hist-brewing: Stone Age Beer tastes like Shit

Martyn Cornell atrectus at blueyonder.co.uk
Thu Oct 18 15:26:39 PDT 2001

A rather late add, but if you want to know the true story behind recreating
Neolithic Orkney ale, rather than depend on sensational and inaccurate
newspaper reports, read these two books:

Neolithic Orkney in its European context edited by Anna Ritchie (2000)
Chapter 16:  The Neolithic Fair, Skiall House, Sandwick
specifically Andrew Appleby on recreating Neolithic grooved ware pots, as
used by Neolithic brewers to brew in, and why the dung was essential (not,
obviously, for flavouring the ale but building the kiln to bake the pots
in); and Merryn Dineley & Graham Dineley on recreating the ale, which
reveals that ale brewed with meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmara, a two to
four-feet-high plant of meadows, fens and stream banks with heads of
creamy-white, fragrant flowers) will keep for months; and

Andrew S. Fairbairn (editor) Plants in Neolithic Britain and beyond,
(Oxford: Oxbow books 2001), pp 137-155, Neolithic ale: Barley  as a source
of malt sugars for fermentation, again by Merryn Dineley & Graham Dineley.

In a message dated 9/5/01 5:53:56 PM Central Daylight Time,
ptuger at bellsouth.net writes:

> Using our Content
>  © 2001 Independent Digital (UK) Ltd
>  05 September 2001 23:48 GMT+1
>  Independent 
>  5,000-year-old pub found on Orkney served real dung ale
>  By Kath Gourlay
>  02 September 2001
>  It tastes like what? Real ale fans in Orkney will take authenticity to its
> furthest extreme today by supping "stone-age" beer flavoured with dung.
>  The neolithic ale has been scientifically recreated, complete with
> farmyard flavours, after historians discovered what they claim is a
> old pub and brewery on the islands.
>  Now hard-drinking Orcadians have been invited to put their brewing
> to the test ­ in the full knowledge it has been manufactured in clay pots
> bearing the traces of baked animal droppings.
>  Merryn Dineley, a historian from Manchester University and chief brewer of
> the ancient liquor, insists that the dung is an essential component of the
> original flavour.
>  "It's quite delicious, actually," she claims, hoping that visitors to this
> weekend's Orkney Science Fair will agree. There's no escaping the dung, but
> she has at least removed the deadly nightshade, henbane and hemlock found
> the original recipe.
>  Islander Andrew Appleby is one of the few to have sampled the stone-age
>  "It's definitely potent ­ no mistake about that ­ not to be served in
> mugs," he commented. "Not unless you want a free colonic irrigation
> afterwards. So long as you don't expect it to resemble modern ales it is
> drinkable."
>  Mr Appleby is a commercial potter who regularly makes "grooved ware" pots
> the authentic stone-age way, fired in an outdoor kiln made from cow dung
> reeds. The dung is routinely burned onto the resulting pots ­ the more the
> better.
>  Ms Dineley concluded there had been a brewery at Skara Brae in Orkney,
> Britain's best preserved neolithic village, after examining stone-lined
> drains running under some of the houses, along with evidence of a kiln for
> malting grain. Traces of cereal-based fermented alcohol have been found on
> nearby site.
>  "There's no doubt these neolithic people were fermenting alcohol from
>  she said. "In fact I think they were making barley malt for brewing before
> they thought about grinding up grain for bread."

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