Saturday, April 21, 2007

The Taste of History

Following on from Cultural Heritage.

It is done!

I have drunk Captain Cooks Spruce Beer, my national beverage? Unfortunately I missed the April 2 anniversary of my cultural heritage, but I did at least order the beer on April 2 after discovering that a small 2-person micro-brewery made Cooks “Spruce” beer. Actually, they make a modified recipe, as apparently the original recipe is “undrinkable” by todays standards, it being a bit of a cross between thin soup and beer.

So, what was it like? Standard amber colour, very cloudy liquid, very little head, and the taste….well lets just say its “unique”. The vegetative additions of “spruce” and “tea tree” are clearly evident. Beer made from swamp water is probably the best description. But you know, if, like Cook and his crew, you regard it as a “health tonic”, then its perfectly drinkable. Suspending the rum ration for three days of beer drinking was just a happy side-benefit of this health-tonic! A lot better than drinking water from a barrel that first you had to skim the scum off the top, and then strain out the yard long ropes of algae. I recall Cook writing that the first sips of this spruce beer were “terrible astringent” and that the beer was then sweetened with “moleasses”. That is still evident, there’s a hint of something mouth-shattering underlying this modern recipe. I can imagine the first taste of their unsweetened brew must have been a real slap in the face. But again, they regarded such bracing acidic tastes as evidence of health giving properties. These were serious hard men, used to eating and drinking some shocking muck. No matter what it tastes like to me, this healthy swamp water beer tasted like “Nectar of the Gods” to them. In Cooks own words, “Beer was exceeding palatable and esteemed by everyone on board”. I’m sure an annual April 2nd dose of tonic for me will keep me happy healthy and wise.

Yes, yes, I know this isn’t pencil stuff, but just indulge me.

Another fine liquid from said micro-brewery.


Anonymous said...

This post could be filed under "historical research"!

The week before last, I experienced not one, but two major snowfalls. Today, people are walking around in shorts! What happened to seasonal transitions? (Somehow I associate warmer weather with beer.)

Anyhow, interesting topic! I live within walking distance of two micro-breweries, and appreciate their ability to make products that don't require millions of customers, though there is nothing as interesting as Spruce Beer around here.

Have you tried NZ whisky?


Kiwi-d said...

I'm not much of a spirits drinker, so no I haven’t tried any NZ whisky. The southern part of NZ was primarily settled by Scots, so there was/is a tradition of moonshine and whisky, mixed in with a good dose of prohibition! A quick bit of internet research confirms my thought that there is only one small whisky distillery here in NZ, well at least one small legal distillery. Home distilling has some popularity. We are very variable in our spelling – whisky and whiskey. Even the legal distillery uses both spellings in its literature.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm, I own a book named Whisk(e)y, with the parentheses in the title, which names the distillates of Scotland and Canada as Whisky, and those of Ireland and the U.S.A. as Whiskey. (It's not clear where NZ is in the spelling divide.)

It mentions "Lammerlaw" and "Wilson's" as New Zealand brands. It's a 1997 book, so may be out of date.

Kiwi-d said...

Lammerlaw and Wilsons were both discontinued in the 1990's when the distillery was sold and dismantled, and most of the whisky shipped overseas. However, you can still purchase some of the aged reserve stock which is being released under the Milford Whisky (no 'e') brand.

Being of Scots influence we should be whisky without an e.