This section is from the book "Meals Medicinal", by W. T. Fernie. Also available from Amazon: Meals Medicinal: With "Herbal Simples" Curative Foods From the Cook in Place of Drugs From the Chemist.
(See also Ale and Malt).
Beer, which is practically Ale when brewed together with hops, is not a good beverage for persons of sedentary habits; unless taken quite moderately by such, it burdens the liver with products of starch ferment, and causes dyspeptic sluggishness. If Beer gives rise to acidity in the stomach, this may perhaps be the result of an acid fermentation in the liquor itself, especially if it has not been kept long in the cask. German Beers are fermented at a lower temperature than those made in this country, and contain more starch converted into dextrin; therefore a secondary fermentation takes place in them to a considerable extent when drunk, and produces much carbonic acid gas. The peculiar flavour of Bavarian Beers is attributed to pitch in the wood of the barrels. Lager Beer (or Stock Beer) is a light German Beer, so called because stocked for ripening before being used. It has been said to owe its soporific effects in some cases to the leeks used in its manufacture, which vegetable makes persons who partake thereof sleepy.
But the Lancet teaches that the well-known flavour of garlic in Lager Beer is rather due to the low temperature at which this beverage is brewed.
In the New England States, unfermented "Root-Beer "is made for the women, and children, this being somewhat similar in character to the well-known "Kop's Ale "of the British Isles, Sir Horace Walpole, writing from Newmarket, October, 1743, to Sir Horace Mann, just after his return from Italy, says "What a Paradise (after the bare, wide barns of Italian inns) did I think the hostelry at Dover when I got back; and what magnificence were the twopenny prints, salt-cellars, and boxes to hold the knives! but the summum-bonum was the Small Beer, and the newspaper! I bless'd my stars, and call'd it luxury! "It was Dick Swiveller who assured the small "Marchioness" slavey, (when she told him confidentially that she "once had a sip of Beer,") with much solemnity, that "Beer cannot be tasted in a sip."In Pickwick we read about "dog's nose" (formerly a mixed drink of spiced malt liquor) "which your Committee (of the Brick Lane Temperance Association) find to be compounded of warm porter, moist sugar, gin, and nutmeg (a groan: and 'So it is!' from an elderly female)".
Again, "Ale flip "is warmed Ale, or Beer, to which sugar, cognac, or rum, and ginger, with nutmeg, have been added; this is then beaten up with some stirred, or frothed eggs (half the whites being left out), and is well mixed. The drink is known in some parts as "A yard of flannel."Pepys (Diary, January 4th, 1666) says: "Comes our company to dinner, served so nobly in plate, and a neat dinner, indeed, though but of seven dishes. At night to sup, and then to cards; and, last of all, to have a flaggon of Ale, and apples, drunk out of a wood eup, as a Christmas draught, which made all merry."Mulled Ale, and fettled Porter were favourite drinks up to the middle of last century for nourishing the exhausted invalid, and for stuffing a catarrh in its second stage. The mulled Ale was made by warming the liquor, sweetening it, and mixing in beaten-up eggs, and spice, particularly nutmeg. In "fettled "Porter the eggs were left out, and lemon was added. The fettler was a copper utensil, like an inverted cone, for putting on the fire to heat the drink; elsewhere this is known as a hooter (heater?), a "skillet" (with legs), a Mother Red Cup, and a spigot. The object was to make the ingredients hot quickly, so that all the spirit of the Beer should not be evaporated.
We read in recent English history that a couple of centuries ago "the country Squires brewed at home a specially strong ale which, after a mid-day dinner, stood on the table in decanters marked with the oat-plant, and was then drunk in lieu of wine." "Ale-posset"is a more modern hot cordial preparation, made with milk (half-a-pint), a yolk of egg, half an ounce of butter, and half a pint of ale. The milk is poured hot over a slice of toast; the egg and butter are then added, and are allowed to bind, and the ale is mixed therewith whilst boiling; also sugar according to taste. For sea-sickness, if the stomach feels empty, and, still more, if dry retching occurs, bottled porter will do good, and biscuit spread with some butter on which Cayenne pepper is dusted. Also, for the sickness of pregnancy Hop tea is helpful, or a small glass of sound bitter ale two or three times in the day.
Spruce Beer, or Beer of the Norway Spruce fir, or "Sprouts Beer,"is an agreeable, and wholesome beverage, very useful against scurvy, and for chronic rheumatism. It is made with the young sprouts of the black Spruce fir (i.e., the leaves, and young branches), or with an essence of Spruce, boiled with sugar, or molasses, and fermented with yeast. There are two sorts of this Beer, the brown and the white, of which the latter is preferred by many as being made with white sugar instead of the dark molasses. It may be noted that the term "spruce," or "pruce,"was formerly used in connection with fashionable wearing apparel, and applied allusively as to a land of cockayne, or of luxury. "He shall live in the land of spruce, milke, and honey, flowing into his mouth, sleeping." "Essence of Spruce " is made by boiling the green tops of the black Spruce fir in water, and then concentrating the decoction by further boiling without the tops. The young shoots are seen to be coated with a resinous exudation, which becomes incorporated with the boiling water. Spruce Beer may be brewed at home, by boiling black treacle with water, spices, and essence of Spruce, and letting this ferment, with, or without yeast, and then boiling it again.
The said essence of Spruce is a thick liquid with a bitterish, acidulous, astringent taste, to be got from the Norway Spruce fir, the black Spruce, and perhaps other species. Fennimore Cooper has told about the Beer therefrom in his novel, beloved of adventurous school-boys, The Last of the Mohicans: "' Come, friend,' said Hawkeye, drawing out a keg from beneath a cover of leaves, ' try a little spruce: 'twill quicken the life in your bosom.' "
The resinous products of certain pines are of great value, and subserve important medicinal uses, as pitch, tar, turpentine, resin, etc., chiefly obtained from the Pinus palustris. Also from these resinous exudations there is procured pine oil, as employed in making varnishes, and colours. Again, from the Pinus sylvestris a fixed oil is extracted chemically by distillation, which oleo-resin consists of a resinous base, and a volatile essential oil. If the "tears,"or resin drops, which trickle out on the stems of pines be taken, five or six of them during the day, they will benefit chronic bronchitis, and will abate the cough of consumption. Also eight or ten drops of the pine oil given in a little milk three or four times a day will relieve chronic rheumatism. Wool saturated with some of this oil, and then dried, is made into blankets, jackets, spencers, and socks, for the use of rheumatic sufferers.
Porter was so called either because it was a favourite drink with the London porters, or in allusion to its strength, and substance for giving bodily support. It is made either partially, or wholly of high-dried malt, which. by its solution therein materially aids the conversion into fattening dextrin, and sugar, of starchy foods taken at the same time, as, for example, bread and cheese. An excess of this malt leads to large unwieldy bodily bulk, such as that seen commonly in brewers' draymen. Stout is strong Ale, or Beer of any sort; hence, since the introduction of Porter, when of extra strength the brew was termed Stout, such as Dublin Stout, etc. Bottled Stout is an admirable soporific. "If it be desired to avoid nervous disquietude, and to banish insomnia, shun tea, or coffee, and drink Guinness' Stout. I scarcely ever met with a man who could resist the soporific effects of bottled Stout: they are far better than those of opium, and have been ascribed to the hop resin."Temperance advocates largely patronize the drink which is now widely known as Kop's Ale, about the freedom of which from alcohol doubts are often expressed.
But just lately this beverage has been carefully, and authoritatively tested, with the result that only .25 per cent of alcohol revealed itself, - an inappreciable quantity, less indeed than is contained in an ordinary loaf of bread. The beverage is bright, clear, well aerated, and of excellent flavour, tasting precisely the same as any light bitter ale which contains alcohol, and keeping for some considerable time without its alcohol increasing by further fermentation, or the quality, and potability deteriorating. It may be thoroughly commended for all who desire a palatable, refreshing, and safe summer drink.
Thackeray said about a character in The Newcomes, "She thinks small beer of painters! Well! we don't think small beer of ourselves, my noble friend!"