Posts Tagged ‘ale’

On this day ten years ago…
via Remains of 1,100-year-old drinking pot help pinpoint Wallingford’s history

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Ancient Ale

On this dat ten years ago…
via Ancient Ale

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Beer made an old-fashioned way is shown at Barn Hammer Brewing Company in Winnipeg on Tuesday. (David Lipnowski/Canadian Press)


Barn Hammer Brewing Company head brewer Brian Westcott, left to right, University of Winnipeg associate professor and chair of classics Matt Gibbs, and Barn Hammer owner Tyler Birch pose Tuesday for a photo after they teamed up to recreate an ancient beer the old-fashioned way. (David Lipnowski/Canadian Press)

This Article was brought to my attention by a reader in Winnipeg!

My greatful thanks, this is indeed impressive. 



Original Article:


The brewers were able to stay close to the original process and the ingredients were available — and legal
An idea that began when a classicist went to a brewery to sip beers and ponder the history of hops has brought to life an ancient ale.
It took hours of translating, milling and baking, but ale experimenters in Winnipeg have finally sipped a beer created from a fourth-century Egyptian alchemist’s recipe.
“If you expect this to taste like a modern beer, you are not going to find that,” said Matt Gibbs, chair of the University of Winnipeg’s Department of Classics.

“This beer is very, very sour. It’s good. It’s much better than I thought it was when we first did it, I will say that much, but it’s different.”
Gibbs got the idea while sitting at a bar talking about old beers with a pair of brewmasters.
The original recipe was found in the book, The Barbarian’s Beverage: A History of Beer in Ancient Europe, by Max Nelson at the University of Windsor. It was chosen because Gibbs figured he could stay close to the original process and, unlike some of the other recipes, the ingredients were available and legal.
Gibbs received permission to translate the recipe out of ancient Greek and then got to work with brewers Tyler Birch and Brian Westcott, co-owners of Barn Hammer Brewing Co. in Winnipeg.
First, they made a sourdough bread from water and barley flour milled by hand. It took 18 hours to bake the loaves at a heat low enough that the enzymes essential for beer-making stayed alive.
The loaves were then submerged in a fermenter at Barn Hammer.
The only major differences from the original recipe was that a stainless steel fermenter was used and the barley wasn’t malted on a roof in the sun.
Weeks went by and the experiment slowly turned from a murky mix to a pristine pint.
“After tasting the bread they made, I thought we were going to have something really disgusting, but it turned out really well,” Birch said.
“I’m actually blown away by how good it is. It’s actually very drinkable.”
It’s not what most people would consider a beer and tastes more like a sour cider with hints of raisin or apple. The drink is flat because there was no carbonation more than 1,000 years ago. The brewers figure the alcohol content is about three per cent, similar to modern light beer.

The brew is not for sale — yet — but they are open to marketing an ancient batch in the future.
The ale is the beginning of research into how it and other beers were consumed by ancient societies. The initial batch has demonstrated how much brews have changed as technology around beer-making developed, Gibbs said.
“There were things we learned in terms of taste and technology and in processing, but I think the most important one was taste,” he said.
“The simple taste of that makes it quite clear how much the palate has changed over 2,000 years.”




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Scientists have scrutinized the contents of four bottles of beer found in a Baltic Sea shipwreck from the 1840s, an amber ale that perhaps was brewed in Belgium and was on its way to ports in Russia or Scandinavia.

The new analysis found that bacteria inside the beer bottles survived 170 years until it was discovered by divers in 2010, according to Brian Gibson, senior scientist at the VTT Technical Research Centre in Espoo, Finland.

“These bacteria were still alive,” Gibson said. The analysis “gave us some insight into the way that beers were brewed. We have a reasonably good idea about what kind of hops were used, different ones than today. These hops would have been harsher, these days they are quite mild. The one surprising thing is the beers were quite mild. The original alcohol level was 4.5 percent, nothing extreme.”

Gibson and colleagues at the University of Munich published their chemical and microbiological analysis recently in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry.

While some breweries have recreated ancient beer recipes from colonial, medieval or even Egyptian eras, Gibson believes this is the oldest intact bottle of beer. Over time, seawater seeped through the cork and made the contents about 30 percent saltwater. As a result, the big tasting by beer experts in Finland was a bit of a bust.

“The beer was quite degraded, it had a sell by date and it appeared to be well past that,” he said. “For the analysis, it was difficult to pick out the original flavors. We invited some of the most experienced beer tasters in Finland. The flavors were from bacterial contamination and not the original flavors of the beer.”

The scientists turned to chemical analysis of the remaining sugars and

“We looked at esters, which give beer a fruity or flowery taste. Most of the compounds that we would expect were there. In terms of the fruitiness, probably similar to modern beers. High level of 2-phenyl ethanol which gives a rose or floral aroma.”

Compared to modern craft brews, Gibson said it was like an amber or lambic ale, modern styles that are brewed with wild hops, floral and have sour notes.

Sam Calagione, founder and president of Dogfish Head brewery in Milton, Del., had been brewing historic beers since 1998, using recipes from archaeological digs that are passed on by scientists.

Dogfish’s “Midas Touch,” which is brewed from evidence found in a 2,700-year-old tomb in Turkey, is comprised of barley, saffron and white muscat grapes.

“The whole idea of looking backward for creative inspiration and culinary adventure is really catching on,” Calagione said. “All (the scientists) can give us is a laundry list of ingredients. It is up to us to come up with a creative recipe. What the alcohol content is, whether it’s filtered or carbonated. We have a lot of creative input in bringing these creative beers back to life.”

Stallhagen Brewery in the Aaland Islands of Finland recently re-created the Baltic Sea brew, called “1843.”

By Eric Niiler

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Even in a town that archaeologists have probed countless times since 1930, few places have been dug over as many times as the landmark compound that makes up the historic colonial campus at the College of William and Mary.

But that doesn’t mean the triangle of property that surrounds the late-1600s Sir Christopher Wren Building — which ranks as the nation’s oldest college structure — has been stripped of all its secrets.

Spurred by a small but unexpectedly substantial brick feature unearthed by college archaeologists in 2011, a Colonial Williamsburg team has uncovered surprise after surprise since mid-May, when they begin exposing the increasingly large footprint of a previously unknown structure hidden under the grass in the Wren’s south yard.

Lurking as much as 2 feet below the surface, the main part of the early-1700s building measures 20-by-18-feet in size, while a smaller addition on its south wall checks in at about 20-by-12 feet.

Evidence of a central fire pit may help identify the structure as the college’s busy 18th-century brew house — which provided the students and faculty with a drink far safer and more pleasant than water — while an unusually large trash deposit located outside its east wall may hold clues to life inside the Wren Building before it was gutted by a fierce 1705 fire.

“With as much archaeological work as we’ve done in the College Yard over the years, it’s astonishing to find something like this — and to find so much of it still intact,” says Louise Kale, who is retiring after nearly two decades as director of the college’s historic campus.

“I’ve seen at least a dozen digs here during my time here — and this is the most important. It’s a real gold mine.”

Original article:
By Mark St. John Erickson
9:00 pm, July 23, 2014
daily press

Archaeologists from Colonial Williamsburg are exploring the remains of an unexpectedly substantial colonial-era building first uncovered under the ground on the south of the Wren Building. The dig has been going on since early summer and has uncovered a substantial masonry foundation as well as large numbers of artifacts and this may be a brewhouse building. Tour groups are greeted by staff members at the dig site.
10:42 am, July 22, 2014
Joe Fudge / Daily Press

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What happens when an amateur paleontologist with a love for beer teams up with a microbiologist? Bone beer, or beer made from yeast scraped from a 35-million-year-old whale fossil, to be precise.

The new brew, dubbed Bone Dusters Paleo Ale, is a concoction created by amateur fossil hunter Jason Osborne of Paleo Quest, a nonprofit paleontology and geology advocacy group, and microbiologist Jasper Akerboom of the Lost Rhino Brewing Company in Ashburn, Va.

Like many scientific innovations, Bone Dusters came to Osborne late one night while he was drinking a beer.

Osborne was hunched over his desk, studying ancient whale bones he’d collected on an underwater expedition, when he took a sip and began to ponder how beer has yeast — an organism that transforms sugar into alcohol — and yeast can be found almost anywhere. His gaze shifted from his glass to his fossil.

“I thought, even though this is dead, there’s got to be things living on it,” he tells The Salt.

And an idea began to brew.

Osborne enlisted his friend Akerboom to swab the fossil and a dozen more from the basement drawers of the Calvert Marine Museum in Maryland. Akerboom, a former research specialist at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, didn’t think the prehistoric bones could sustain yeast’s appetite.

But in the name of science and great beer, he swabbed away. The results, he said, surprised him. While most fossils failed to create suitable yeast, Akerboom found one that fermented.

What he discovered was a wild yeast subspecies, which the pair named Saccharomyces cerevisiae var protectus, after the yeast’s host, protocetid whale “Eocetus wardii,” an early whale ancestor that Osborne had described in a 2011 paper in the journal BioOne.

The whale was a prehistoric beast that had hind legs, molars and canine-like teeth. Scientists say it may have been amphibious, dwelling on both land and water.

To retrieve the fossils, Osborne went 30 feet down into a Virginia swamp wearing full scuba gear and equipped with a type of crab cage. Down there, the violent water rushed past him like hurricane winds, he says. It was an “extreme sport for science.”

“It’s such a high risk,” Osborne says. “But the yield of return is super awesome.”

In this case, that yield is not just millions-of-years-old fossils, but bone beer.

Akerboom says that the yeast is probably not nearly as old as the fossil it was scraped from, but he believes that it came from the swamp that the bones were found in. And it behaves in mysterious ways.

“The fermentation is so strange. It stops and then continues. That’s something we haven’t seen before, not from our brewing strains,” says Akerboom.
Osborne and Akerboom are not the first to craft a prehistoric brew. In a feat that resembles Jurassic Park, Raul Cano extracted yeast from the stomach of a 45-million-year-old fly entrapped in fossilized amber to create his own beer.

Cano, a microbiologist who now operates Fossil Fuels Brewing Co., raises some skepticism over the origins of the yeast Osborn and Akerboom discovered.

He thinks that the yeast is most likely the product of contamination, whether from the museum or from the people who handled it.

But he praises the team’s accomplishment. “Regardless of whether it came from a whale bone, or someone’s fingernail, I think it’s amazing.”

But only the taste can take this brew from gimmick to classic, he says.

“You drink the first beer because of curiosity,” Cano says. “You drink the second because it’s good, so if people keep drinking it, I’m impressed.”

At the Bone Dusters premiere in late June, scientists and beer geeks alike arrived to taste what Akerboom described as a citrusy, Belgium-style amber. Osborne will donate part of the Paleo Ale proceeds to buy microscopes for underserved schools in Virginia, he says.

“This was an adventure,” says Osborne. “It’s getting people excited about paleontology in a different way,” one prehistoric pint at a time.

As you know, we here at The Salt love our beer, so stay tuned for an upcoming video poem celebrating beer … and the evolutionary saga you can taste in every pint.

Original article:
July 15, 2014 4:52 PM ET



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Topic: Beer and All Hallows’ Eve

Ok so my husband found this article and I agreed is should be posted before Halloween even if it’s not exactly ancient- beer on the other hand is!

While you may have found the perfect costume for Halloween, you probably haven’t given much thought to what beer you will be drinking. This is Halloween, and picking up a six pack of domestic at the convenience store just will not make the cut.

On this night, everything should be a bit scarier. Homes are decked with spiderwebs and jack o’ lanterns, horror movies are in constant rotation and people dress up as zombies, monsters and vampires.

So why should your beer be any different? Dive into seven wicked brews that are sure to make your Halloween night a bit more frightening and also freakishly tasty.

Midas Touch: Dogfish Head – Milton, Delaware
While the name isn’t necessarily scary, the fact that this beer is made from mummy yeast just might unsettle you. Dogfish conjures up this Ancient Ale with spores found in the tomb of King Midas.

This beer will appeal to wine drinkers because its sweet floral notes and lack of hop bitterness. However be warned: at 9% ABV this potent brew does have the potential to awaken a monster that has been dormant for thousands of years.

Zombie Dust: Three Floyds Brewing – Munster, Indiana
This American Pale Ale bears a label featuring the artwork of Tim Seeley, a comic book artist best known for G.I. Joe. Zombie Dust will not only protect you from the undead, but also fortify you with extremely hoppy flavor and a coffin load of style points.

Dead Guy Ale: Rogue Brewing – Portland, Oregon
Here lies a stone-cold excellent example of a Maibock or Helles Bock beer. The label was inspired by a Mayan Day of the Dead festival in Portland, and no self-respecting Halloween zombie would be caught dead without one of these in its rotting hand.

DirtWolf: Victory Brewing – Downingtown, Pennsylvania
The full moon is sure to bring out the monster flavor in this new Double IPA from Victory. Wild notes from whole flower hops in this fairly strong IPA give drinkers something to howl about.

Four Witches Black Saison: New Holland Brewing – Holland, Michigan
There is definitely some black magic going on with this Black Saison. According to the brewers, this beer is the ultimate battle of good and evil, featuring both white and dark roasted wheat. The result is sure to cast its spell upon whomever is brave enough to break its seal

Wake Up Dead: Left Hand Brewing Company – Longmont, Colorado
This Imperial Stout was left to languish in the cellars of Left Hand for four months, until they unleashed it upon the public. It’s is said to have coffee, chocolate and licorice notes, but I am going to lock this 10.2 ABV beast up for a while longer. The bottle says it can be cellared for up to seven years, so stay tuned for my review when I unleash it in 2020.

Witch Hunt: Bridgeport – Portland, Oregon
Grab your torches and your neighbors and be on the lookout for this Spiced Harvest Ale from Oregon’s oldest brewery. Witch Hunt conjures up cinnamon and nutmeg, spices traditionally found in pumpkin beers, but don’t mistake it for one. It’s executed quite well, so take this fall seasonal for a spin on your broomstick.

Give these spooky beers a try if you dare, and have a happy, hoppy Halloween.

Original article:

By Greg Bowman
Greg Bowman is an Editor Producer with CNN Creative Services in Atlanta and is also a craft beer enthusiast. Follow his beer escapades on Twitter @gboCNN.

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Topic: Sumerian Beer

(Great Lakes Brewing Co.)CLEVELAND, OHIO—Brewers at the craft beer maker Great Lakes Brewing Company are working with archaeologists at the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute to demystify and recreate the recipe behind a 5,000-year-old Sumerian beer. The best clues for how the brew’s ingredients and cooking method, which was performed using just clay pots and a wooden spoon, come from a poem written to the Sumerian goddess of beer titled the Hymn to Ninkasi. In addition to deciphering the methodology from cuneiform, the University of Chicago team has given the Great Lakes brewers ceramics modeled on ones taken from a 1930s excavation of a site in Iraq. The brew, when finished, won’t be for public consumption.

Original article:
June 21, 2013

The above was a synopsis of an article published by the New York Times. Below is the full article:

For Its Latest Beer, a Craft Brewer Chooses an Unlikely Pairing: Archaeology

By contemporary standards, it would have been a spoiled batch here at Great Lakes Brewing Company, a craft beer maker based in Ohio, where machinery churns out bottle after bottle of dark porters and pale ales.

But lately, Great Lakes has been trying to imitate a bygone era. Enlisting the help of archaeologists at the University of Chicago, the company has been trying for more than year to replicate a 5,000-year-old Sumerian beer using only clay vessels and a wooden spoon.

“How can you be in this business and not want to know from where your forefathers came with their formulas and their technology?” said Pat Conway, a co-owner of the company.

As interest in artisan beer has expanded across the country, so have collaborations between scholars of ancient drink and independent brewers willing to help them resurrect lost recipes for some of the oldest ales ever made.

“It involves a huge amount of detective work and inference and pulling in information from other sources to try and figure it out,” said Gil Stein, the director of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, which is ensuring the historical accuracy of the project. “We recognize that to get at really understanding these different aspects of the past, you have to work with people who know things that we don’t.”

There is an unresolved argument in academic circles about whether the invention of beer was the primary reason that people in Mesopotamia, considered the birthplace of Western civilization about 10,000 years ago, first became agriculturalists.

By about 3200 B.C., around the time the Sumerians invented the written word, beer had already held a significant role in the region’s customs and myths. Sipped through a straw by all classes of society, it is also believed to have been a source of drinkable water and essential nutrients, brewed in both palaces and in average homes. During the rule of King Hammurabi, tavern owners were threatened with drowning if they dared to overcharge.

But for all the notes that Sumerians took about the ingredients and the distribution of their libations, no precise recipes have ever been found. Left behind were only cuneiform texts that vaguely hint at the brewing process, perhaps none more poetically than the Hymn to Ninkasi, the Sumerian goddess of beer.

The song, dated around 1800 B.C., had entranced modern brewers before. A brew based on the hymn was made as part of a partnership in the early 1990s between Anchor Brewing Company in San Francisco and the University of Chicago, where a well-known interpretation of the text was translated in 1964.

Reproductions of ancient alcohols have since grown in popularity, largely through a partnership between the Dogfish Head Craft Brewery in Delaware and Patrick E. McGovern, an archaeological chemist at the University of Pennsylvania Museum. Together, they have recreated beers from prehistoric China, from ancient Egypt and from evidence found in what is believed to be the tomb of King Midas.

“Of different people who do fermented beverages, microbrewers are the most willing to experiment,” Dr. McGovern said. “They’re ready to try anything.”

Great Lakes has no plan to sell its brew, also based on the Hymn to Ninkasi, to the public. The project, unlike others that recreate old recipes on modern equipment, is an educational exercise more than anything else. It has been shaped by a volley of e-mails with Sumerian experts in Chicago as both sides try to better understand an “off the grid” approach that has proved more difficult than first thought.

In place of stainless steel tanks, the Oriental Institute gave the brewery ceramic vessels modeled after artifacts excavated in Iraq during the 1930s. In keeping with the archaeological evidence, the team successfully malted its own barley on the roof of the brew house. It also asked a Cleveland baker to help make a bricklike “beer bread” for use as a source of active yeast — by far the most difficult step in the process.

The archaeologists, who have committed their careers to studying Sumerian culture, said having professional brewers involved in the effort had helped them ask questions they had not considered.

“We keep going back to the evidence and finding new hints that can help us choose between different interpretations,” said Tate Paulette, a doctoral student and a lead researcher on the project. “We are immersed in studying Mesopotamia, and this is a fundamental thing that we don’t understand well enough.”

While the project continues, Great Lakes’ brewing vessels are already a popular addition to guided tours of the brewery. The company is making plans to showcase its Sumerian beer at events in Cleveland and Chicago by the end of this summer, offering a public tasting of the final brew alongside an identical recipe made with more current brewing techniques.

In the meantime, there is still some tweaking to do.

After months of experiments in the brewery’s laboratory, Nate Gibbon, a brewer at Great Lakes, said he had stood over a ceramic vat on a recent Wednesday, cooking outside on a patch of grass. The fire that heated the vat was fueled by manure.

The batch, spiced with cardamom and coriander, fermented for two days, but it was ultimately too sour for the modern tongue, Mr. Gibbon said. Next time, he will sweeten it with honey or dates.

Without sophisticated cleaning systems to rid the vessels of natural bacteria, Mesopotamian imbibers might have been more familiar with the brew’s unwanted vinegar flavor, archaeologists said. Yet even with the most educated guesswork, they said, the Sumerian palate might never be fully uncovered.“We’re working with questions that are not going to have a final answer,” Mr. Paulette said. “It’s just back and forth, trying to move toward a better understanding. We’re pretty comfortable with that.”
New York Times
Published: June 17, 2013


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Topic: Beer

HUMAN beings are social animals. But just as important, we are socially constrained as well.

We can probably thank the latter trait for keeping our fledgling species alive at the dawn of man. Five core social instincts, I have argued, gave structure and strength to our primeval herds. They kept us safely codependent with our fellow clan members, assigned us a rank in the pecking order, made sure we all did our chores, discouraged us from offending others, and removed us from this social coil when we became a drag on shared resources.

Thus could our ancient forebears cooperate, prosper, multiply — and pass along their DNA to later generations.

But then, these same lifesaving social instincts didn’t readily lend themselves to exploration, artistic expression, romance, inventiveness and experimentation — the other human drives that make for a vibrant civilization.

To free up those, we needed something that would suppress the rigid social codes that kept our clans safe and alive. We needed something that, on occasion, would let us break free from our biological herd imperative — or at least let us suppress our angst when we did.

We needed beer.

Luckily, from time to time, our ancestors, like other animals, would run across fermented fruit or grain and sample it. How this accidental discovery evolved into the first keg party, of course, is still unknown. But evolve it did, perhaps as early as 10,000 years ago.

Current theory has it that grain was first domesticated for food. But since the 1950s, many scholars have found circumstantial evidence that supports the idea that some early humans grew and stored grain for beer, even before they cultivated it for bread.

Brian Hayden and colleagues at Simon Fraser University in Canada provide new support for this theory in an article published this month (and online last year) in the Journal of Archeological Method and Theory. Examining potential beer-brewing tools in archaeological remains from the Natufian culture in the Eastern Mediterranean, the team concludes that “brewing of beer was an important aspect of feasting and society in the Late Epipaleolithic” era.

Anthropological studies in Mexico suggest a similar conclusion: there, the ancestral grass of modern maize, teosinte, was well suited for making beer — but was much less so for making corn flour for bread or tortillas. It took generations for Mexican farmers to domesticate this grass into maize, which then became a staple of the local diet.

Once the effects of these early brews were discovered, the value of beer (as well as wine and other fermented potions) must have become immediately apparent. With the help of the new psychopharmacological brew, humans could quell the angst of defying those herd instincts. Conversations around the campfire, no doubt, took on a new dimension: the painfully shy, their angst suddenly quelled, could now speak their minds.

But the alcohol would have had more far-ranging effects, too, reducing the strong herd instincts to maintain a rigid social structure. In time, humans became more expansive in their thinking, as well as more collaborative and creative. A night of modest tippling may have ushered in these feelings of freedom — though, the morning after, instincts to conform and submit would have kicked back in to restore the social order.

Some evidence suggests that these early brews (or wines) were also considered aids in deliberation. In long ago Germany and Persia, collective decisions of state were made after a few warm ones, then double-checked when sober. Elsewhere, they did it the other way around.

Beer was thought to be so important in many bygone civilizations that the Code of Urukagina, often cited as the first legal code, even prescribed it as a central unit of payment and penance.

Part of beer’s virtue in ancient times was that its alcohol content would have been sharply limited. As far as the research has shown, distillation of alcohol to higher concentrations began only about 2,000 years ago.

Today, many people drink too much because they have more than average social anxiety or panic anxiety to quell — disorders that may result, in fact, from those primeval herd instincts kicking into overdrive. But getting drunk, unfortunately, only compounds the problem: it can lead to decivilizing behaviors and encounters, and harm the body over time. For those with anxiety and depressive disorders, indeed, there are much safer and more effective drugs than alcohol — and together with psychotherapy, these newfangled improvements on beer can ease the angst.

But beer’s place in the development of civilization deserves at least a raising of the glass. As the ever rational Ben Franklin supposedly said, “Beer is living proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.”

Several thousand years before Franklin, I’m guessing, some Neolithic fellow probably made the same toast.

Original article:


Published: March 15, 2013

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Topic Viking beer

CARDIFF, WALES—At the Experimental Archaeology Conference earlier this month, archaeologists Merryn and Graham Dineley asserted that features of Viking settlements previously believed to be bathhouses might actually have been used to brew beer. Their hypothesis is based on the excavation of a stone structure dating back nine centuries at Cubbie Roo’s Castle on the Scottish archipelago of Orkney that, according to their interpretation, included what could be a mash oven and several drains. Further, the stone constructions are often located right next to what are known to be the Viking ceremonial drinking halls.

Original Article:

Article from the 7th experimental archaeology conference

We have been studying traditional malting and beer brewing techniques for 15 years. Graham is a craft brewer with 30 years’ experience of making beer from the grain. Merryn is an archaeologist, completing her M.Phil ‘Barley Malt & Ale in the Neolithic’ at the University of Manchester in 1999 and continuing research independently since then. The brewing of ale is a skilled craft that has hardly changed over the millennia. For the last few years we have been looking into the potential archaeological evidence for the brewing of ale at Viking sites.

We know that the Vikings drank ale
. There are numerous references to it in the Sagas. We also know that the ale was made from malt. In the 10th Century AD, Haakon Haroldson, the first Christian king of Norway, decreed that Yule be celebrated on Christmas Day and that every farmstead “should brew two meals of malt into ale”. One brew was for family, the other for guests. There were fines for non compliance. If they failed to brew for three years in a row their farm was forfeit.
Ale was an important part of the Yule celebrations. Every farmstead had the facilities to make it. The ale was stored in huge vats, close to the drinking hall. The Orkneyinga Saga tells us that Svein Breastrope was ambushed and killed by Svein Asleiferson, who had hidden behind a stone slab by the ale vats in the entrance of the drinking hall at Orphir, Orkney. Since huge ale vats are not easily moved, then the malt must have been mashed and the wort fermented close to the ale store.
The products and by products of brewing ale are ephemeral, leaving no trace in the archaeological record. Ale is drunk, spent grain is fed to animals and residues are washed down the drains. Only the installations and perhaps some equipment may survive. In order to recognise Viking brewing facilities, it helps to understand something about how ale is made from malt.

Making ale from malt

Malt is grain that has been steeped in water, then allowed to grow until the rootlets just begin to appear. This is done on a malting floor within a barn. The malt is dried, then lightly crushed and mixed in the mash tun with hot water to make the liquid malt sugars known by brewers today as the ‘wort’. This is the ‘mashing’ process. A mash tun can be a large metal cauldron or wooden tub and this dictates how the water is heated. A metal cauldron is heated over a fire or a mashing oven. A wooden mash tun is heated using hot rocks. Finally, the wort is fermented into ale or beer, preserved and flavoured with angelica, meadowsweet, heather or bog myrtle.
All brewing equipment, such as mash tuns, cauldrons, fermentation vessels and storage vats must be kept scrupulously clean, to avoid infection and spoilage of the ale. Typically, a brewer uses 5 to 10 times as much water in cleaning the equipment than is used for making ale. Therefore, access to water and substantial drains are essential.

Original article
By Graham Dineley, craft brewer and Merryn Dineley, independent researcher
PDF file and more photos

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