"Count Me Converted"
This month column was written by Bob's friend
Bob has been trying for years to get me into the craft beer world (or
"cult" as I teasingly tell him). Well when he asked me to write this
month's column he finally hooked me. Before now all I drank was
"beer". Needless to say the more research I did for this article the
more trips I had to make to buy beer. Serious beer. I enjoyed the
lagers but the ales brought a range of tastes I never dreamed would
be in "beer".
I discovered that the term "ale" was initially used to describe a drink
brewed without hops, unlike "beer". Ale typically has bittering
agent(s) to balance the sweetness of the malt and to act as a
preservative. Ale was originally bittered with gruit, a mixture of herbs
(sometimes spices) which was boiled in the wort prior to
fermentation. Later, hops replaced the gruit blend in common
usage as the sole bittering agent.
Ale, along with bread, was an important source of nutrition in the
medieval world, particularly something called "small beer", also
known as table beer or mild beer, which was highly nutritious. It
contained just enough alcohol to act as a preservative, and provided
hydration without intoxicating effects. Small beer would have been
consumed daily by almost everyone in the medieval world, with
higher-alcohol ales served for recreational purposes. The lower cost
for proprietors combined with the lower taxes levied on small beer
led to the selling of beer labeled "strong beer" that had actually
been diluted with small beer.
It's almost impossible to find "small beer" here in on the East Coast
but I was thrilled to sample an Anchor Small bottle that Bob had in
his amazing beer cellar.
I visited several local brew pubs and talked to the head brewers.
They told me that modern ale is typically fermented at temperatures
between 15 and 24 °C (60 and 75°F). At temperatures above 75
(°F) the yeast can produce significant amounts of esters and other
secondary flavour and aroma products, and the result is often a
beer with slightly "fruity" compounds resembling but not limited to
apple, pear, pineapple, banana, plum, cherry, or prune.
The varieties of ale are amazing. I tried brown ales, pale ales,
Scotch ales, and a slew of others. I quickly discovered my favorite
were Burton Ales - strong, dark, somewhat sweet, brewed to good
strength and vatted at the brewery for a year or more. The strongest
ones, Barley Wines, were instant favorites. I drank several Old ales
which I also enjoyed. And then I came upon Belgian ales. Oh my!
The Trappist beers and Abbey beers are truly special.
So for anyone thinking of moving away from "beer" to craft brews my
advice is to just DO IT! It's a world of flavor and fun that you will
My sincere thanks to Bob not only for giving me the chance to write
this column but especially for converting me to craft beer!!
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My thanks to John for this month's
column. See you next time to
"speak about beer".
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