It is time for this month’s session! This time, we are tasked with writing on which four people, past or present, we would like to have over for a beer dinner, and which four beers would I serve. Without a doubt, I would invite a student, an entrepreneur, a diplomat, and a dancer. Since these people are all dead, I’m going to go ahead and assume they speak perfect modern English as well.
The Student: I do not know this ancient Egyptian’s name, but he has been forever immortalized by his teacher, who pleaded with his pupil to stop drinking and return to his studies. He writes:
"I am told that thou forsakest books (and) dost abandon thyself to pleasure. Thou dost wander from tavern to tavern. Every evening the smell of beer, the smell of beer frightens men away (from thee). It corrupts thy soul, (and) thou art like a broken oar. Thou canst guide to neither side. Thou art like a temple without a god, (like) a house without bread. Thou art detected as thou climbest up the walls, and breakest the plank. The people flee from thee, and thou dost strike and wound them. O, that thou wouldst comprehend that wine is an abomination and that thou wouldst abjure the pomegranate-drink; that thou wouldst not set thy heart on fig-wine, and that thou wouldst forget the carob-wine.
Now, I am not sure if this guy was a particularly bad student or not, but it is heartwarming to know students have been acting the same way since the start of civilization.
The Entrepreneur: either Elynour Rummyng, Mother Louse or Mother Bunch, or any other alewife lost to history, whoever is available. These women would have started a business in an interesting time, when women in English society were not exactly treated fairly. There was one alewife who was subjected to the false claim that she had leprosy, causing her business to fold. I would imagine the anti-alewife mentality stems from men being afraid of women having power. Yet these women would have known to brew, and brew well, so to talk to them and learn more about their experiences would be something quite unique.
The Diplomat: Sir Kenelm Digby, English courtier and Roman Catholic at the time of the Gunpowder Plot. Sir Digby lived an interesting life, and was even deemed as a reputable philosopher, but more importantly, he wrote a recipe book. The Closet of the Eminently Learned Sir Kenelme Digbie Kt. Opened. In it are recipes for 17th century pies, pasties, beers, wines and meads. It has served as one of the key resources for studying historic gastronomy. To discuss this with him, and the finer points of brewing, would save years worth of research into historical records.
The Dancer: A woman with no name, dubbed the Egtved Girl. She was a Danish teenager, buried around 1370 BC along with one birch bucket. Residue analysis carried out by Dr. Patrick McGovern and team showed that it had beer made from wheat, honey, bog myrtle and cowberries. Whether this was a beer special for funerals, whether it was consumed, if those ingredients were common etc., could all be answered within a quick dinner side chat.
To limit it only to four beers is a bit tough, as I am sure these guests would like to experience all the ranges of modern brewing. Yet having even 30 minutes of their time would help answer so many questions...and really put me out of a job.