Brewing and Magic

A couple questions here:

I'm the SG and my players know very little about brewing, let alone the differences between Modern and Medieval brewing. They have made a deal to help a group of brewers with some enchanted items in exchange for a cut of the profits. I mean to do more research earlier, but here I am now.

The question then is, what kind of enchanted items would help?

So far,we've come up with the following:

-Removing the Air from barrels (apparently a big deal)
-a vermin control device (tangential, but keeping the brewery clean is a plus) (covenants pg 50 something)
-something to clean the vats (but did they even use vats?)
-some kind of refrigeration (also from Covenants)

But what else would be useful? Any help and suggestions would be very welcome.

Magical kilns for drying malt to precisely the right degree. Since no actual fire is involved, there is no smoke flavor in the resulting beer.

In general, something to sterilize your tools, barrels, and water is a very valuable tool for consistent brewing. So an item that would clean your implements would be useful. This could in theory be done with either Rego (simulating the actual cleaning) or Creo (making the items more "perfect"), in the Forms of Terram (for metal implements) and Herbam (for wooden barrels).

Same thing with temperature control. You want your starter mix to be kept at an even temperature while the yeast takes hold, then once your beer/ale has been brewed you want to keep it at a low temperature. So an item with a Room target to control the temperature within, possibly a second one for a different temperature.

In period, beer/ale was not put into bottles, and only occasionally in sealed barrels or amphoras. It was usually brewed and consumed at the same place. So anything that would allow it to be transported and preserved would be innovative.

As a tangent, something that would enhance its taste when served (such as a Sun duration MuIm effect on the barrel's tap) could also be potentially valuable if the brewers also run a tavern -- this would create difficulties if they also sell it by the barrel to consumers, for the taste would not be the same off-site.

Just a few ideas... I'm not an expert, although I have done some brewing in the past...

Making beer happens to be part of my day job!

The basic steps are:

Growing Barley. CrHe opportunities, and possible weather magic options too.

Harvesting barley. Lots of ReHe opportunities here, transporting the harvested barley can be achieved by magic too.

Malting: this essentially involves drying out the harvested barley, and storing it for a month or so, then steeping it in water and putting it in a big damp pile until it just begins to germinate, and then drying it out again. After it's dried you can also roast it (which gets you dark malts). You can use magic to manage vermin and pestilence here and to dry/roast the malt. Also, note that you can do this with many other grains, not just barley.

Crushing the malt. Not to a flour, but the husk has to be cracked. Maybe a PeHe or ReHe job. Or some sort of animated (coarse) mill.

Mashing. This is mixing the malt with hot water (70oC) water, which infuses for an hour or so, and is then lautered (separating out the spent malt --- the infused water is the bit you want). You can use magic to heat the water and perhaps ReHe or ReAq to perform the separation. Maybe use magic to power a bore or something similar for the water supply.

Wort boiling and cooling. The infused water (wort) is usually transfered to another vessel and boiled for an hour or so, and then cooled down to near ambient temperature. During the boil hops (a herb flower) are added (which add some bitter flavours and act as a preservative). You can use magic to do the required heating and cooling, and to move the liquid from vessel to vessel.

Fermentation. The wort is transferred to another vessel, yeast is added into the wort, and it ferments away for a week or two. This requires cooling, as the fermentation releases heat. Temperature control might be done by magic. You could also use MuAq to magically ferment the wort.

Basically done. The yeast may need to be separated out (if you are worried about clarity) and you could put the finished beer into storage vessels. Some beers are stored for a while to develop other flavours.

Temperature control was not great in the medieval period --- because they couldn't measure it for a start.

Note, that it was not known until the 19th century that you needed to add yeast for fermentation to happen. Medieval brewers just accidentally infected their brews with ambient yeast (which is a mould). Which is one reason why regional beers were different, as there were different ambient yeasts. Keeping the brewery sterilised would actually be a bad idea, as you would kill the yeast. Of course, in Mythic Europe it might be a magic spirit/demon that governs the fermentation process.

Lots of other herbs were added in the 13th century instead of, or as well as, hops. Hops role as a preservative was not well understood. You can also cut the malt with other grains (like wheat, oats, etc) that haven't been malted. This is essentially what a wheat beer is, for example. This gives you a different flavour and appearence to the beer, and (importantly) is cheaper because you don't need to pay for as much malt.

Only if it is a sealed keg which you are filling. More a modern thing than an medieval issue.

The smoke flavour might be considered a feature rather than a problem.

A book with magic and brewing that I really like is Drawing of the Dark by Tim Powers. The dark in the title refers to dark beer. It is set in Vienna during Sullivan's invasion.

Yeah... I'll be stealing this for our newly startes scottish covenant I think.
Now, does anyone know anything about how to make whisky?

Here are the spells my food/drink-focused mage had. I'm not sure if they're perfectly figured, but they should be about right. The third one, of course, is most relevant here.

The Phantom Vinter [Make wine as The Enchanted Chef (Cov 52) – ReHe(Aq)30]
The Phantom Baker [Bake bread as The Enchanted Chef (Cov 52) – ReHe(Aq,Ig)35]
The Phantom Brewer [Brew ale, beer, mead, etc. as The Enchanted Chef (Cov 52) – ReHe(Aq,Ig)35]
The Phantom Cook [Cook food as The Enchanted Chef (Cov 52) – ReHe(An,Aq,Ig)40]

Richard, I know you do beer and this is a wine question, but I saw a doco about a winery and they showed their "mother" to the film crew, in a great glass jar. Now, I know about mothers in the context of vinegar making, but what is it with wine? Is it like a sourdough mother that they keep so they get the same flavour each time?

(For those wondering what I mean, a mother is a blob that looks like a jellyfish that grows in vinegar barrels, and medieval people knew they needed to take a sliver of it and put it in any new barrel. They called it a "mother of vinegar". I've seen one develop in a vinegar bottle in my pantry, although I didn't know what it was at the time.

Mothers are odd from a Hermetic magic perspective, as they spontaneously emerge from plants, and are possibly, just possibly, Animal, like other vermin.

It is essentially the same process, but after fermentation the "beer" is distilled (concentrating the alcohol part and some flavour / colour compounds) and then stored in (traditionally oak) barrels for a number of years. Some of the flavour and colour comes from the oak.

If you stuff up the beer process somehow (like my students sometimes do!) you can sometimes make a decent whisky out of their beer. Not that the students have the patience to wait for several years before drinking it.

Also in beer and whisky production impurities in the water play a role --- peat flavours in some whiskies are present in the water used in brewing (because the water flows through a peat bog), for example. And some impurities interact with the physiology of the yeast, producing different flavours too.

When you make wine (like beer) the yeast (a mould) ferments sugars turning them into alcohol. Vingear is made by taking the wine and then infecting it with a bacteria that ferments the alcohol turning it into acetic acid. This will just happen "naturally" through ambient infection if you wait long enough. The "mother" is just big colony of the right bacteria, which you infect the batch with.

In wine making the "mother" is presumably yeast collected from one batch used to infect the next.

In fact, this is what is done in "traditional" beer brewing too. It is the ambient yeast from one batch that infects the next. Whether you do this by just having poor hygeine or deliberately saving it and passing it on matters little. Different traditional brewers/vintners will have different practices.

A modern (industrial) winery or brewery also collects the yeast from one batch and uses it to infect the next. But the problem is that after many generations (i.e. more than several batches) the yeast you have can be a genetic mutant that develops (the wrong) off flavours. So, every now and then you go back to the orginal yeast (which you have kept a sample of in the fridge). Of course, lots of quality control questions about exactly when the right time to do this is.

Richard, thanks for all of the information, this was very helpful.

If I remember correctly from my visit many years ago to an irish distillery there are huge differences in the whiskeys depending on whether the malt is roasted with smoke passing through it or without, so whether or not the metal plate between fire and malt has holes in it.
Also some whiskeys are distilled more than once, I think the Irish made big deal out og being triple distilled. Maybe it removes more impurities?

The product ready for aging is often very strong, over time some of the alcohol evaporates, and may it is watered down for the final product. Colour should be only from the barrel during aging, msotly it is much lighter in colour almost transparent but many modern products are coloured with caramel I think.

Even better!

Students never do, do they?

Good to know.

I do believe he mentioned smoke in beer flavouring?

Gentlemen, I do believe we have an idea for a new source of income for our little covenant.

Yup, it fits nicely with the cook/brewer's ambitions of opening an inn and hanging up his polll axe. Which again fits nicely with the Mercere's plans for a redcap/magus inn.
Sadly the cook/brewer (and also baker) is piss poor at his crafts and also not very bright. I smell an opening for a story where he trades something seemingly insignicant to a faerie for supernatually high skills in return.


Absolutely true. In both whiskey and beer production there is a lot of art, (science?) and choice over precisely what is done to the malt, how you do it, and what blend of malts you use (if indeed you use a blend). There are also lots of receipe variations where you use maize, or rye or whatever either malted, or in conjunction with malted barley. You wouldn't normally use quite the same malt selection for whiskey and beer. Oh, and you don't put hops in whiskey.

What you actually get carried over into the product depends on precisely how your still is designed and operated, of course. Generally, multiple distillation will result in stripping out more flavours, which leaves a cleaner base (I guess) for the flavours that develop during barrel aging. The distinction between what is an off-flavour (which you want to remove) and a desirable flavour you want to keep is partly a matter of taste.

Certainly that is true of some cheap mass-market beers. I imagine that the same is probably true of cheap mass-market "whiskies".

I believe distillation is in it's infancy in the thirtieth century. It's supposedly an outgrowth of alchemy.

There is a local craft distillery here on the coast of Maine they currently do gin, rum, and are experimenting with whiskey and Vodka. I've done the tour umm a few times :blush: . Multiple distillations removes more of the oily alcohols resulting in a cleaner tasting spirit. Whiskey get's most of it's flavor from charring of the barrels it's aged in. The charcoal filters the spirit while the phenols add a Smokey flavor.

For those who can stand it, Moyashimon has interesting bit about all sorts of fermented products.

Using hops in brewing and creating beer, is an astonishingly new in 1220, used only in some monasteries in the Rhine Tribunal (only).
Before hops, old widows in every village brew their own ale. Using various techniques and adding strange ingredients, e.g.: rosemary.

On the topic as a quick source of great information I would recommend:

  • BBC's Our Food series, it gives more than you would expect.
  • Stonehenge Tribunal book
  • Fief - Medieval Society and Economy by Lisa J. Steele, p35 is about brewing.

Regarding Whiskey history and how to

  • BBC Addicted to Pleasure 4of4 Whisky

Just wanted to say I love this thread, since my current Troupe has a significant chunk of covenant income deriving from this, and so it gives my players (all of whom are new to ArM) ideas for enchantments and spells to boost revenue and fulfill covenant service obligations.