BEER is a fermented, spirituous liquor, prepared from any farinaceous grain, but generally from barley; and, strictly speaking, is a vinous production, serving as a substitute for wine.
As we propose to give a short analysis of the art of Brewing, under that head, we shall here only observe, that all kinds of beer are produced by extracting a proportionate quantity of malt, whether made of wheat, barley or oats, in boiling water; then suffering it to remain at rest, in a degree of warmth requisite to induce a vinous fermentation, and afterwards managing it in the manner as will be described under the article just mentioned.—See also Fermentation, and Malt.
Although malt alone might doubtless produce a liquor possessing the spirituous properties of beer, yet such a preparation would speedily turn sour and insipid, unless impregnated with hops, or another aromatic and bitter principle, derived from vegetable substances, which not only render it less liable to undergo the putrefactive stage of fermentation, but also impart to it an agreeable bitterness. Of this nature is the hop in a very eminent degree, the price of which, however, has of late years been so exorbitant, that speculative brewers have substituted a variety of other vegetable ingredients, and especially the wood, bark, and root of quassia (which see.) Independently of the inferior price of this drug, when compared to the indigenous hop, there can be no reasonable objection to its use; as it is one of the rew astringent substances possessing a considerable share of the bitter principle, without partaking of the narcotic, heating, and intoxicating properties of other plants.
It would be difficult to lay down an accurate criterion of the best and most wholesome beer; as its relative strength and flavour, or the immediate effect it produces on the palate, are generally considered the most essential requisites. But a well-brewed and wholesome beer, whether ale or porter, ought to be of a bright colour, and perfectly transparent, that is, neither too high nor pale; it should have a pleasant and mellow taste, sharp and agreeably bitter, without being acrid or tart; it should leave no particular sensation on the tongue; and, if drunk in any considerable quantity, it must neither produce speedy intoxication, with its concomitant effects of sleep, nausea, vomiting, head-ach, languor, want of appetite, &c. nor should it be retained too long in the urinary passages, or be too quickly discharged.
Dr. James Stonehouse, of Northampton, inserted the following recipe for making Beer of Treacle, in the Gentl. Mag. for January, 1758: "To eight quarts of boiling water, put one pound of treacle, a quarter of an ounce of ginger, and two bay leaves. Let the whole boil for a quarter of an hour, then cool and work it with yeast, the same as other beer:" or, "Take one bushel of malt, with as much water and hops as if two bushels of malt were allowed; put seven pounds of the coarsest brown sugar into the wort, while boiling. This makes a very pleasant liquor; is as strong, and will kdep as long without becoming sour or fiat, as if two bushels of malt had been employed."—Dr. Stonehouse adds, that the latter is the preparation used in the Shrewsbury Infirmary, and he does not hesitate to attest its wholesome and nutritive properties.
In the sixth volume of the Museum Rusticum et Commerciale, a work of considerable merit, we meet with a similar account of making a kind of Table Beer, which, from its cheapness, and agreeablefless, is greatly preferable to that obtained from malt; and which has this farther advantage, that it may be made ready for drinking in three or four days:—"Take fifteen gallons of water, and boll one-half of it, or as much as can conveniently be managed; put the part of the water thus boiled, while it is yet of its full heat, to the cold part, contained in a barrel or cask; and then add one gallon of molasses, commonly called treacle, stirring them well together: add a little yeast, if the vessel be new; but, if it has been used for same purpose, the yeast is unnecessary. Keep the bung-hole open till the fermentation appear to be abated, and then close it up. The beer will, in a day or two afterwards, be fit to drink.
"It is usual to put tops of the spruce fir into the water which is making this beer; and it is then called spruce beer. But, gh this is done at sea, when such tops can be obtained, on account of the scurvy; yet it is not neccessary, and may very well be omitted, where they are not to be easily procured. Scurvy-grass, or other herbs or drugs, used in making purl, gill-ale, or any other flavoured malt liquor, may be added at discretion. But a little of the outer ririd of an orange-peel, infused in the beer itself, and taken out as soon as it has imparted a sufficient degree of bitterness, will be found grateful, and assist in keeping the beer from turning sour. A very little gentian-root, boded in the water, either with a little orange-peel, or without, gives also a very cheap, wholesome, and pleasant bitter to this beer."
The philanthropic editor of the "Reports of the Society fur bettering the Condition, and increasing the Comforts of the Poor," T. Bernard, Esq. very justly observes (in a note, vol. i. p. 194), "that it would be a very desirable thing, that the poor should be able to supply themselves with beer of their own brewing, without being obliged always to recur to the ale-house. I am aware of the disadvantage of brewing in small quantities; but that might be compensated for by great advantages, and by the superior flavour of beer brewed and drank at home.—The following recipe is according to the proportions used in the House of Industry, at Shrewsbury: To half a bushel of malt, add four pounds of treacle, and three-quarters of a pound of hops; this will make twenty-five gallons of beer; the cost of which (supposing the value of the grain to be only equal to the expence of fuel), would be two-pence a gallon, where the materials were purchased to the best advantage; and, when bought at the retail shop, about three-pence. I have tried the receipt, and found the beer very good: it was fit for use in a fortnight; but it is not calculated for keeping, particularly in warm weather."
We have been induced to communicate these different methods of preparing a pure and wholesome beverage, in order to contribute our mite, however small, towards alleviating the burthens of domestic life, at the present critical period. And though we should not succeed in persuading many persons, in the middle ranks of society, to adopt our suggestions, we still may flatter ourselves with the chearing hope, that they will humanely exert their influence on such families as may be benefited by brewing their own liquors at home: instead of carrying, perhaps, one-half of their weekly earnings to the next ale-house, and debarring their helpless children from that necessary assistance, for want of which, they are often doomed to become additional burthens on the parish.
Having pointed out the peculiar qualities of good beer, as well as the most easy and advantageous methods of using a substitute for malt, we shall next consider the most effectual way of clarifying this grateful beverage; and of preventing it from turning sour, or restoring it to its former briskness, when it has, by mismanagement, acquired a tart or insipid taste.
Various schemes have been proposed, and many also adopted in breweries, for fining or clarifying different beers. But, as the superior brilliancy and transparency of that liquor, depend in a great measure on the quality of the malt and water—which properly belongs to the article "Brewing"—we shall here speak of that process only so far as it relates to the management of beer, after it is fermented.
In Britain, malt liquors are generally fined with ground-ivy, the Glecoma hederaca, L.; which plant, however, will not produce the desired effect, if the beer has been brewed of bad malt, or otherwise mismanaged during the different processes of boiling and fermenting the wort. In such cases, and especially if it has been too long boiled, the liquor may indeed become clear, by throwing into it an additional quantity of ground-ivy; but it will retain an opacity, or turbid appearance, because this useful plant, being at first lighter than the liquid, and swimming on the top, gradually becomes heavier; and though it combines with the impurities of the liquor, and at length sinks to the bottom of the vessel, yet it is incapable of correcting and decomposing those mucilaginous and empyreumatic particles, which partly arise from inferior malt, and are partly extricated by the action of too great and long-continued heat. Hence we shall propose the following simple remedy, which was communicated to us by a continental friend: After the beer is properly fermented, and a few days old, take one gallon out of every barrel, and add two ounces of hartshorn-shavings (or filings, which are still better) to every gallon. Place the liquor over a moderate fire, till it boils, and rises to the top; let the decoction stand for an hour or two; and, when milk-warm, pour the clear part of it into the barrels, according to the proportion before specified. In this state, the casks must be left undisturbed for twenty-four hours, and then the beer should either be bottled, or drawn off into other vessels. This easy and cheap process, not only has the effect of completely clarifying the beer, but likewise preventing it from turning sour, especially if it be laid up in bottles properly corked, and secured with a cement consisting of nearly equal parts of melted bees'-wax, resin, and turpentine.
There is also considerable damage to be apprehended from the effects of a thunder-storm, by which ale or beer is apt to become turbid and flat, not only at the time when undergoing the critical process of fermentation in the tub, but likewise after it has been barrelled.
In the former case, we are not acquainted with a better method than that of placing (on the approach of a tempest) several vessels filled with lime-water, or where this cannot be immediately procured, only simple water contiguous to the fermenting vat; and, if it be convenient, both fluids in their several vessels should be on a level, or the beer might be somewhat lower than the water; which attracts and absorbs the then prevailing acidity of the atmosphere.
In the latter case, the injurious influence of thunder may be effectually prevented, by laying a solid piece of iron on each cask: this easy expedient we find recorded in the Gentleman's Magazine, for January 1753; and the anonymous writer adds, that the fact is accounted for in one of the volumes of the "Athenian Oracles."
In summer, especially in what is called the bean-season, when all malt liquors are liable to become flat, the following remedy is often successfully employed as a preventive: Take a new laid egg, perforate it with small holes, put it in a clean linen bag, together with laurel-berries, and a little barley; then suspend it in the vessel containing the beer;—instead of the berries and barley, a few leaves of the walnut-tree may be substituted. Others put salt made of the ashes of barley-straw, into the vessel, and stir it till it be incorporated; or, if the beer is not very sour, a small quantity of such ashes, or calcined chalk, oyster-shells, egg-shells, &c. may be suspended in a similar manner, in order to absorb the acidity of the liquor, and recover its former sweetness.
Sour Beer, however, cannot be easily restored in the manner above stated, without undergoing a new process of fermentation, or impregnating it, for that purpose, with fixed air. But as the latter is an expensive and troublesome method, we shall communicate another of more easy application. Glauber recommended his sal mirabile (common Glauber's salt), and saltpetre, to be put into a linen bag, and suspended from the top of the cask, so as to reach the surface of the liquor: thus the beer will not only be preserved and strengthened, but it may also, when flat, or sour, be restored to its former briskness. The experiment may be easily made; but we cannot vouch for its result.
Another, and a better remedy, for recovering tart, or insipid beer, is the following: add to every pint of such beer, from twenty to thirty drops of what is commonly called oil of tartar (salt of tartar, or pure pot-ash, reduced to a liquid state, by exposing it to the influence of the air in a cellar, or other damp situation); then mix it in the vessel, and the acidity will be quickly neutralized.—Those who live at a distance from apothecaries' shops, or wish to prepare this liquid tartar, for occasional use on journeys, especially in summer, may easily make it, by dissolving two ounces of fine pearl-ashes in eight ounces, or half a pint, of pure water, frequently shaking the bottle, then suffering it to stand for twenty-four hours, and afterwards filtering the solution through a fine cloth. In this state it may be preserved for one year; but beer thus restored ought to be drunk soon after it has recovered its briskness, or at least on the same day: and this small addition of vegetable alkali is, in warm seasons, rather conducive, than detrimental to health.
When beer has acquired a peculiar taste of the cask, either from an unclean state of the vessel, or, by long keeping, from the astringency of the oak, it is advisable to suspend in it a handful of wheat tied up in a bag; which generally removes the disagreeable taste.
With respect to the physical properties of malt-liquors, we shall observe, that they are possessed of various degrees of salubrity, according to the proportion and nature of their ingredients, namely, water, malt, and hops, of which they are composed; and likewise, according to the manner in which they have been brewed. If, for instance, a large proportion of water has been used, the beer will be more proper for quenching thirst, than if it were strongly impregnated with the mealy and spirituous particles of the malt. Hence, strong and sweet beer is the most nourishing and beneficial to thin and emaciated persons; stale and bitter ale, the most intoxicating; and weak, half fermented porter, the most flatulent, and least serviceable to nervous, debilitated, hysteric, or asthmatic constitutions. But, as there is no peculiar test, by which we can ascertain with critical accuracy, when the vinous fermentation is completed, and the acetous has commenced, every kind of beer must be barrelled, or bottled, before it is perfectly fermented, so that the completion of this natural process is effected in the stomach and bowels. Strange as this proposition may appear to some persons, it is so true, that the infinite diversity of flavour and briskness obtained from the same mixture, when drawn off into different vessels, or bottles, cannot fail to strike the most superficial observer.
Beer always contains a portion of fixed air, which being disengaged within the human body, is apt to occasion flatulency and looseness. To the mariner, however, and those who are subject to scorbutic complaints, it is, in general, a wholesome beverage, though we cannot refrain from animadverting upon the prevailing, erroneous notion, that ale or porter promote digestion: this is refuted by the uniform evidence of experience, whence it clearly appears that, of all liquids whatever, pure water is the most beneficial solvent of animal and vegetable substances. Such individuals, therefore, as make use of nourishing, and principally animal food, require no beer for its digestion; as the habitual drinking of malt liquors will expose them to all the inconveniencies of plethora, or a full and gross habit. Others, however, who live chiefly on vegetable diet, and whose stomach is weak or impaired, may be greatly invigorated by a moderate use of strong and bitter malt-liquors—a purpose which the common table beer cannot answer. Persons of dry and rigid fibres, and whose bile is duly secreted, ought to drink such beer as is sufficiently strong and nourishing, without being of an intoxicating nature: for this purpose, we would give the preference to Bell's Beer, over Burton, and other ales.—A thin, weak, and well-fermented beer, is diluent and wholesome; whence it agrees well with the plethoric, and persons disposed to corpulency. On the contrary, thick and nourishing malt-liquors are most serviceable to the debilitated, and especially to wet-nurses; consequently sweet beers are chiefly nutritive, and more proper for daily use, on account of their being least exposed to dangerous adulterations; while the bitter kinds possess medicinal properties, and should be drunk in a weak state of digestion, by individuals subject to acidity in the stomach.
Lastly, every kind of beer is improper for the hysteric, the hypochondriac, and all those who are already of a full habit, or manifest a thick, atra-bilious blood; but it is of peculiar service to the laborious, the lean, emaciated, and all such constitutions as are not liable to flatulency, or any organic diseases of the breast.