For some reason I have been thinking about making alcoholic beverages this morning. Perhaps it is because I was talking to someone who is into home brewing recently, and that made me think about making some home brew of my own again. In the past, when work has been slow, I have made beer, wine and mead – but I always stopped when work got busy again. Now, I have more time on my hands again, and home brewing has become an option again. Then I realized that my game rules doesn’t really cover small scale brewing at all. So some modifications were in order, and this is my latest take making booze.
Note, however, that it is heavily biased towards my game world, and uses ingredients that are commonly available there. While broadly correct, in terms of process and history, don’t take it as real-world reliable.
In my world you can buy
- Small Ale: Weak, watery and hardly alcoholic (<1% ABV)
- Local Ale: Just called Ale it is a ‘quaffing’ beer that is fairly bland but drinkable (3% ABV)
- Named Ales: Such as Poachers Pale, River Run Sweet or Cheerful Delver Stout – which are much more flavoursome and keep well – but are more expensive.
This is how they are produced.
Beer, in RL, has been made for millennia and generally refers to an alcoholic beverage made from grain. It really doesn’t matter what the grain is and, historically beers have been made from all sorts of different cereal crops although barley is the favoured grain for modern beer making. The process is fairly simple, prepare the grain by sprouting and drying it, soak it in water, boil for a bit and add yeast, then leave it for a while until you get beer.
Now that isn’t very good beer, and it doesn’t keep for all that long – BUT it is safe to drink because the brewing process has killed off the nasty bacteria that might have been living in the water. To improve the flavour and make it last longer you add a gruit, – which is just a name for a set of ‘herbs’, often controlled by what is available locally. For specialized and consistent beers with a longer shelf life, gruits were replaced with hops – and you get the beers and ales that we know today.
So beers and ales in my game world …
Just about every smallholding and country farm will make its own ale, for home consumption, from whatever grain is available (probably a mixture of maize, wheat and barley). Most of it will be Small Ale, with little alcohol (<1%), for general consumption. There will probably be some stronger Ale made for festivals and parties – but it won’t keep for long and has to be consumed fairly quickly.
Produce: Small Ale, Home-brew
Most towns and some villages will have a basic brewery (Craft Workshop) that produces ale, with a longer shelf life, for local consumption. Each basic brewery will have a preferred mix of grains available locally and use a locally sourced gruit to help preserve the ale. In my world (not that it is important) the gruit is usually a combination of Mugwort and Ground Ivy – both traditional gruits that grow like weeds. This Ale keeps for a reasonably long time and is supplied to local bars and restaurants, as well as being sold for home consumption
With a more sophisticated brewing set up a basic brewer is able to make a ‘second running’ brew. Once the proper ale has been made, the grain/gruit mix is used to make a second batch of ale – although it is much weaker and less flavoursome than the original.
Produce: Ale, Small Ale
If you want to make a named ale, rather than simple, generic ale – you need a brewery, the equivalent of an MW craft workshop specialized in making your recipe. For the first time you need an expert Brewer, hops are introduced to the recipe and you get a consistent ale that will last for a long time. Examples of named ales in my world include River Run Sweet Ale, Poacher’s Pale and Cheerful Delver Stout. Because these ales last for longer, they can be transported over longer distances, and they may well be known across a region, rather than just being a local ale.
However, you now have an expert Brewer running things – and they can squeeze three runs out of the mix. The named ale, a ‘local’ ale and then a small ale as well. Which makes them ideal for large towns and cities. After all, who wants to drink city water? You never know what has polluted it.
Produce: Named Ale, Ale, Small Ale.
There are a number of ways that ale can be enhanced. Many small bars, which cater to less well-off patrons, sell ‘Grog ‘- two-thirds of a mug of small ale topped up with whatever is cheap and strong. The small ale dilutes the ‘burn’ of the cheap spirit, and it is often laced with herbs to give it a bitter flavour. It is cheap strong drink for the working man (or woman)
Ales and beers can also be distilled to make a Whisky variant, but I’ll write about distilling later