“I like beer. On occasion, I will even drink beer to celebrate a major event such as the fall of Communism or the fact that the refrigerator is still working.” – Dave Berry
On Monday, I will be bottling my 100th batch of beer, and I only just realized this when I was updating my notes for this batch. It’s a pumpkin ale, and if my maths are correct, it should end up around 6.7% alcohol (by volume), with just a bit of residual sweetness.
Now 100 batches, at 5 gallons per batch, comes out to a tad bit over 5300 bottles. Not a bad haul for 6 years ‘on the job’. So I have some tidbits of beer history to share with the group.
- The builders of the Great Pyramid were paid in beer. Over the course of construction, this amounted to a number well over 281 million gallons. Holy shit, right?
- The Egyptian god who created the earth, also created beer. Which one is the more important creation is an ongoing debate.
- In feudal England the price of beer was set by law, just as bread was. That’s because it was/is a necessity of life. Life cannot exist without beer. Look it up.
- Everyone used to drink beer. All day, every day. As great as that sounds, the ale’s consumed in this manner were low alcohol even by today’s standards, around 3% or so. Still, the high octane stuff was readily available, with some recipes trending up into the double digits
- Monks were usually allocated at least 1 gallon of beer, every day, with monastic officials having more if they desired. A gallon equals more than 10, 12 oz bottles. Some monastic houses placed no limits on the amount of beer a monk could consume. If this were still the practice today, I suspect they would have to fight people off.
- Water sucks. Beer is awesome.
- Hops is a fairly recent addition, and one of the first consumer protection laws to screw consumers was the Reinheitsgebot, limiting ingredients to water, hops, barley, and yeast. Just like now, “consumer protections” oftentimes end up meaning less choice, lower quality and a more scarce product than would be available otherwise.
- Ale was the name for unhopped malted beverages, while beer was the name for the hopped variety. They are pretty much interchangeable today. This unhopped ale didn’t last, resulting in much waste or comparatively small and more inefficient brews. This stuff still exists today, it’s called “gruit” and I am making a 1 gallon batch to celebrate.
- The need to document beer recipes may have contributed to the invention of the written language. In fact, some of the oldest known writing, cuneiform, is exactly that, a beer recipe.
- Beer, for a long time after it’s invention, contributed large portions of a persons nutrition, whether noble or peasant. Unsurprising when you consider around 70% of most peoples caloric intake in northern Europe, including nobles, was grain or grain derived.
- People who do not drink beer are treasonous swine.
Considering many of our founding fathers were brewers, and that taverns were the original social networking sites, from inside of which the revolution began, you could say America owes it’s very existence to beer. I intend on doing a longer, more in depth, history of the fermented wonder, but this is enough for now.
Mead: I just started this one gallon batch of mead this afternoon. This is my first attempt at a wine (mead is honey wine) so instead of making a 5 gallon batch and consuming $40 worth of honey, as well as tying up a fermentor for as long as 3 months (or more), I’m giving it a shot in the small scale. This batch should result, if my maths are right on this one, in a beverage roughly 15% alcohol (by volume) with a bit of sugar left over.
Something I’m stunned by is the fact that the end product should have a specific gravity lower than water, a far cry from where most of my ales ferment out to. Even the strongest ale I’ve made, a beastly 16% alcohol, remained far denser than water. We shall see, I expect six to eight 16 oz bottles, half of which I’ll carbonate in the bottles and the other half will remain “still” and be stabilized with potassium sorbate to ensure fermentation doesn’t continue, which results in carbonation.
One other thing I guess I should mention for people who might not get the specific gravity thing. The way one discovers the alcohol content is to take a measurement, essentially the density, of the beer or wine before fermentation with a hydrometer. You also take a measurement after fermentation. Without getting into the gory details, the difference between the two measurements allows you to figure out how much CO2 has been lost, since ethanol and CO2 are created in proportion to each other, if you know one, you know the other. It’s really quite simple. The hard part comes in when you want to carbonate and need to figure out how much sugar to add at bottling to reach a given amount of dissolved CO2.