Beer Matters


The other day I was confronted with a pump clip proclaiming “Charles Wells’ Banana Bread Beer”. Needless to say, my curiosity had to be satisfied forthwith. I’m not sure of the significance of the bread, but there was certainly a powerful aroma and taste of bananas about it. As one of my companions observed, some malty beers can be reminiscent of bananas anyway (he cited Bateman’s in particular), but I had the impression that this contained the real thing.

Now, all beer is basically made from water, malted barley (occasionally wheat or other cereals), hops and yeast. Is anything else necessary, desirable or even acceptable? Necessary? Absolutely not - a good brewer can produce the most heavenly nectar from those four simple ingredients, be it Fuller’s ESB or the delectable Trappist brew Orval. But acceptable? Well, that’s open to further discourse.

There are additives intended to help clear or preserve beer. Being a purist, I reject these out of hand – they are excuses for poor cellarcraft. But what of additional flavours? I recall during the 70s reading (probably in What’s Brewing) the comment that, given the way the brewing industry was going, it was only a matter of time before someone came up with a fruit-flavoured beer. Sure enough, within a year or less, Watney (who else) unleashed upon the market an orange-flavoured concoction called, if I remember correctly, Bierritz. I trust it has long since been consigned to the dustbin of history.

What most of us in this country didn’t know then was that the Belgians had been brewing fruit beers or Lambics for years or even centuries, the most common being Kriek (cherry), Frambosen (raspberry) and Cassis (blackcurrant). Lambics are now readily available here and very good they are too, in their place. You wouldn’t want to down pints of the stuff after ringing practice, but how about with food? I once served a Frambosen with avocado in raspberry vinaigrette and I imagine Kriek would go very nicely with roast duck or goose.

Recently some of the micros have been experimenting with spices in beer, with somewhat mixed results. Most are not memorable but there are a couple of exceptions. I have already waxed lyrical in this column about Hopback’s Pickled Santa. The other is Nethergate Umbel Ale, subtley flavoured with coriander. Not an obvious combination, but it seems to work. Doubtless there are other additives which I have yet to try and some which the brewers haven’t even thought of yet. Some may prove worth a pint or two; most will be passing fads and gimmicks.

Then again, our ancestors used to enjoy chicken-flavoured beer or “cock ale”. There really is nothing new under the sun.

I was unaware of the pugilistic connotations of “Haymaker” (letter, p. 705) but have to admit it makes more sense. Perhaps someone from Hook Norton can enlighten us?

Regarding the amount of beer it takes to replenish lost sweat (letter, p. 814), I have given this much thought. No doubt a medic and a physicist between them could come up with a formula based on temperature, body mass index, skin surface area etc. The problem is that it would be practically impossible to measure the amount of sweat exuded, unless you were to go around in a plastic bubble with condenser attached (hardly conducive to ringing). Fortunately, there is a simpler solution. The human body is quite adept at communicating its needs to its owner. Just keep drinking until you no longer feel thirsty, then have another pint or two for luck.

Maximus Bibendus

Reproduced by kind permission of The Ringing World.

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