It sounds unlikely - but brewed beer was once
regarded as a safe alternative to drinking water. Marxist historiography would contend
that the approach to any town in Western Europe in the year of Our Lord
1000 was heralded by the appearance of clouds of flies. Britain and Europe in the Middle Ages were plagued
by unregulated sewerage and contaminated drinking water in rivers and streams. There had been a steep decline in town services since Roman times. The ample and healthy flesh seen on display in
Game of Thrones was just as likely to be rotting and cadaverous in the feudal era that inspired the series.
Innovation in public health came from monasteries and abbeys - communities with the time to work on a reliable supply of fresh food, potable water, herbal medicines and hygiene - and possessed of the basic HR requirements for specialisation. By the 12th century it was widely understood that purification of water could be achieved by herbal additives - and the most effective of these was hops. The practice of hopping - or bittering with the hop resins - was developed in sundry monastic communities in Northern Europe and the science was reported in Latin on vellum. Read Abbess Hildegard of Bingen in Physica Sacra. If your Latin is rusty, stick to Chapter 61 - De Hoppho and share the joy of discovery of the preserving powers of the hop flower.
Less valuable as a preservative nowadays, hops is still
important in the craft of brewing beer - and the mysteries attaching to its use
- the occulte cervasiam - are known only to a few. Jayne Lewis - head brewer at Two Birds in Hall St, Spotswood
- a stone's throw from the famous Urban Salvage - is one of the knowledgeable few. Jayne and business partner Danielle Allen are the two birds inspiring the name. I called in recently to see how the bar and brewery
fit out was proceeding - and to cadge a beer. "In potibus?"
inquired Jayne - channelling Abbess Hildegard. Across a counter of polished swirling grain Birdseye Stringybark, dark foaming Sunset Ale overspilled a chilled pot glass and settled patiently under a cold dripping spigot.
The brewery occupies the old site of Goetz Engineering. The industrial Art Deco facçade is well fenestrated and arranged with benches and a few tables fabricated from recycled Tasmanian Oak flooring. Down on the main brewery floor - and overlooked by giant steel kettles - is a beer garden of recycled timber tables corralled by benches of recycled floorboards. On a wintry Saturday afternoon a few dozen patrons were sampling the beers - relieved to be safe for a moment from the uncertain dangers posed by Melbourne Water - chatting in groups around the trestle tables - or reading their Brother Cadfael mystery on kindle in a cosy corner.
My dark and rosy Sunset Ale kept a fine lacy head and the first
draft - when rolled around the mouth - had an ironbark-sourness with a touch of grapefruit resin. Had it been a family visit,
I'd be well reprimanded by now for making plumbing noises. There is an expectation of the full
Vegemite-on-burnt-toast and Sao biscuit-with-Pecks Paste sort of aftertaste from a darker brew like the Sunset
- but it gives you very little grief at the gunpowder end of the spectrum. Instead, it finishes
with a malty, apricot back-of-tongue sensation. It was redolent - for some reason
- of both Hoop Pine sawdust and Fuggles hops. Perhaps I should have showered and brushed my teeth before I left work. Brewer Jayne insisted the hops
wasn't Fuggles - but I like the word - and I just had to mention it. Twice.
Two Birds Brewery purchased some of the 32mm board for the bar fit out - but we have plenty of the more versatile 20mm board in stock and in quantity at very reasonable rates.
extraordinarily good value considering how uncommon and unusual birdseye
figure is in timber. Two-Birdseye is even harder to find.
I look at this Hoop
Pine and imagine island benchtops, bar tops and tables. Where does your
imagination take you?