From this I take it that the introduction of hops in the beer making process was not an inevitability.  There have been many beer preserving solutions that were tried and discarded. I can imagine that this is because either the approach simply did not work, or because it was taxed by The Church or other Controllers of Local Economies.

I can also see where some of the beers I've enjoyed would not contain hops of any kind.  In particular, abbey beer recipes that pre-date the Age of Hops contain none of that preserving nonsense.  Perhaps it is that beer is meant to be Drunk Young?  One can only hope.
Barley wine. Expensive.  15percent ETOH.
Drink a bottle and go to sleep.
Third, a thought on beer terminology -
Terminology about styles of beer is probably as varied by region and the beers themselves.
Indeed.  Potentially confusing stuff, this.  Without a common language how can we know what we're drinking?
le cinquième part suivre...

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