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First posted by Anahi.com

Photo/Illutration

KYOTO–No fancy machines here, just a lot of hard work. But this brewery still produced sake, and it’s believed to be the oldest ever found in Japan.

Excavation firm Kokusai Bunkazai Co. unearthed the brewery believed to be from the 15th century at the Saga archaeological site, formerly on the grounds of Tenryuji temple, in Kyoto’s Ukyo Ward.

Among the finds are a facility for squeezing the unrefined sake out and about 180 holes for holding storage jars.

The brewery is believed to have been used until the time of the Onin War (1467-1477).

The previously oldest-known brewery found in Itami, Hyogo Prefecture, is estimated to have been built in the Edo Period (1603-1867).

“The discovery (in Kyoto) is likely the oldest sake squeezing facility,” said Masaharu Obase, director of an Itami city-run museum. “It is smaller but has the same structure as the one dating to the Edo Period, indicating that a similar sake squeezing method was used in the medieval period.”

It was already known that sake was produced at Tenryuji temple during the Muromachi Period (1336-1573), allowing it to earn major profits and lend the money out at high interest rates. However, it was the first time that an archaeological finding has corroborated the fact, according to Kokusai Bunkazai.

The Tokyo-based company surveyed a 700-square-meter area near the current grounds of Tenryuji ahead of apartment construction between May and August 2018.

During the research, part of a sake squeezing facility believed to be from the 15th century was unearthed. Researchers said unrefined sake in cloth bags was placed in a tank and squeezed out, using a wooden bar with stones as leverage.

A pillar 1 meter long and 45 centimeters across, as well as two crosspieces to support it, each 15 cm per side and 1.8 meters long, were discovered along with about 20 stones that would have been placed on the crosspieces.

A hollow 1.8 meters across and 1 meter deep for a pot to receive drops of pressed sake was also found.

A smaller pillar from around the 14th century, 30 cm across and 40 cm long, was spotted two meters east of the hollow. Researchers said it is likely that the brewery was rebuilt.

The 180 holes for jars that stored sake are 60 cm across and 20 cm deep. Fragments of 14th-century Bizen ware jars, apparently with a diameter of 60 cm and a height of 1 meter, were unearthed as well.

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Archaeologists have unearthed a bronze kettle containing liquor from a Qin Dynasty (221–206 BC) tomb, dating back more than 2,000 years in West China’s Shaanxi province. [Photo/Xinhua]

Original article:

China.org.cn

 

Archaeologists have unearthed a bronze kettle containing liquor from a Qin Dynasty tomb, dating back more than 2,000 years in West China’s Shaanxi

The kettle is a sacrificial vessel. It was among among 260 items unearthed from a graveyard of commoners’ tombs from the Qin Dynasty (221-207 BC). Most of the relics were for worshiping rituals.

Xu Weihong, a researcher with the provincial archeological institute, said about 300 ml of liquor was found in the kettle, which had its opening sealed with natural fibers.

The liquor is a transparent milky white. Researchers believed it was made using fermentation techniques, as it was composed of glutamic acid substances.

 

Researchers need to further study the liquor to better understand the brewing technology and wine drinking culture in Xianyang, the ancient capital of the Qin Dynasty.

Also discovered in the tombs was a bronze sword 60-centimeters long. The sword has octahedrons in the middle, which increases the weapon’s effectiveness. There are also breaches on the edge of the sword, suggesting it was used in war.

Another important finding is a turtle plastron shell 14-centimeters long. There are a dozen punches inside the shell, and burn marks on its edge. The characters suggest that it was used by a fortune-teller for divination.

Researchers are trying to build up a picture of life in the capital of China’s first empire by studying the relics.

Link: http://www.china.org.cn/arts/2018-03/20/content_50727357.htm

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Featured image: Proto-cuneiform recording the allocation of beer, probably from southern Iraq, Late Prehistoric period, about 3100-3000 BC (Flickr photo) –

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Archaeologist Patrick McGovern

Article:
An archaeologist working with a brewery is recreating ancient beers from around the world, including Turkey, Egypt, Italy, Denmark, Honduras and China. Alcohol archaeologist Patrick McGovern thinks he may even be able to recreate a drink from Egypt that is 16,000 years old.

McGovern, of the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, has been working with Dogfish Head Brewery in Milton, Delaware. The professor is using modern technology to detect traces of ingredients. In addition, Dogfish Head Brewery has produced beer using African, South American and Finnish recipes from centuries ago. For a list of the brews, see dogfish.com

Others have been attempting to brew and make wine. In 2013, Great Lakes Brewery in Ohio, with the help of archaeologists in Chicago, tried to brew a Sumerian beer whose recipe dated back 5,000 years.

Beginning in 2012, Great Lakes tried to replicate the Sumerian beer using only a wooden spoon and clay vessels modeled after artifacts excavated in Iraq. They successfully malted barley on the roof of the brew house and also used a bricklike “beer bread” for the active yeast. Current results have yielded a beer full of bacteria, warm and slightly sour.

Beer seems to have been an important part of Sumerian culture: the word beer appears in many contexts relating to religion, medicine and myth. In fact, the oldest documentary evidence of beer comes from a 6,000-year-old Sumerian tablet depicting people drinking a beverage through reed straws from a communal bowl, and the oldest surviving beer recipe can be found in a 3,900-year-old ancient Sumerian poem honoring Ninkasi, the goddess of brewing, fertility and the harvest. The poem describes how bappir, Sumerian bread, is mixed with “aromatics” to ferment in a big vat.

The production of beer in Mesopotamia is a controversial topic in archaeological circles. Some believe that beer was discovered by accident and that a piece of bread or grain could have become wet and a short time later, it began to ferment into an inebriating pulp. However, others believe that the technique of brewing beer was an early technological achievement and may have even predated the Sumerians in the lowlands of the Mesopotamian alluvial plane.

Now McGovern is extracting alcoholic beverage ingredients from residue on ancient pottery at archaeological sites worldwide and studying references in documents. He has been resurrecting beers and beverages that had been forgotten.

“He detected traces of various ingredients left by the drinks – including barley, honey, herbs and spices – using a number of methods including liquid chromatography, gas chromatography and mass spectrometry,” says an article the DailyMail.co.uk.

Dogfish Head brewed was what they called Midas Touch. The recipe is from molecular evidence from residues in what scholars think is King Midas’ Turkish tomb from 700 B.C. Midas Touch beer is made with barley malt, white muscat grapes, honey and saffron.

“A variety of alcoholic residues have been found inside important tombs around the world – suggesting that they were drinks used during celebrations or rituals and perhaps even to wish good luck to the dead in the afterlife,” the Daily Mail article states.

It’s not just beer that archaeologists are trying to recreate. Ancient-Origins.net reported in 2013 that Italian archaeologists planted a vineyard near Catania in Sicily with the aim of making wine using techniques from classical Rome described in ancient texts. The team expected its first vintage within four years.

In order to replicate conditions used in Roman times, modern chemicals will not be used on the crop and the vines will be planted using wooden Roman tools and fastened with canes and broom.

Instead of fermenting in barrels, the wine will be placed in large terracotta pots – traditionally big enough to hold a man – which are buried to the neck in the ground, lined inside with beeswax to make them impermeable and left open during fermentation before being sealed shut with clay or resin.

The research team will make two types of wine – the type once used for the nobles, which was sweetened with honey and water, and the type made for slaves, which was more vinegary.

The history of wine spans thousands of years and is closely intertwined with the history of agriculture, cuisine, civilization and humanity itself. Archaeological evidence suggests that the earliest known wine production occurred in what is now the country of Georgia around 7000 BCE, with other notable sites in Greater Iran and Greece, dated at 4500 BCE.

It appears McGovern was one of the earlier researchers to use modern technology in the ancient beverage field. He has been working with Dogfish Head Brewery since 2001 to recreate ancient beers.

But there is a reference at thekeep.org about a 1996 attempt by Newcastle Breweries in Melbourne to brew an ancient Egyptian beer.

“The Herald-Sun reported that ‘Tutankhamon Ale’ will be based on sediment from jars found in a brewery housed in the Sun Temple of Nefertiti, and the team involved has gathered enough of the correct raw materials to produce just 1000 bottles of the ale,” Caroline Seawright wrote at thekeep.org. That beer was 5 to 6 percent alcohol and was sold at Harrods for £50 (about $100) a bottle. The profit was to go toward further research into Egyptian beer making.”

By Mark Miller, February 1, 2015

ancient-origins.net

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Prehistoric pit discovered on Coney Island beach

Coney Island, in County Sligo, Ireland, is one of several islands of the same name off the coast of Ireland. It is an island of approximately 400 acres and is named after the vast quantity of rabbits which can be spotted on the island at any time (Coney (/ˈkoʊni/, historically /ˈkʌni/) is an English word for a rabbit or rabbit hair, deriving from the Latin cuniculus, meaning “rabbit”

From Wikipedia

Archaeologists have discovered signs of human habitation, possibly dating back 4,000 years, on Sligo’s Coney Island.

A box-like structure built from large stone slabs found on the island may have been used for bathing or cooking during the Bronze Age, experts believe. It has been excavated by a team led by Eamonn Kelly, director of Irish Antiquities at the National Museum.

The structure is thought to be part of a fulacht fiadh, a prehistoric trough or pit that was dug into the ground and filled with water. Stones, heated separated on an outdoor hearth, would be added to bring the water to boil.

Measuring about a metre long and 80cm wide, the structure was recently identified as an archaeological site by Ciaran Davis, an archaeology student at IT Sligo, and native of nearby Rosses Point, who alerted the museum.

“It tells us that people walked the beach here 3,000 or 4,000 years ago, searched for large stone slabs, and carefully built this structure,” said Mr Davis. “Many other archaeological sites probably await discovery on Coney.”

There are thousands of Bronze Age fulacht fiadh throughout Ireland, but to find one on a beach is a rare event, said Dr Marion Dowd, a lecturer at IT Sligo.

“I know of one other example in Cork. It makes us wonder why they would have wanted to heat saltwater.”

Hot water was typically used for cooking, bathing, washing, dyeing textiles and brewing alcohol, but the use of saltwater meant brewing was not the purpose of the Coney island device, Dr Dowd said.

Radiocarbon dating will determine the exact age of the discovery.

The structure has been known locally as the “lovers’ wishing well”, said Dr Dowd. The legend was that anyone who lay inside it would dream of the person they were going to marry. It was also known as “the sailor’s grave”.

Mr Kelly described the find as “very significant” and said it was “quite extraordinary” that the structure had remained undisturbed despite being known to local people for decades.

“It shows the absolute respect the community has for it, perhaps because some thought it was the grave of a sailor,” he said. “But we have seen grave sites elsewhere which were plundered.”

Currently one family lives full-time on Coney, but there are a number of holiday homes on the island, which is popular with day trippers who can drive or walk across via Cummeen Strand during low tide.

By marese-mcdonagh
Sep 11, 2014
Original article:
irish times

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Volunteers excavate the box-like archeological structure on Coney Island. The site may date back 4,000 years

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English: Distribution of Celts in Europe from ...

Image via Wikipedia

Topic :More on Ancient Beer

A scientist studying an ancient Celtic site believes he has worked out the recipe they used for making beer around the year 500 BC.

Dr Hans-Peter Stika, an archaeobotanist from the University of Hohenheim in Stuttgart, Germany has been studying the remains of an early Iron Age Celtic settlement at Eberdingen-Hochdorf dating from around 500 BC, in particular the six oblong ditches dug for the process of making barley malt for . The excavated ditches contained thousands of of charred barley, which Dr Stika believes are the remains of the production of high quality barley malt needed for making beer.

Dr Stika reproduced several methods for making beer that the Celtic peoples in the Iron Age might have used, and concluded that the ditches were used to soak barley grains until they sprouted. Fires were then lit at either end of the ditch to slowly dry the sprouted grains and give the malt produced a dark color and smoky flavor. The slow drying would have stimulated the growth of bacteria that caused the release of lactic acid, which added sourness to the end product.

The excavations at Eberdingen-Hochdorf have also yielded seeds of henbane, a plant also called stinking nightshade and known to increase the intoxicating effect. Dr Stika thinks the beer probably also contained mugwort and/or carrot seeds, since these were known to have been added to beer in medieval times. The spices would have given the brew a much different flavor to the hop flavor known today. The use of hops is not known before 800 AD.

Dr Stika thinks the was probably produced by yeast on the brewing equipment, or by wild yeast on honey or fruit added to the brew. The final beer would have remained cloudy and with a yeasty sediment, and the brew would have been drunk at room temperature.

The findings are published in Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences, but the Celtic findings are not the oldest beer and beer-making discoveries, as brewing facilities dating to around 5,500 years ago have been found in the Middle East.

More information: Early Iron Age and Late Mediaeval malt finds from Germany — attempts at reconstruction of early Celtic brewing and the taste of Celtic beer, Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences, by Hans-Peter Stika, DOI: 10.1007/s12520-010-0049-5

Original Article:

PhysOrg.com

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Beer Brewing Supplies and Ingredients

Image by billread via Flickr

Topic: Home brewing ancient beer

Fast upon Mondays high response to my post( 589 hits my highest one day total so far), my husband ( the archaeologist) found the following article on BrewingTechniques.com.

I thought you might find it of interest.

My only objection lies in the postscript where the author describes setting out the sprouted barley gruel out in the open air-that might have worked just fine in ancient times but with the environment we have today it’s no wonder he found mold, weevils in his mash. If you try this use cheese cloth over your mix and it should elevate much of your problems. Also you can leave you mixture indoors wild yeast are everywhere. While leaving your mixture indoors probably isn’t what the ancients did, we will never know, they also didn’t have out pollution. I have had excellent results capturing wild yeasts with this method both for my sourdough bread and my wild yeast mead.

Intrigued by Anchor Brewing’s reproduction of an ancient beer according to the Sumarian Hymn to Ninkasi, one home brewer set out to reproduce his own interpretation of an even earlier beer.

As both a paleontologist and home brewer, I could not help but be attracted by the media coverage of the reproduction of an ancient Sumarian beer. The beer, called Ninkasi after the Sumarian goddess of beer, was produced by the Anchor Brewing Company (San Francisco, California), based on a hymn inscribed on a clay tablet (1). Dr. Solomon Katz of the University of Pennsylvania and Fritz Maytag of Anchor Brewing worked to decipher the brewing clues contained within the hymn to reproduce the beverage so revered by the ancient Sumarians.

Apart from the sense of accomplishment in reproducing a piece of the ancient past, Katz and Maytag’s work also added new information to an old debate. Anthropologists have long argued over whether beer or bread was the primary reason for the origins of agriculture (2,3). Katz and Maytag proceeded on the premise that an understanding of beer production methods of 4000 years ago could be used as a stepping stone from which to view the origins and evolution of beer. This, in turn, would provide a glimpse into the lives and cultures of the first nomadic tribes to settle into agrarian civilizations.

I decided to borrow their stepping stone and have a look into the past for myself. We know barley has been cultivated for at least 9000 years (4). I wondered what a beer of that era would have been like, a beer that is more than twice as old as the recipe reproduced from the Sumarian hymn. I decided to try some simple qualitative experiments in my kitchen. I managed not only to produce a beer that could have been made over 9000 years ago, but also to explore the intimate link between beer and bread. These experiments led me to the conclusion that the argument over the primacy of bread vs. beer is as academic as that of the chicken vs. egg.
THE DEVELOPMENT OF A PRIMARY INGREDIENT

To set the stage for the origins of beer, consider the other uses of grain. Undoubtedly the first use of grain, before either bread or beer, was to make gruel (2). Bread is effectively a cooked dense gruel and comes in three basic types. Unleavened bread, such as the tortilla, is the simplest form. It requires pulverized grain (flour) and water and is baked on a hot stone. It has a small volume and requires little in terms of ingredients. Leavened bread, with which we are most familiar, requires a large volume of flour, water, a source of sugars, and yeast. A third and less well known, bread is made from sprouted grains. The grains are sprouted, ground to paste, and baked in a loaf. The resultant loaf is very dense, sweet and cakelike, and is in effect a kilned malt.
One could argue endlessly on the basis of parsimony, culture, and archaeological evidence over the order of appearance of breads and beer. Whether sprouted bread was a derivative of sprouted gruel or unleavened bread may never be known. What we can be certain of is that people 10,000 years ago experimented with ways to consume grain. Somewhere in these experiments they discovered beer.

The question of how beer was discovered becomes academic. Beer may have been discovered through stewing sprouted bread, heating sprouted gruel, or unintentionally cooking grains that were stored in a damp place. Fermentation was most likely due to airborne microorganisms but may have been aided by the addition of fruit, raw grains, or other ingredients bearing surface yeast and bacteria. The serendipitous “accident” of making beer probably happened not once, but several times before the right blend of microorganisms produced a palatable beverage. I have no doubt, however, that once a pleasant tasting broth with euphoric effects was produced, word traveled fast.

ANCIENT BREWING TECHNIQUES

How was the beer made and what was it like? This question can be broken down into an examination of technology, ingredients, and procedures. The technology at the time of the origin of beer was not well developed but sufficient to make fire, tools of wood and stone, and a container of some sort. These are all it takes to make beer.
The main ingredient in beer is malt, which is a sprouted grain. Many grains can be and are used, including millet, corn, rice, wheat, spelt, and barley. We know from archaeological records that barley and wheat have been cultivated for at least 9000 years (4). Barley makes a poor bread because of its low gluten content, so we may safely assume that if people were brewing, they likely used barley and may have used wheat and other grains as well. The malt may have taken any of a number of forms. Dry malt may have been made for storage by either drying the sprouted grains in the sun, or baking sprouted loaves until hard. The very earliest beers may well have been made from raw sprouted grains that had undergone no drying or kilning.

The process for making the original beers was undoubtedly abbreviated compared with modern beers, which undergo separate mashing, boiling, and fermentation steps. The first beers likely underwent a continuous mash and fermentation. Sprouted grains were ground and mixed with water in a vessel of wood or even in skin bags. This vessel was heated either by fire, by dropping in heated rocks, or by setting it out in the hot sun. Fermenting flora would have been introduced from both the grains and the air. The fermented gruel could then be consumed, or the liquid could be drawn off as beer and the remaining grains and yeast mixed with wheat flour to make a leavened bread.

The fermentation of ancient beers would have involved many different yeasts and bacteria. The trick would have been to keep the pH down low enough to inhibit noxious bacteria. A “sour mash” process, in which the warm mash is inoculated with Lactobacillus from the grain husks, can grow some truly foul aerobic organisms if exposed to air. Presumably the “sour mash” portion of the fermentation was brief, or some acidity was built up during the sprouting process.

With the invention of ceramics, the process could be much more refined. The mash could be cooked over a fire, and the liquid could be drawn off and fermented separately. Eventually, techniques would have evolved to preferentially select certain strains of microflora by the addition of fruit, which bear yeast on the surface, or by using a “magic stick” to stir the wort and transmit yeasts between batches.

ANCIENT BEER, HOME BREWED IN MY KITCHEN

To experience part of the ancient past, I wanted to reproduce an early beer. I decided to start with beer that could have been made with a mash cooked in clay pots. The idea was to sprout grains of barley and wheat, use some of the sprouted grains to make sprouted loaves, cook up a mash of sprouted grains and sprouted bread, and transfer the liquid and ferment it. To round out the experiment, I decided to collect the yeast sediment and any grains from the bottom of the fermentor and mix these with stone-ground whole wheat flour to make leavened bread.
Ingredients: I picked up the grains from a health food store. In addition to barley, I decided to include wheat and spelt for variety. Unfortunately, the barley was hulled. I knew the hulled barley could lead to problems but decided to take my chances for this first attempt.

To make the malt, I sprouted the grains in mason jars with perforated lids (these can be purchased at a health food store or made at home). I placed 200-250 g of grain in each 1-L jar and filled the jars with cold water, rotating them to ensure even wetting. I left the grains to soak in water for 24 h; I then inverted the jars and left them on a dish rack to drain. I rinsed the grains every 12 h and again left them to drain. After every rinsing I examined the grains for signs of germination. Germination was uneven, so the termination point was somewhat arbitrary; I stopped the sprouting when many of the acrospires had reached grain length and not too many had grown much longer. The wheat and spelt grains were ready in two to three days, whereas the barley took seven or more days to sprout sufficiently. By the time the barley was ready for use, the moist grains emitted a vinegary aroma, perhaps from the activity of bacteria in the grain bed.

I gave the grains a final rinse, drained them, and dumped those destined to become sprouted bread into a food processor for grinding (I could not find a mortar and pestle large enough). I emptied the resulting thick starchy paste of whole and partial grains onto a flat ceramic baking pan and formed it into “biscuits,” 15-18 cm in diameter and 2-3 cm thick. These biscuits were then baked at various temperatures and times to observe the different results. I opted for flat biscuits rather than domed loaves because the flat shape would dry more thoroughly for better storage; the dome-shaped store-bought sprouted bread must be kept frozen to prevent mold from growing on the moist, sweet loaf.

I baked the biscuits at 120-175 °F (50-80 °C) for 8-18 h. Those baked at 150 °F (65 °C) for about 10 h seemed to be the most pleasant tasting. Those baked at lower temperatures (120 °F [50 °C]) remained sticky and pasty even after 12 h and required flipping and a further 6 h of baking. Those baked in a stepwise manner (130 °F [55 °C] for 1 h, 150-160 °F [65-70 °C] for 2 h, and 175 °F [80 °C] for 8 h) came out darkened to the color of dark Munich malt or British brown (porter) malt, depending on the original moisture content. The flavor of the wheat and spelt biscuits was better than that of the barley biscuits, though they all tasted of malt.

Recipe design: With biscuits and sprouting barleycorns, I set about trying to design a recipe that could be produced by people of 10,000 years ago and that could be reproduced easily and reliably. Ancient cultures undoubtedly experimented until they achieved desirable results. I chose not to reproduce all of these experiments, but rather to shortcut that process by calling on more modern knowledge of brewing science. I had to remind myself, though, that the experiment was to reproduce a fermented beverage of the ancients, and not to brew a competition beer from which I expected perfect extraction or crystal clarity.

Mashing: The mashing technique I finally settled on was a sort of decoction. The technique has the advantage of producing the desired temperatures without actually having to measure those temperatures with a thermometer. A half and half mixture of boiling mash and room temperature mash would give a temperature of approximately 140 °F (60 °C). If this resulting mash were slowly heated, it would pass through the starch conversion temperature range, through mash-out temperatures, and on to boiling. The extracted wort would be boiled, cooled slowly, and fermented.

Fermentation: Fermentation was another dilemma. I was not about to expose this wort to the microorganisms in my kitchen, which have been responsible for more than one spoiled batch of beer. And I did not wish to use commercially available lambic cultures, because I was not producing a lambic-style beer. Some have suggested that ancient beers were fermented with a combination of Saccharomyces and Schizosaccharomyces (5), but I had no local source of the latter. Instead, I recalled a portion of Katz and Maytag’s interpretation of the Hymn to Ninkasi wherein they supposed that fruits, such as grapes (or raisins) or dates, may have been added, not as a flavoring but as a source of wild yeasts which normally live on the skins of these fruits (1).

I decided against using grapes to supply the yeast because fresh fruit is not readily available in Halifax in late fall. What is available has been shipped long distances and likely contains both pesticides and fruit fly eggs. I could have used a mix of pure wine and beer cultures to simulate wild yeasts, but instead I chose to culture the yeast from a batch of fresh unpasteurized sweet apple cider. This technique provided an inoculation with microorganisms known to produce fermentation without actually controlling the numbers or strains of those organisms. The beer was intended to be consumed young, so I was not overly concerned about spoilage or long-term storage. The recipe and procedure I settled on is shown in the accompanying box.

For those interested in specific numbers, the original gravity was 1.071 (much of it from dissolved starches). The final gravity was quite high as well – 1.033. As it fermented, the starch in suspension formed a pellicle on top of the kraeusen. As the foam fell, the starchy skin remained; its integrity was such that bubbles would collect underneath it, bursting only when they had grown to several centimeters in width. Much of the brown color of the liquid settled with the yeast as a starchy sediment as fermentation slowed, leaving a surprisingly pale liquor.

FINISHED BEER AND LEAVENED BREAD

After racking the beer into bottles, I performed the other half of the experiment. I removed a quantity (roughly 500 mL) of the yeast-starch-grain slurry from the bottom of the primary, warmed it slightly to rouse the yeast, and added stone-ground whole wheat flour to make a dough (about 1.5 L [6 cups]). After the dough was thoroughly mixed to a dense elastic texture, I left it to rise for 1 h in a warm place over the oven. I kneaded it, rolled it into a ball, placed it on a ceramic baking pan, and baked it at 350 °F (175 °C) for 55 min. The resulting loaf was dark and heavy and initially had a strong aroma of alcohol. The bread was hearty, though slightly bland from lack of sugar, oil, and salt. It was not unpleasant, and though not the best choice for a peanut butter sandwich, it would make an excellent vehicle for a ripe brie.
The beer was more of a surprise. My expectation was of a sour, yeasty, starchy brew, drinkable but not particularly enjoyable. Not so. The beer was quite pale and contained suspended starch, giving it the appearance of a Belgian White beer, though a degree or two darker. The level of carbonation was almost nil, though when poured with vigor a slight sparkling could be produced. Without carbonation it produced no head, so head retention was not an issue. The aroma was bready, yeasty, and cidery, with a hint of wheat. The cidery component was not like that of a beer made with too much sucrose, nor was it the acetaldehyde tang of a certain commercial American pilsner. The perception of yeastiness in the aroma faded after the first few sips. The flavor was soft and had a dry finish. No strong estery or phenolic notes were present, but a slight spiciness was detectable in the background. The high wheat content provided a bready character and may have contributed to the spicy note. The alcohol was noticeable, but not foremost. Despite the high original gravity, the beer was remarkably clean tasting. One taster compared it to Jade, a pale Flanders-style ale from the north of France, though I have never sampled this particular beer. It was good enough to warrant a second glass.

From this simple experiment we get a glimpse into the origins of beer and leavened bread. What was wholly unexpected in my results was that ancient beers may have been quite good, even by modern standards. The vagaries of wild fermentation would have precluded any form of quality control, and yet spontaneous fermentation with wild yeasts likely produced a pleasant end product often enough to keep the ancient brewers at their craft.

POSTSCRIPT

As a postscript to this experiment, buoyed by the success of my first attempt I decided to take one step further back: I wanted to reproduce the oldest beer. For this I would sprout barley in water, pound it into gruel, set it in the sun to mash, leave it open to the night air for inoculation, and see what happened. With any luck the sprouting grain and mash would be acidic enough to keep some of the bacteria at bay, and with even more luck I might pick up some interesting and inoffensive wild yeasts.
This idea, however, was misguided. I soaked whole feed barley in water, hoping that mold could be kept away by keeping the water level above the level of the grain. Within 36 h the concoction was churning and bubbling and dead weevils floated on the surface. After another 24 h, white mold was growing on the surface, and bacterial and yeast activity in the grain continued at a furious pace. I decided to discontinue the experiment. Between the putrid aroma and the fear of toxic molds, I decided perhaps I didn’t want to taste this beer after all.

This test was not a complete waste, however. Though it should perhaps be repeated in a warmer climate, it indicated that the earliest beer was not likely produced by the simple accident of grain being soaked by rainwater. The earliest beers likely did not appear until some process for mashing or malting was developed, either in the form of a gruel or a sprouted bread.
Kitchen Anthropology:
Home Brewing an Ancient Beer
By Ed Hitchcock
Republished from BrewingTechniques’ September/October 1994.
Intrigued by Anchor Brewing’s reproduction of an ancient beer according to the Sumarian Hymn to Ninkasi, one home brewer set out to reproduce his own interpretation of an even earlier beer.

As both a paleontologist and home brewer, I could not help but be attracted by the media coverage of the reproduction of an ancient Sumarian beer. The beer, called Ninkasi after the Sumarian goddess of beer, was produced by the Anchor Brewing Company (San Francisco, California), based on a hymn inscribed on a clay tablet (1). Dr. Solomon Katz of the University of Pennsylvania and Fritz Maytag of Anchor Brewing worked to decipher the brewing clues contained within the hymn to reproduce the beverage so revered by the ancient Sumarians.

Apart from the sense of accomplishment in reproducing a piece of the ancient past, Katz and Maytag’s work also added new information to an old debate. Anthropologists have long argued over whether beer or bread was the primary reason for the origins of agriculture (2,3). Katz and Maytag proceeded on the premise that an understanding of beer production methods of 4000 years ago could be used as a stepping stone from which to view the origins and evolution of beer. This, in turn, would provide a glimpse into the lives and cultures of the first nomadic tribes to settle into agrarian civilizations.

I decided to borrow their stepping stone and have a look into the past for myself. We know barley has been cultivated for at least 9000 years (4). I wondered what a beer of that era would have been like, a beer that is more than twice as old as the recipe reproduced from the Sumarian hymn. I decided to try some simple qualitative experiments in my kitchen. I managed not only to produce a beer that could have been made over 9000 years ago, but also to explore the intimate link between beer and bread. These experiments led me to the conclusion that the argument over the primacy of bread vs. beer is as academic as that of the chicken vs. egg.

THE DEVELOPMENT OF A PRIMARY INGREDIENT

To set the stage for the origins of beer, consider the other uses of grain. Undoubtedly the first use of grain, before either bread or beer, was to make gruel (2). Bread is effectively a cooked dense gruel and comes in three basic types. Unleavened bread, such as the tortilla, is the simplest form. It requires pulverized grain (flour) and water and is baked on a hot stone. It has a small volume and requires little in terms of ingredients. Leavened bread, with which we are most familiar, requires a large volume of flour, water, a source of sugars, and yeast. A third and less well known, bread is made from sprouted grains. The grains are sprouted, ground to paste, and baked in a loaf. The resultant loaf is very dense, sweet and cakelike, and is in effect a kilned malt.
One could argue endlessly on the basis of parsimony, culture, and archaeological evidence over the order of appearance of breads and beer. Whether sprouted bread was a derivative of sprouted gruel or unleavened bread may never be known. What we can be certain of is that people 10,000 years ago experimented with ways to consume grain. Somewhere in these experiments they discovered beer.

The question of how beer was discovered becomes academic. Beer may have been discovered through stewing sprouted bread, heating sprouted gruel, or unintentionally cooking grains that were stored in a damp place. Fermentation was most likely due to airborne microorganisms but may have been aided by the addition of fruit, raw grains, or other ingredients bearing surface yeast and bacteria. The serendipitous “accident” of making beer probably happened not once, but several times before the right blend of microorganisms produced a palatable beverage. I have no doubt, however, that once a pleasant tasting broth with euphoric effects was produced, word traveled fast.

ANCIENT BREWING TECHNIQUES

How was the beer made and what was it like? This question can be broken down into an examination of technology, ingredients, and procedures. The technology at the time of the origin of beer was not well developed but sufficient to make fire, tools of wood and stone, and a container of some sort. These are all it takes to make beer.
The main ingredient in beer is malt, which is a sprouted grain. Many grains can be and are used, including millet, corn, rice, wheat, spelt, and barley. We know from archaeological records that barley and wheat have been cultivated for at least 9000 years (4). Barley makes a poor bread because of its low gluten content, so we may safely assume that if people were brewing, they likely used barley and may have used wheat and other grains as well. The malt may have taken any of a number of forms. Dry malt may have been made for storage by either drying the sprouted grains in the sun, or baking sprouted loaves until hard. The very earliest beers may well have been made from raw sprouted grains that had undergone no drying or kilning.

The process for making the original beers was undoubtedly abbreviated compared with modern beers, which undergo separate mashing, boiling, and fermentation steps. The first beers likely underwent a continuous mash and fermentation. Sprouted grains were ground and mixed with water in a vessel of wood or even in skin bags. This vessel was heated either by fire, by dropping in heated rocks, or by setting it out in the hot sun. Fermenting flora would have been introduced from both the grains and the air. The fermented gruel could then be consumed, or the liquid could be drawn off as beer and the remaining grains and yeast mixed with wheat flour to make a leavened bread.

The fermentation of ancient beers would have involved many different yeasts and bacteria. The trick would have been to keep the pH down low enough to inhibit noxious bacteria. A “sour mash” process, in which the warm mash is inoculated with Lactobacillus from the grain husks, can grow some truly foul aerobic organisms if exposed to air. Presumably the “sour mash” portion of the fermentation was brief, or some acidity was built up during the sprouting process.

With the invention of ceramics, the process could be much more refined. The mash could be cooked over a fire, and the liquid could be drawn off and fermented separately. Eventually, techniques would have evolved to preferentially select certain strains of microflora by the addition of fruit, which bear yeast on the surface, or by using a “magic stick” to stir the wort and transmit yeasts between batches.

ANCIENT BEER, HOME BREWED IN MY KITCHEN

To experience part of the ancient past, I wanted to reproduce an early beer. I decided to start with beer that could have been made with a mash cooked in clay pots. The idea was to sprout grains of barley and wheat, use some of the sprouted grains to make sprouted loaves, cook up a mash of sprouted grains and sprouted bread, and transfer the liquid and ferment it. To round out the experiment, I decided to collect the yeast sediment and any grains from the bottom of the fermentor and mix these with stone-ground whole wheat flour to make leavened bread.
Ingredients: I picked up the grains from a health food store. In addition to barley, I decided to include wheat and spelt for variety. Unfortunately, the barley was hulled. I knew the hulled barley could lead to problems but decided to take my chances for this first attempt.

To make the malt, I sprouted the grains in mason jars with perforated lids (these can be purchased at a health food store or made at home). I placed 200-250 g of grain in each 1-L jar and filled the jars with cold water, rotating them to ensure even wetting. I left the grains to soak in water for 24 h; I then inverted the jars and left them on a dish rack to drain. I rinsed the grains every 12 h and again left them to drain. After every rinsing I examined the grains for signs of germination. Germination was uneven, so the termination point was somewhat arbitrary; I stopped the sprouting when many of the acrospires had reached grain length and not too many had grown much longer. The wheat and spelt grains were ready in two to three days, whereas the barley took seven or more days to sprout sufficiently. By the time the barley was ready for use, the moist grains emitted a vinegary aroma, perhaps from the activity of bacteria in the grain bed.

I gave the grains a final rinse, drained them, and dumped those destined to become sprouted bread into a food processor for grinding (I could not find a mortar and pestle large enough). I emptied the resulting thick starchy paste of whole and partial grains onto a flat ceramic baking pan and formed it into “biscuits,” 15-18 cm in diameter and 2-3 cm thick. These biscuits were then baked at various temperatures and times to observe the different results. I opted for flat biscuits rather than domed loaves because the flat shape would dry more thoroughly for better storage; the dome-shaped store-bought sprouted bread must be kept frozen to prevent mold from growing on the moist, sweet loaf.

I baked the biscuits at 120-175 °F (50-80 °C) for 8-18 h. Those baked at 150 °F (65 °C) for about 10 h seemed to be the most pleasant tasting. Those baked at lower temperatures (120 °F [50 °C]) remained sticky and pasty even after 12 h and required flipping and a further 6 h of baking. Those baked in a stepwise manner (130 °F [55 °C] for 1 h, 150-160 °F [65-70 °C] for 2 h, and 175 °F [80 °C] for 8 h) came out darkened to the color of dark Munich malt or British brown (porter) malt, depending on the original moisture content. The flavor of the wheat and spelt biscuits was better than that of the barley biscuits, though they all tasted of malt.

Recipe design: With biscuits and sprouting barleycorns, I set about trying to design a recipe that could be produced by people of 10,000 years ago and that could be reproduced easily and reliably. Ancient cultures undoubtedly experimented until they achieved desirable results. I chose not to reproduce all of these experiments, but rather to shortcut that process by calling on more modern knowledge of brewing science. I had to remind myself, though, that the experiment was to reproduce a fermented beverage of the ancients, and not to brew a competition beer from which I expected perfect extraction or crystal clarity.

Mashing: The mashing technique I finally settled on was a sort of decoction. The technique has the advantage of producing the desired temperatures without actually having to measure those temperatures with a thermometer. A half and half mixture of boiling mash and room temperature mash would give a temperature of approximately 140 °F (60 °C). If this resulting mash were slowly heated, it would pass through the starch conversion temperature range, through mash-out temperatures, and on to boiling. The extracted wort would be boiled, cooled slowly, and fermented.

Fermentation: Fermentation was another dilemma. I was not about to expose this wort to the microorganisms in my kitchen, which have been responsible for more than one spoiled batch of beer. And I did not wish to use commercially available lambic cultures, because I was not producing a lambic-style beer. Some have suggested that ancient beers were fermented with a combination of Saccharomyces and Schizosaccharomyces (5), but I had no local source of the latter. Instead, I recalled a portion of Katz and Maytag’s interpretation of the Hymn to Ninkasi wherein they supposed that fruits, such as grapes (or raisins) or dates, may have been added, not as a flavoring but as a source of wild yeasts which normally live on the skins of these fruits (1).

I decided against using grapes to supply the yeast because fresh fruit is not readily available in Halifax in late fall. What is available has been shipped long distances and likely contains both pesticides and fruit fly eggs. I could have used a mix of pure wine and beer cultures to simulate wild yeasts, but instead I chose to culture the yeast from a batch of fresh unpasteurized sweet apple cider. This technique provided an inoculation with microorganisms known to produce fermentation without actually controlling the numbers or strains of those organisms. The beer was intended to be consumed young, so I was not overly concerned about spoilage or long-term storage. The recipe and procedure I settled on is shown in the accompanying box.

For those interested in specific numbers, the original gravity was 1.071 (much of it from dissolved starches). The final gravity was quite high as well – 1.033. As it fermented, the starch in suspension formed a pellicle on top of the kraeusen. As the foam fell, the starchy skin remained; its integrity was such that bubbles would collect underneath it, bursting only when they had grown to several centimeters in width. Much of the brown color of the liquid settled with the yeast as a starchy sediment as fermentation slowed, leaving a surprisingly pale liquor.

FINISHED BEER AND LEAVENED BREAD

After racking the beer into bottles, I performed the other half of the experiment. I removed a quantity (roughly 500 mL) of the yeast-starch-grain slurry from the bottom of the primary, warmed it slightly to rouse the yeast, and added stone-ground whole wheat flour to make a dough (about 1.5 L [6 cups]). After the dough was thoroughly mixed to a dense elastic texture, I left it to rise for 1 h in a warm place over the oven. I kneaded it, rolled it into a ball, placed it on a ceramic baking pan, and baked it at 350 °F (175 °C) for 55 min. The resulting loaf was dark and heavy and initially had a strong aroma of alcohol. The bread was hearty, though slightly bland from lack of sugar, oil, and salt. It was not unpleasant, and though not the best choice for a peanut butter sandwich, it would make an excellent vehicle for a ripe brie.
The beer was more of a surprise. My expectation was of a sour, yeasty, starchy brew, drinkable but not particularly enjoyable. Not so. The beer was quite pale and contained suspended starch, giving it the appearance of a Belgian White beer, though a degree or two darker. The level of carbonation was almost nil, though when poured with vigor a slight sparkling could be produced. Without carbonation it produced no head, so head retention was not an issue. The aroma was bready, yeasty, and cidery, with a hint of wheat. The cidery component was not like that of a beer made with too much sucrose, nor was it the acetaldehyde tang of a certain commercial American pilsner. The perception of yeastiness in the aroma faded after the first few sips. The flavor was soft and had a dry finish. No strong estery or phenolic notes were present, but a slight spiciness was detectable in the background. The high wheat content provided a bready character and may have contributed to the spicy note. The alcohol was noticeable, but not foremost. Despite the high original gravity, the beer was remarkably clean tasting. One taster compared it to Jade, a pale Flanders-style ale from the north of France, though I have never sampled this particular beer. It was good enough to warrant a second glass.

From this simple experiment we get a glimpse into the origins of beer and leavened bread. What was wholly unexpected in my results was that ancient beers may have been quite good, even by modern standards. The vagaries of wild fermentation would have precluded any form of quality control, and yet spontaneous fermentation with wild yeasts likely produced a pleasant end product often enough to keep the ancient brewers at their craft.

POSTSCRIPT

As a postscript to this experiment, buoyed by the success of my first attempt I decided to take one step further back: I wanted to reproduce the oldest beer. For this I would sprout barley in water, pound it into gruel, set it in the sun to mash, leave it open to the night air for inoculation, and see what happened. With any luck the sprouting grain and mash would be acidic enough to keep some of the bacteria at bay, and with even more luck I might pick up some interesting and inoffensive wild yeasts.
This idea, however, was misguided. I soaked whole feed barley in water, hoping that mold could be kept away by keeping the water level above the level of the grain. Within 36 h the concoction was churning and bubbling and dead weevils floated on the surface. After another 24 h, white mold was growing on the surface, and bacterial and yeast activity in the grain continued at a furious pace. I decided to discontinue the experiment. Between the putrid aroma and the fear of toxic molds, I decided perhaps I didn’t want to taste this beer after all.

This test was not a complete waste, however. Though it should perhaps be repeated in a warmer climate, it indicated that the earliest beer was not likely produced by the simple accident of grain being soaked by rainwater. The earliest beers likely did not appear until some process for mashing or malting was developed, either in the form of a gruel or a sprouted bread.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

I would like to thank M. Snow and J. Pinhey for their comments on the ancient beer and T. Kavanagh for discussion and information.
REFERENCES

(1) S.H. Katz and F. Maytag, “Brewing an Ancient Beer,” Archaeology 44 (4), 24-27 (1991).
(2) R.J. Braidwood et al., “Symposium: Did Man Once Live by Beer Alone?” American Anthropologist 55, 515-526 (1953).

(3) S.H. Katz and M. Voigt, “Beer and Bread: The Early Use of Cereals in the Human Diet,” Expeditions 28, 23-34 (1986).

(4) R.J. Braidwood, “The Agricultural Revolution,” Scientific American, September 1960, 130-148

(5) J.X. Guinard, Lambic, Classic Beer Style Series 3 (Brewers Publications, Boulder, Colorado, 1990), p. 9.

Recipe for an Ancient Beer

In one pot mix:
500 g (dry weight) pulverized sprouted barley gruel
1 biscuit (~200 g dry weight) sprouted wheat or spelt bread
2 L of the last barley rinse water
200 g cracked winter wheat
In a second pot, mix:
2 biscuits (~250 g dry weight) sprouted barley bread
100 g unsprouted barley, crushed
200 g unsprouted spelt, crushed
2.5 L cold water

Thoroughly break up the biscuits and allow them to soak. While the first pot soaks at room temperature, slowly heat the second pot to boiling. Once it has reached boiling, mix the contents of the two pots, and slowly bring the temperature back to boiling. With a wooden spoon, push the mash to one side of the pot and collect the liquid (plus any grain that happens to be floating around) with a cup and transfer it to another pot. Add 1 L of boiling water to the mash, stir, and repeat the pressing procedure. Repeat this until you have collected several liters of brown, gravy-like liquid, along with some grains. Bring the wort to a boil to sterilize it, cool, and pitch with your favorite wild yeast.
I confess that in the mash I did resort to a small addition of commercial malted barley to compensate for the lack of husks on the barley I had used.

Original article:
Home Brewing an Ancient Beer
By Ed Hitchcock
Republished from BrewingTechniques’ September/October 1994.
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EMS-89615 Egyptian wooden model of beer making...

Image via Wikipedia

Topic: Making beer like they did in Ancient Egypt

I forgot I even had this article. It was originally published in 2009

The picture to the left is of a model showing beer making in Ancient Egypt

If  you’re trying to be thrifty in the midst of this recession, try brewing your own beer in the style of the ancient Egyptians. Their yeast cells have been preserved for thousands of years.
While looking for recession-proof recipes to save money at the supermarket, I found a great resource for brewing your own recession-proof beer at home to save some money, it’s the article in Natural History magazine, the May 1996 issue, page 24, that describes how archaeologists brewed beer in the style of the ancient Egyptians, and in the 1990s even had it on sale at Harrod’s in London.
When archaeologists dug up King Tut’s and other ancients’ tombs in the 1920s and more recently, in the 1990s, they found starch granules in the ancient bread crumbs and beer dregs that revealed all the processes to which the bread was exposed during baking and brewing into beer.
All you have to do is back-engineer and reconstruct everything from scratch. So how do you brew your own beer the ancient Egyptian and Levantine way?
Instead of using your modern, cultured yeast, brew like an Egyptian and keep some yeasty residue from one brew to the next. The yeast sticks to the fabric of the brewing pots. Fermentation happens naturally from micro-flora.
All the former research showed barley and emmer wheat were grown in ancient Egypt. It was emmer wheat that the ancient Egyptians used to make beer at Tell el Amarna. Archaeologists saved the preserved emmer wheat on the temple kitchen floors. Here’ are the steps you can imitate the process at home to make ancient-style beer.
1. To make beer you buy some organic unhulled barley in a health food store. Moisten barley. Keep it moist until it germinates, then heat the barley to stop the germination (the result is called malt).
2. Add water and yeast so the malt sugars ferment.
3. Blend cooked and uncooked malt with water and produce a refined liquid free of husk by straining and mashing. For more information, go to my resource which is Natural History magazine, the May 1996 issue, page 24.
Here’s another ancient Egyptian way to brew beer. It’s going to taste like raspberries.

Boil barley and emmer wheat in a pot of water until it’s cooked and water is absorbed. Add cold water to make a brew. Fill the pot just before the rim.
Heat the mixture, adding more water and cooked malt. Add natural wild yeast and uncooked malt to the cooked malt. Health food stores have different types of natural yeast.
After adding the second batch of malt, cover, and allow the mixture to ferment.  Without adding any flavoring, the beer should be fruity and sweet and taste like raspberries. Try brewing your beer using the methods of a brewery so you don’t get a batch of bacteria in the brew to make you sick.
In fact, you can take your method to a brewery and ask whether you can brew your first batch at a brewery so you don’t make the mistake of letting it ferment at the wrong temperature and get yourself sick with a bunch of bacteria in the brew. Ancient Egyptian beer didn’t have the bitter hops flavor.
Here are the steps the archaeologists used to make ancient Egyptian beer. This information is in the article on making beer the ancient Egyptian way, published in Natural History magazine in the May 1996 issue, page 24. The article focused on the year 2050 BCE, the time of the XI Dynasty. So here are the steps the archaeologists used to make the ancient beer in the way the ancients would have brewed it.
First you have to grow the emmer wheat. But today emmer wheat is cultivated in Turkey. So if you live in England where the archaeologists were located, first you go to a health food store that imports Turkish emmer wheat. What the archaeologists actually did was to bring emmer wheat to England, about 850 pounds of it. And they grew that wheat at the at the National Institute of Agricultural Botany in Cambridge.
That’s all you need as far as raw material to brew beer the way the ancients made it, unless, of course, you must have water from ancient Egyptian wells. So that’s what the scientists did.
They analyzed old Egyptian desert wells to get the correct type of liquor. They had to do it because the old Egyptian well water is free from phospates and modern agricultural chemicals. So they had to add some gypsum to harden the water.
You at home can simply used distilled water.  Gypsum is calcium carbonate. Add a calcium carbonate tablet found in any health food store. Then flavor your ancient Egyptian beer brew with tiny amounts of juniper and coriander spices, obtainable in many herbal or health food stores. Or grow your own herbs from seeds in little pots or in your garden.
A modern yeast strain was used. It would have taken years of DNA research to reveal the exact nature of the yeast used in Ancient Egypt.  The experts chose a fast-fermenting strain from the National Yeast Collection in Norwich, also in eastern England, that works at a high temperature, as temperatures would have been hot in ancient Egypt, but not as hot as today.
No ancient Egyptian ever made beer with hops. They used malt. They never sweetened their beer with fruit or honey. If you want to make ancient Egyptian beer, you put coriander into the brew because it grew wild in the Nile Valley. Coriander in ancient Egypt was put into bread and other baked products. You can add juniper. That also was used in bread and beer. So put a pinch of juniper and coriander into your beer kettle.
Now comes mashing time.  Emmer wheat, unlike modern cereals, has a thick hull or husk. Emmer wheat can take up to 14 hours to grind into a grist suitable for mashing. The grinding was done with a pestle and mortar using dampened grain. This was the method used in Ancient Egypt and is still in use currently in Turkey. Emmer wheat is close to modern brewing grain.
If you want to find out what ancient Egyptian wheat used in brewing beer was like, look at how emmer wheat is ground into bread flower in Turkey today. This could be a great project for someone studying nutritional anthropology.
When you mash the emmer wheat, it produces a sugary solution. The archaeologists trying to make Egyptian beer did conventional mashing and boiling in modern pans, and the three-day fermentation took place in a gallon jar. Ancient peoples baked bread after they learned to brew beer.
First Neolithic peoples let raw mixed flour stand out in the air where the dough reacted with wild yeast and pollen blowing in the wind. As the dough dropped into water and fermented, it turned to a type of beer.
Then when people added more raw mixed flour to the beer and baked it, they produced a light, leavened bread. Since Nile water was muddy, beer was used instead of water in ceremonies and as the meal-time beverage of choice for ancient Egyptian workers.
In 1996, archaeologists from the University of Cambridge found no flavorings in the beer, only spices. The ancient Egyptians seemed to have used barley to make malt. Egyptians of four thousand years ago used emmer wheat instead of hops. They heated the mixture, and then added yeast and uncooked malt to the cooked malt. After adding the second batch of malt, the brew was allowed to ferment.
Drink the new beer a few days after fermentation. Ancient pharaohs got to wait a few more days for the beer to get stronger. Tutankhamun Ale was brewed at 6 per cent alcohol by volume/4.8 per cent by weight. One thousand bottles were once produced and sold only in London’s top department store, Harrods, which is owned by an Egyptian, Mohamad Al Fayed.
The ancient-style beer was opaque and gold-colored. It tasted like spiced, mulled fruit. Different strains of yeast give off a variety of tastes and aromas. “Brewing blended cooked and uncooked malt with water; the mixture was strained free of husk before inoculation with yeast,” according to Investigation of Ancient Egyptian Baking and Brewing Methods by Correlative Microscopy” Science July 1996, v273, n5274, p488, by Samuel, Delwen.
My references for this recipe were the articles titled, King Tut’s Tipple” Discover Jan.1997, v18, n1, p13, by Shanti Menon, and Investigation of Ancient Egyptian Baking and Brewing Methods by Correlative Microscopy” Science July 1996, v273, n5274, p488, by Samuel, Delwen. For more information, see the publications of the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, University of Cambridge, Downing Street, Cambridge CB2 3ER, UK.
article from Examiner.com

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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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