What is Beer? How to Use Beer

Many blogs on Indian cookery give bay as being equivalent to tejpat (see cinnamon). In fact, bay leaves are not traditional in curries.

FR: Biere GER: Bier IT: Birra

LATIN: Cerevisia (from Ceres goddess of the harvest)

SP: Cerveza

One of the oldest clay tablets from Babylon, dated about 6000 B.C. shows the making of ale. Crude alcoholic drinks made from fermented grain – wheat, barley, rice, maize, millet etc. – are still homemade in many countries. One may be forced to drink them in rural areas as far apart as Zululand and Nepal. The appearance is usually like dirty bath-water and the flavour like sour yeasty porridge. If, however, such crude ales are left to clear, and if, as was the practice in the olden days, they are flavoured with aromatic or bitter herbs, such as alecost (costmary), ground ivy, nettles, dandelion or mixed herbs (gruit), then there is a great improvement. Today, ales are almost universally flavoured with hops which some say were originally added as a preservative.

What is Beer? How to Use Beer Photo Gallery




Hops have been in use since at least 600 B.C., but their introduction to European beer dates from much later. The taste for Flanders bere or biere came to England with soldiers returning from the Hundred Years’ War (1338-1453), and although they are an indigenous wild plant in parts of Britain, hops were not cultivated here until 1525. It is therefore more correct to refer to the earlier drinks without hop flavouring as ‘ales’ and keep the word ‘beer’ only for the more modern drink.

The important thing in following a recipe calling for beer is to find one that has the correct degree of bitterness – strongly or mildly hopped – and sweetness, as these qualities must be correctly judged to conform to the type used for the dish in its country of origin.

Beer is used in the cooking of northern Europe, just as wine is used in the vine-growing countries, but is much less flexible and enters into a much smaller variety of dishes. One might mention German beer soup, made with a dark lager, and the well-known carbonnade of beef, a delicious beef and onion stew of Flemish origin which must be made of Belgian beer called La geuze – sour without prunes or if Carbonade Walons with Diest Moire – sweet and black with prunes. In other words the type of beer used is critical. In England it is locally common to cook shin of beef in dark mild ale.

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