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Author Topic: Ealu oþþe béor?  (Read 10364 times)

Horsa

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Ealu oþþe béor?
« on: March 06, 2011, 02:05:10 AM »
I've often wondered why we had the two words for one wonderful, sublime drink.

Apparently in the Oxford English Dictionary the difference is that beer's made of hops and ale's made without hops. That doesn't seem right to me. All kinds of crazy things have been chucked into beer: mugwort, elderflower, yarrow, sweet gale, cinnamon, coriander, orange peel, ginger, oyster shells and the like. Modern brewers carry on this tradition and throw in cocoa powder, spruce and redwood buds, skittles, potatoes. They all end up being called beer. Yet hops turns it into a different drink.

My web wanderings brought me across this post on a beer blog.

http://zythophile.wordpress.com/2010/01/27/words-for-beer-2-–-was-beer-originally-cider/

It makes for interesting reading. The differentiation between beer and ale apparently being one of process. This makes sense. Ferment beer at very cold temperatures for months and it becomes 'lager'. With ale the wort is fermented. With beer, the wort is boiled and then fermented. The purpose of the boil is ostensibly to santize it, but it also removes proteins from liquid; they coagulate and drop to the bottom of the kettle. In the cooling of the boiled wort, more proteins come out of suspension this results in a clear liquid.

It would make sense that though it comes from the same ingredients, it is sufficiently different to warrant being called by a different name. More different from 'beer' than lager is from beer, and that is undeniably a different type of the same drink.

The claim that 'béor' is, in fact, cider or cyser is mind-boggling, but believable.

Further wanderings in the web brought me to some recipes for mediaeval ale.

recipe #1 http://www.cs.cmu.edu/~pwp/tofi/medieval_english_ale.html

recipe #2 http://historicalfoods.com/1807/anglo-saxon-ale-recipe/

recipe #3 http://www.regia.org/brewing.htm

Recipe #3 Though it's from Regia Anglorum it is very strange in that it requires you to boil the mash. This would deactivate the enzymes that turn the starches into fermentable sugars. It would also make the resulting drink very astringent by leeching tannins from the barley husks. However, I do like the fact that they ferment the mash rather than straining it to ferment it. I understand that whiskey is fermented this way.

I'm in the process of making 'ale' from recipe #1. It has the most research. It's for a 13th 14th century ale - 400 years off our time period. However, I'd be surprised if processes had changed significantly, and it's essentially the same as recipe #2 which claims to be "Anglo-Saxon".

Also the process is very similar to other 'non-boiled' ales from other parts of the world such as Finland's Sahti (which is mashed with juniper berries still on the branches) and Lithuania's 'Farmhouse ale'.

So this is non-'gruited'. That's the recipe specified, so fair enough. However, in the spring I intend to wander about gardens and parks and grab some mugwort and yarrow. I had a look at them on Google images and they are fairly common weeds. out here. Also, I might have a go at 4 litres mashed with hops, sahti-style.


Graegwulf

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Re: Ealu oþþe béor?
« Reply #1 on: March 06, 2011, 10:50:23 AM »
Claibourne says that the various Germanic "Beer" words are ultimately a Latin borrowing, from the verb bibere, to drink. Flash back to a taven somewhere on the Rhine frontier, a bunch of Frankish mercenaries demanding Biber! Drink!  The middle "b" gets elided in time, espacially after a few Bibers.

The various "Ale" words are from a native, older Germanic word, but probably not ultimately Indo-European.  More likely it is one of the many borrowings that appear to have come into Germanic from the indigenous pre-IE people.  The words account for a lot of the couplets of words Germanic seems to have, and Claibourne called the language "Folcish", because that's one of the couplets.  The Indo-European word is some variant on "kin", related to Latin genus. "Folk" and its relatives has no IE forbear and seems to be a local borrowing.

Paul

peter horn

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Re: Ealu oþþe béor?
« Reply #2 on: March 06, 2011, 10:52:49 AM »
we know from the leechdoms that beor is much stronger than ale
ale would be the drink of the family, safer than water from most sources.
ale is more common in recipes than beor
old glosses give cider = beor, but this seems to be the equation of a strong native drink (beor) with a strong foreign drink(cyder) rather than two names for the same drink.
the history of cider dates back to 11th century
originally the name 'cider' simply meant 'strong drink'
peter
Ic ∂ær ær wæs
Ic ∂æt ær dyde

Graegwulf

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Re: Ealu oþþe béor?
« Reply #3 on: March 06, 2011, 11:18:33 AM »
But presumably the meanings shift in time and space.  In the 18th C there was a period when beer was hopped and ale wasn't.  The modern Scandinavian laguages al use a variant of ol as generic "beer".

Even more recently, many people in England distinguish between "beer" and "lager".  In Australia, "beer", by default, is a lager type beer, as is bierin Germany.

In a couple of centuries or so "beer", or some word like it, might be barely recognisable to us as a drink.

Paul

Horsa

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Re: Ealu oþþe béor?
« Reply #4 on: March 06, 2011, 11:47:52 AM »

If you haven't read it already, I would really recommend the post on zythophile

(I'll give the link here again)

http://zythophile.wordpress.com/2010/01/27/words-for-beer-2-–-was-beer-originally-cider/

It goes into great detail about the provenance and colourful history of the word 'cider'. The 'béor' was cider argument, was originally put forward by the late Christine Fell, professor of Early English at Nottingham university.

The fact that béor was considerably stronger than ealu means it can't have been straight cider. You're lucky if you can get more than a 6.5% drink out of cider, whereas with beer you just use more grain to less water. The 'ealu' I just made will probably come out to 8% (!!)

"Elsewhere in Anglo-Saxon texts beór is given as the equivalent of ydromellum, another word for mead, and it is also glossed as equivalent to mulsum, wine sweetened with honey."

So, it would appear to be used to translate the words for drinks that had honey in them - easier and cheaper than using more malted barley. Honey would boost the sugar content of whichever must and, therefore, boost the post fermentation alcohol content up to a maximum of 18% any extra sugar would be left untouched by the yeast thus making the drink deliciously sweet.

That's why I suggested it could have been cyser (cider fortified with honey), but I suppose it could just as well have been braggot (beer fortified with honey). Mind you, once a drink gets over a certain strength there is a tendency for people to categorise it differently. Beer over 8% is often referred to as barley wine. Cider is basically a sparkling wine, being made from fruit, but is lumped alongside beer due to it's relatively low alcohol content. Whiskey is basically a distilled beer.

Graegwulf, what do you mean by couplets? Do you mean a bunch of single words in Germanic that have no cognates in any of the IE languages? Also, what are the various 'ale' words? Do you mean the germanic 'ale' word, or a family of words in OE that pertain to booze?

I love the image of those boozed up Franks.
But presumably the meanings shift in time and space.In the 18th C there was a period when beer was hopped and ale wasn't.  The modern Scandinavian laguages al use a variant of ol as generic "beer".

Even more recently, many people in England distinguish between "beer" and "lager".  In Australia, "beer", by default, is a lager type beer, as is bierin Germany.

In a couple of centuries or so "beer", or some word like it, might be barely recognisable to us as a drink.

Oh absolutely. In North America cider is used to refer to cloudy apple juice, so a friend of mine refers to cider as 'cider beer' presumably because it's apple juice with a beer-like alcohol percentage.  I've just wondered for a while what the difference between ealu and beer was in pre-conquest times.

Anyway, my pre-fermented 'ealu' is delicious. Nutty and bready. A little different from your standard pre-boil wort, but this stuff's going to be fermented. Can't wait till it's done. You can't get this in your local offy!


Horsa

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Re: Ealu oþþe béor?
« Reply #5 on: March 07, 2011, 04:14:32 AM »

In a couple of centuries or so "beer", or some word like it, might be barely recognisable to us as a drink.


It already is. Have you ever drunk Bud Light Lime? ;)

Mín ealu onginneþ ahebban

Here is a picture on flickr of the fermenting ale.

The one in the foreground is significantly stronger - 1.080, will probably come out at about 7 - 7.5%. That stuff on the first one is the rising yeast. The other doesn't show signs of fermentation yet. It is about 1.036 which should turn out to around 3 - 3.5%.

Anyone got any opinions on this as an exercise to start to approach a vague idea of what the pre-conquest English drank? I'm very interested in the words - the language is my first love, though I think If we are to continue this discussion, we should take it over to the language section.

There are so many variables making a pre-conquest ale difficult to recreate. There's the (seeming) lack of a description of processes and recipes. Modern malting methods are undoubtedly very different from The ASJ methods, not to mention the varieties of barley. Then there's the kilning. The roasting of the malt was a limp attempt at bringing the malt a little closer to the ASJ malt, though theirs would probably have had a considerable smokey flavour to it. The best thing to do, is try a whole bunch of things, and one of them may have been like an ASJ beer. Throw enough poop at a wall...

Having said that, it's considerably easier and quicker to brew than standard all-grain beer. It could easily be scaled down and done with a stock pot, a sieve and fermented in 5L water bottle.

Graegwulf

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Re: Ealu oþþe béor?
« Reply #6 on: March 07, 2011, 12:27:15 PM »
Quote
Graegwulf, what do you mean by couplets? Do you mean a bunch of single words in Germanic that have no cognates in any of the IE languages? Also, what are the various 'ale' words? Do you mean the germanic 'ale' word, or a family of words in OE that pertain to booze?

I'm referring to a whole swag of Germanic doubles that mean the same thing (or at least did at one time):
Tree/Beam
Wer (like Werewolf)/Man
Folk/Kin

That's three that come quickly to mind.

It's by no means always the case that one is IE and the other not, but I gather it commonly is.

As regards "Ale" words, I mean all the Germanic words of similar form, regardless of what specific drink they refer to.

Paul


Horsa

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Re: Ealu oþþe béor?
« Reply #7 on: March 08, 2011, 12:34:16 AM »
That's remarkable. I've never heard of this theory.

Do you think the strange forms of ealu - nom. acc. ealu gen. dat. ealoþ. points at the morphology of folcish?

Who is this Claibourne? I'd like to learn more but a quick (by no means exhaustive search) brings up nothing.

peter horn

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Re: Ealu oþþe béor?
« Reply #8 on: March 08, 2011, 01:09:33 PM »
well whoever he is, the view that the AS could not have their own word for beer but had to adapt a latin word
seems very unlikely.

the drink beer goes back to very early times in the germanic world. usually made from barley and guess what the AS word is for barley. Its so close to beor that it would be difficult to accept that the drink is not named from the plant
peter
Ic ∂ær ær wæs
Ic ∂æt ær dyde

Horsa

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Re: Ealu oþþe béor?
« Reply #9 on: March 08, 2011, 03:31:59 PM »
This is why I find the theory of 'beor' as cider so intriguing. I, like you, had always assumed that béor came from bere. Isn't that what they do in Latin - cerevisia means both the drink and the main unprocessed base ingredient? But then again, just because the words are similar that does not necessarily mean that they're related.

Although, I have read in other places the bibere etymology of beer, and when I first came across the zythophile article, I do remember reading another article where it was postulated that beor came not from bere or Latin bibere, but from the proto-germanic cognate word to bibere. But I can't seem to find it at the moment and am starting to believe I may have dreamt it.

I have come across this article that puts across further theories - that the difference between 'beor' and 'ealu' was sweetness. In later times there was a difference between fresh and stale ale, as in ale that had just finished or was still fermenting and ale that had been kept a while.  The former would have had more sweetness than the latter, especially if still fermenting. The latter would have not only low sweetness, but sourness from lactobacillus (sourdough bugs) which would have covered up what little sweetness it had, and if kept long enough, brettonomyces yeast, which would have eaten up the last of the barley sweetness)

Also, sweetness could come from honey additions, bringing the sugar content up beyond the ability of the yeast, thus resulting not only a sweeter beverage but the strong beverage it is noted as being.

Another theory given is that the beor is indeed fermented barley water, and that ealu is made from malted wheat. And the final theory is that they're both very near synonyms, much like they are in certain places today.

All grist for the mill (or the mash, if you will.) All recipe ideas, I'll have to try. Throw enough poop at a wall...

Graegwulf

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Re: Ealu oþþe béor?
« Reply #10 on: March 10, 2011, 10:40:21 PM »
Quote
well whoever he is, the view that the AS could not have their own word for beer but had to adapt a latin word seems very unlikely.

Claiborne never said the "AS didn't have their own word".  The borrowing predates Anglo Saxon presence in England by centuries (I probably got it wrong when I said "Franks" - likely earlier than them). By Anglo-Saxon times it was already a widespread Germanic word.  The "Romans" ultimately got it back again - as French bierre, Italian bierra.

Germanic people clearly did have their own "ale"word - ale!  The fact that this remains the generic word for beer in Scandinavia - the furthest Germanic area from the Roman frontier - lends strength to the idea in my mind.

The book I'm referring to is "Our Marvellous Native Tongue" by Robert Claiborne, 1987.  Admittedly one of many popularisations of historical linguistics but good for all that.

Worth a read if you get the chance.

Paul


Horsa

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Re: Ealu oþþe béor?
« Reply #11 on: March 11, 2011, 05:09:22 AM »
Well, the gassing has subsided, so I put it in bottles, and I've got half a glass   for hydrometer tests

So, it's come out at 8.5%, but it tastes a lot stronger than that. It smells very woody. Not altogether pleasantly. There is a bit of nuttiness as well, and a caramelly after-taste. Very different from boiled wort ale, and it's not just the lack of hops. Hmm, acquired taste, Spitfire it ain't.

The thing that occurred to me when I read that beer possibly came from Latin bibere and 'ealu' came from folcish, was that, if this were the case, they were probably introduced to the drinks as well. I don't know much about the pre-history of the germanic peoples, but if they were nomadic non-agrarian peoples, they probably wouldn't have had booze making technology. As they pick up agriculture from the folcish, they learn how to make ale, cider and so on. Making alcoholic drinks is as much about preserving and storing crops like apples and berries as it is about sanitary drinks and party time.

Mind you, this type of ale is supposed to have a very short shelf life.

Graegwulf

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Re: Ealu oþþe béor?
« Reply #12 on: March 12, 2011, 03:42:23 PM »
By the time of contact with Rome, the Germans were far from non-agrarian nomadic people.  The agriculture shifted in many cases but they were farmers and stock-raisers first and foremost.  They would have been well familiar with grains, and brewing.  As were the "mound-builders" who occupied the lands the Proto-Germans moved in to.

In Claiborne's scenario, they didn't have to borrow a word for a drink they weren't familiar with; they were just using pidjin Latin to ask for it.

Paul

Horsa

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Re: Ealu oþþe béor?
« Reply #13 on: March 13, 2011, 01:49:52 PM »
By the time of contact with Rome, the Germans were far from non-agrarian nomadic people.

Yes. I'm thinking off the top of my head as it were. I don't know much about the proto-germanic or pre-germanic periods. I had to look it up on wikipedia for this post, so this is more a request for enlightenment though it resembles a statement of my opinion.

As far as I'm aware, all germanic languages have their cognates for 'beer' as well as 'ale'. Therefore, I imagine these words entering the language very early - in the pre-germanic period as they were settling jutland and the Scandinavian coast. This is where I imagine them bumping into the 'folcish' people, who they assimilate, and whose farming technology they adopt, along with booze, and of course the word for booze. That's the only way I can imagine words that have descendants in all germanic languages being borrowed into the language.

Like Linden, I'm skeptical of the 'beor' > Latin 'bibere'. I need to be convinced. I want more evidence. I imagine it coming from a pre-germanic cognate to 'bibere'.

Why would mercenaries continue to use pidgin Latin when they got back to their speech communities? For a year, when I was in Taiwan, beer for me was 'pijo'. When I went back to England, the habit of asking for 'yi pin pijo' immediately vanished. I associated it with Taiwan brand beer - a particularly funky lager not available in the UK and quite different from London Pride which was my preferred drink.

However, I occasionally buy soju and sake from the liquor store here in Canada. These words have been loaned into English naturally because they are conceived of as standing for different products - we don't call them potato booze or rice wine. Similarly, 'lager' was adopted by English speakers in the UK because it was considered sufficiently different from the native brews.

Imagine if future scholars had to work out what alcopops, real ale, cask ale, beer, lager, sake, soju, cider, ouzo, wine, booze, and snakebite were just based on their references in novels. Some of them overlap, 'real ale' and 'cask ale' are exact synonyms, booze is an umbrella term, but how would you work that out just from reference in novels?