In Bavaria, on 23 April 1516, the law of Rheinheitsgebot was passed, stating that German-made beer could only contain three ingredients; water, barley malt, hops. It would take another 300 years before Louis Pasteur figured out the value of yeast in the fermentation process. Because of this, early German beers relied on wild yeast and leftover organisms to create alcohol. It was not until the late 20th Century that the law was amended to allow for the addition of yeast, different malts and sugar. In spite of this change, the fact remains that all you need to make beer are four, relatively simple, ingredients.
What’s this all got to do with interpretation? Well, there’s a lot more to it than simply continuing an INNZ blog theme started by Oli’s interpretive bar crawl.
While home brewing recently (and using ingredients that the Rheinheitsgebot would never allow – like tea, cloves, and ginger), it struck me just how similar making beer is to developing interpretation. And no, I didn’t come up with this theory after drinking too much of my own product.
To make a good beer you need excellent planning, quality ingredients, and great sanitisation. To create good interpretation you need excellent planning, quality content and, well, very little sanitisation, actually. Instead of sanitisation what you do need is constant rationalisation – why are we including this story, who is our audience, how are we achieving our goal? In this respect, it’s actually very similar to the sanitisation process when brewing beer; it keeps out the unwanted elements which can filter through and be detrimental to the final product.
The planning stage sets our goals and helps us identify the ingredients in our beer and elements in our interpretation. Sometimes all you want is to make a drinkable beer, and most times you’ll be happy if your interpretation is swallowed by your audience. Under Rheinheitsgebot, the ingredients in beer are grains and hops. The grains give you body and help define the style, while the hops are the flashy ingredients – giving you a range of flavours and aromas.
In interpretation, the main ingredient is your subject and the content that comes out of it. These stories help define your project, giving it context and focus. Just like hop varieties, there are a number of different options available to help tell your stories; signs, screens, computers, models, tours, audio, QR codes, the list goes on. Picking which ones to use comes back to your planning and your ability to rationalise through the process.
So, there you have it, the link between interpretation and brewing. The next time you sit down for a cold beer, try and pick out the hop and grain flavours – they might inspire the ingredients in your own interpretation project.