For you medievalists who might be able to actually attend, and all you crazy brewers who like getting together with other brewers to see what’s shakin’, may I recommend this weekend’s Brewers’ Roundtable? It’s something we do a lot of in the historical brewing world that you modern types may not have experienced. They’re informal tastings of a particular sort. The Master of Ceremonies – this weekend it’s our kingdom’s Royal Brewer – checks proof of age, and manages the brews, the order of tasting, the amount poured, the level of cumulative rowdiness, and is responsible for banishing from the table anyone who’s headed toward having too much. Because they do get convivial, these roundtables. But boy, are they good learning experiences.
How are they structured? Generally, everyone participating brings at least one bottle to share. At some roundtables, those who bring sit in an inner circle, those who don’t are in the next circle out and get to taste if there’s enough to go around; those who bring always get preference. Ideally the Master of Ceremonies is knowledgeable enough to comment on the brews in a helpful way. Often, a roundtable will draw several such experienced brewers, who can make suggestions about how to fix this or that or achieve the slightly different result the brewer is shooting for. Good manners and helpful demeanor are a must.
In our informal medieval way, people tend to come and go depending on their other obligations at the event. It’s nice to line beverages up in such a way that everyone’s taste buds are operating at their best throughout, but it’s not always possible to sort from palest ales to darkest stouts with people coming and going. So the M.C. does their best; we all know the brews will come and go.
I have never been to a roundtable that didn’t have enough to taste. These events are always popular. They’re a great opportunity to be introduced to new styles and flavor combinations. In the medieval world there are bound to be gruits, braggots, and meads, drinks on the table that aren’t ready to hand in the modern world. I’ve seen eyes go bright the first time someone tasted a dry, well-balanced buckwheat mead; it’s very gratifying.
A factor most modern roundtablers won’t have to consider: there are activities that may not be preceded with alcohol. For example, if our roundtable brewers are leaving the brewers to go to a tournament, say, rapier, armored combat, or archery, or will be working at a forge or at metal casting later, they may not drink alcohol beforehand. Everyone at the roundtable will help them remember that. They’re welcome to come back afterward they’re done playing with sharp/pointy/hot/risky objects, if they can. Brewers may take a moment out of a fighting tournament just to come get feedback on their brews.
If you modern folks want to attend one of these, it’s best to get in touch with me or someone else familiar with them. We will find you proper clothing and give you a little info on what’s going on. Your Ren Faire garb may not be suitable – while it’s invariably pretty and cool to see, it’s rarely actual medieval clothing.
There’s an entry fee to our events, with added fees for camping or attending the evening feast if there are still seats available. Fair warning, this hobby is addictive to the kind of person who likes to make stuff and is fairly curious. Brewers, this means YOU!