hist-brewing: Beer: Ales? & Lagers?

Henry Davis hdavis at ix.netcom.com
Thu Jan 8 18:15:05 PST 1998

Carl Betlan wrote:

I'm not certain of your point exactly, but I do a have some specific
comments about the terms.
> when communicating ideas, understanding and agreement on definitions of
> terminology are of highest importance. What I am trying to say is that the
> categories of "Beer" are Ales and Lagers.

That's one current general definition. But this definition doesn't help
us deal with the historical context.

> Much further back in the
> history of beer and brewing such distinctions were of little concern to
> the brewer nor the consumer.

I believe that this is not a correct observation. For example, 15th and
16th century English brewers definately defined "beere" and "ale"
differently. Beer was the imported lowland drink utilizing hops, where
English ale employed gruit. At various times during the post 1450
period, local English governments outlawed the use of hops. For example,
London outlawed the use of hops in 1577 only to rescind the prohibition
in 1578.

A more important English distinction within the 1200-1600 time frame may
have been based on the sequence of wort runnings. (The Strong, ordinary,
and Small ales).

As a consequence, I tend to define a brew as "14th century English
Strong Ale" or other similarly qualified designator as an adequate
method of naming a brew I want to talk about.   

> The former often being the same as the later.

Whether or not the brewer and consumer were the same depends
significantly on when and where. Post 1450, the byindustrial tradition
of brewsters declined in England and seems to have been essentially
eliminated in larger cities by the 16th century.

Conversely, the Einbeck tradition of brewing employed cooperative home
fermentation with the mayor blending the fermented wort as far back as
the 13th century.


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