August 7th – The Noylle Brewery Full Moon Festival

Tonight the Noylle Brewery will be full of folks chatting away on little benches and tables set amongst the brewing vessels, drinking the offerings from the last few years. Depending on the weather, they will roll back the articulated roof letting the moonlight shine in strongly. Tonight the full moon will grace the brewery, which is specifically positioned to get the greatest amount of light from the August full moon. All of this is part of the process of creating the legendary beer, the Noylle Moon Daughter.

The Brewery has been standing since at least 1470, when it was mentioned by Dreme Gayle in her book on Buentoilliçan booze culture, Quaffinge, yet its owners claim that their products have a much longer lineage, lasting back before the Brewery was built, all the way to ancient Escotolatian times. The method of brewing was, they say, first devised by ancient Lunar Priestesses, but there is little evidence to back any of these marketing claims up. The singular taste of Noylle Moon Daughter, however, is proof enough that there is some magical quality to their brewing process.

At this stage in the production process, Moon Daughter is not yet officially a beer, but instead a processed wort. It will not become a beer until the end of tonight’s festival, when it has become sufficiently imbued with naturally-occurring yeasts, yet at which point it will still be far from drinkable. The wort is held in large copper tanks with open tops, allowing these air-carried yeasts to drop freely into the solution. With the other beers which the Brewery produces, the wort will be left exposed in this manner for a number of days to allow a good starting culture of yeast before they are sealed, but with Moon Daughter it will be sealed away in a matter of hours. This means that the development of the fermentation culture is slower, and therefore Moon Daughter takes three years to mature fully.

These ‘wild’ beers produced by the Noylle Brewery generally take around two years to properly mature, so Moon Daughter is a significant outlier in this respect. Up until the point at which full maturation is achieved, the beer is not only undeveloped in its flavour profile, it is actually actively disgusting. A week or two into the process and the bacteria which have settled alongside the yeasts (and which all add interesting flavour notes at the end of the process) will have created a layer of foul rime, a mass of suppurating goo that floats atop the beer. Even when bottled the beer continues to taste and smell frankly horrific until maturation, being oft described at this point as smelling like a dead horse rotting on the surface of a bog. At the warm, noisy celebrations tonight the Brewery offers a case of Moon Daughter to anyone who can drink a full pint of another wild variety that has been in the bottle for two weeks.

This jovial atmosphere is part of what makes the beer so good, or so claims the Brewery. Apparently this is only half of what makes Moon Daughter so unique in taste, the other half being the ‘soft touch of the light of mother moon.’ The reason the roof is retracted back is to allow the moonlight in, to touch the exposed wort in the vessels. The vats are tall and cannot be seen into from the ground where the partying goes on, but apparently this is where the drink becomes so clear; Moon Daughter is completely unfiltered by means chemical or mechanical, and yet it looks clear as water, and in fact has no colour to it at all, except the white of the head. Great quantities of Moon Daughter will be drunk tonight by the revellers, who will repeatedly toast to the good health of this year’s batch, hoping that their good will will put the wort at ease, ready to turn clear in an almost magical way.

The festival tends to last all night, beginning when the sun has fully set and ending just before it rises, to ensure that only the light of the August full moon will touch the wort. The beer will not see the light of day again until it is poured into a glass (black bottles are used), although even then experienced quaffeurs say that it tastes better when drunk in the dark. The taste, they claim, is fresh and zingy (yet not particularly hoppy), but with an underlying warmth that fills one’s chest. There is a little sweetness to it, but this is counterbalanced by a generous bitter note. Unlike many other beers it leaves the tongue cleansed and feeling refreshed, and according to many it doesn’t lead to hangovers (whilst still being considerably alcoholic for a beer, at 10%). Some Buentoillitants will drink no other alcoholic drink.

The mysterious chemical changes that come about are yet to be studied in a fully scientific manner, and much of the process and recipe of the beer is kept secret by the Brewery, who have little interest in finding out why it happens when they know how to make it happen again. All requests to set up tests in the Brewery have been met with a firm but polite ‘no’. Recently, the biologist Kaen Winstanley has suggested that the Moon Jasmine, which only opens its flowers for one night, tonight, may have something to do with the idiosyncratic nature of Moon Daughter, as they may harbour a specific yeast or bacteria which is then released along with their potent scent tonight. There are certainly a few specimens of this plant growing up the walls of the Brewery’s small walled garden. No matter how it is created, that Noylle Moon Daughter exists at all is enough for tonight’s gathering, who will chat and drink and laugh and drink in the low lighting well into the night.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of Painless Glory
  • The Undulation of Swale Festival
  • The Night of the Moon Jasmine