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Leint’s not and say we did

March 8, 2002

It is said there’s nothing new under the sun. That’s being proved true in the beer
business, too. Brewers, not content with making good beer, are experimenting by delving
into history. Whether it’s Two Druids Gruit Beer (Heavyweight) or beer made with
ancient grains like spelt and kamut ( a la Rob Mullin at Trap Rock ), brewers are pushing
the envelope in ways Charlie (Relax-have a homebrew!) Papazian probably never
In terms of what brewers add to their concoctions, we’ve seen Hemp beer, stone
beer, herbal beer, fruit beer, honey beer and who knows what those crazy Californians are
adding to their brew kettles these days. In fact, it would be safe to say that most folks
who keep up with the beer scene through magazines like this one have probably heard
about--if not sampled--some pretty unique brews.
But I’m betting my writer’s paycheck (especially if I can’t sell this piece) that few
beer nuts have sampled what may be the next “fadditive” to beer.
Yes, urine.
It’s not that urine and beer are mutually exclusive. People have linked urine and
beer for millennia. There’s a reason all the big beer festivals rent all those porta-potties
folks, and it ain’t because beerdrinkers need a place to smoke. Is there a beer drinker
among us who has never heard the maxim about “renting a beer?”
And more than one brew (now, now, no names, please) has been evaluated in
appearance and flavor by using the vulgar term for urine. So it’s not like the terms are
never used in the same sentence.
But in the same glass?
When you teach English, you get some weird Christmas gifts. Books, mostly, and
those specialty calendars (like Beer a Day) in a wide variety of subjects. So my sons
bought me a calendar entitled Forgotten English, and each day I’d be educated and
amused by a new “old” term or phrase that is no longer in common use. (Hey, it was a
better gift than the nose-and-ear hair clippers they got me last year.)

But here’s the calendar entry for March 7, 2002:

Stale urine. It was preserved in a tank and having been mixed with lime used for dressing
wheat before it was sown to keep the birds from picking up the seeds.
--Sidney Addy’s glossary of Sheffield words 1888

“Wait a minute,” says I. “Wheat? They put that in beer, don’t they? Ah well, I
suppose there’s enough distance between the sowing, the growing, the harvesting, the
malting, the brewing and the drinking that I really shouldn’t worry.”
And they only did it in the old days, so why worry?
Then I read the last part which gave the word as “leint.”

To leint ale, to put urine into it to make it strong.

John Ray’s North Country Words, 1691

This is clearly not where the beer world needs to go thinks I immediately.
What with many modern brewers doing their “Back to the Future” thing, how
long before this idea is discovered and catches on? How, then, to dissuade them and the
beer world from pursuing--and perhaps embracing--this “new” idea?
Let’s project a taster’s notes for a future U-Brew.
“Strong hop character, balanced nicely by subtle uric acid notes, reminiscent of
garlic and caffeine.”
And just whose urine will be the source of the additive? The local brewer’s?
While mineral variables in local water may add to the nuances of locally brewed beer, at
least the water sources remain relatively constant. A brewer’s urine, on the other hand,
will be affected by whatever he’s been consuming prior to making his beer.
Lord knows what that could be, but there are those sensitive palates and noses in
the beer world that might be able to detect “flavor notes” of the brewer’s last meal.
“This is an aggressively hopped ale with hints of clove, banana and White Castle
Hamburger....has a slightly greasy mouthfeel.” Or “A full-bodied, malty brew with
delicate notes of Beefaroni.”
Supposing--not that this happens, of course-- the brewer ingests substances that
are illegal? Can we expect failed drug tests when we apply for that new job after drinking
the New U-Brew?
And what do you do if you take your significant other for her first U-Brew and
she claims she recognizes that taste!?
What if some blackguard brewer with kidney stones uses someone else’s stale
urine as the additive? What assurances do we have that the urine has been properly aged
to critical staleness? That the Urineheitsgebot is being scrupulously followed?
I’m all for experimentation with the work of ancient brewers, but there are some
ancient brewing practices that are better left in the spent grain bin of history. Recycling
urine into our beer
--leinting--is one of them.
Let’s see now, what’s this next old brewing term?

© Kurt E. Epps
The PubScout

You’ve got to hand it to the Sumerians--inventing BOTH writing AND beer!