This is Summit Brewery’s tag line, but it falls woefully short. You owe your life to beer. And you. And you. And you. Without beer, life as we know it would not exist. Personally, I could end this story right there, and feel that I had covered all the bases. The oldest known recipe on earth is for beer, carved into a Sumerian clay tablet. It is because of beer that our knuckle-dragging Neolithic relatives went from being hunter-gatherers to developing as an agrarian society; farming grains to make beer. And bread. But for the most part, beer, and the invention of the sports bar was born.
But it was the Puritans that first brought beer to America. According to ´Mourt’s Relation,’ of 1622, an accounting of the proceedings of the English Plantation at Plymouth in New England, the Mayflower Pilgrims settled because supplies were drastically short, most importantly, beer. Beer was a dietary mainstay, much as it is today, for some of anyway, because, having been boiled, it was purer than water.
As Bohemian hops were so valued, Good King Wenceslas; Saint Wenceslas, (b. 907, d. 929), Patron Saint of Brewers, ordered the death penalty for anyone caught exporting the cuttings.
For centuries, for millennia, any manner of shit was thrown into the mash to adulterate the brew; from flowers, to spices, to fruit, to vegetables, to different woods; beechwood aging of beer is still popular today, for some fucking reason. Thankfully, in 1516, William IV, Duke of Bavaria, adopted the Reinheitsgebot, known universally as the German Purity Law, possibly the oldest food quality regulation still in use. According the Reinheitsgebot, only three ingredients could be used in the production of beer; water, barley, and yeast. Later, hops were allowed as they acted as a preservative for the beer.
Violators were fined or imprisoned. In the United States, laws presently allow up to 22 adjuncts that can be added to a beverage and still be called “beer.” So, let’s get this straight right now, Budweiser is not beer! Not according to the Reinheitsgebot. It is a malted beverage, made from more rice than barley, and hop pellets rather than fresh hops. And, not to simply pick on Bud, but nearly every mass-produced “beer” in America follows a similar recipe.
It is in the spirit of William IV, and the purity of the Reinheitsgebot, that craft breweries started popping up around the country in the early eighties. This wasn’t a fad. This was a movement, and it continues to this day. Beer made by real craftsmen, not regulated by computers. Even with the restrictive four ingredients, there are innumerable variations and methods to make beer. Real beer. Regal beer. Mark Stutrud and his Summit brewery were the standard bearers in Minnesota for decades, and for the most part, the only show in town. Now there are dozens of micro-breweries following with the same passion and perseverance, and pride.
“Don’t drink the water, drink the beer”
Saint Arnold of Metz (b. 580 d.640)
I am a former brewer, having worked with two of the best craft breweries in California in the mid-eighties. First with Devil Mountain Brewery in Walnut Creek, and then Buffalo Bill’s in Hayward, arguably the first micro-brewery in the United States. I’ve also been fired by two of the best craft breweries in California, (but that’s another story). At Hell’s Kitchen, we offer a few of the finest Ales and Lagers in the country, with St. Paul’s Summit, Michigan’s Bell’s, Surly from Brooklyn Center, Magic Hat from Vermont, Lagunitas from Petaluma, California, and, brewing for more than 150 years, Murphy’s Irish Stout from…Ireland. These are the real deal; great beer made by master craftsmen. No rice, no corn, no torrified cereals, no refined starches, no syrups, no shit!
For centuries, brewers have invoked the names of patron saints to bless and protect their beers.
Saint Luke the Apostle. Saint Arnou of Oudenaarde. Saint Nicholas of Myra (yes, the ‘Christmas’ St Nicholas). Saint Benedict. Saint Barbara. Saint Medard of Noyon. Saint Adrian. Saint Veronus. Saint Brigid. Saint Amand. Saint Arnold of Metz. Saint Arnold. Saint Arnold (yes, there are three). Saint Boniface of Mainz. Saint Cthbert. Saint Florian. Saint Lawrence. Saint Hildegard von Bingen. Saint Columbanus. And Good King Gamrinus, “The King of Beer.” All patron saints of beer, brewers, hops, or barley. So we got that going for us. And t
Since the early brewing processes were not well understood, often the batch of beer were not fit for drinking. The poor quality was mystically blamed on evil spirits and, specifically on “brew witches” or “beer witches,” but no worries; the last known burning of a Beer Witch was in the late 1500’s.
Here, I’ve included a simple recipe to make your own beer:
To Make Small Beer, Take a large Siffer[Sifter] full of Bran Hops to your Taste. – Boil these 3 hours then strain out 30 Gall [ons] into a cooler put in 3 Gall[ons] Molasses while the beer is Scalding hot or rather draw the Melasses into the cooler & St[r]ain the Beer on it while boiling Hot. let this stand till it is little more than Blood warm then put in a quart of Yea[s]t if the Weather is very Cold cover it over with a Blank[et] & let it Work in the Cooler 24 hours then put it into the Cask – leave the bung open till it is almost don[e] Working – Bottle it that day Week it was Brewed.
George Washington, 1754
It is my design to die in the brew-house; let ale be placed to my mouth when I am expiring so that when the choir of angels come, they may say, ‘Be God propitious to this’
Saint Columbanus (b. 612)
Warmest personal regards,
Mitch Omer, Founder/Executive Chef of Hell’s Kitchen