I’m sure that all you have been thinking about this spring is,
- What on the flat earth am I going to brew for the Renaissance Festival’s Bygveer’s Big Beer Cup this summer?
- Where will I possibly be able to find three pounds of the inner bark of a blue spruce tree?
- Can I get bog myrtle at Northern Brewer?
- Do you think this huge pustule on my neck is a bad thing?
This article will be no help in answering those questions, but it will allow you to chat with any man in a codpiece and sound like a pro at the fest. Here is some general information about historical beer styles and key ingredients.
Gruit: an herbed brew from the Middle Ages, predating hops and using spices and roots to flavor and offset the sweetness of the malt. Beers in the Middle Ages used herbs, roots, and spices for distinct tastes and flavors. These spices and roots include lavender, woodruff, juniper berries, and rosemary, to name a few. Even if it wasn’t drinkable, I’m sure that when dried it made great potpourri for when travelers stopped by to sleep in the cottage. For more information see the Gruit Ale Website.
Mumme: a heavy, syrupy, deep brown beer developed in Braunschweig, yes, that’s the liver sausage town, Germany in 1492. Because of its high alcohol and sugars (it’s one hell of a malty beer) it was an excellent beer for long sea voyages. During the 18th century, it evolved into an alcohol free malt beverage, which we don’t recommend brewing, or drinking for that matter! For Mumme information and recipes, visit the Brewing Museum.
Bog myrtle: an herb native to Scotland, sometimes known as sweet gale, properly myrica gale. This herb is used to make sweet heather ale, and can be used in home brewing. Good luck finding it, unless you’re Braveheart running through the Scottish highlands. Some think it has a very pleasing odor – one reminiscent of hiking in the Scottish countryside. Others say it smells like stale feet. We say, to each is own. To find other useless and contradictory facts, visit BogMyrtle.com for more information.
We hope this has inspired you to take a trip back in time and brew the way the toothless and stinky did in the Middle Ages for the Renaissance Festival! We are accepting entries for historic beers, as well as other styles appropriate for the time period. In the last few years we have expanded this category to include some Colonial American beers as well. For more information, take a look around the rest of the site.
We hope to see you there – don’t forget your codpiece.
A prepartory guide submitted by: Cory Dallas, Patty Egan, and Chris Smith