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Whole grain beers use not only malted barley but also wheat, oats, rice, potatoes, leeks, crookneck squash, chili peppers, and pork tripe in the fermention process. This produces a thick, full-bodied drink that would grow hair on Yul Brynner's ghost.
Early brewers along the Tigris and Euphrates used whatever they had to hand to make beer. If short on grain they would throw some onions or the neighbor's toddler into the vat. Sumerian beer was thus notoriously variable, and up to 20% of drinkers experienced side effects like projectile diarrhea, blindness, or spontaneous human combustion.
During the Middle Ages monks jealously guarded their recipes for beer, inscribing them on vellum which they would quickly eat if rival monks attacked their monastery. The abbott of the monastery would then offer the attackers a false recipe, or petard. Sometimes the false recipe produced better beer than the original.
The Chinese are credited with discovering that whole grain beer can be used as rocket propellant. It was not uncommon in 12th-century China to see drunken sages, their vapors ignited by mischievous boys, hurtling through the skies before colliding soddenly with trees, buildings, and passersby.
During the Renaissance the medieval recipes were gradually refined to produce a smoother and less volatile beer.
Modern Whole Grain Beers
In general, modern producers of these beers set up breweries in backwards and unhygienic countries like Latvia, Bolivia, or The Burrowing Nation of Burundi. There they are free to include whatever ingredients they feel will produce a thick, well-flavoured beer. Some Western countries have banned whole grain beers, supposedly on health grounds. In the USA, for instance, the only beer available is a thin watery brew made from cellulose and soap plant effluent. Canada is no better. At least the UK allows molasses brew such as the famed Guinness to be sold.