A strong, spicy alcoholic beverage, ubiquitous in Balorian culture
“Bolvi!” he called to Shaundar. “Come have a drink with us to celebrate Virik’s litter!” “But I’m on duty, my lord,” Shaundar protested. “Oh, one ale won’t hurt you, Captain,” Corin argued. He poured frothing purplish liquid from an ewer and handed him the bubbling tankard. “To Virik and Twila and their new family!” Dorin toasted, and everyone drank. Shaundar swallowed quickly and tried to blink through his watering eyes. He wiped his nose as it spilled salt water all over his face, and hoped that nobody noticed.Pepper ale, or ᛕᚮᚾᛏᚣ ᛖᛏᚷᚨ ffùntu étga, is an alcoholic beverage originally brewed exclusively on Elatha. Like "rice wine" in our own world, "pepper ale" actually describes a variety of alcoholic compounds. The two constants are that it is brewed from some kind of toasted grain, usually rice, and it uses Elathan Purple Peppers as a key ingredient and flavouring. Because wheat and other glutenous grains struggle to grow well on Elatha, it is traditionally made from rice, millet, corn, quinoa, buckwheat, or other non-glutenous grains, usually with rice mold or a millet malt. However, in modern times, with better access to imports from other worlds, Balorians and Fomorian orcs are beginning to experiment with more exotic grains, such as wheat and barley. Pepper ale has a unique colour that ranges from red-violet to an almost indigo purple, depending on the type and amount of peppers used in the finishing stage.
“But slowly we learned the ways of this new world. Every mystery was hard-won over generations. Every inch we carved from the wilderness proved the strength of our will and our arms! We learned to grow crops in swamps fit only for lizards and rocks fit only for birds. We learned to cure the ailments the insects inflicted. Our women learned the wisdom of the plants, and we even learned to eat the harsh fruits of this world, and to like them! We hunted even the greatest predators and laid them low. We learned to live with the storm-cycles. We became the masters of this world we named for our Founder and our saviour."Elatha is a harsh world with a particularly hot climate. When the Balorians first arrived, with little in the way of supplies and trade goods, they were forced to make the best of what they had to hand. Most of the native edible flora on planet was extremely hot and spicy. There were also a variety of parasites and bacteria that plagued the early settlers, causing illness. However, Elathan purple peppers, one of the hottest and spiciest native plants, were found to have antibiotic, antiparasitic, and antiviral properties. Eating even small amounts was able to prevent illness-causing agents from spreading disease, and eating large amounts killed existing infections -- though the chemical burns left behind were often as dangerous as the infection itself. Orcish women began to include purple peppers as a regular part of the Balorian diet. It was the Sisterhood of the Den Mother who first hit upon the idea of creating an alcoholic antiseptic from purple peppers. They brewed and distilled rice liquor, and poured it over purple peppers to make a tincture after fermentation. The spirit was so effective that the women of the Balorian clans sought methods of introducing a watered-down version for daily consumption as a tonic and preventative. Almost every clan claims credit for having created the first pepper ale by adapting a rice beer or sake recipe, and steeping purple peppers in it. Historians, however, agree that it was likely Clan Doomspear who first created ffùntu étga, because it seems to have been in wide circulation in the Doomspear clan several years before the other clans adopted the practice.
War Priest Olaf Bloodfist
Pepper ale is ritually blessed by a priestess of the Cethlenn, the Den Mother, or by a priest of Cichol the god of death and agriculture, at the point when the wort is strained off and the peppers are added. This step is not considered optional, and no Balorian will knowingly drink ffùntu étga that has not been so blessed.
Components and tools
Brewing pepper ale requires the grain to be fermented, a sealed container to ferment it in (usually a sealed cask or ceramic pot), water, a starter yeast, mold or malt (usually made from millet or rice, but sometimes from barley, corn, wheat, rye, or other grains), and a quantity of purple peppers. Fresh peppers are preferred to dried ones, as they more quickly and easily impart the antimicrobial properties to the beverage.
“Not all of these are water,” Marafel announced. She gestured. Hidden behind some of the water casks were barrels brimming with something that smelled malty. “There’s also a couple that smell spicy,” she informed Shaundar with a grin. “Show me,” Shaundar said. She took him to the far corner. There were several casks that smelled like that ghastly peppery substance that had burned Shaundar’s leg, and saved his life. There appeared to be about a third as many pepper ale tubs as there were casks of regular beer. “I think they mix it,” Marafel said. Shaundar chuckled to himself. “The orcish equivalent of grog, maybe?”Pepper ale is a significant part of Balorian culture. Its usage, and many of the associated customs and traditions, have also been adapted by most orcs throughout the Fomorian Empire. Every orcish clan has its own ffùntu étga recipe, which has been passed down through the generations. As with graf, most clans keep their own grist, which is reused each time a new batch is brewed. Every clan boasts that theirs is the best -- although among clanless orcs, the Doomspear vintage appears to be the most popular. Pepper ale is regularly served in every orcish household. It is a staple at the evening meal, and at every holiday. It is used in place of the traditional rum tot on Fomorian ships, and sailing without a good store on board is thought to court misfortune (and would infuriate a Fomorian crew besides). It is served at weddings and diplomatic functions, both as a test of masculine mettle, and as a gesture of trust. Pepper ale is sometimes used as holy water. It is ritually poured out on the fields of a clan at planting to assure a good harvest -- which has the additional benefit of killing a variety of bacteria, molds, and other blights. It is also used in ritual to wash the fresh wounds of a newly-blooded warrior, which helps to prevent infection.
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Casks of Pepper Ale by George Hodan
The ProcessThese links contain more information related to the process of making pepper ales:
Brewing Pepper AleBalorians mean a lot of different things when they say "pepper ale." Since each clan has its own recipe, they could be discussing anything that we might think of as rice wine, rice beer, millet beer, or sake. Alcohol content typically runs at about 15-20%. Lower-quality brews might contain as little as 10% alcohol, and not store as long. Pepper spirits, being distilled, can be considerably more potent. Here are some examples of ways in which a person may imitate the making of ffùntu étga -- provided one can acquire Elathan purple peppers, of course. Substitutes might include Scotch bonnets, Carolina reapers, or similar extremely potent peppers. Add fresh or dried peppers to the brew once fermentation or distilling is complete. Purple peppers add a distinct violet or purple colouration to the liquid that cannot be imitated with any pepper known on our world, so you may wish to add natural dyes or food colouring for the full effect.
Dried Purple Peppers by Marina Shemesh (Diane Morrison)