hist-brewing: Odense Old Style Ale - historical bits

adam larsen euphonic at flash.net
Tue Jun 13 22:30:19 PDT 2000

        A few historical tidbits -

     The issue of the star spice seems to be more complicated then i
originally thought.   After much poking about i discovered that star
anise was imported to Northern Europe long before the 1500's.  At least
according to the Finnish Maritime museum, anise was known to have been
imported from from the early 1300's.
    The issue of when the spice was first imported aside, the question
remains, was anise referred to as "star(ed) spice".   According to an
earlier Dutch recipe star spice was actually a combination of spices
made prior to Advent  meant to commemorate the star that guided wise men
to the Nativity.  While looking for confirmation of this theory i noted
that this spice mixture included gentian, some form of wheat or bread,
honey and a undefined aromatic bark.  It would appear that this
concoction was boiled down to a thick syrup like mixture and added to
festive foods and drink.  Of course that such a spice was at a time used
by the Dutch does not mean that it was used by the Danes at a latter era
despite the same name.
    However, at the famous Bronderslev cult site a similar mixture,
although i am not sure of  the precise composition, was found in bread
remnants near a votive well.
    Assuming that the Odense recipe was, as it appears and is
represented, a christianized version of  an earlier beverage it would
seem plausible that "star spice" was merely another Nordic cultural
vestige appropriated by the church.   This seems once again a reasonable
conjecture as many Baltic and Nordic ales used bread and similar baked
products in their production.
    On a final note i found out that the production of  heathen ales,
called demonic brew in actual written law, was expressly forbidden in
1367 according to city ordinances.  What constituted such a beverage was
unfortunately left rather vague.  Such an ale was described only as
being made to "honor false gods using fowl woods, poisons and weeds".
    Hopefully some of the readership may have input on this matter.  If
their appears to be the desire for additional information i'll give any
additional information that i have or come across as time permits.
    Oh, i'll finish up instruction on making this ale at home latter
this week.

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