Definition - Different Modes of Manufacture - Antiquity - Osiris, the Inventor - Adam's Ale - Egyptian - Scandinavian - Adulterations. Africa: Pitto, Ballo, Bouza. America: Persimon,chica, Vinho de Batatas. Bavaria: Schenk and Lager. Belgium: Lambic, Faro. Borneo: Ava or Cava. China: Samtchoo.
The dictionary definition, or rather description, of Beer is "an alcoholic liquor made from any farinaceous grain, but generally from barley." This barley clause is, of course, not true in all countries, nor is beer always made from a farinaceous grain. For the rest, the description is all that could be desired. After the barley is malted and grained, its fermentable substance is extracted by hot water. To this extract or infusion hops, or some other plant of an agreeable bitterness, are added, and it is afterwards boiled for some time, both to concentrate it and to obtain all the useful matters from the hops. The liquor is subsequently allowed to ferment in vats. The time allowed for fermentation depends upon the quality and kind of beer. After it has become clear it is stored for drink.
This ordinary popular description of beer will be probably sufficient to satisfy the general reader. But we must add to it a second explanation of beer, which is applied to a fermented extract, not from any farinaceous grain, but from the roots and other parts of various plants, as ginger, spruce-sap, beet, molasses, and many more, The scientific inquirer may learn the mysteries of malting and brewing, which are very nearly distinct trades, in the many treatises on beer-making which have adorned the literature of this and other countries. In these he may read as much as he wills of the steeping of the barley, its extension, its absorption of water, and the time occupied in this process; of the couching and sweating, as it is called, a result of the partial germination of the grain; of the flooring, or spreading out like hay over a field; of the kiln-drying, or the introduction of the half-germinated grain into a kiln with a perforated floor, with the necessary and variable amount of heat beneath it. And if all this is not enough, he may continue to read at full length of comings or cum-mings, of pale and amber-coloured malt, of grinding the malt, of washing the malt thus ground, of boiling the worts with hops, of cooling the worts, of fermenting the worts, and, finally, of clearing and storing.
Beer is probably a word of German, as ale, signifying the same thing, is of Scandinavian, origin. But the source of the German word is a moot question of comparative philology. Those interested in this matter may find abundant information in a note inserted by M. A. Schleicher in the Zeitschrift of Kuhn. We are led thereby to a Gothic form, pius, which in its turn conducts us to the Lithuanian pyvas. Pyvas or pivas - since etymology is a science dans laquelle les consonants font peu de chose, et les voyelles rien de tout - may be easily attached to the secondary root piv found in the Sanskrit pivami. In Indo-european tongues, and in accordance with the dictum of Voltaire, p, b, v, are interchangeable as labials. And so we come to the conclusion that pivas, or its descendant beer, means nothing else but drink; or, in other words, that this particular form of drink is the drink par excellence. And so we might rest content, were it not for the uneasy scruples of a certain M. Pictet, who has introduced a Slavic origin. But of etymology this taste will suffice.
Twenty centuries before the Christian era, Osiris, according to some authors, invented beer,1 and according to others it has been at all times a drink of the Hebrews. We have, indeed, heard of Adam's ale, but that term has been generally applied to a species of drink which would hardly come under our present category. It is perhaps more probable that the beverage of Osiris and the early Hebrews was a simple infusion of barley without more. Pliny, however, Theophrastus, and Tacitus, speak of beer as known from very early times to the people of the North, who were prevented by their situation from the cultivation of wine.2
1 Those who wish to investigate the antiquity of beer may find ample matter to supply their desire in a work commonly attributed to Archdeacon Rolleston, entitled, a dissertation concerning the origin and antiquity of barley wine" Oxford, 1750. 2 Much has been written on the comparative merits of wine andnumerous. Some of them will be considered later on in detail. There are, however, only three principal types of fabrication, - the Belgian, Bavarian, and English. The beers of England, as of France, and for the most part of Germany, become sour by the contact of air. This defect is absent from Bavarian beers.
The ancient beer of Egypt is compared by Diodorus Siculus to wine on account of its strength and flavour. This Egyptian beer is indeed spoken of by Herodotus as barley wine, a title which still survives in some of the windows of our public-houses. At present beer is the habitual drink of the English, German, Dutch, and Scandinavian races. A drink, better called barley water than beer, appears to have been the favourite beverage of the Danes and Anglo-saxons, our ancestors in the remote past. Before Christianity had enlightened and corrected their views about the delights of a future state, these benighted folk supposed that the chief felicity enjoyed by the good - in those days synonymous with the brave - after their death and transplantation into Odin's paradise, would be to drink in large goblets large quantities of ale. Perpetual intoxication thus entered largely into their conception of celestial joy.
Beer as we understand it - modified, that is, by the introduction of the hop - was probably little known in England before the beginning of the sixteenth century. The varieties of beer at the present time are beer. Perhaps as good a remark as any on this subject was made by a modern tradesman who, wishing to sell both, explained that, while strongly advocating the introduction of wine, he did not at all intend to depreciate the merits of our national beverage, beer. Where, he continued, plenty of out-door exercise is taken, and little intellectual effort is demanded, good beer is perhaps the most wholesome of all drinks; and therefore he advised the "labouring man," who could not probably afford to buy wine, to drink beer, while others, who might be supposed able to afford wine, were warned that they could not drink beer with impunity.
So favourite a drink has, of course, been largely adulterated, Taste, colour, and smell are frequently due to unscrupulous falsifications. Bitterness is produced by strychnine, aloes, nux vomica, gentian, quassia, centaury, pyrethrum, absinthe, and many other ingredients. Colour is obtained by liquorice, chicory, and caramel; and flavour by other additions, which perhaps it is better not to particularize. Water, of course, is added to beer, as to most drinks, to enlarge the quantity and therefore the price. Potatoes are frequently a substitute for grain. Potash is introduced to give the much-desired "head" chalk to diminish acidity, and chloride of sodium, or common salt, for the sake of what is called a piquant flavour. It were well if these little eccentricities of the beer vendors had here their confine; but the sacred hunger for gold has added, alas! to these, virulent and narcotic poisons,1 such as belladonna and opium, henbane and picric or carbazotic acid. In the city of London this kind of adulteration was formerly, it was fondly imagined, to some extent prevented by some ancient guardians, known as ale-conners, who had the right of entering all public-houses and tasting their ales.
1 The world has little altered since the time of Martial (i. 19). " scelus est jugulare Falernum, Et dare Campano toxica saeva mero."
Only the most important beers of different countries are given in the following list, arranged alphabetically for convenience of reference: