A Good Beer Blog


Have you read The Unbearable Nonsense of Craft Beer - A Rant in Nine Acts by Alan and Max yet? It's out on Kindle as well as Lulu.

Maureen Ogle said this about the book: "... immensely readable, sometimes slightly surreal rumination on beer in general and craft beer in particular. Funny, witty, but most important: Smart. The beer geeks will likely get all cranky about it, but Alan and Max are the masters of cranky..."

Ron Pattinson said: "I'm in a rather odd situation. Because I appear in the book. A fictional version of me. It's a weird feeling."


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Ethan -

That was an awesome read, Alan, thanks. If we name a beer Ill Relish, you'll know why.

Alan -

You should dry some bracken and darken a pale malt to amber in a kiln of it for use as the base.

Gary Gillman -

Alan, there are many historical recreations I'd like to try; fern ale isn't one of them. I think the beer would have a taste of burned vegetation, like a a brush fire smells or when you burn up cuttings from a garden at the end of the season. I still remember the rank smell of a fire made from bull-rush cuttings in the Quebec countryside...

It is easy to see why these writers disliked the taste.

Now the straw-dried is a different thing. Straw was used at one time to char the inside of oak barrels used to age whiskey. I'd wager the taste added something to the firewater, and I think it should in beer, too. As you say, it would be easy to give conventional malt a further drying in an oven to try to recreate this pale ale of the 1700's or earlier.

All ale originally, i.e., when un-hopped, was pale is my understanding.


Alan -

I think you are missing out on a good thing: "...people relish the beer brewed from such malt..."

My gut reaction to these old descriptions is generally that people in the past were clever and used available resources as well as we do now. There are so many brief but specific instructions in that 1600s text that I assume that the range of manners in which a fire is set had a great deal more complexity than we appreciate now. I bet some lassies in the day made a very fire fern ale.

Martyn Cornell -

The Greeks got to like resin-flavoured wine - personally I find retsina utterly disgusting.

"All ale originally, i.e., when un-hopped, was pale is my understanding."

Not according to Piers Plowman (circa 1370), which talks about ale that was "the Beste and the Brouneste that Brewesters sullen".

Alan -

Friggin' Piers. But he makes the point that we like to forget - people in the past were not two dimensional and had a range of tastes, skills and experiences. There is no reason to believe that variety and choice was not available in beer making as far back as it has existed.

Gary Gillman -

Sellen I think, no? The best that they sell. It may depend on the version of William, there are different texts.

But I wonder if broun here meant strong, because the context of the quote is a contrast between cheap beer, "ha-penny", and proper beer. Brawn means, and did then, fleshy or muscular, derived from its original meaning of a boar's flesh. Wouldn't the best beer be strong above all?

This short but well-researched precis on medieval ale brewing suggests brown ales were second- class (see about 12th paragraph down), which seems hardly what Piers was referring to.


If he was indeed describing a brown, not strong, ale, he must have been referring to a local type not (I would conclude) one typical of pre-hopped ale.


Gary Gillman -

Sorry, what I posted is a paper, short paper, not a precis. I couldn't find the author's name quickly but it must be there somewhere.


Gary Gillman -

Regarding that link I posted again: I believe Karl Hagen is the author, due to the statement at the bottom of the page.