It’s a hard life, creating a universe. When your wee world has a beer so rich and vibrant that it’s a character all its own, you have to find out what that beer is like in real life. With my work, homebrewing meets fantasy fiction, and there are 3 rules for searching out one beer in particular.
Second rule first.
Rule #2: Galway Pradesh Stout. It’s nothing at all like Guinness, Murphy’s and Beamish.
In case you didn’t know this already, stout is my favorite beer style for chilly weather (for warm weather, it’s saison. Preferring beers that start with “s” makes it easier to remember after a few pints). For as long as I’ve been building the Rucksack Universe, a key feature has been a beer called Galway Pradesh Stout, or “GPS” for short.
Galway Pradesh Stout is a dry Irish-style stout. Its history and recipe are older than Guinness. Actually, GPS is damn near older than Ireland itself, but that’s another story for another time. For now let us turn to the sacred words of the Beer Judge Certification Program, 2008 BJCP Style Guidelines, Category 13 — Stout, 13A. Dry Stout. And thus it was spake… (spaken? Whatever. Said…)
Aroma: Coffee-like roasted barley and roasted malt aromas are prominent; may have slight chocolate, cocoa and/or grainy secondary notes. Esters medium-low to none. No diacetyl. Hop aroma low to none.
Appearance: Jet black to deep brown with garnet highlights in color. Can be opaque (if not, it should be clear). A thick, creamy, long-lasting, tan- to brown-colored head is characteristic.
Flavor: Moderate roasted, grainy sharpness, optionally with light to moderate acidic sourness, and medium to high hop bitterness. Dry, coffee-like finish from roasted grains. May have a bittersweet or unsweetened chocolate character in the palate, lasting into the finish. Balancing factors may include some creaminess, medium-low to no fruitiness, and medium to no hop flavor. No diacetyl.
Mouthfeel: Medium-light to medium-full body, with a creamy character. Low to moderate carbonation. For the high hop bitterness and significant proportion of dark grains present, this beer is remarkably smooth. The perception of body can be affected by the overall gravity with smaller beers being lighter in body. May have a light astringency from the roasted grains, although harshness is undesirable.
This is pretty much a description of beers like Guinness, Murphy’s and Beamish, which are the beery trinity of examples of the style.
Guinness is one of the world’s most iconic beers, and my travels in Ireland certainly left me with many fond memories of Guinness and its brethren. However, for my world, and as both an author and a homebrewer, I wanted to create my own beers.
So I came up with GPS. It ties in with some other things about my world and characters, and it is absolutely-tootly nothing at all like Guinness, Murphy’s and Beamish.
Which brings us to the first rule.
Rule #1: Authors lie.
Rory: How could he have moved? He was dead. Doctor! Doctor!
Amy: But he was dead.
River: Who told you that?
Amy: He did.
River: Rule one: the Doctor lies.
Yup. The Doctor lies. And authors lie too. Probably even more than a 900-year-old time lord.
So I’ll say it again—and this time I mean it, I really really, timey wimey mean it—GPS is nothing at all like Guinness, Murphy’s and Beamish.
Rule #3: A beer described must be created.
GPS figures in all of my current Rucksack Universe stories, and it will feature in every story to come. (Think of it as a tasty drinkable version of the Death of Discworld. They both look best in black, only GPS doesn’t swing a scythe or SPEAK IN CAPITAL LETTERS. Plus, while Death helps you move on when you die, GPS helps you move on through life.)
Whether Ireland, Oregon or Australia, I’ve drunk many a stout in many a place. Each stout has contributed its own ideas for what GPS ultimately is like as a world-class iconic beer. After so much, ahem, field research, I’m also now working on my own rendering and recipe of Galway Pradesh Stout.
GPS will share many of the characteristics of the BJCP style guidelines noted above. I want it be a rich yet drinkable beer, the sort of think you could quaff by the pint all evening, and barely notice until you got up to pee.
Five gallons of my first attempt at a GPS homebrew—we’ll call it GPS, Mark I—were bottle conditioned a while back under a towel in my kitchen. The flavors are rich and roasted, with slight sour tangs to temper the bitterness.
I’m excited for this beer. It’s a true taste of my fiction.
Will it be all the way yet? Nah, not yet. Just like the world and characters of the Rucksack Universe itself, GPS is evolving.
But it’s a good start.