hist-brewing: Re: Old Ale

Paul Robertshaw probertshaw at sciencephoto.co.uk
Wed Jan 14 05:47:25 PST 1998


Sorry that I've taken so long to reply to this (it must have got 
forgotten in the pre-Christmas rush). Anyway...

> To elaborate on Paul's post, what appears to be really interesting and 
> unique are the flavoring agents used (identity and amounts).  

I agree with Brian that spiced ales are interesting to taste, but 
that does does make them any more historically accurate for the 
middle ages.

I would like to emphasise that the majority of the English were not
putting large amounts of flavouring aganets in their day-to-day ale
during the middle ages, for example when the lords of Snowdonia
visited London in the 12/13thC, they apparently could not stand the
English ale and insisted on putting long pepper in it, much to the
*incredulity* of their hosts.  John Gerard at the end of the 16th
century says of ale-hoof that it is put into ale in Wales and around
Chester (an English town near the Welsh border) but "the reason
thereof I know not".

There are any number of regulations specifying that ale be made only
with water, yeast and malt. Yes, the frequency of these regulations
suggests that they were frequently broken, but by the *minority* of
brewers.  Why? Because the brewers themselves, through their guild,
were instrumental in defining acceptable brewing practices
(excepting the price charged for the final product!).

Even where medieval English sources herbs/spices are described as being used,
they are more for special occasions - for example in John Russell's 
Boke of Nurture (15thC), Braggart is listed as being a suitable for a Franklin 
to drink rather than the Hippocras drunk by his social betters - and 
household accounts only ever have records of hippocras being bought 
for feasts.

Paul Robertshaw

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