Posts Tagged ‘ale’


Topic: Beer

One of the oldest microbreweries in history has been found in Cyprus and University of Manchester archaeologists are raising a glass to their ‘healthy’ discovery.

Microbreweries may be an inviting and trendy way to explore the world’s kookiest ales, beers and beyond, but researchers have now discovered that our ancestors were supping different flavoured concoctions three-and-a half-thousand years ago as a safer alternative to bread and water.

The team who excavated the two by two metre domed mud-plaster structure, led by Dr Lindy Crewe, have demonstrated it was used as a kiln to dry malt to make beer.

According to Dr Crewe, beers of different flavours would have been brewed from malted barley and fermented with yeasts with an alcoholic content of around 5%. The yeast would have either been wild or produced from fruit such as grape or fig.

She said: “Archaeologists believe beer drinking was an important part of society from the Neolithic onwards and may have even been the main reason that people began to cultivate grain in the first place.

“But it’s extremely rare to find the remains of production preserved from thousands of years ago so we’re very excited.

“The excavation of the malting kiln with associated sets of pottery types and tools left in place gives us a fantastic opportunity to look at Bronze Age toolkits and figure out techniques and recipes.”

The oven discovered by the archaeologists was positioned at one end of a 50 metre square courtyard with a plastered floor.

They found grinding tools and mortars which may have been used to break down the grain after it was malted, a small hearth and cooking pots made of clay to cook the beer gently.

They also found juglets, which they believe probably contained yeast additives or sweeteners to produce beers of different strengths or flavours. The beers’ ingredients were found by the team as carbonised seeds.

She added: “Beer was commonly drunk because it is more nutritious than bread and less likely to contain harmful pathogens than drinking water which can make you ill.

“But alcoholic beverages were also used to oil the wheels of business and pleasure in much the same way as today: work brought communities together for tasks such as bringing in the harvest or erecting special buildings.

“Instead of payment, participants are rewarded with a special feast, often involving quantities of alcohol, which also transformed the work from a chore into a social event.

“The people of the Bronze Age, it seems, were well aware of the relaxing properties of alcohol.”

An experimental archaeology team, led by Ian Hill of HARP Archaeology, recreated the drying kiln using traditional techniques, to test Dr Crewe’s theory in August .

The modern version used hot air to produce a temperature of 65° C – perfect conditions for heating and drying grains but still preserving it’s enzymes and proteins.

He said: “After the beers had been strained, we felt they were all pretty drinkable, though some varieties were better than others.

“The grape was less pleasant – a bit too sweet– the outcomes are less reliable when using wild yeasts, compared to brewers yeast, but the fig beer was definitely the most popular.”

Original article:
By dean Wilkins


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Topic: Ale the great equalizer

ARCHAEOLOGISTS surveying the world’s most northerly Roman fort have found an ancient pub.

The discovery, outside the walls of the fort at Stracathro, near Brechin, Angus, could challenge the long-held assumption that Caledonian tribes would never have rubbed shoulders with the Roman invaders.

Indeed, it lends support to the existence of a more complicated and convivial relationship than previously envisaged, akin to that enjoyed with his patrician masters by the wine-swilling slave Lurcio, played by comedy legend Frankie Howerd, in the classic late 1970s television show Up Pompeii!.

Stracathro Fort was at the end of the Gask Ridge, a line of forts and watchtowers stretching from Doune, near Stirling.

The system is thought to be the earliest Roman land frontier, built around AD70 – 50 years before Hadrian’s Wall.

The fort was discovered from aerial photographs taken in 1957, which showed evidence of defensive towers and protective ditches. A bronze coin and a shard of pottery were found, but until now little more has been known about the site.

Now archaeologists working on “The Roman Gask Project” have found a settlement outside the fort – including the pub or wine bar. The Roman hostelry had a large square room – the equivalent of a public bar – and fronted on to a paved area, akin to a modern beer garden.

The archaeologists also found the spout of a wine jug.

Dr Birgitta Hoffmann, co-director of the project, said: “Roman forts south of the Border have civilian settlements that provided everything they needed, from male and female companionship to shops, pubs and bath houses.

“It was a very handy service, but it was always taught that you didn’t have to look for settlements at forts in Scotland because it was too dangerous – civilians didn’t want to live too close.

“But we found a structure we think could be identifiable as the Roman equivalent of a pub.

“It has a large square room which seems to be fronting on to an unpaved path, with a rectangular area of paving nearby.

“We found a piece of highquality, black, shiny pottery imported from the Rhineland, which was once the pouring part of a wine jug. It means someone there had a lot of money. They probably came from the Rhineland or somewhere around Gaul.”

She added: “We hadn’t expected to find a pub. It shows the 
Romans and the local population got on better than we thought.

“People would have known that if you stole Roman cattle, the punishment would be severe, but if they stuck to their rules then people could become rich working with the Romans.”

For the first time, archaeologists have determined the perimeter of the fort, which faced north-south. The team discovered the settlement and pub using a combination of magnetometry and geophysics without disturbing the site.

Original article:

Published on Saturday 8 September 2012 03:02

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Topic: Einkorn Beer

Jørn Kragtorp (left) and Manfred Heun brew beer from the primitive wheat known as einkorn. Here they are adding a malt of einkorn, ready to start the brewing process. (Photo: Asle Rønning

Beer enthusiasts are using a barn in Norway’s Akershus County to brew a special ale which has scientific pretensions and roots back to the dawn of human culture.

When the wort is ready it smells good. Jørn Kragtorp gives it a whiff. (Photo: Asle Rønning)

The beer is made from einkorn wheat, a single-grain species that has followed humankind since we first started tilling the soil, but which has been neglected for the last 2,500 years.

“This is fun − really thrilling. It’s hard to say whether this has ever been tried before in Norway,” says Jørn Kragtorp.

He started brewing as a hobby four years ago. He represents the fourth generation on the family farm of Nedre Kragtorp in Aurskog-Høland, Akershus County.

Part of the barn has been refurnished as a meeting room, but space was also allotted for small-scale beer production.

Prehistoric beer

In the past year this brewing has become more scientific after Kragtorp teamed up with a rural neighbour, Manfred Heun, a plant geneticist and a professor at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences (UMB).

“This is experimental. We’re trying to brew prehistoric beer,” explains Heun.

Heun has conducted research on einkorn wheat for years and came up with the idea of brewing ale here in Norway from malt made of the ancient grain.

Einkorn may have been the first cereal to be cultivated by the original Stone Age farmers.

Original farmers

Manfred Heun, who is an expert on einkorn genes, has helped trace the origin of the domesticated form of einkorn to the highlands in Southeastern Turkey.

A wild einkorn that’s genetically similar to the domesticated strain still grows in this region. This region is also considered by many to be the cradle of agriculture, with indications that farming started here 10,000 years ago.

Einkorn might have played an important role in the transition from a hunter-gatherer society to agriculture in this part of the world.

Perhaps the wish to brew beer for celebrations and ceremonies was a prime motivation for raising grain. This would put the brewing at Nedre Krogtorp into a very long perspective.

In Scandinavia

Six thousand years after people pioneered agriculture in the Near East, it spread to most of Europe. Einkorn was a part of this slow-rolling agricultural revolution together with other cereals from the Middle East and Turkey.

It’s known that einkorn was raised as a crop in the south of Scandinavia during the region’s Bronze Age (1700 – 500 BC). Scientists aren’t sure, however, whether einkorn was cultivated in Norway.

In any case this cereal has fallen into disuse for the past 2,500 years as other kinds of wheat were developed which gave bigger yields.

The beer now being brewed among the patches of forest and fields in inner Akershus County could be the first made from einkorn in this country – at least since the Bronze Age.

Einkorn beer brewed on a hobby basis at Hemnes has won acclaim from near and far. (Photo: Asle Rønning

Imported malt

Bronze Age methods are not used in the brewing process. It’s brewed like any beer.

“Now it’s most common to brew beer from barley. But you can make it from all kinds of grains, from corn, rice and wheat,” explains Jørn Kragtorp.

Malt, made of sprouted grain, is always the starting point. In this case the einkorn malt was imported from Germany.

It’s ground up and warm water is added for half an hour while the temperature is closely monitored. The process is called mashing and the sweet liquid this produces is called the wort. This is filtered and boiled for just over an hour before it’s all allowed to cool.

Devil in the detail

Then yeast is added, which starts the fermentation and sugar is converted to alcohol. The beer these hobby brewers make from einkorn is a pale ale.

Kragtorp explains that einkorn, or other wheat varieties, have different characteristics than barley and these can complicate things when the wort is made.

“Using pure wheat malt is challenging,” he says.

The brewers have experimented with various combinations.

The minor details make beer brewing exciting. Small alterations in room temperature, the amount of time used in yeasting and additives such as hops can all have a big impact on the final product.

“It’s a life-long learning process,” says Kragtorp.

Protein rich

Heun is an eager einkorn enthusiast.

“Einkorn is the healthiest thing you can imagine,” he says, referring to its high content of protein and other nutrients.

“And it tastes good too,” he adds.

Those who are lucky enough to have tasted the light and pale einkorn ale, which cannot be bought in stores, all seem to agree.

Einkorn beer from inner Akershus County has been sent in for expert academic evaluation to Munich – a city where beer is famously appreciated, and it has received the stamp of approval.

This autumn, attempts could be made to produce the beer from malt based on Norwegian-grown einkorn. Experimental crops of the ancient cereal have been planted in Aurskog-Høland and it will be exciting to see how the harvest turns out.

Original Article:


By: Asle Rønning, July 20, 2012

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Topic: Caribbean pirates were hunter gathers


Original article by
Owen Jarus, LiveScience ContributorDate: 01 September 2011 Time: 10:56 AM ET

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Topic Ancient British Ale

Recreating ancient ale using burnt mounds

David Chapman found an eroding “burnt mound” – a common but unexplained prehistoric mound of fired stones – on the Lleyn peninsula at Hell’s Mouth. Excavations in 2008 revealed an oak trough containing a residue of burnt stones and charred chaff and seeds (News, Mar/Apr 2009). Last summer Chapman and a team from Ancient Arts tested the theory that the trough had been used for brewing. The result was a lot of burnt stone – and 77 pints of light ale.

That burnt mounds had been used for brewing was first suggested by Billy Quinn and Declan Moore, who made an ale using fired rocks in a wooden trough in Co Galway. Chapman set out to replicate the process and compare the resultant debris with that excavated at Hell’s Mouth.

A trough a quarter of the original’s volume, set into a pit and sealed with clay, was filled with water and the area around saturated to stem any leakage. A bonfire of small round wood was lit over a heap of stones, and in a hot, bright and oxidising blaze a strong colour change was noted in the stones as they turned “white” as their temperature rose to red hot.

The stones were raked from the ashes, dropped into the trough and returned to the fire. This way the water was boiled to sterilise it, and all buckets and equipment were “scalded”. Brewer’s malted barley was drenched in boiling water to help release the starches, and then added to the trough after it had cooled to 60°C. The resultant “wort” was held at 60°C for an hour and a half with the addition of a hot stone every 10 minutes.

Elderberries were added – the skin being one of the best sources of wild yeast in Europe – with a small quantity of brewer’s yeast as a backup. The ale was further flavoured with honey, blackberries and rosehips. Once strained through cloth into buckets, the wort was cooled in a stream and then covered and left to ferment for five days. The mash was cooked on the hot stones into bread or biscuits, which Chapman describes as “tasty and nutritious”. This left some of the stones covered in charred barley.

As they worked, says Chapman, the stones began to form “the classic horseshoe shape that is so common in burnt mounds”. The many stones at the mound centre were needed to bring a large volume of water to the boil, but to hold it at a constant temperature it was easier to use stones from either end of the very hot fire. In the nature of the process it is unlikely, he adds, that proper stratigraphy would be forming, so mounds used over many years could appear to indicate a single event.

Original article:

British Archaeology

Jan/Feb 2010

Edited by Mike Pitts

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Topic: Ancient ale

samples of ale


A team of archaeologists has recreated the heather ale drunk by marauding Vikings to boost their ferocity in battle.

Galway archaeologists Billy Quinn and Nigel Malcolm and businessman Declan Moore have been involved in their “great experiment” for the past three years, sampling Bronze Age brews and unearthing Ireland’s ancient recipes and beer-making traditions.

The intrepid trio have just brewed their first heather ale using a recipe believed to date back to the 8th century AD.

‘Bheoir Lochlannachis’ is made from heather and barley; and instead of hops, which only became common in brewing in the 9th century, the herb bog myrtle is used to add flavour and preserve the potion.

Some sources believe the word ‘ale’ comes directly from the Viking word ‘aul’, and, according to legend, Norse invaders downed substantial quantities of the heather brew to whip up their battle frenzy.

The trio brewed the Scandinavian ale with barley from the Oslo Hotel Microbrewery in Salthill. The heather was gathered at Maumeen Lake in Connemara.

“We’re using a recipe that was recorded in the ‘Ulster Journal of Archaeology’ in 1859,” explained Mr Moore, MD of the Moore Group, an environmental consultancy firm. “It dates back, we would estimate, to the early Christian and Viking period.”

Unlike the Moore Group’s previous beer experiment, which involved using a prehistoric cooking pit heated by stones, the Viking beer was heated in a large pot and is now fermenting.

When the brew is ready, the team plans a private beer-tasting party next month. “We’re going to produce around 150 litres and by the time that’s filtered and sieved, there’ll be 100 litres — plenty to go around,” said Mr Moore, while Mr Malcolm, general manager of Moore Group, said the finished product was eagerly anticipated.

This is not the trio’s first foray into bygone brewing techniques. In 2007, the team produced a Bronze Age brew using a prehistoric cooking pit, which overturned the belief that brewing was only practised here from the 6th century onwards.

Original article:



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Ancient Ale

Topic: Irish Beer 

We know that beer has been around for a long while—there were so many good brewers in the Shire, for instance. But archeologists have found evidence in—where else but the birthplace of Guinness?—Ireland that brewing beer may have been going on since the Bronze Age.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald article “Love affair with beer tinged with bronze,” Ireland is dotted with “fulacht fiadhs” (pits surrounded by horseshoe-shaped mounds) that date from 1500 BC-2500 BC. At first it was thought that the pits were used for boiling mutton, but the absence of animal bones surrounding the holes makes that idea suspect. Inspired by a hangover and the supposition that man has always desired to change his consciousness, archological consultants Declan Moore and Billy Quinn have recently advanced the theory that the fulacht fiadhs were used to brew beer.

‘It means that there were up to 4500 breweries in Ireland in the Bronze Age, which means it was the most widespread brewing industry in prehistory in the world,’ Mr. Moore said.

And what better way to prove their theory than to brew up a batch of anicent ale? A BBC News article chronicles Moore’s and Quinn’s efforts to recreate a prehistoric pint by heating up the mash with hot stores in wooden troughs.

The first batch was mild and drinkable:

‘It tasted really good,’ said Mr Quinn, ‘We were very surprised. Even a professional brewer we had working with us compared it favourably to his own.’
‘It tasted like a traditional ale, but was sweeter because there were no hops in it.’


Unfortunately, like many other homebrewers, they found it hard to replicate their results. “The second [batch] was stronger and the third was ‘a disaster’—but they have started work on batch number four which the hope will taste as good as their first.”

Original article:


 By Miriam Wolf

 Friday, August 17, 2007

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