Tired of fighting all morning? Feel like doing something else for a bit while partner is off having fun smacking people? Come check out to the Ædult Swim Arts & Sciences smörgåsbord! Ædult Swim Arts & Sciences will have the whole second floor to themselves to hang out with fellow artisans! Once again, Ædult Swim Arts & Sciences has numerous arts & sciences activities on the menu, including the Kingdom Ministry of Arts & Sciences Consultation Table with an on-site library to peruse, as well as Arts & Sciences social circles, each devoted to a particular arts or science topic.
Come check out the:
–Costuming Social: planning on updating your look or fighting clothes? We might be able to help! Sewing machines, books, and advice available to help your persona look top-notch. Accessories included!
–Fiber Arts Social: Learn more about the variety of Fiber Arts available in period and how to incorporate them in your persona.
–Viking Age Social: Are you a beginning Viking persona and want to be more authentic? Are you an experienced Viking and want to show others how you pulled it off? Come join the Viking Circle and share in current research on this fascinating historical period.
–Medieval Sciences Social: The Medieval Sciences are often under-represented but no less fascinating. From Chemicals to feats of Engineering, bring your specialty to help share the love! Books and research on a variety of subjects should be available.
If the Roaming Library does not have what you need, perhaps the merchant book shelves do – and bring your precious home!
And don’t forget the…
KMOAS Consultation table, hosted by the Kingdom minister of Arts & Sciences Hrólfr á Fjárfelli. He welcomes anyone with questions about Arts & Sciences! Like, how do I enter an A&S display or competition? What do I need to do to enter an A&S display or competition? What is this thingy called documentation? Can I get some feedback on a project I’m working on? I have trouble (re)searching online, do you have any suggestions? …? For this, and more, visit the KMOAS Consultation table.
Roaming Library, also hosted by Master Hrólfr á Fjárfelli. He will bring two book cases, and a couple crates of books on Costuming, including Viking and Anglo-Saxon eras. Bring a camera if you hope to bring back a chapter or two for research. And if you have something you think others would enjoy to take a peek at, please bring and share too (with name) – he and his minions will stand guard all day to protect the Hoard!
Region 3 Brewing Round Table, hosted by Master Gille MacDhonuill. Want to talk about making brews of all types stop by and share your recipes, ideas, or learn more about the art of alcohol? Then this is where you want to be, starting at 3 pm – home brews not required but always welcome, of course.
Enjoying the spoils of our labors – a small barrel of Robert’s hopped gale ale, and a large barrel of Elska’s grape mead. Photo by Robert of Ferness
This past Saturday on February the 1st, the Region 5 Brewers Guild organized their annual Championship and Round Table and the Feast of the Seven Deadly Sins at the Barony of Delftwood. Each year, the different region brewers representatives host a Brewers Championship Round Table to find the best their region has to offer, as well as share the spoils of many hours of fermentation magic with their drinking friends. Region 5 generally uses round table style judging where everyone judges everyone, with forms available from the Æthelmearc Brewers Guild Competition Corner, and we decide the scoring collaboratively. This year, region 5 excelled with 14 participants, 5 competition entries and another handful of bottles to share, and the experience was once again very enjoyable! We had a great variety of brews to sample and a number of new people to enjoy them with.
The results of the AS54 Region 5 Brewing Championship are as follows: the winner of the Beer category, and overall Region 5 Champion was title defending Robert of Ferness with a hopped bog myrtle cask ale – walking away with 4 bags of specialty malt and hops; and the winner of the Mead/wine category was Fuego with Satyr’s Cyser, who also received specialty malt as well as a bottle of grapefruit Craft Puree. All this loot of course we hope to see back in liquid form as next year’s entry!
Brewster Fuego receiving her accolade and prize in court. Photo by Michael Higgins.
Runners up were Richard Baldwin with Buzzerbee, a wonderful chamomile kveik beer, Justin Lymner with a Red Currant Cordial, and Elska, with a documented non-period Framboise. There was also, among others, a 5 gallon barrel of concord grape mead – 3 month old grape mead aged for 2 and half weeks in an oak barrel which was as smooth as a 3 year old vintage (only about half of the 5 gallon barrel made it back home) – two yummy melomels by Robert l’Etourdi including a black currant mead, and a wonderful dry cider as well as some rumtopf liquor by Katerin Starcke.
As you can see, Æthelbrewers sure know how to party! Keep in mind: the next brewers Round Table will be in Region 3 at Ædult Swim in just a few weeks. The Region 3 Round Table will be hosted in the mid-afternoon by Master Gille MacDhonuill in the general A&S area, and there will be signage to help you find us, in the unlikely event our merriment is not enough!
THL Robert of Ferness serving from his mini-barrel at the 2019 Seven Deadlies brewing round table & competition.
The Feast of the Seven Deadly Sins, hosted by the Barony of Delftwood February 1st, 2020, will once again host the Annual Region 5 Brewing Championship! Everyone and every beverage type is welcome. We will use the round table style judging format; even if you have no entry you are welcome to join in and partake.
The round table format means that the competition is both a round table, where we taste each others work and provide feedback, as well as a competition, where the entry is scored and the feedback noted down on paper for the entrant to take home. Each participant, whether or not they come with an entry, can partake in the tasting and discussion, giving constructive feedback for each others work. We find it is often the entry’s brewer who judges their own work the most critical, and find the format to be quite an effective way for beginner, as well as established brewers, to advance their research and brewing techniques and sources.
We will have entry forms at the event but you are also welcome to fill one in before coming so you can make good use of your brew book.
Best brewer wins overall, and best Region 5 brewer will win the Regional Championship. And depending on what I can find hiding in my stash, there will be winner’s loot too…
Earlier this month, I had the fortune and privilege to enter Kingdom A&S Championships with an entry that had been in progress for the better part of a year.
After multiple entries into other displays and competitions, trial and testing of different methods, and sifting through possible ingredients from a terroir that spans two continents, I selected the two recipes I thought would give me the best chance. The krupnik that I made, flavored with fruits and spices, might stand a chance to win.
For those unfamiliar with krupnik, it is an alcoholic drink that begins with a neutral grain spirit. As in nearly any area of the study of food, alcohol has long been a staple of human existence and has taken a variety of forms. For the people who settled East of the River Elbe and North of the Caucasus Mountains, their cultural liquor contribution was vodka, as well as its various adjacent types. These were created by using additives such as herbs, spices, or honey. Honey, popular in its own right for its use in mead production, was a useful addition for softening the bite of grain spirit. Eventually, the practice became common enough to earn the right to a separate classification of alcohol. Called krupnik by the Poles, Barenfang by the Germans, and krambambula by the Belorussians, honey liquor culturally came into its own.
Many of these liquors are difficult to trace the origins of. Krupnik is no exception. Allegedly, it was created by Benedictine monks in a monastery in the northeast of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, now known as Belarus, in the 16th century. After its inception it presumably became very popular with the nobles of Poland-Lithuania, called szlachta, who modified and expanded their personal recipes for the drink and passed them down through. However, as I read through various books related to the Pre-Christian period of Poland-Lithuania (pre-15th Century), this story became less and less credible to me.
While the Teutonic crusades did their best to erase pre-Christian religions and cultures from the Baltic areas, some evidence of the animistic Romuva religion does survive. Analysis of the primary sources closest to the period indicated that the Romuva faith had a loosely organized pantheon and was highly animistic, allowing for the incorporation of deities of all kinds. While authoritative lists of canonical gods are difficult to come by and often don’t agree with each other, they still demonstrate consistent themes.
Among these consistent themes were gods and rituals directly tied to the healthy production of honey, its fermentation, and storage. Using the logic of sympathetic magic and post-structuralism, or “if people had gods that they prayed to about this thing, this thing must have been important and had some serious cultural bearing to it,” I came to the conclusion that krupnik was likely a drink made by the common folk long before some enterprising monks picked it up as a monastic trade item. Thus, it is unsurprising that I couldn’t find a direct recipe or method. And so, I wrote up my research, added justifications from my ingredient choices, and wrote up my method for making this drink.
I should note here that I do not have a documented method for this beverage as it stands. I learned how to make this drink from my and my partner’s family traditions, us both coming from long lines of Eastern and Southern European Slavs. We have both drank our share of strange brandies and cordials made by enterprising family members, and have been informed of the “correct recipes” with some ethnic muttering about who’s culture’s liquor is best thrown in. I cannot tell you with precision how period our recipes are. I can only tell you that Slavs have traditions regarding liquor that are assuredly more pagan than Christian, and that there are more ways to earn good luck and a good harvest than to properly drink a shot. It was a test of research and primary sources to find any contemporary recipes from the later end of the time period, and some of those were barely in the period definitions of the Society. In previous competitions, I had been heavily docked for providing no supporting method documentation, so I was on the hunt for nearly anything that I could use. Thanks to some timely and incredibly helpful recommendations, I was able to find some instructions from a Russian manual of household management. So, I wrote them into my method with caveats and headed to Kingdom A&S.
Lord Cassiano serving at the A&S Championship.
I was honored by visitors to my table, curious and effusive royalty, and by my insightful and exacting judges. Their feedback was supportive and precise. As a bolt flees from the firing string, so did they swiftly seek and certainly find the weaknesses of my project. Modern choices of fruit and modern processing tools, only partial documentation of the herbs used, and the usual dagger, a lack of a single recipe. Across all judges, I consistently lost points for this one. Despite written caveats, despite the tightening circle of supporting evidence and points for probability, there was no smoking gun, so to speak, of how this drink would have been made in period.
I have to note here. This is the SCA. We are in the business of the recreation of historical artifacts, methods, and techniques. We strive for this; it is perhaps our calling card amongst the class of medieval play-acting groups. It is a facet of the society that drew me towards it and keeps me engaged day after day. However, it is one particular rock that I also keep tripping over. In my mundane life, I am an Associate Principal Investigator for a cultural resource mitigation company. The title is a mouthful, but means that I work as a historian, anthropologist, and archaeologist all in one. I am in the business of collecting historical and archaeological data, synthesizing it, and presenting the best possible picture of what it can tell us folks in the modern day. As one puzzle piece does not make the picture, neither does one data point make a conclusion, and thus do we do our research and draw conclusions in my field. Very rarely do we get that “smoking gun,” but piles of spent shell casings often are ample substitute.
So, what to do now, with several months until the next Festival of the Passing of the Ice Dragon yet still bearing the same ultimate feedback that I received at the last one? Thanks to the diligence and support of my judges, I have a handful of new leads for other weaknesses in my work, but that pack of lost points that a recipe would ensnare is a frustrating target. There still exist more historical monographs about the Teutonic Crusades than the Lithuanian Empire that preceded them. There still exist paywalls over university-led research into these kinds of anthropological puzzles. I still can’t read Polish. These same roadblocks led me to the indirect methods of problem solving that I first began this project with, and now 40 sources and 4,000 words later I am running out of clever ideas to defeat this final boss. I can hear my thesis advisor from years ago asking me where my ethnography is to contextualize this data, but in this moment, it feels like I have none of the data and entirely too much context.
Ultimately, I have four months to seek another, more complete answer. I’m not ready to set this project down and there are stages of maturation techniques and more period methods that I want to use and try, but this question of authenticity is one that needs to be nailed down. But for now, as the holidays roll in and I prepare to celebrate three religions’ Christmases in the space of a month, it is time to step back. Friends, family, and ancestors all need to be toasted, and I have several bottles to empty.
May trouble never find you in the new year,
Lord Cassiano da Castello, Order of the Sycamore, Shire of Nithgaard.
The Happy Wagon, where Lord Cas and the other alcoholic entries, could legally sampled even though entered in a dry site. Lord Cas’s Russian clothing came in useful in the unheated cabin, as did their wonderful krupnik sufficiently warm the judges.
Tomorrow (Saturday, August 3) will be a very busy day for AEthelmearc. Here is a summary of the Kingdom-specific events that are scheduled:
9 a.m. to 5 p.m.: Ædult Swim, South Battlefield
9 to 10 a.m.: Order of the Fleur meeting, Æ Royal
10 a.m. to 2 p.m.: Order of Defense vigil for Po Silvertop, Rapier List 4
10 to noon: Order of the Pelican meeting, Æ Royal
1 to 3 p.m.: Order of the Laurel meeting, Æ Royal
2 to 6 p.m.: Stone Beer Brewing Workshop, Æ Royal
3 p.m.: Elevation Court for Po, Rapier List 4
3 to 4 p.m.: Order of the Millrind meeting, Æ Royal
5 p.m.: Muster for Baronies for Opening Ceremonies, Æ Royal
5 p.m.: Æthelmearc Moneyers Guild meeting, Æ Royal
5:30 p.m.: Procession from Æ Royal to Battlefield
6 to 7 p.m.: Opening Ceremonies, Main Battlefield
7 p.m. – end: Pelican Reception/Vigil for Malcolm MacEoghainn, Black Legion/Pride’s Keep (N17)
8 to 10:30 p.m.: Royal Cocktail Party, Æ Royal
Her Majesty Juliana said she and His Majesty would love to have as many gentles as possible come out with their baronies, their shires, their cantons to support their Kingdom in the procession to Opening Ceremonies tomorrow. All are welcome to muster in AE Royal between 5 and 5:30 p.m.
Royal Cocktail Party
The Royal Cocktail Party is not the annual AEthelmearc party that is open to all — that has been moved to Thursday night.
The Cocktail party is designed for our Crown to welcome the Royalty from other lands to our Kingdom. Set-up will be from 6 to 8 p.m., clean-up is from 10:30 to 11 p.m., and volunteers for either are very welcome.
Master Creador, who is coordinating the food for tomorrow’s party, said we have plenty of drinks but still need some snacks and other comestibles. All food donationsare welcome. Donations can be dropped off at Hospitality up until 4 p.m. and then again from 7 to 8 p.m. — he asked that gentles not drop off items during Opening Ceremonies.
By Elska á Fjárfelliof the Dominion of Myrkfaelinn in the Sylvan Kingdom of Æthelmearc
The Dutch language has a saying for which I have not found an English equivalent: hearing the bell toll, but not quite knowing where the clapper hangs. It kinda-sorta means “close, but no cigar.”
I was reminded of just this during our trip to the Netherlands this summer when we visited the craft brewery Jopen and I ordered one of their historic brews: Koyt Gruitbier.
A nice glass of gruited koyt at the Jopen Brewery
in Haarlem, the Netherlands
I had found out about this beer as part of my research into the early medieval Dutch beer called gruit and was quite curious to see, and taste, this commercial interpretation up close. And my first question upon seeing the label was: why is it called a koyt gruitbier? I asked a resident brewer and the answer was that they used the grain bill for koyt and added bog myrtle seeds (and other undisclosed herbs…) for gruit, to make a historic gruit beer.
To understand why this is historically problematic, and rather ironic to boot, let’s take a look at the beer style koyt, modernly known as kuit. The Jopen Brewery is located in the city of Haarlem in the province of North Holland – a city with a long brewing tradition going right back to the Middle Ages.
To distinguish themselves from other craft brewers Jopen Brewery delved into the archives of their city for inspiration, and the lucky bastards located several beer recipes to help start their brewing business. They chose to redact two recipes for commercial production, a 1407 recipe for koyt and a 1501 recipe for (generic) hopped beer. Naturally, the brewery was not amenable to sharing its sources, but luckily for us the city archive is open to anyone. The following are scans of the original 1407 koyt recipe and the 1501 hopped beer recipe.
Also those who want to brew coyt, they shall brew in the brew barrel no hopped beer within four days, that is to understand, that three or four days would be in between, having brewed with hopped beer. And as well one shall to each brew coyt brew with 12 eightparts wheat malt, eighteen eightparts barley malt and four and twenty eightparts oats malt and of each not less, on the fine of 3 pounds.
This information, combined with the following ordinance about water usage, gives a good idea of a recipe for medieval koyt.
About coyt, which one transports over sea, one shall not brew longer than 26 barrels, on the fine of 3 pounds, and about coyt which is sold domestically, and one shall not brew longer than 25 barrels coyt, and of each not more, or less, of one wants, also fined as regulated.
But wait, there is something missing… what about the hops? And that’s where part of the confusion originated: these ordinances are not recipes, they are grain bills. Hops, and in earlier times the additive gruit, was under its own taxation and was not mentioned in the ordinances, not even in the 1501 Haarlem ordinance for hopped beer (displayed below).
Also it is ordained as well, that a decent brewer or brewster who wants to brew hop beer, in each brew hop beer dumps ten eightparts wheat malt, and thirty-six eightparts oats malt, and thus so may each brewer or brewster exchange, if they want, for each sack wheat malt two sacks spelt malt or sacks of barley malt, and that until three sacks wheat malt and not more, and thus so shall one brew each hop beer brew fourteen stucken and a half long and not longer, that is to say fourteen stucks to deliver and to keep a half stuck for their drinkebeer (small beer), and that one shall not squeeze or push [press] nor brew on a loose bottom, and so who does different, there is the fine of 12 crowns and no work, until one shall have paid as above. The burghemasters and the court consented, that a decent brewer or brewster may brew hops as well on a loose bottom as differently, and that without a fine.
Was it because of mistaking grain bills for recipes that for decades there was a persistent misunderstanding between kuit (koyt) and gruit (gruyt) beer? Or maybe because the two names sound so alike it was assumed the beers must be alike, or even the same.
So how do we know if koyt really was made with hops, and not gruit, as Jopen Brewery assumes? The answer to that question is actually two-fold. Historic mentions of koyt beer outside of brewing ordinances indicate a clear connection between koyt beer and hops. For instance, the Duke of Burgundy licensed in the year 1455, in favor of the Goudsche (from Gouda) brewers, the hops-taxation on their brew: Goudsche Kuyt(1). Another brewer’s regulation of 1460 mentions that hops-taxation clerks can fine delinquent brewers of large beer and coyten (2). And the History of the city of Gouda from 1817 explains in the 1520 description of brewing “no herb except for hops” was allowed in their brew(3). But even more important in the gruit-versus-hops debate in connection with koyt are their respective time-lines.
In the early Middle Ages in large parts of the Low Countries, which consisted of modern Flanders, the Netherlands, and parts of Germany, the production of commercial beer was taxed through the sale of a product thought necessary to ferment a proper beer, called gruit. The sale of this grain-and-specific-herb-product made a number of families very rich, until a new method of brewing appeared on the horizon.
Not only was this beer, made with hops, able to travel and thus be traded – it did not fall under the gruit taxation! This new hopped beer from the Hansen city-states in not-quite-yet Germany, like the rotbier made in the city of Hamburg, scared the pants off the gruit masters, and import of this beer, and of hops, was quickly banned.
Of course, the Holland citizens – as the Netherlands did not quite yet exist either – recognizing a good thing, were not that easily persuaded. By 1321, the sale and production of hopped beer was officially permitted – and taxed (initially often under the umbrella of gruit). By 1327, Haarlem started the production of hopped beer, as did Dordrecht in 1322 and Delft in 1326, quickly out-competing the traditional gruit ale in the provinces of North and South Holland(4). For some reason the southern parts of the Low Countries persisted in making gruit ale over hopped beer for another 100 years or so – which could probably spawn a quick joke or two about those people from below the rivers, but let’s keep on track.
The brewing kettles, flanked by bar and stained glass windows…
Back to Jopen Koyt Gruitbier – a beautiful beer brewed in a beautiful church and touted as a real historic beer. Which it is, although more correctly: it is two historic beer styles rolled into one. This commercially successful beer illustrates the importance of knowing your history. As we’ve seen, koyt and gruit beer did both exist in the medieval Netherlands, and both at the same time, but not in the same regions. By the early 15th century, in the region of northern Holland, gruit ale had already disappeared – outcompeted by the very successful imports of Hamburg beer that were quickly locally produced, and exported, under the name of… wait for it… koyt.
Basically, Jopen Brewery attempted to make a historic gruit, and based it on the beer that had killed it.(5) That’s irony.
On the other hand, a brewery that’s named for a well-known historic beer type but states on its website that its name is inspired by a beer barrel size which historians are not familiar with, might need a sprinkle or two of extra salt when reading their folklore – oops, I meant history.
Although, I nearly reached my breaking point with the following description: “Jopen Koyt is brewed with gruit, a medieval blend of herbs in which sweet gale, picked according to ritual, was essential. Legend has it that, to avoid its hallucinogenic properties, sweet gale could only be picked at full moon by nude witches.” What the …?! I would love to see that reference, and with illustrations.
The moral of this story? Do not believe everything you read on the Internet. Just because someone is proficient in something does not mean they are proficient in everything. Remember, legend sells as Jopen’s gruitbier slogan shows: deliciously risky.
And the biggest irony is that Jopen Brewery could have had three fantastic historic recipes. The Jopen brewer might not be a historian, but he does know how to brew: that gruit ale sure tasted like more!
(2) Jacobs. Korte chronycke van vele gedenckweerdige geschiedenissen: soo in de principaele steden van het hertoghdom van Brabant als in de stadt en provincie van Mechelen, Volume 1. Loven, the Netherlands: Joannes Jacobs, 1747.
(5) Of course, it’s a bit more nuanced than that, but not by much. In 1374, the grain bill of commercial hopped beer made in Hamburg was updated and part of the oats was exchanged with barley. This Hamburg beer became a very successful export product. Both German products were emulated by Dutch cities: rotbier under the name of hoppenbier and Hamburg beer under the name of koyt, making koyt the daughter of the beer that out-competed gruit ale. Private communication with Freek Ruis, 9/11/2018.
Pennsic 47 all-grain class by Alain ap Daffyd, from the Canton of Salesberie Glen, Barony of Sacred Stone, Kingdom of Atlantia (current Royal Brewer) and Aethelmearcian by association with Madoc Arundel.
Written by Alain, photography by Elska á Fjárfelli.
Brewing area with plenty of shady seating for the brewing enthusiasts who came and visited throughout the day. The class was scheduled for four hours. Photo by Elska á Fjárfelli
The recipe I used in the class is redacted from The English Housewife by Gervase Markham. “The best March beer” calls for peas and the brewing of three beers, or three sparges of wort from the grain. In the interest of time, I combined the first two sparges for a boil yielding slightly more than ten gallons. The peas were omitted.
16# Briess pilsner malt
2# wheat malt
2# oat malt
3 oz. East Kent Golding
The pilsner grain is a barley malt, barely lighter than a “standard” two-row, and happened to be what was in my bin for base malt. I used East Kent Golding, as it is a fine English hop, and I was low on Fuggle. Every medieval recipe I’ve read calls for barley malt, oat malt, and/or wheat malt (in some combination) and hops—I have not seen anything more specific than those terms. From some of the discussions of malt (more/less smoky, etc.), I suspect there was variation from malthouse to malthouse, and between any two maltings as well, but I have yet to see evidence of anyone using different barley malts in any proportion in a single grain bill. Thus, I always weigh my malt from a single bag for any one boil.
Copper kettle on propane burner: This Pennsic I chose to use a propane burner for heat instead of a wood fire. The smoky quality added to the wood-fire brew was lovely, but the smoky quality it added to my respiratory system was not. Every period illustration I have seen has the copper on a stone/masonry stand, where wood is added through the front and smoke is carried away in a chimney. I’m thinking of building something similar and trying wood again. Photo by Elska á Fjárfelli
The session begins with adding eight gallons (30 liters) of water to the copper and setting it to heat. All of the grains were combined in a bucket earlier – once the water was on to heat, they were cracked, and put in the tun. The water is raised to approximately 170 degrees Fahrenheit (~77 degrees Celsius), then added to the cracked grain in the tun, using the “pot-on-a-stick.” After all the water is transferred, a paddle is used to stir the mash, making sure all the grain is wetted and with no clumps.
Photo by Elska á Fjárfelli
After stirring, the mash is covered to prevent heat loss. Eight more gallons (30 liters) of water are measured and added to the copper. Once the mash rests for thirty minutes, it is stirred. On this occasion, we used a thermometer to check the mash temperature, and found it to be just over 150°F (66°C). The copper is now heated, bringing the water to mash temp (150°F/66°C). At the end of another thirty-minute rest, the wort is extracted from the grain by dipping it from the tun and straining it through a wicker basket, allowing it to collect in a bucket. Grain is placed in another bucket once the basket becomes full. After all the wort is extracted (~5 gallons/19 liters, more than expected), the grain is returned to the tun, and the additional water from the copper (8 gallons/30 liters) is added.
Separating the spent grains from the mash – the large wood tub hides a fiberglass insulated plastic tub to help keep the mash at temperature. The large stirring spoon and pot-on-a-stick are period tools; the wicker basket is a period tool; the funnel shelf is of home design. Photo by Elska á Fjárfelli
This is where we depart from Markham’s description, as rather than setting the first wort to boil we collected the wort from the second session and added it to the first, doing a single boil rather than two separate boils. We abandoned the third boil entirely, although a taste of the remaining grain did indicate sugar remaining.
Ludwig taste-testing the spent grains for residual sugars. There was enough left for a third mash/sparge, or a small beer. The strained wort tasted very sweet, both from the first sparge and the second (remember, it is still going to be boiled). Photo by Elska á Fjárfelli
The second run gathered just short of 8 gallons/30 liters (as expected), resulting in just short of 13 gallons/49 liters to boil. As my copper only holds 12 gallons/45 liters, we elected to do a longer boil, adding additional wort as it progressed, until all wort had been reduced to approximately 10.5 gallons/40 liters.
Heating up the wort from the first sparge. Photo by Elska á Fjárfelli
Adding the wort from the second sparge. Photo by Elska á Fjárfelli
The hops were measured and put into a small bag, and added to the wort prior to starting the boil.
Starting gravity is 1.056. The wort was pitched with Mangrove Jack’s M42 yeast, with an expected final gravity of 1.010–1.020, or around 5–6% ABV. This should be a dry, malty beer, and I hope to be serving it at War of the Wings.
Surveying the two fermenting buckets with wort cooling off enough to pitch the yeast. Photo by Elska á Fjárfelli
And everyone went home with a nice glass of “something.” Photo by Elska á Fjárfelli
Recipe of Spent Grain Cookies as made by Alysoun (Alison Leister Steele) and served throughout the brewing class:
Absalon (Christian Leister Steele) hawking the baking wares of his wife. Photo by Elska á Fjárfelli
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Combine whole wheat flour, spent grains, baking soda, brown sugar, cinnamon & egg in a large mixing bowl.
3. Once mixed, stir in melted butter and honey.
4. Fold in raisins.
5. Spoon onto a greased baking sheet.
6. Bake at 350 for 10–12 minutes, or until edges start to brown.
7. Remove from oven and allow to cool. The cookie are even better the next day (they travel well!).
By Elska á Fjárfelli of the Dominion of Myrkfaelinn
As a mother, and brewer, I was unsurprisingly asked (begged) by my kid to help him make root beer. We both quite like the taste of root beer, and the idea of going on a root-and-herb scavenger hunt in the back swamp spoke to both of us! The cunning plan was to have the kid enter his root beer in a brewing competition and thus he had to know at least some of its early history. But – how period is root beer? The two ingredients most often mentioned to make root beer are sarsaparilla and sassafras, so let’s first take a look at those.
Sarsaparilla (Smilax ornata) was introduced to Europe in the 16th century by the Spaniards, first from Mexico and later from Honduras. Mexico, Central America and many parts of northern South America abound in various species of sarsaparilla, valued by the natives for their, more or less, medicinal qualities. The natives value its nourishing and healing qualities so much they would drive their cattle to areas where it grew in abundance in order to feed on the plants and receive its benefits.
Sassafras (Sassafras albidum) was a well-known plant to the natives of the southwestern United States way before the Europeans came around. It had many purposes, including cooking (to flavor bear fat, to cure meat) and medicinal.
The European interest in sassafras brought Europeans into closer contact with the Native Americans during the early years of settlement in 16th and 17th century Florida, Virginia and parts of the Northeast. Early European settlers enjoyed the aromatic scent of sassafras – according to legend, Christopher Columbus finally found land because he could smell the sassafras! As early as the 1560s, French visitors to North America discovered the medicinal qualities of sassafras, as well as the Spanish who arrived in Florida.
Sassafras trees were reported as plentiful at the arrival of the English on the coast of Northeast. Sassafras bark was sold in England and in continental Europe where it was made into a dark beverage called ‘saloop’ – touted to have medicinal qualities and used as a medicinal cure for a variety of ailments. This refreshing beverage was sold in place of tea and coffee, which were much more expensive, and was served in a similar way with milk and sugar.
Sir Francis Drake was one of the earliest to bring sassafras to England in 1586, and Sir Walter Raleigh was the first to commercially export sassafras in 1602. Since the bark was the most commercially valued part of the sassafras plant due to large concentrations of the aromatic safrole oil, the trees would be stripped of their bark – which kills the tree.
This meant that as significant amounts of sassafras bark were harvested, supplies quickly diminished and sassafras became more difficult to find. For example, while one of the first shipments of sassafras in 1602 weighed as much as a ton, by 1626, the English colonists failed to meet their 30-pound quota. Unfortunately, over-harvesting is not a modern invention.
Martin Pring; in his own words (1603):
“In all these places we found no people, but signes of fires where they had beene. Howbeit we beheld very goodly Groves and Woods replenished with tall Okes, Beeches, Pine-trees, Firre-trees, Hasels, Wich-hasels and Maples. We saw here also sundry sorts of Beasts, as Stags, Deere, Beares, Wolves, Foxes, Lusernes, and Dogges with sharpe noses. But meeting with no Sassafras, we left these places with all the foresaid Ilands, shaping our course for Savage Rocke discovered the yeere before by Captaine Gosnold, where going upon the Mayne we found people, with whom we had no long conversation, because here also we could find no Sassafras. De-parting hence 3 we bare into that great Gulfe which Captaine Gosnold over-shot the yeere before, coasting and finding people on the North side thereof. […] Bancroft, following Belknap, identifies Whitson’s Bay with the harbor of Edgartown, Martha’s Vineyard, which is in the latitude of 41° 25g. […]and finding a pleasant Hill thereunto adjoyning, we called it Mount Aldworth, for Master Robert Aldworths sake a chiefe furtherer of the Voyage, as well with his Purse as with his travell. Here we had sufficient quantitie of Sassafras.”
Is root beer period plausible?
What this rather long introduction means is that both main root beer flavors – sarsaparilla and sassafras – were known in 16th century Europe, and at least sassafras was used in a drinkable medicinal concoction in Europe. Unfortunately, it was not (yet) fermented… The tradition of brewing, or fermenting, root beer is thought to have evolved out of other European small beer traditions that produced fermented drinks with very low alcohol content. These were thought to be healthier to drink than possibly tainted local sources of drinking water, and enhanced by the medicinal and nutritional qualities of the ingredients used. For instance, the 14th century recipe Tizanne Doulce (like a tisane, or infusion) uses barley, licorice root and crystal sugar to make a root beer-like beverage.
Le Ménagier de Paris, 1393
TIZANNE DOULCE. Take water and boil it, then for each sester [the sester of 8 pints] of water put in a bowl heaped with barley, and it matters not if it be hulls and all, and two parisis [2 1/2d.] worth of liquorice, item, figs, and let it be boiled till the barley bursts; then let it be strained through two or three pieces of linen, and in each goblet put great plenty of crystallised sugar. Then the barley is good to give to poultry to eat to fatten them. Note that the good liquorice is the newest and it is a fresh greenish colour, and the old is more faded and dead and is dry.
Roots, bark, resin, fruits & flowers
For our recreation, we chose roots, barks and leaves that either grew in the back yard (our property adjoins a New York State Protected Wetland, so plenty of bio-diversity) or we already had in the kitchen cupboards. Even though I met someone via Facebook who lived in the South and had a sassafras tree in his backyard and was willing to ship rootstock, unfortunately, facebook ate the conversation and he was never heard from again… so this time around, at least, no period-correct Southern grown sassafras. We substituted with black birch, as that has a root beer typical wintergreen-like flavor, and spicebush (right). We went on a scavenger hunt and gathered as much as we could from the back yard and surrounding property. Ironically, it is in our modern middle Ages not possible to buy fresh, green licorice, therefore we’ll have to do with the ‘dead’ dry stuff. The kid made name cards to label each baggie of ingredients.
0.6 oz black birch bark
0.6 oz spicebush bark
0.3 oz licorice root
0.3 oz dandelion root
0.3 oz birch bark
0.3 oz black cherry bark (included resin)
0.3 oz juniper berries
1 tbs hops flowers
1 tbs ginger root
1 cinnamon stick
2 ½ quart water
1 cup sugar (brown sugar)
1 yeast starter (ale yeast, reclaimed from a perry).
Then it was time to brew! He scraped the bark off the wintergreen and spicebush twigs. He chopped the dandelion root and grated the ginger root. He broke the birch bark, the cherry bark and the dried licorice root into little pieces. He picked the juniper berries from between the greens. And crushed the cinnamon stick. Mom got homegrown hops from the freezer (he’s not touching the hops supply). He measured everything on the scale, and added it all to the big sauce pot. He measured and added the 2 ½ quarts of water. Turned on the stove, and brought it up to a boil. When boiling, it was turned down to a simmer, to simmer for 20 minutes. When done, mom put the pot in the sink in cold water to cool. The infusion was left to sit overnight.
The rootbeer stock, ready to infuse in water.
The next day, he poured some reclaimed ale yeast into a 1 gallon carboy, and poured the infusion – through a filter – into the same carboy. He added 1 cup of sugar, for the yeast. He then shook the carboy well to dissolve all the sugar, and carefully poured the infusion into his recycled fliptop soda bottles. They were left in a warm place to start fermentation. They will stay out for a few days at the most, or until carbonation is visible, and then be refrigerated to stop/slow down the yeast.
Ready for bottling!
A table showing the different botanicals that can be used in root-beer (X marks the ones we used):
Roots and herbs
Sassafras albidum – roots, leaves, bark
Pimenta dioica – allspice
Smilax ornata – sarsaparilla
Lindera benzoin – spicebush (bark/berries)
Smilax glyciphylla – sweet sarsaparilla
Juniperus communis – juniper berries
Piper auritum – root beer plant
Trigonella foenum-graecum – fenugreek
Glycyrrhiza glabra – liquorice (root)
Myroxylon balsamum – Tolu balsam
Aralia nudicaulis – wild sarsaparilla
Abies balsamea – balsam fir
Gaultheria procumbens – wintergreen (leaves and berries)
Myristica fragrans – nutmeg
Betula lenta – sweet birch (sap/syrup/resin)
Cinnamomum verum – cinnamon (bark)
Betula nigra – black birch (sap/syrup/resin/bark)
Cinnamomum aromaticum – cassia (bark)
Prunus serotina – black cherry (resin/bark)
Syzygium aromaticum – clove
Picea rubens – red spruce (tips)
Foeniculum vulgare – fennel (seed)
Picea mariana – black spruce
Zingiber officinale – ginger (stem/rhizome)
Picea sitchensis – Sitka spruce
Illicium verum – star anise
Arctium lappa – burdock (root)
Pimpinella anisum – anise
Taraxacum officinale – dandelion (root)
Humulus lupulus – hops (bells/flowers)
Mentha species – mint
Hordeum vulgare – barley (malted)
Hypericum perforatum – St. John’s wort
Note: black birch and the evergreen Gaultheria are both sources for the scent wintergreen.
Note: while in medieval European brewing Juniperus communis was used, as we have several mature trees of Juniperus virginiana we used that instead. Like its European counterpart, Virginian juniper is also used to flavor gin.
Medieval European plausibility of our chosen ingredients: [yes / no]
black birch bark
eastern North America
eastern North America
native to Eurasia and North America
native to Eurasia and North America
black cherry bark
eastern North America, Central America
native to Eurasia and North America
introduced to northern Europe in the 9th century
native to southern Europe and parts of Asia
exported to EU via India in the first century AD
exported to EU via Africa (Egypt) from Sri Lanka
Legenda – wh: wild harvested; hg: home grown; cs: commercially sourced
neither of us liked the licorice after-taste. Next time we’ll also add burdock, and maybe some mint, or anise – and less of the licorice.
only add a little bit of lees. There is plenty of yeast in even a little bit to start fermentation
when using commercial dry (bread) yeast, a pinch to each bottle is enough.
as soon as vigorous carbonation is visible on the outside of the bottles, refrigerate.
just in case, have a large container ready when opening the flip-top to catch any overly-carbonated blow-out.
fermented root beer will go alcoholic eventually – keep an eye on the brew so the kids don’t get too frisky.
alcoholic root beer tastes good too!
And as Sir Kenelme Digby so aptly adviced, in his slightly post-period brewing cornucopia:
“You may use what Herbs or Roots you please, either for their tast or vertue…”
In memory of THL Wolfgang Starcke − a brewer, a teacher, a barkeep − the Æthelmearc Guild of Brewers, Vintners, and Meadhers is hoping to assemble a SCAdian brewing book.
Of you we ask: please share with us your recipes. Help us remember Wolfgang as we hope he would appreciate.
The general idea is to collect recipes and anecdotes (preferably anecdotes to go with the recipes) from all the brewers and others that Wolfgang and his brews have influenced over the years. We’re hoping for a mix from the lowliest Pennsic utility brew to the loftiest of documented Ice Dragon entries.
Show us your recipes, show us your memories, show us your photos, sketches, and illustrations. Share what you know he liked−or not−or what you think he might appreciate. Help make Wolfgang an even more lasting presence in our community, and an inspiration for those who come after – now, as well as in life.
The Kingdom of Æthelmearc Brewers Guild has dedicated a page (also found via the Events & Activities tab) to this endeavor.
You can use the link at the bottom of the page to enter your submission, including contact information, your story or anecdote, historical inspiration, if applicable, and modern recipe.
For your inspiration, and to take a sneak peek at previous submissions, we chose to offer you the option of viewing previous submissions. How the final brew book will look like depends on the type and volume of submissions: so let’s all pull together and aim for something BIG!
Yours in Service,
Elska, Maggie Rue, and Madoc Arundel.
Recently, the Æthelmearc Guild of Brewers, Vintners, and Meadhers (affectionately known simply as the Brewers Guild) implemented a program designed to promote greater participation among its members as well as to entice new people to join the ranks: Points for Participation.
“We have been struggling for a couple of years to increase participation in guild activities,” said THL Madoc Arundel, the current head of the guild. “There are a lot of really decent brewers in this kingdom, and guild activities provide an opportunity for them to showcase their product.”
The goal of the new program is not just to get more brewers involved in A&S competitions, but to promote participation in many of the other opportunities available, such as roundtable discussions, teaching and attending classes, and largess.
“We looked at the archery and thrown weapon communities for inspiration. The ranking programs they have encourage people to shoot or throw as often as possible while rewarding improvement in their skills,” said Madoc. “The programs did not translate directly to the brewing community, but we were able to adapt the basic concept to a construct that works for us.”
Harvest Raid roundtable, 2017.
The new program works on an individual rolling 12-month cycle, meaning that brewers can jump in at any time without missing out on opportunities. Points are awarded for attending or hosting roundtables; organizing, judging, entering, and winning competitions; publishing research or informative articles; contributing to social activities or largess; and teaching or attending classes with a brewing theme. The scale rewards both the breadth and depth of participation. As points are tallied, and thresholds are met, guild members receive a token of recognition of their advancement from Novice to Grandmaster.
Leading into the implementation of this new program, the guild has been promoting greater visibility of its members throughout the Kingdom. Beginning with the regional representatives reaching out within their regions to provide more organized opportunities. Currently, the goal is a minimum of one roundtable and one regional competition within each region every year. Regional representatives are also reaching out to event stewards and local A&S officers to ensure brewing considerations are taken into account whenever an A&S activity is planned for an event. Regional representatives and their contact information can be found at http://brewers.aethelmearc.org/org.html.
Since the implementation of the program in late September, roundtables appeared in Regions 2 and 4 with a focus on the historical ingredients in the various beverages brought by the participants. “I think a big part of AE brewers … is that they also don’t focus on the historic part of the drink. Isn’t that what we’re trying to change?” quipped THL Elska á Fjárfellí, the Region 5 guild representative. Elska is the point person on revamping and restructuring the guild’s competition program to make it easier for local groups to conduct a brewing competition either as a standalone activity or as part of a larger A&S activity. Additionally, the Fall Æcademy included three classes focused on alcoholic beverages: “What the Irish Drank” by Baron Charles O’Connor; “Judging an SCA Brewing Competition” by THL Madoc; and “Brewing a Basic Beer” by Lord Ulf the Barelegged. Classes are being developed or encouraged in future Æcademy and schola events, as well as War Practice.
Since the inception of the new program, sixteen people have qualified for the initial activity level of reward and two people have qualified for advanced levels. Any brewer, judge, teacher, student, activity coordinator, or A&S officer can report brewing activity for themselves or their constituency by sending an email to BVMGuild.Points@hotmail.com with the type of activity, the date/event, and the names of the people participating. “We are planning to announce the first group of achievers at BMDL Twelfth Night,” stated Madoc.