March 2000 Newsletter

March, 2000


DATE: Monday, March 6th
TIME: 7:30 p.m.
PLACE: Tir Na Nog, 1324 Hamilton Ave., Trenton, NJ 08629-1449
PHONE: 609-392-2554

Begorra, as the perfect precursor and prelude to St. Paddies, our March meeting will feature a Guinness representative at the Irish pub Tir Na Nog in Hamilton, NJ. Guinness rep Scott Mullen will show us how to pour the perfect pint of the perfect Stout (Guinness Stout, of course) and answer questions about Guinness and other products (Harp).

I’ll be there a little late, so could someone please ask how they give their beer that famous Guinness sour tang. Also, you may wish to inquire as to the perfect making of a Black and Tan (Harp or Bass?). As we’ll be meeting in the dart room, please wear thick clothing (just kidding!).

FIRST UNION bank is on the right, directly after the bar. (You may be able to park in the bank parking lot).

Call the bar at 609-392-2554 for more information or directions. Thanks to Laurie Harmon for putting together this great meeting.


No, that’s not a misspelling – it was a really GRUIT meeting! Over 30 people showed up at Triumph to learn about ancient beer styles such as gruit, heather ale, and others. Tom Stevenson of Triumph spoke on Gruit beer, and offered samples of Triumph’s rendering of this medieval classic.

Gruit was the predominant style in Europe for over 700 years, according to many experts. The brew uses spices (yarrow, sweet gale/myrtle, and wild rosemary) in place of hops, and is widely considered to be an aphrodisiac, euphoric and stimulant. To me, the beer tasted herbal – of rosemary and pine trees, and was uniquely refreshing, and, yes, stimulating.

As the theme was ancient and herbal beers, I brought along some bottles of Fraoch Heather Ale – a beer made from heather and malt, according to an ancient Scottish recipe. Some commented on the nice fragrance and flavor of the beer – and most liked it. I found it to be somewhat oily and aromatic/floral.

We also got a pre-release sample of Triumph’s first Trippel! Lots of fruitiness in flavor and aroma. Nice body and warming effect too! Many people liked this one too. It won’t be on tap till later this month, though! Some of those who stuck around, also got to sample a commercial example of Perry from Lurgshall meadery in England. (Perry is pear cider.) This cider had a nice pear aroma, and was dry, resiny and somewhat acidic, and pretty much everyone (except Tom and me I think) hated it!

And of course, what would a homebrew meeting be without homebrew! Rich Koch and Steve Rowley offered up both a single step infusion and double decoction version of a Vienna Lager. These batches were almost identical, except that the starting gravity of the decoction was somewhat higher. (Correct me if I’m wrong Steve and Rich).

Some found there to be a small difference in flavor, but not much.
Many, including myself, found that there was quite a bit of difference
in flavor. Sensations are always difficult to verbalize, but my perception was that the decocted batch had a greater deal of malt complexity, body, and smoothness. In contrast, the infused beer was “flatter” and one-dimensional.

Last, but not least, in the tradition of ancient herbal beers, Steve Rowley offered up his Spruce beer. Many tried this brew, which was compared in flavor to various pine tree species and cleaning products. Strangely enough, several bottles were still left over after the event! As Steve put it, “I think I would use less spruce essence next time.” Well said Steve, well said ; )

Handouts were provided on:

*Gruit Ale, origins and recipe (from the Stephen Harrod Bohner book “Sacred and Healing Herbal Beers”)

*Heather Ale and Mead, origins and recipe (from the Stephen Harrod Bohner book “Sacred and Healing Herbal Beers”)

*Fraoch Heather Ale – history, information on other products, and recipe, from

*Real Cider and Perry page – informational piece, from

*Mead Readme/FAQ – information on origins and types of Mead, from

*Absinthe FAQ and recipe –

Some URLs, from which I gathered a great deal of the information:

*Articles and Information on Medieval Brewing – – (Links to some great articles on various historical brewing topics, not limited to only medieval times).

*Medieval/Renaissance Brewing Homepage – – Lots of links to other pages. You can subscribe to the Medieval brewing list from here.

*Fraoch Heather Ale homepage – – Home page of the Heather Ale brewery. They make only traditional, ancient beers. Other products include a Gooseberry Ale, Spruce Ale, and others.

*The Mead Hall – – Lots of info
on Mead, including a link to a nice FAQ (mentioned above).

*The Meadery – –
More information on Mead.

*Technical Library at the Brewery – – Loads of links on more technical brewing topics than you can shake a stick at.

Some people who were unable to attend have asked about getting copies of the handouts. I would not mind sending you what I have in an online format, but I don’t plan on mailing out any of the stuff I copied from “Sacred and Healing Herbal Beers.” I would recommend buying the book instead (you can get it at ).

Also, a great deal of the material can be found at the URLs listed above. Look at the URLs mentioned first. Then, if you are still interested in received any of the materials I have in electronic format, contact me at paleales@a…


By now, you all know that PALE ALES is hosting Charlie Papazian, homebrew guru and author of the classic “The New Complete Joy of Home Brewing,” on April 8th (Saturday) 7 PM at the Suzanne Paterson Center.

This should be one of the best and most exciting club events this year! We have made some changes to the format of the event, which we feel will improve the quality of it.

*Format – We were originally going to open up the event with a session featuring the professional brewers, and doing sort of a public version of the BYHB. After some discussion, we decided this was impractical, hard to implement, and not the best forum for such an event. Also, it would take away from Charlie’s talk and from the BYHB qualifying round as well – and our emphasis should be on homebrewing after all.

The current (still tentative) schedule is:

*7:00 -8:30 PM – Introductions. Charlie speaks on the topic “The Future of Homebrewing.” Followed by Q&A
*8:30 PM – 9:30 PM Food.
*9:30 PM on – BYHB explanation and judging. Mingling. Discussion.

*Food – We have decided to do a pot-luck dinner and are asking each member who attends to bring a dish. We will also provide breads, crudite, etc. We will also encourage club members (whether participating in the BYHB or not) to bring their homebrews. Hey, that’s what it’s all about, right! Dave Albert (alds9147@a…) is the food and menu planner for the event if you have any questions about what to bring.

Also, remember that this is the final QUALIFYING round of the BYHB. (We are planning to have the final party in May). Now is the time to register if you will be bringing beers to the competition. Don’t be intimidated, come and participate! This event should be fun for everyone!

Other details – The cost of admission is $5. The Susan Paterson Center is located behind Princeton Borough Hall on Monument Drive. The center is right near Borough Hall at the juncture of 206 and Nassau St. Also, Charlie will be at Princeton Homebrew (148 Witherspoon St) for a book signing (4-6PM) before his appearance at the Suzanne Paterson Center. Please call (609) 252-1800 or e-mail paleales@a… for directions.


Ready your brewpots, malts, hops and King Cookers oh brewers because the Big Brew 2000 will soon be upon us! An AHA-sponsored event Big Brew 2000 is an event where homebrewers everywhere brew beer on the same day, National Homebrew Day, May 6, 2000. For the third consecutive year, homebrewers across the nation, as well as homebrewers in other countries, will brew the same beer recipe at the same time and participate in a synchronized toast.

The AHA registered 2180 brewers at 265 sites in 47 states and 9 countries who produced 6186.05 gallons of homebrew as a part of Big Brew ’99. See for more info.

As is our club’s usual plan, we will gather at Princeton Homebrew and assemble our brewing equipment and ingredients for the brew in the first Sat. of May – May 6th. We have decided on a recipe to brew – a California Red. (The official style for Big Brew 2000 is American Pale Ale, but hey, we like to be different) .A California Red is basically an IPA with American hops and using a California Common Lager Yeast. We are looking at using Sterling and Horizon hops for the brew. Details to follow.


Elections will be held at the for PALE ALES offices. Several officers have expressed an interest in serving another term. The current positions and their candidates are:

–President – Steve Rowley (incumbent)
–Vice President – Andy Koontz/Laurie Harmon (incumbent)
–Treasurer – Steve Ashton (incumbent)
–Secretary/Newsletter Editor – Kevin Trayner (incumbent)
–Program Director/Coordinator – Dave Albert (new)
–Member at Large – Vacant
–Member at Large – Vacant

In addition, any member at the March meeting is free to nominate himself, herself or another member for any office.

We have created two new “Members at Large” positions, which are currently vacant.

I know that there are quite a few of you who help out from time to time with events such as the BYHB and HSOM competitions, and other stuff, and I encourage you to continue to do so. I see Members at Large as making the same types of contributions, but being more formally recognized for that commitment.

Member at Large would be involved first hand in all decision-making and planning meetings for future club activities, including finding speakers for the monthly meetings, planning club activities and trips, competitions, etc. If you are interested in being involved in the planning and future of club events, but don’t want to make a full-time commitment, this may be just the thing for you. (OK. I’m done my spiel!)

Also, in related news, Dan Noon has volunteered to be webmaster for the PALE ALES web page. I am very excited to have someone dedicated to the web page full time, as I and others (such as Rich Koch) have only been able to work on it part time. I feel there is a great deal that can be done with our site to improve club communications and our Internet presence.


I am forwarding the following by Keith Seguine, Competition Organizer for WHALES Homebrew Club. I encourage you all to participate.

The Whales Homebrew Club would like your support at our 2nd homebrew competition,on april 16 2000 at JJ Bittings Brewing Co.Woodbridge NJ.

All info is on our webpage at www.whalesclub .org .A 1st placed beer will be brewed at JJ Bittings, plus many other great prizes. Hope to here from you all.


Keith Seguine
Competition Organizer

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Princeton and Local Environs Ale and Lager Enthusiast Society