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The HandCrafter
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Finely Handcrafted
since 1996

Volume 2, Issue 8
August 2007

In this Month's Issue:
(Quick click each link)

Beer Through the Years Recipe for Hard Cider Monthly Food Recipe


Beer Through the Years

By J. Square Humboldt

No one really knows exactly how the first beer came into being ...

Suffice it to say that, around 10,000 years ago, somebody let a primordial barley and hop concoction stand long enough for it to ferment. The result not only made anonymous history, it was the genesis of beer's own special influence throughout the ages.

Here are a few examples of note:

It was the accepted practice in Babylonia, as early as 4000 years ago, that for a month after a wedding, the bride's father would supply his son-in-law with all the mead he could drink. Mead is a honey beer, and because their calendar was lunar-based, this period was called the "honey month" or what we know today as the "honeymoon." I have also heard that the custom included one of the most resourceful bits of propaganda ever created for husbands. As the story went, if the groom drank mead for an entire moon, it would enhance the chances of his wife bearing a male heir. The bride, however, had to abstain from drinking alcohol at all. I'll leave the punch lines to you.

After consuming a bucket or two of vibrant brew they called ‘aul,’ or ‘ale,’ a certain self-appointed breed of Vikings would head fearlessly into battle without armor, or even without shirts. In fact, the term "berserk" means "bare shirt" in Norse, and eventually took on the meaning of their wild behavior in battle. They believed that Odin’s favor was all they needed for protection, and if they were to die in combat, it was only because The Allfather decided it was their time to enter the hallowed halls of Valhalla. This was Odin's great ‘Castle of the Chosen Slain,’ where 'inductees' would spend eternity in Viking nirvana, ie- fighting all day, having their wounds miraculously heal at sundown, and then partying all night, with generous quantities of ale at their beck and call.

Before thermometers were invented, brewers would dip a thumb or finger into the mix to find the right temperature for adding yeast. Too cold, and the yeast wouldn't grow. Too hot, and the yeast would die. This practice is where we get the phrase, "rule of thumb."

The first known consumer protection act arose with the German Beer Purity Law of 1516, known as Rheinheitsgebot. This decreed that, in order to be called 'beer,' a beverage could only consist of four ingredients: malt, hops, yeast and water. This is such a revered regulation that when the European Union facilitated the introduction of other beers into the German market, it took a court order for many stores to sell them. Most of those beers contained preservatives, and to a respectable German, that meant --- and still does --- that such beverages were not beer.

In English pubs, ale is ordered by pints and quarts. So, in olde England, when customers got unruly, the bartender would yell at them to mind their own pints and quarts and settle down. It's where we get the phrase, "mind your P’s and Q's."

Also in England's olden days, pub frequenters often had a whistle baked into the rim or handle of their ceramic cups. When they needed a refill, they used the whistle to get some service. "Wet your whistle" is the phrase inspired by this practice.

In 1740, Admiral Vernon of the British fleet decided to water down the navy's rum. Needless to say, the sailors weren't too pleased and called Admiral Vernon “Old Grog,” after the stiff wool grogram coats he wore. The term "grog" soon began to mean the watered down drink itself. When you were drunk on this grog, you were "groggy," a word that has been expanded to include the effects of too much beer and is still in use today.

There are numerous quotations which pay homage to beer. Allow me to list three of the wittiest:

"Sometimes when I reflect back on all the beer I drink, I feel ashamed. Then, I look into the glass and think about the workers in the brewery and all of their hopes and dreams. If I didn't drink this beer, they might be out of work and their dreams would be shattered. Then I say to myself, 'It is better that I drink this beer and let their dreams come true than be selfish and worry about my liver.'"
-- Saturday Night Live's faux-philosopher, Jack Handy

"Put it back in the horse!"
-- W C Fields, disapproving of a sub-standard brew

"Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy."
-- Benjamin Franklin

Given a good pint, composed of God's natural ingredients and nurtured by man's learned craft, beer has made us very happy, indeed.

Just keep the joy below 0.08% of your blood content.

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J Square Humboldt is the featured columnist at the Longer Life website, which is dedicated to providing information, strategies, analysis and commentary designed to improve the quality of living. His page can be found at and his observations are published three times per week.

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Recipe for Hard Cider 
by Frank Holes, Sr.

This is an autumn special around the homestead.  The end of the summer apple harvest means Hard Cider brewing time, just enough time to have it ready for fall get-togethers.
Recipe for Hard Cider

1 cup of warm water (95-98 degrees)

4 cups of white sugar

4 gallons fresh apple cider and/or squeezings

1 package of champagne yeast

24 champagne bottles with corks and wires

Warm the cider to room temperature.  This may take a few hours, so plan ahead.

Dissolve the champagne yeast in one cup of water.  Stir well.  Set aside for five minutes to bloom.

In your fermenting bucket, dissolve the sugar in about 2 quarts of warm water.  Stir well.  Pour in the yeast mixture, and rinse the cup to get out every drop.  Begin adding in the cider and keep stirring to thoroughly mix until all four gallons are incorporated.  Fill up to the five gallon mark with warm water if necessary.

Seal the lid with a bubbler and store at room temperature for 2 to 3 weeks.  It is ok to store wherever you store your homebrews. 

When you're ready to bottle, create a sugar mixture of 1 cup of white sugar dissolved in1 cup boiling water.  Drop one tablespoon of this mixture into each of 24 champagne bottles.  

Bottle in champagne bottles with good plastic corks and twist on wires tightly, as it will be highly carbonated.  Clean up the bottles from any spills.

Bottles are ready to condition for another 2-3 weeks.  Add your own homemade labels and tightly crimp on foils for decorative gifts. 

Remember, as with any yeast product, there will be settlement at the bottom.  When pouring, be sure to leave the bottom half inch.  It is drinkable (I actually like the dregs at the bottom of homebrews), but some people don’t prefer to see or drink it. 

  Important rules to remember with highly carbonated fruit beverages:

1.  Keep bottles cold, as warm temperatures can rapidly release gas

2.  Do not shake up the bottles.  If one gets shaken up, immediately put into your fridge for several hours or even days to prevent explosion.

3.  Never open indoors.  Corks at high velocity can break glass and dent drywall.  And a gush of carbonated fruit beverages can make quite a mess.

4.  Never point a bottle at anyone.  Ejected corks can be dangerous.  We've even had corks fly out as soon as the wires were loosened.

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Frank Holes, Sr. is the Vice President of Griswold Mountain Brewing Company and a distinguished crafter of homemade champagne and cordials. 


Recipe of the Month:

Broccoli Beer Cheese Soup

by Sam Waring


Broccoli Beer Cheese Soup
Yield: 2 1/2 Quarts

This works well with both light beers and dark beers (I prefer using a Porter).    

4 cups Water
1 Onion, small; chopped
1/4 tsp Garlic powder
1/4 tsp Pepper, white
Seasoning salt; to taste
Cayenne; to taste
1 lb Broccoli, fresh;  chopped
1 oz beef bouillon granules
3/4 cups Margarine
1 1/2 cups Flour
2 lb Cheddar cheese; cubed
4 cups Milk
2 oz Beer
Cooking Directions:
1.  Bring water and onion to a boil in a large soup pot. 

2.  Add seasonings and half of the broccoli. Bring to a boil again. 

3.  Add soup base and lower heat. 

4.  In a separate saucepan, make a roux. When the roux thickens, gradually stir into the soup, whipping with a wire whisk to avoid lumps. 

5.  Heat milk and cheese to just below boiling point until the cheese melts, stirring constantly. Blend into the soup and add the remaining broccoli. 

6.  Just before serving, add beer. Mix well. Makes 2-1/2 quarts. 


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