About Stout and Cider, etc
In Ireland they drink pints of stout, one after the other! Not only in Ireland now, in fact, because the famous Guinness is drunk almost all over the world. Stout is a dark, heavy ale, often slightly sweet with a taste of malt; its close relative, porter, so-called because the London porters used to drink it, is very similar but not quite so strong. Finally, there is bock, a special heavy beer, made in the United States from the sediment taken from the fermenting vats during their annual cleaning. It’s not to be confused with French bock, which is a glass of light beer.
Throughout history, then, people have been brewing beer. Africans have made it from millet. The Japanese have made it from rice. Europeans, Americans and most other people have made it mainly from barley. But throughout the world, the streamlining and knowledge of both business and scientific techniques have caused complaints in the bar: ‘It’s not what it used to be’. And, indeed, it may not be. As the large breweries grow bigger and the smaller ones disappear, as the traditional wooden kegs give way to the stainless steel and aluminium barrels, so does the average pint of beer become a little more standardized. At the same time, the chances of being served a beer that is ‘off’ grow fewer and fewer. So much so, that we can now buy beer in can or bottle, keg or canister, and still have it in superb condition after it’s been taken across rough tracks for a picnic on the beach, or carried over heavy seas to be drunk in an English bar on the Champs Elysees.
Some beer is kept well by a landlord — perhaps because of a natural chill in the cellars. Some beer is served badly because pipes are not kept clean. But the chances of a bad beer leaving the brewery nowadays are virtually nil. As a result, the beer at the King’s Head is likely to taste the same as that at the Red Lion or the Queen’s Arms. And the lager drunk in South Africa will be pretty much the same as that drunk in Copenhagen.
In consequence, there’s very little mystique about beer-drinking. You don’t have to know anything about first growths, for the sake of impressing a potential business partner or father-in-law; you don’t have to worry unduly about your pocket; you don’t have to think about what to drink with the fish. You can simply drift into a bar, virtually anywhere in the world, and say just the two words, ‘Beer, please’. Cheers!
People don’t usually think of Cider as a wine, and yet, like all wines, it is the fermented juice of a fruit — apples. (’Cider’, by the way, comes from ‘Shekhar’, the Hebrew word for ‘strong drink’.) Cider comes in a variety of strengths and forms — still or fizzy, reasonably dry or very sweet. In Britain the main cider producing areas are Herefordshire, Somerset and Devon, and the last two counties are the home of ‘scrumpy’ which packs a considerable punch. A secondary fermentation may be produced in the bottle by the addition of a small amount of pure cane-sugar syrup, and then the wine is known as ‘Champagne’ Cider. (In Spain, Cider is always treated in this way.) The result is a delicious basis for wine cups and refreshing summer drinks like:
2 parts Calvados
2 parts sparkling Cider
1 dash Angostura
1 level teaspoon caster sugar (dissolved in a little hot water)
1 slice apple Ice cubes
Stir together in a tumbler. Remove ice, add chilled Cider and drop in apple slice.
Traditionally, a kind of fermented honey. It is sometimes flavoured with herbs, such as cloves, ginger, rosemary hyssop and thyme, when it is known as Metheglin. Mead was quaffed by Ancient Britons and is still regarded by some country people as a cure-all for colds, influenza and hay-fever. It can be light or rich, sweet or dry, still or sparkling.
- And Another Review of Cider (colleenanderson.wordpress.com)