Posts Tagged ‘malt’



Archaeologists at Lund University in Sweden have found carbonised germinated grains showing that malt was produced for beer brewing as early as the Iron Age in the Nordic region. The findings made in Uppåkra in southern Sweden indicate a large-scale production of beer, possibly for feasting and trade.

“We found carbonised malt in an area with low-temperature ovens located in a separate part of the settlement. The findings are from the 400-600s, making them one of the earliest evidence of beer brewing in Sweden”, says Mikael Larsson, who specialises in archaeobotany, the archaeology of human-plant interactions.

Archaeologists have long known that beer was an important product in ancient societies in many parts of the world. Through legal documents and images, it has been found, for example, that beer was produced in Mesopotamia as early as 4 000 BCE. However, as written sources in the Nordic region are absent prior to the Middle Ages (before ca 1200 CE), knowledge of earlier beer production is dependent on botanical evidence.

“We often find cereal grains on archaeological sites, but very rarely from contexts that testify as to how they were processed. These germinated grains found around a low-temperature oven indicate that they were used to become malt for brewing beer”, says Mikael Larsson.

Beer is made in two stages. The first is the malting process, followed by the actual brewing. The process of malting starts by wetting the grain with water, allowing the grain to germinate. During germination, enzymatic activities starts to convert both proteins and starches of the grain into fermentable sugars. Once enough sugar has been formed, the germinated grain is dried in an oven with hot air, arresting the germination process. This is what happened in the oven in Uppåkra.

“Because the investigated oven and carbonised grain was situated in an area on the site with several similar ovens, but absent of remains to indicate a living quarter, it is likely that large-scale production of malt was allocated to a specific area on the settlement, intended for feasting and/or trading”, explains Mikael Larsson.

Early traces of malt in connection with beer brewing have only been discovered in two other places in the Nordic region. One is in Denmark from 100 CE and one is in Eketorp on Öland from around 500 CE.

“From other archaeological sites in the Nordic region, traces of the bog-myrtle plant have been found, which indicates beer brewing. Back then, bog-myrtle was used to preserve and flavour beer. It wasn’t until later during the Middle Ages that hops took over as beer flavouring”, Mikael Larsson concludes.

Facts: Method

Two-litre soil samples are taken from various archaeological contexts – in houses, in pits, around hearths and ovens. The plant material found is usually preserved in a carbonised state. The soil is mixed with water and the carbon rises to the surface and is sieved through a fine mesh. The particles extracted are dried and studied under a microscope.

Facts: Uppåkra

Uppåkra is currently the largest Iron Age settlements in southern Scandinavia and served as a densely populated political and religious centre of power for more than 1 000 years, from 100s BCE to the 1 000s CE. The many findings made of imported luxury items such as jewellery and glass bowls, and from a developed production of crafts, indicate that the location was both rich and a significant trading centre.



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Topic: poem to Sumerian beer goddess and a recipe!

After Wednesdays post on Sumerian beer I looked up the poem to Ninaski, I thought you might enjoy it and the recipe included.

As to whether the Sumerians discovered beer well my vote is for the Egyptians but who ever it was we owe them a great deal!

Ninkasi, the Sumerian Goddess of Brewing and Beer

The Sumerians were big-time beer drinkers. In fact, by accident, they discovered beer. Yes, not created, but rather discovered, or so it’s been postulated. Sources indicate that the old school nomadic hunter-gatherers, of some 13,000 years ago, finally realized that they could settle – that it was more beneficial to life and yielded stability. One of their first harvested products was grain. To keep this grain, it was often baked and stored. Some 6,000 years ago, ancient text reveals that eventually it was formulated that the sweetest grain, if baked, left out, moistened, forgotten, then eaten, would produce an uplifting, cheerful feeling. Intoxication at the primal level! The first beer!

After this blissful discovery, baked grains were broken into pieces and stuffed into a pot. Water, and sometimes aromatics, fruit or honey, were added (creating a basic mash and wort) and left to ferment. Years later, the Babylonians fashioned what we now know as a straw, to extract the juice from the grain pulp in the pot. A not-so-distant Russian recipe is still produced today, called “kvass.” The only real difference being that the fermented liquid is poured into a cask, bottle or jug.

The following text from 1800 BC is the Hymn to Ninkasi, translated by Miguel Civil. It was written by a Sumerian poet and found on clay tablet. It actually includes one of the most ancient recipes for brewing beer.

Hymn to Ninkasi

Borne of the flowing water,
Tenderly cared for by the Ninhursag,
Borne of the flowing water,
Tenderly cared for by the Ninhursag,

Having founded your town by the sacred lake,
She finished its great walls for you,
Ninkasi, having founded your town by the sacred lake,
She finished it’s walls for you,

Your father is Enki, Lord Nidimmud,
Your mother is Ninti, the queen of the sacred lake.
Ninkasi, your father is Enki, Lord Nidimmud,
Your mother is Ninti, the queen of the sacred lake.

You are the one who handles the dough [and] with a big shovel,
Mixing in a pit, the bappir with sweet aromatics,
Ninkasi, you are the one who handles the dough [and] with a big shovel,
Mixing in a pit, the bappir with [date] – honey,

You are the one who bakes the bappir in the big oven,
Puts in order the piles of hulled grains,
Ninkasi, you are the one who bakes the bappir in the big oven,
Puts in order the piles of hulled grains,

You are the one who waters the malt set on the ground,
The noble dogs keep away even the potentates,
Ninkasi, you are the one who waters the malt set on the ground,
The noble dogs keep away even the potentates,

You are the one who soaks the malt in a jar,
The waves rise, the waves fall.
Ninkasi, you are the one who soaks the malt in a jar,
The waves rise, the waves fall.

You are the one who spreads the cooked mash on large reed mats,
Coolness overcomes,
Ninkasi, you are the one who spreads the cooked mash on large reed mats,
Coolness overcomes,

You are the one who holds with both hands the great sweet wort,
Brewing [it] with honey [and] wine
(You the sweet wort to the vessel)
Ninkasi, (…)(You the sweet wort to the vessel)

The filtering vat, which makes a pleasant sound,
You place appropriately on a large collector vat.
Ninkasi, the filtering vat, which makes a pleasant sound,
You place appropriately on a large collector vat.

When you pour out the filtered beer of the collector vat,
It is [like] the onrush of Tigris and Euphrates.
Ninkasi, you are the one who pours out the filtered beer of the collector vat,
It is [like] the onrush of Tigris and Euphrates.

Ninkasi is the Sumerian goddess of brewing and beer and head brewer to the gods themselves. Her name means “the lady who fills the mouth” and her birth was formed of sparkling-fresh water. She who bakes with lofty shovel the sprouted barley, she who mixes the bappir-malt with sweet aromatics, she who pours the fragrant beer in the lahtan-vessel that is like the Tigris and Euphrates joined! Yes, she. Early brewers were primarily women, mostly because it was deemed a woman’s job. Mesopotamian men, of some 3,800 years ago, were obviously complete assclowns and had yet to realize the pleasure of brewing beer.

Using the above text, one could literally recreate the ancient recipe embedded within the poem. In fact, back in the early 1990s, Fritz Maytag of Anchor Brewing and Dr. Solomon Katz of the University of Pennsylvania set out to reproduce this brew by deciphering the ancient clay tablet. Thick loaves of bread called bappir were baked from several grains. Mixed with honey, the loaves were then twice baked until a granolalike consistency was achieved, believing that the Sumerians stored this brew for later use. These loaves were added to a mash with a large addition of malt to ensure a proper conversion of starches. The mixture was then cooled naturally, not by modern techniques. The sweet liquid was strained away from the grains and transferred to the fermenter. Yeast was added and yielded a 3.5 percent alcohol by volume. After the fermentation, the beer was served in proper Sumerian style – sipped from bulky clay jugs using lengthy drinking straws, produced to bear a resemblance to the gold and lapis-lazuli straws unearthed in the mid-third millennium tomb of Lady Pu-abi at Ur.

Let’s give thanks to our one true god – Beer and its messenger Ninkasi! Blessed be Beer!

Original article:
beer advocate

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Topic Ale

Once upon a time in the back garden, I started to do some archaeological grain processing experiments. It was the summer of 1995. I’d just finished an archaeology degree. Now I was enrolled on a master’s degree course at Manchester University and I was beginning my investigations into how people may have made the ale in prehistory.

In my final year as an undergraduate, I had chosen the British Neolithic and Bronze Age as my specialist subject. We were told that, in Bronze Age Britain- Beakers were for Beer! Warriors buried with wristguards and bows and arrows and fine beaker pots for their ale! It got a laugh from the class, as any mention of beer and brewing seems to do.I’m still not sure why – but that was when I first began to wonder. “OK. So, how did they make it?”

Being married to a craft brewer, I was used to living in a brew house. The sacks of crushed malt. The delicious aroma of the mash. The rituals. The water and wort spilled on the kitchen floor. Steam emanating from the out house door as he mashed the malt and boiled the wort. We lived in a big, old Victorian house and the dining room was where the beer was fermented. We had a cellar to keep it in. He would bring a sack of crushed malt in through the front door and transform it into beer. It was very good beer. It was a fairly simple process.

I spent months hunting around the John Rylands Library for any reference, anything at all, in the rows of archaeology books about prehistoric Britain for anything to do with






malting floor

etc etc etc ???

I found nothing about how ale was made. Anywhere. There’s my research topic, I thought.

How did they make the ale in Bronze Age Britain? All the paper work was done, I was accepted as a Post Graduate student and I got a desk – nothing else, just a desk. In the late 1990s there were just a handful of computers in the Archaeology & Art History Department. None at all in the John Rylands University Library. But plenty of books, journals and excavation reports. So I applied myself to reading excavation reports and to understanding how ale is made.

With three young children, it was always going to take a while. It would always be part time.

Within a couple of months, reading about the organic residues described in excavation reports that had been identified on both Bronze Age Beakers and Neolithic Grooved Ware pottery, I realised that brewing might perhaps be a neolithic thing … but more of that particular excitement another time.

To make ale from the grain, you must transform it into sugars. Sugar ferments into alcohol, we all know that. The transformation of cereal into alcohol is done by heating up crushed malt with water to make a wort. That is what craft brewers do. But I had to use equipment that would have been available to a Bronze Age or a Neolithic brewer.

So, all I needed was some crushed malt, an earthenware bowl and a fire. I took some of the household brewing ingredient – Maris Otter Pale Crushed Malt. I went to the local garden centre and bought an earthenware bowl. The bowl was heated, and sealed with beeswax.

Making a small hearth and a fire, I put some crushed pale malt into the bowl and let it gently heat up on the warm ashes. At first the mixture was starchy and white.

After about half an hour, it began to turn golden brown and there was that familiar aroma of the mash. The liquid in the bowl began to taste sweet. I was making malt sugars. Then, I mixed up some crushed malt and water into a slightly thicker mixture and put it on the flat stone by the fire. The stone had become quite warm by now. If I sprinkled water on the “barley malt cakes” they began to change colour and become golden brown.

This is known, officially, as the saccharification. My craft brewer husband had been telling me, for months, that I had to understand the saccharification before I could understand the brewing process. Now that I had done it for myself, I understood it – at least superficially.

By doing something, experimentally, for myself, I had learned that:

Malted barley could be easily made into liquid malt sugars using simple equipment.

All that was needed was water, crushed malted grain, the application of gentle heat and a heat proof and watertight container for the mash.

But it was also possible to make malt sugars on a hot stone by the fire.

As with any archaeological experiment, it had thrown up many new questions for me to consider. And my investigations into ancient ale were underway.

Could these be the so called “beer bread” of the Egyptians or the “bappir” of the Sumerians? How far back did this fundamental technology go? What is so special about the malted grain that you could make sugars from it? I had lots and lots to learn yet!

Original article:

Comment by the above author:

I am archaeologist with a special interest in ancient and traditional crafts of malting and brewing, skills that go back to the Stone Age, to the dawn of agriculture over 10,000 years ago
Should be a good blog to check now and again even if it is on Blogger.


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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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