In my first Racial Drink article, Sudd Madarch – A Dwarven Liquor, I described what I thought a typical dwarven-made liquor might be like. I wanted to add a few things here.
I know most fantasy RPGs and fiction depict dwarves as master brewers (and consumers) of ale. At face value, that’s not a problem. However, the more I thought about it, the more dissatisfied I became with it. Water can be found underground. Yeast, being a fungus, can live and reproduce underground. However, the other major ingredients in ale – barley and hops – require sunlight to grow. But where do dwarves live? Underground – in mines and caves, which are pretty much sunless. So, other than by trade or plunder, dwarves have no sustainable means to produce the ingredients to make ale. Therefore, I can’t see ale being a core staple of their culture.
However, I can’t imagine a dwarven culture without alcohol of some kind. Indeed, every real-world human culture has alcohol that is derived from its locally-available resources. (Yes, I know – there are exceptions.) So, what do dwarves grow in their underground environment? My first thought, of course: mushrooms.
That was the basis for the article.
What would a mushroom liquor look like? Smell like? Taste like? I immediately thought of whisky, but with a fungal twist, of course.
What would a subterranean race add for flavor? My answer: minerals such as copper, or salt, or something else that would be mined. Also, in the various editions of Dungeons and Dragons at least, dwarves have a resistance to poison – therefore, any dwarven drink would have to have a high alcohol content, as well as a strong, almost overwhelming flavor.
I could expand on the kinds of alcohol dwarves could make, but I think each kind would easily require an additional article on its own. Also, I’d like to explore the dwarven twist on ales as well.
Wednesday, 7 September 2011 at 4:05 AM
I’ve heard of certain mushrooms being used instead of yeast to do the fermenting but I’m not sure if they have enough simple carbs in them to actually be the fuel for fermentation.
Mushrooms would have been my first thought for dwarven subterranean liquor too but I’m not sure if it’s as practical as using lichen or the like (I don’t know if that is practical either).
Of course if it is hard to ferment mushrooms then the fact that the dwarven masters can do it is all the more impressive to those surface races that think it impossible.
Wednesday, 7 September 2011 at 10:23 AM
I haven’t heard of using mushroom spores as opposed to yeast as a fermenting agent. Something tells me yeast is necessary for that, but I’m no mycologist. 😀
As far as the “base,” I’d guess mushrooms would be as good as anything else. My understanding is that just about anything organic can be made to ferment. I also found the idea of a mushroom-based liquor fascinating, since I hadn’t found anything on it in my extensive research (which amounts to the first two pages of a Google search for “mushroom liquor).
And if dwarves find it fulfilling, you can be sure their stubborn wills will find a way to make it work, no matter how difficult.
Wednesday, 7 September 2011 at 11:05 AM
Take a look at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11515544 for using a mushroom in place of yeast. You would still need some sort of simple carb (sugar, malt) in there for it to feed on.
But yes, Dwarves would definitely make that work. And they wouldn’t tell us how either.
Enjoying your alcohol posts. Keep them up. What are you doing for Minotaurs?
Thursday, 8 September 2011 at 8:46 AM
Very interesting link! It also reminds me of why biology was my worst/least-favorite science in high school. 😀
As for Minotaurs, I hadn’t considered them for Racial Drinks. But, since you asked – I am considering them now. It may take a little time, but I’ll have something up here.
Thank you again for your compliments.