Sunday, 10 October 2010

Ale – Medieval Ale Terms, Festivals and Historic Ale Styles.

In Medieval times Ale was a drink made with malt but not hops, where as beer was a drink made with malt and hops. The distinction between the two was slowly lost over time. Ale came to mean a less hopped drink compared to beers, such that Lager, Porter and Stouts are not Ales. So where does that put IPA....

Medieval feasts, fetes and fairs were also called ‘Ales’ probably as that was the most prevalent and popular entertainment provided. Yule – was a season of rejoicing. The Midsummer Yule and the Midwinter Yule.

Wassail – A folk custom in January on twelfth night, among fruit trees to ensure a good crop in the spring. More associated with apples and cider. A Wassail cup or bowl was kept for mixing a special punch to be drunk while the ceremony was conducted, usually a hot spicy cider drink, like mulled wine.

Purl Ale – Ale warmed and mixed with spices, gin and whatever else took the makers fancy. A real winter warmer. Also called Wormwood Ale.

Gruit – Popular before the widespread use of hops, instead used herbs such as sweetgale, mugwort, horehound or heather to flavour the ale.

Cock Ale – Used a crushed, cooked (probably boiled) whole chicken complete with bones, mixed with dried fruit, sometimes soaked in wine, then placed in a bag in the fermenting beer.

Posset – Made with hot milk then mixed with ale which curdled the drink. Spice may also have been added. Often used as a remedy for minor fevers.

Mumm – ‘Strong as six horses’. A strong, bitter, un-hopped ale. Suggested that it is the origin of ‘keeping mum’ if a little too much was drunk then it may stop your tongue.

Welsh Ale – A strong ale brewed with cinnamon, ginger, pepper and honey

Ebulum – Ale brewed with elderberry

Scot Ale – a ‘Scot’ was a contribution or a reckoning to a feast day or a form of tax. A share of mutual obligation. Donations of ale and food were demanded by the Squire and he would keep back a portion for himself. The term ‘Scot Free’ derives from the peasantry organising their own feasts and not having to lose out on the master’s cut of the contributions.

Small Ale or Small Beer – a very weak ale either brewed as such or using the second runnings of a stronger brew. Generally drunk by children or agricultural workers in place of water which was often un-potable.

Lord and Lady of the Ale – Commoners selected to ‘host’ the feasting and drinking. A ceremonial or comical role for sending up the lord of the manor.

Bride Ale – The bride at her wedding would ‘sell’ beer for gifts. Unfortunately it is unlikely that the term Bridal comes from Bride Ale.

Groaning Ale – an extra strong beer made to ease the pain of childbirth, for celebrating the new arrival and it is suggested for also washing the new born, which must have been more for ceremonial rather than practical reasons. Latterly also called an ‘Arrival Ale’ or ‘Baby Bath Ale’. There may also have been a ‘Groaning Cake’ made to celebrate the new child and eaten with the ale. It may have been that the Groaning Ale was brewed at the same time as the Bride Ale and aged until the first child.

Majority Ale – A very strong ale brewed on the birth of the child and aged until their 21st birthday.

Church Ale – a festival to raise funds for the church. The ‘Ale Wardens’ would collect contributions from the parishioners

Mead Ale or Braggot – A fusion of Ale and Mead. A strong ale brewed with Honey and Malt.

Roggen Ale – A German ale made from barley, wheat and rye malts

Caudle – Eggs added to ale to thicken and enrich it. Often as a remedy or comforter for the old or sick.

Ale Conner – an officer appointed to check the goodness of the ales and that they were sold at a fair price. Legend has it that they sat in a pool of ale to test its stickiness and hence strength.

Nipitato – A strong ale which will dry the sorrows from your heart

Nappie Ale or Nappy – Old slang for a strong ale, from nap or frothy head or needing a nap or sleep after drinking.

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