BUYING IN YOUR BEER
If you do not want to brew your own beer then you should buy it in. To replicate the beer/ale which would be a lighter ale of the classic ‘British Bitter’ variety buy either 1) Theakston’s, Old Peculiar 2) Shepherd Neame’s, Bishop’s Finger 3) Greene King’s, IPA 4) Worthington’s, White Shield 5) Bass’ Finest Ale. While for the Porter buy either 1) Fuller’s, London Porter or 2) Titanic’s, Titanic Stout. Note: there are some great cask conditioned ales and porters served in ‘real-ale’ British pubs, but the ones listed are excellent, and can be bought in bottles, and most of them are exported the world over.
BEER, ALE & PORTER: | Home-Brew Beer Recipe | Elder-Ale Recipe | When Tolkien uses the term ‘beer’, ‘ale’ and ‘porter’, these are interchangeable terms for the same ‘type’ of drink, (these are top fermenting beers known as ales, more modern bottom fermenting beers are called lagers). However when he says ‘Porter’ he is differentiating between a lighter ale/beer and a darker ale. Porter is akin to the modern day stout (like Guinness). We therefore only need to brew 2 different ale drinks, not three: a beer/ale which is paler and a porter which is darker. By using the first recipe listed we can make both a light ale and a dark ale, this would be a classic ‘Bitter Ale’, golden brown in colour and a ‘Porter’, dark brown near black in colour. All you have to do is follow the same brewing methods outlined, but vary the type of grains that go into the grist which make up your mash.
QUALITY OF THE BEER
We know Bilbo has a cellar of maturing ale in barrels and he uses a pint-mug and not a tankard, these all point to the more sophisticated level of ale brewing seen in the Victorian age, (hence a ‘Porter’ is called for) and not earlier. However, if you want your ale to be from a much older British period then use the second recipe, which is for an Anglo-Saxon ale flavoured with elderberries and elder flower, this is not matured for long and has no hops added and therefore is a sweeter ale which has not been cleared using ‘finings’ so it remains cloudy and full of body.
This would have been brewed from freshly ground coffee beans, use Brazillian ones as these dominated the coffee trade to Britain right up to the Edwardian period. He is brewing it in a coffee jug set on the hearth, very typical of this period. The earliest coffee houses in London date from the mid1600’s, while in Victorian London Charles Dickens describes one of his night walks, in 1860, “There was early coffee to be got about Covent-garden Market … Toast of a very substantial quality, was likewise procurable”. Serve the coffee black (with an option of adding in cream and sugar) with a ‘substantial’ toast at a Bag End tea/supper, this was quite usual.
Maria Eliza Rundell in 1808 has this to say about coffee:
Put two ounces of fresh ground coffee, of the best quality, into a coffee-pot, and pour eight coffee-cups of boiling water on it; let it boil six minutes, pour out a cupful two or three times, and return it again; then put two or three isinglass-chips into it, and pour one large spoonful of boiling water on it; boil it five minutes more, and set the pot by the fire to keep hot for ten minutes, and you will have coffee of a beautiful clearness.
Fine cream should always be served with coffee, and either pounded sugar-candy, or fine Lisbon sugar. If for foreigners, or those who like it extremely strong, make only eight dishes from three ounces. If not fresh roasted, lay it before a fire until perfectly hot and dry; or you may put the smallest bit of fresh butter into a preserving pan of a small size, and, when hot, throw the coffee in it, and toss it about until it be freshened, letting it be cold before ground.
I would recommend a loose leaf ‘Earl Grey’, a very popular Victorian blend from the 1800s. Although, in well off house-holds a stronger blend was usually drunk in the morning, and a weaker blend in the afternoon, Bilbo would probably not have been so fussy, drinking his favourite blend all day. Bilbo serves the tea in a cup and saucer from hot water boiled in a kettle, (presumably like the coffee jug placed on the hearth). The tea itself would be made and poured from a tea pot (silver or ceramic) through a tea strainer into the cup. Milk or cream and sugar would then have been added seperately to taste.
Mrs Beeton in 1861 has this to say about tea:
There is very little art in making good tea; if the water is boiling, and there is no sparing of the fragrant leaf, the beverage will almost invariably be good. The old-fashioned plan of allowing a teaspoonful to each person, and one over, is still practised. Warm the teapot with boiling water; let it remain for two or three minutes for the vessel to become thoroughly hot, then pour it away. Put in the tea, pour in from 1/2 to 3/4 pint of boiling water, close the lid, and let it stand for the tea to draw from 5 to 10 minutes; then fill up the pot with water. The tea will be quite spoiled unless made with water that is actually ‘boiling’, as the leaves will not open, and the flavour not be extracted from them; the beverage will consequently be colourless and tasteless,—in fact, nothing but tepid water.