Stuart Robinson presented an excellent, informative and highly interesting account of the bubonic plague that afflicted this country in the 17th century. Actually, the plague had visited these shores several times
in the past - notably during the 14th century when it was known as the black death owing to the vast blood-filled lesions that occurred on the bodies of the victims... We were told that when these burst the victim either recovered or... The survival
rate for the bubonic version was 30%. However, if the disease made its way to the lungs - when it became known as pneumonic plague - survival rates plummeted to 0%. That is - you died! The plague is still remembered to this day in the nursery rhyme "ring a
ring o' roses". The ring referring to the initial blemishes, the "attichoo!" to the flu-like symptoms, and the "we all fall down" to the death that followed. The plague was carried by the black rat (ratus ratus) or "ship rat". It probably arrived onboard a
ship from the Far East. The infection was allowed to flourish owing to the highly squalid environment found in 17th century London houses. People simply piled straw on the floor to provide a comfortable cushion. Instead of cleaning out the spent straw when
it had served its purpose, the ignorant dwellers simply piled more straw on top. Rats flourished in this environment and their infection ridden fleas passed the illness on to the dwellers. The disease was called the "poor plague" because poor people were most
at risk... The hoi polloi simply upped sticks and left for the country! The picture shows Mompesson's well in Eyam (Derbyshire). The plague arrived there from London; however, the town's authorities decided to quarantine the village to prevent its spread to
the neighbourhood. The sign shows how they managed this. Sadly, William Mompesson's wife succumbed to the infection. She declared "how sweet the air smells" before dying just 6 days later. Mompesson himself was horrified to hear her utter those words... He
knew, all too well, that one of the early signs of plague infection was a sense of sweetness in the air... This was an excellent talk about a highly interesting period in our history. Thanks Stuart - we do hope you will come again!
That's The Spirit!
Kirsch is a fruit brandy made from Morello cherries. Actually, it is known as kirschwasser or "cherry water". Unlike cherry liqueurs, kirschwasser is not sweet. The best kirschwassers have a refined taste
with subtle flavours of cherry and a slight bitter almond taste that derives from the stones. Normally, it is imbibed neat, but it can be used as a base for some cocktails. Morellos were originally thought to come from the Black Forest region of Germany; kirschwasser,
therefore, owes its origin to that country. Kirschwasser typically has an alcoholic strength of 40 - 50% and, as an eaux de vie, the EU sets a minimum strength of 37.5% for such beverages. It is delicious - just as long as you aren't surprised by
its lack of sweetness. Cherry Brandy it ain't! One of the ways we find it indispensible is its use in cheese fondue. It just doesn't taste the same without - even though most recipes call for its optional inclusion. Of course, it
is also used in that great 70's favourite the "Black Forest Gateau" but, shown below, is another recipe for an excellent non-chocolate cake. It's delicious. Hope you enjoy it!
Cherry Kirsch Cake
7 oz butter, 17 oz pitted cherries, 3½ fl oz kirsch plus two tablespoons, 6 oz golden caster sugar, 4 medium eggs, 5 oz self-raising flour, 7 oz ground almonds, ½ tsp baking powder, 1 tbsp plain
yoghurt, toasted almond flakes to decorate. Preheat oven to 170oC/ 340oF/gas mark 3. Grease a 10" baking tin. Soak the cherries in all but two tbsp of the kirsch. Beat butter and sugar till pale and creamy. With continued beating, add
an egg, some flour, another egg - and so on - until all incorporated. Add the remaining ingredients (including the reserved 2 tbsp kirsch) and ¼ tsp of salt. Gently fold. Place the cherries and their kirsch in the bottom of the tin, add the cake mixture,
and smooth it over. Bake for about an hour. Check after 40 minutes when it should look golden on top and firm to the touch. You may need to extend the cooking time if necessary. Once cooled, tip it out and scatter on the flaked almonds. If you like - drizzle
some more kirsch on. Cathy did!
This cake is exceptional - well worth buying the Kirsch for!
Next Month's Meeting (November)
The Kentish Hop Story by Chris Stuart. Chris has given several talks at Tunbridge Wells and I can tell you with confidence that he is a thoroughly engaging and humorous speaker. This talk on hops will interest everyone
not just beer makers/imbibers!
French Trip (2017)
Cathy wrote the following: French Trip – Thursday 30 November. The menu and pick-up pointsare provided for this popular event. The document is promulgated as an attachment to this newsletter.
Please don't forget to download it - and please return your responses by the next meeting at the absolute latest.
Truthfully, I think Wyn and Cathy would appreciate them A.S.A.P.
Next Month's Competitions (November)
• Dry: 1st Les Maskrey; 2nd Tom Rix; 3rd Bob Dye
• Medium: 1st Tom Rix; 2nd Les Maskrey; 3rd Bob Dye
• Sweet: 1st Cathy Rishman; 2nd Tom Rix; 3rd Les Maskrey
Thanks to the judges Les Bates and Bert Scott
I Bet He Drinks Carling Black Label
Remember those funny adverts a few years back? My favourite was the Dam Busters parody when a German guard fended off the bouncing bombs as if he were a goalkeeper... Well, guess what? The fine up-standing brewers,
always putting integrity before profit, have been exposed for lowering the strength of their "beer" from 4.0% to 3.7% without telling anyone they had done it! They did this in 2012. Seemingly, HMRC were after them for allegedly not paying a £ multi-million
duty bill. The brewers won their case at the Royal Courts of Justice after Philip Rutherford, vice-president of tax for Molson Coors Europe (the parent company) admitted that the tax was not due, since this reprehensible reduction meant the company's
liability should have been based on the lower figure and not the higher. Believe it or not: Martin Coyle, marketing director, then went on to say that punters "preferred the weaker lager"! Oh - the company didn't change the label from 4.0% to 3.7% - in order
to "protect Molson Coors" since many of its customers would "demand a slice" of the saving.
This contempt for customers seems a common failing in the brewing industry. Remember Watneys? Once a brewer
of beer, they succumbed to the avaricious directions of their accountants. These worthies, having clearly never been in a pub, or mixed with ordinary flat-capped punters, decided that all the "ordinary working man" required was to sit in a pub, which
looked the same wherever you were in the country, drinking a pint of slop that tasted the same - wherever you were in the country. Isn't it nice to be patronised by such well-meaning folk? Tug me forelock t'yer sir!
Oh The Vanity Of Humanity
Never failing to be astonished by shallowness of "expert" opinion I found the following (supplied by Bob) to be an unsurprising corroboration of that view (Mail 15 August). It seems, if you tell your guests that a bottle
of wine is hugely expensive, they will find it tastes better! The study, by professor Bernd Weber of the University of Bonn, tells of a number of volunteers who were given three samples of wine. They were told one was cheap, one was mid-priced and the other
expensive. They were informed that they cost £2.70, £5.40 and £16.35 respectively. In actual fact, it was the same wine costing £10.00. An MRI scan of their brains showed a remarkable placebo effect which seemed
to alter the brain's perception of taste. Weber said it was "unclear how". Oh come on prof! Ain't it obvious? Reminds me of that old Stella Artois advert - its reassuringly expensive!
The World's Most Expensive Tipple
Ley .925 Pasion Azteca Ultra Premium Anejo 100% agave tequilla can be yours for just £2 million (I'm sure it tastes just dandy!). The only thing is, forget the stuff in the bottle, it's the bottle itself
that costs the dough! Crafted out of platinum and studded with 4,000 diamonds (a total of 328 carats) it sure as hell beats that Mann's Brown Ale number I've got rotting at the bottom of my garden!
Cathy found this in the Telegraph (19 October). Apparently, some experts are convinced that a quick pint can improve language fluency. An examination of 50 Germans studying Dutch at Maastrict University showed that those
who imbibed a beer were significantly better at pronunciation than those who stuck to a non-alcoholic beverage. After a pint of 5% beer they chatted to native speakers. The beered up folk were definitely rated higher by these worthies! Dr Jessica Wertmann
pondered the mechanism of this. She inferred that it may conceivably have something to do with an anxiety-reducing effect, but added that more research was needed. Dr Fritz Renner appended that the participants needed to have consumed a low dosage of alcohol
- higher levels having a detrimental effect. Sorry to contradict you Fritzy old boy, but I did my own research in Holland 20 years ago and came to a radically different conclusion. I was in Laarbruch and, as one does, found myself in a little bar... I discovered
the glorious taste of Westmalle Triple (a delightfully fruity little Trappist ale of nearly 9%). Well, after a few pints I got up to leave. My legs weren't working very well but, boy, what a surprise! I was speaking fluent Dutch! I, with the combined language
skill of ten thousand badly preserved nematode worms, was speaking fluent Dutch! The only snag being that the locals didn't seem to understand a word of their own language! Onwetend Mensen!