Ah! It’s you again. Well, you’re right on time. Help me get these barrels in the cart lad; it’s delivery day! We’ll be heading down to Westgate. The boys in in the 58th Defender regiment are lookin’ for this stout. And they do get ornery when the beer is tardy!
There now, that’s the last of it. Hop up front here, if ye ain’t got no other place to be. I could use the company.
I think we go….right here. Yes, it’s all coming back now; it’s been too much time in the brewery! I remember my first homecoming to these mountains and the caves beneath them. Back then I would get lost for days down here! I lived most of my life on the surface, you know. Ah yes! You DO know….I had forgotten you had an interest in how I came to be a brewer, and how I came here, to Blackforge Mountain, the Dwarven homeland.
That human kingdom in Caernagon; it never was home really, but it was all I ever knew. And being in the service of the wizard Sotur Li did not exactly warm the heart!
I knew exactly why I was there; I was without much beard then, but far from stupid! Sotur Li wanted me in the castle to insure my father’s cooperation in translating and using that manual.
He gave me things to do, but mostly they were nonsensical. You see, the old magus was obsessed with time. He had filled the castle with timepieces, clocks from all over Urthgardt. He wanted them set at different intervals but synchronized mathematically. Nobody really knew what he was trying to accomplish as he wouldn’t give much in the way of information, but since he was in charge the staff of the castle attempted to follow his wishes. Including me.
He wanted to be feared but he was more tolerated than anything else. He was a magus, but in those days, strange things were happening with magic. Stories were told all over about the way things used to be; how magic was used by magi, priests, the military, scholars, druids, even engineers! It was another tool and one that was readily available. But as I was growing up, things weren’t really that way. Perhaps in the old days a magus like Sotur Li would leave people trembling in their boots, but in those days? Meh. You could practically hear rolling of the eyes whenever he gave an order. The guards, the kitchen staff, housekeeping, the serving wenches, they all called him “King Sotur Li” as a jest.
Me, I tried to keep my head down and do what I was told to make it easier on my father.
But there was a fellow there who made things easier sometimes. His name was Pampelloni, and he was the court musician. And sometimes the court jester as well! He was a holdover from the reign of King Jakob, and was always a favorite at court. They said he had been trained in an Elvish Bardic College, which was a very rare honor for someone who was not an elf. Word has it he knew every song there was from all the peoples of Urthgardt. Before he made his home in Caernagon and was asked to stay by Jakob, he would travel the roads as a wandering minstrel, bringing news and new songs between the towns and cities.
It was the bard who first introduced me to the art of brewing. We had not crossed paths very much, as I really didn’t have any place in the feasts in the great hall, or when Sotur Li would hold court and Pampelloni would perform. In fact, I’m not quite sure how he knew of my existence, but one day the door to my tiny workshop crashed open, and a pot-bellied, slightly pointy-eared man with long hair and sparkling blue eyes exclaimed “HI!” Then he shoved a mug of something frothy in my face. “You, Dwarf! Try this….I need an opinion.”
“Er, hello,” I replied, taking the mug automatically and sniffing. “What is it, exactly?”
Pampelloni laughed and said, “It’s beer, of course!!! You…ARE a dwarf, aren’t you?”
I was a bit sensitive at the time of my heritage, not having grown up with other dwarves. So I drew myself up to all 4 feet and shot back, “Well of course I’m a dwarf! My father just wasn’t much of a drinker, that’s all. Contrary to popular belief, we don’t just sit around and drink beer all day.”
“True. Most of you just work your arses off and drink all day in the process. Hmmm.” The bard said. “Well, I was expecting a a more seasoned beer expert when I heard there was a dwarf working in the palace. But the chance to give a dwarf his first beer cannot be passed up! Drink up my friend, and tell me what you think!”
And with that first swallow, my destiny had begun. The ale was brassy in color, with a thick, frothy head. There was a crisp, bitter, yet fruity taste up front, not unlike a grapefruit or tangerine. After that the bite of many tiny bubbles splashed over my tongue, each one breaking and amping up the sensitivity of my palate. I couldn’t stop myself from draining the entire mug. “Govnu’s beard!” I cried. “Is there more of this?”
With a hearty laugh Pampelloni clapped me on the back and said, “Oh yes, my friend, there is much more where that came from. Come down to my apartments and I will show you how this delicious brew is made.”
And thus began my life as a brewer. The bard showed me all his contraptions associated with brewing. Many of them were crude and cobbled together with bits of wire and metal: cookpots and cauldrons, vials and beakers no doubt “borrowed” from some apothecary or alchemist. The engineer part of my brain began to work immediately on how to improve upon his system. Perhaps some sort of metal piping could be fashioned in a smithy; mayhap a steam-powered bellows of some sort to move the hot water into the grains. Also, there would need to be some sort of system to more efficiently move the water through the grains, washing out all the sugars to provide a sacrifice for the beer spirits. Oh! and then surely there was a better way to move the “wort” as he called it, into a kettle for boiling; perhaps the bellows could also work for that! The possibilities were endless! I knew then that I must first learn more of this nectar of the gods known as Beer.
“Does it all taste like this?” I asked the bard as I drained another mug.
“Oh no, my diminutive friend!” I cocked an eyebrow, as the half-elf was only a few inches taller than me. “There are more different styles of beer than can be counted on one hand! But I am no true expert; I only dabble in this when I am not working on my music.” He snapped his fingers suddenly, his eyes lighting up. ”I know who you should talk to! We must go see old Bloodbearden, the Dwarven Sergeant-at-arms of the Caernagon Royal Guard.”
“Another dwarf?” I exclaimed. ”I thought I was the only one in the palace!”
But I thought wrong. I was to learn much from old Bloodbearden…including knowledge that would save my life many times over. But that is a tale for another day my boy! We have arrived at Westgate. Let’s get these lads something to wet their throats; defending our homeland is thirsty work!