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Friday, April 5, 2013

Into the Time Machine

I participated recently in a wonderful online chat called "Room With A Brew," sponsored by Beer-Nut Mark Spivey of Occurring on the first Thursday of each month, it's a neat way for beer-lovers to shoot the breeze about what they're drinking--and thinking. I encourage my readers to attend.

The distinguished guest on last night's chat was author John Holl (The American Craft Beer Cookbook) who, as expected, held forth admirably on all things beer. As is my sophomoric wont, however, and not being one to miss an opportunity to toss a Baby Ruth in the pool, I posed a whimsical question to the BeerMen: Had either of them ever heard of a beer process called "Lanting" or "Leinting?" They had not, so I felt it my bounden duty to enlighten them, a decision that probably caused half the forum attendees to bolt for the exits. If that occurred, I do apologize. But I dug up this column I did back in 2002 on this process. I offer it for your, um, beer edification.

Leint's not and say we did

It is said there's nothing new under the sun. That's being proved true in the beer business, too. Brewers, not content with making good beer, are experimenting by delving into history.
Whether it's Two Druids Gruit Beer (Heavyweight) or beer made with ancient grains like spelt and kamut ( a la Rob Mullin at Trap Rock ), brewers are pushing the envelope in ways Charlie (Relax-have a homebrew!) Papazian probably never anticipated.

In terms of what brewers add to their concoctions, we've seen Hemp beer, stone beer, herbal beer, fruit beer, honey beer and who knows what those crazy Californians are adding to their brew kettles these days.
In fact, it would be safe to say that most folks who keep up with the beer scene through information sites like this one have probably heard about--if not sampled--some pretty unique brews.

But I'm betting my writer's paycheck (especially if I can't sell this piece) that few beer nuts have sampled what may be the next "fadditive" to beer.

Yes, urine.

It's not that urine and beer are mutually exclusive. People have linked urine and beer for millennia. There's a reason all the big beer festivals rent all those porta-potties folks, and it ain't because beerdrinkers need a place to smoke. Is there a beer drinker among us who has never heard the maxim about "renting a beer?"
And more than one brew (now, now, no names, please) has been evaluated in appearance and flavor by using the vulgar term for urine. So it's not like the terms are never used in the same sentence.

But in the same glass?

When you teach English, you get some weird Christmas gifts. Books, mostly, and those specialty calendars (like Beer a Day) in a wide variety of subjects. So my sons bought me a calendar entitled Forgotten English, and each day I'd be educated and amused by a new "old" term or phrase that is no longer in common use. (Hey, it was a better gift than the nose-and-ear hair clippers they got me last year.)

But heres the calendar entry for March 7, 2002:

Stale urine. It was preserved in a tank and having been mixed with lime used for dressing wheat before it was sown to keep the birds from picking up the seeds.
--Sidney Addys glossary of Sheffield words 1888 

"Wait a minute," says I. "Wheat? They put that in beer, dont they? Ah well, I suppose theres enough distance between the sowing, the growing, the harvesting, the malting, the brewing and the drinking that I really shouldn't worry."
And they only did it in the old days, so why be concerned?
Then I read the last part which gave the word as "leint."

To leint ale, to put urine into it to make it strong.
John Ray's North Country Words, 1691 

This is clearly not where the beer world needs to go thinks I immediately.
What with many modern brewers doing their "Back to the Future" thing, how long before this idea is discovered and catches on? How, then, to dissuade them and the beer world from pursuing--and perhaps embracing--this "new" idea?

Let's project a taster's notes for a future U-Brew.
"Strong hop character, balanced nicely by subtle uric acid notes, reminiscent of garlic and caffeine."
 And just whose urine will be the source of the additive? The local brewer's? While mineral variables in local water may add to the nuances of locally brewed beer, at least the water sources remain relatively constant. A brewer's urine, on the other hand, will be affected by whatever he's been consuming prior to making his beer.
Lord knows what that could be, but there are those sensitive palates and noses in the beer world that might be able to detect "flavor notes" of the brewers last meal. "This is an aggressively hopped ale with hints of clove, banana and White Castle Hamburger....has a slightly greasy mouthfeel." Or "A full-bodied, malty brew with delicate notes of Beefaroni."

Supposing--not that this happens, of course-- the brewer ingests substances that are illegal? Can we expect failed drug tests when we apply for that new job after drinking the New U-Brew?
And what do you do if you take your significant other for her first U-Brew and she claims she "recognizes" that taste?
What if some blackguard brewer with kidney stones uses someone else's stale urine as the additive? What assurances do we have that the urine has been properly aged to critical staleness? That the "Urineheitsgebot" is being scrupulously followed?

I'm all for experimentation with the work of ancient brewers, but there are some ancient brewing practices that are better left in the spent grain bin of history.
Recycling urine into our beer--leinting--is one of them. 

Let's see now, what's this next old brewing term?

©Kurt E. Epps 2002 All rights reserved 

Goes to show, a little education is a dangerous thing...
The PubScout

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