hist-brewing: Rowan ale

Martyn Cornell atrectus at blueyonder.co.uk
Fri Jan 4 02:41:16 PST 2008

Beer made from the berries of the rowan or mountain ash, Sorbus aucuparia,
was a Welsh favourite: John Evelyn (1620-1706) wrote in his Sylva or
Discourse on Forest Trees in 1664: "Ale and beer brewed with these berries,
being ripe, is an incomparable drink, familiar in Wales, where this tree is
reputed so sacred, that there is not a churchyard without one of them
planted in." 

Rowans are a familiar tree in Britain, planted in townscapes because the
trees are quite small and the red berries look very attractive in the
autumn, but they're not in season now and I'm not aware of anybody who
cultivates them for sale.

The name "Red Biddy" is, of course, a joke: a play on the name of the pub,
Biddy Earley's, the red colour of rowan berries and the old nickname for
cheap red wine, or a mixture of red wine and meths, "red biddy".

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