The Curiosities of Ale & Beer: An Entertaining History

Nov 29, 2013 by

ale&beerThe Curiosities of Ale & Beer: An Entertaining History 

Originally published back in 1889, this book by John Bickerdyke and is a really fascinating peek into the world of beer and ale. Starting in ancient Egypt, Bickerdyke traces the evolution of beer and brewing up through the late 1800s. Along the way, he illuminates nearly every facet of beer’s colorful saga — ancient recipes, hops and malt, beer laws and regulations, drinking customs, beer songs and ballads, “ale-wives,” inns and taverns, porter and stout, ancient drinking vessels, brewers of old London, and much more.

Here are a few paragraphs from the introduction:

“Almost every inhabitant of this country has tasted beer of some kind or another, but on the subject of brewing the great majority have ideas both vague and curious. About one person out of ten imagines that pale ale consists solely of hops and water ; indeed, more credit is given by most persons to the hop than to the malt.

In order to give a proper understanding of our subject, and at the risk of ruining the brewing trade, let us then, in ten lines or so, inform the world at large how, with no other utensils than a tea-kettle and a saucepan, a quart or two of ale may be brewed, and the revenue defrauded. Into your tea-kettle, amateur brewer, cast a quart of malt, and on it pour water, hot, but not boiling; let it stand awhile and stir it. Then pour off the sweet tea into the saucepan, and add to the tea-leaves boiling water again, and even a third time, until possibly a husband would rebel at the weak liquid which issues from the spout. The saucepan is now nearly full, thanks to the frequent additions from the tea-kettle, so on to the fire with it, and boil up its contents for an hour or two, not forgetting to add of hops half-an-ounce, or a little more.

This process over, let the seething liquor cool, and, when at a little below blood-heat, throw into it a small particle of brewer’s yeast. The liquor now ferments ; at the end of an hour skim it, and beneath the scum is bitter beer — in quantity, a quart or more. After awhile bottle the results of your brew, place it in a remote corner of your cellar, and order in a barrel from the nearest brewer. If the generality of people have ideas of the vaguest on the subject of brewing, still less do we English know of the history of that excellent compound called ale.”

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