One of the things about writing about historical brewing practices is that, while the methodology is likely not to be too different from what a homebrewer does–mash grain, run off wort, sparge, run off sparge, boil, ferment, package, imbibe–the technology used to complete those steps is absolutely going to differ. Fiction-writing requires details, so I’ve been hunting through brewing manuals of the 1700s, which is a manifold pleasure.
It’s fun for a few reasons, but I’ll focus on one for now: the recipes.
Among the most amusing is the recipe for Mum that I discovered in The Whole Duty of a Woman, or, An Infallible Guide To the Fairer Sex.1
Since I’ve never had a chance to try reconstructions of either, I thought for a moment that this would be English Mum, not German Mumme. But that mention of “Brunswick” suggests it is an English take on the German recipes, since Mumme was a recipe of Braunschweig–Brunswick. It makes sense that there would be an English spinoff of Mumme, of course: German Mumme distributed widely within the Hanseatic League and has been called the first international beer. (But watch out for misinformation: Ron Pattison, as ever, is a good debunker of ignorant internet bullshit on this topic.)
Anyway, if you were a “woman” doing her “whole duty” in London in 1737, here’s a recipe you might have encountered for Mum[me]:
This recipe is take from pages 685-686, if I remember right. Sounded interesting enough that if I had brewing gear and ingredients available, I might even try some variant on it (including the barberries, though maybe skipping the beans and any of the herbs that have since been discovered to be toxic)…
… well, at least until she got to the put about adding ten new-laid eggs (or crack’d!!!) to the brew. Yeah, that’s just a little far for me.
One of the ingredients that caught me eye were barberries, which are apparently very sour (i.e. highly-acidic?) berries, probably available to Londoners of the day in dried form (just as today): I wonder if they might work as some kind of mild substitute for hops, acidifying the wort and effectively acting as a preservative, like ascorbic acid does? Or maybe it was just for flavor: traditionally Mumme was pretty sweet. The aging time, likewise, was nice and long. I imagine you’d expect a kind of sour-sweet herbal flavor.
The beans being used as an adjunct to beer, by the way, is something I’ve seen mentioned elsewhere in books of the era; I could be remembering wrong but I feel like the references were mostly complaints by brewers regarding the kinds of crap people were putting into their mash tuns, though occasionally beans were claimed to “soften” (smoothen?) a beer. (Beans, and “hogs’ pease,” also often ended up as adjuncts in the the grists used by London’s gin distillers during the gin craze, note.) I’d be tempted to skip the beans… and find a substitute for the sassafras, because while it might not be toxic in lower doses, why tempt fate?
Would I brew it? Not following this recipe too closely, but a variation on it? Sure. Maybe a couple of gallons of it, anyway.
1. The full title is actually The whole duty of a woman, or, An infallible guide to the fair sex : containing rules, directions, and observations, for their conduct and behavior through all ages and circumstances of life, as virgins, wives, or widows: with rules and receipts in every kind of cookery. Ahem.