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personal - GemStone IV History of Dwarven Ale

"...Eonake labored to craft a rose of pure perfection. The sinuous stem was formed from triple folded mithril. Each petal was fashioned from wafer thin pieces of gold. And in the centre rested a perfect red ruby. Imaera wept to receive such a gift, her tears seeping through the rock and forming pools beneath the ground - the joyous gift of Dwarven ale..".


The history of dwarven ale is based upon the dwarven oral tradition with information passed from one generation to another through folklore, songs and sayings. This history has been supported by very few written tomes due to dwarven reticence to transcribe information to paper; However sufficient verbal and written accounts of the history and processes of dwarven ale lend themselves to scrutiny.

Dwarves have always taken pride in their ale. The history of dwarven ale sees its evolution from a simple spring water consumed solely by dwarves, to the more complex alcoholic beverages now accessible to most races. Some Dwarves would strenuously argue that ale was a dwarven concept and creation. The reality is that ale in various forms was probably developed by many races concurrently and that Dwarven ale - in its modern form at least - owes much to Dwarven interaction with other races, as it does to dwarven diversification and ingenuity.


The origin of dwarven ale can be traced as far back as 15,000 years. In it's original form it was little more than water with collected minerals. As the dwarves found shelter in the great UnderGrounds beneath the DragonSpine, sources of consumable water were scarce. Troll and orc invasions made it difficult to the collect drinking water outside the caverns. Underground water sources were often either contaminated streams running parallel with lava flows, or stagnant pools with liquid which, if consumed, would lead to spates of illness.

However there were small pockets of drinkable water, partially filtered through semi-porous rock. Small iron containers were constructed to collect and boil this water. Surface scum was removed leaving a discoloured liquid, with a slightly sulphurous but palatable taste. Dwarven verbal accounts recognise this as the first incarnation of Dwarven ale. The liquid itself was given the name 'Galeke' and those responsible for collecting the water were called Kra'galeke (pronounced Krah-gah-leek) - simply translated a storer of galeke. Dwarves were selected to work on a rota basis to transfer the collected liquid into heavy wooden barrels. Once full these barrels were distributed through a network of tunnels. This task was a great honor as it was considered to be vital to dwarven survival.

One of the unusual effects of graleke was the mild hallucinogenic - rather than alcoholic - effect of the liquid. This was undoubtedly caused by surface water absorbing some of the funghi that were prevelant beneath the ground. This drink was seen as life sustaining; a drink upon which young dwarven children were weaned, increasing their tolerance to more potent drinks in later life and perhaps contributing to the view of Dwarves as a hardy race with a fondness for strong beverages.

Some records attribute the word 'ale' to a corruption of the word galeke. However the consensus, even amongst Dwarven scholars, is that it is unlikely that this is the word's derivation.

Development of Dwarven Ale

Around the time of the red rot, there were still references to graleke. Songs from this time make reference to this drink being widely consumed within the dwarven communities, with a suffusion of meticulously ground herbs. The use herbs was an attempt to develop a medicinal cureall against the plague, rather than the further development of the drink as a refreshing libation. It was the plague itself that was indirectly responsible for the development of Dwarven Ale in its more modern form, as surviving dwarves quarantined their city, and re-established divergent communities. This brought them into contact with other races, and other techniques for making drinks which they began to replicate.

Graleke was a product peculiar to the UnderGrounds and could not be replicated elsewhere. In fact emergence from beneath DragonSpine gave clans greater access to natural sources of water and therefore graleke was no longer required. But a replacement for a drink that had been such an integral part of their lives was sought.

All clans have some songs - and in some cases - written words that talk about the development of dwarven ale. No clan specialised in its manufacture to the exclusion of all else. However it seems that through trial and error, and the natural absorption of pieces of knowledge from other races, that each clan began to develop their own ale like substances. Virtually every clan had it's own brewmaster (a development of the now defunct post of Kra'galeke), dedicated to perfecting ales for the clan. There are arguments about which clan was the first to develop true Dwarven ale. This question has never been resolved and to this day continues to be a source of contention and a topic of discussion at the meetings of clans.

However songs from the Roramnoak Clan provide some of the strongest information about modern dwarven ale. The songs tell of trade with Elves, Giantmen and humans, exchanging dwarven products for grain and yeast. These songs, dating back 10,000 years, make direct reference to the words 'dwarven ale'.

The process

The making of ale is believed to have been as time consuming as it was labour intensive. Most clans seem to have adopted a similar process with tools varying from clan to clan. In general terms, grain was malted through an intricate process of soaking and heating that could take in excess of 20 days. Wooden and clay ovens were used to dry out the grain. Huge cylinders were used to boil water and grain. The liquid was strained, and then boiled again, before being strained a second time. The hot liquid was rapidly cooled and yeast was added before it was placed in open wooden vats for fermentation. The fermentation process took a minimum of 5 further days.

Ale created this way only lasted a few days. After three days the ale would begin to thicken and sour or mould over. Not even the hardiest of dwarves would consider drinking this. For most clans, the ale was consumed as quickly as it was made.

It was the enthusiasm and skill of the Roramnoak Clan for trade that led to the development of a number of preservation techniques. The introduction of spices as preservatives led to interesting variations in the flavour of dwarven ale, and allowed for the drink to be transported for longer before degrading. Ironically these preservation techniques also increased the value of ale to other races who were willing to pay for the unusual flavours. This irony was not lost on the dwarves themselves, as Dwarven ale was transformed slowly from a common life sustaining dwarven beverage to a more expensive but certainly more accessible drink. In the early years of trade, it became a quality drink, with the quality determined not only by flavour but by clarity and texture of the liquid.

It would be inaccurate to suggest that the variations in smell and tastes of ale were simply the result of commercial necessity. Brewmasters had already become skilled in the art of crafting brews, with an infusion of a host of flavours and scents designed to convey thoughts and emotions through smell and taste. A secret language of ale developed, with each Brewmaster crafting each ale with great skill and care. For many years the messages conveyed were only known to the Dwarven race, although some small pieces of information have been released in recent years by Enkryna Oldvarg-Mithskeller, much to the consternation of some clans.

The Roramnoak Clan was instrumental in the distribution of Dwarven ale to other races. The practicalities of trade were not lost to the more reclusive dwarven clans, but they were reluctant to mix with the other races. The Roramnoak Clan acted as suitable intermediaries to trade.

What makes a dwarven ale dwarven?

The more isolationist clans would suggest that only an ale produced by dwarves for dwarves could be called a Dwarven ale. The purists would contend that a dwarven ale is one that has been produced by dwarves using time served production methods. The more mainstream view is that as long as the recipe remains that of traditional dwarven ale, then it remains dwarven. The majority of the clans agree that an ale may only retain the word 'Dwarven' in its name if it has been created by dwarves, in an established dwarven settlement, irrespective of process. Ales produced outside of dwarven settlements or by non dwarves, albeit to dwarven recipes, can still be categorised as dwarven ale but cannot use the word 'Dwarven' in the name.

Fundamentally, dwarven ale, whether bottled or kegged, remains a drink for the masses ... thirst quenching, accessible, relatively inexpensive and quintessentially dwarven.

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