hist-brewing: bronze age beer making theory in Ireland

John P. Looney valen at tuatha.org
Sun Aug 19 12:44:32 PDT 2007

On 8/19/07, kent hillard <kgarryh at yahoo.com> wrote:

--- "John P. Looney" <valen at tuatha.org> wrote:
> >  Thought this might be of interest to some of you. A
> > number of Irish
> > archeologists have proposed a theory that over 4000
> > unexplained neolithic or
> > bronze age constructions around Ireland may have
> > been early breweries.
> >
> >  It's an interesting theory, though given the size
> > of the constructions (250
> > litres or more) it would indicate a scale of brewing
> > unknown outside the
> > cities of Mesopotamia and Egypt, yes ?
> It appears there was some large scale brewing going on
> in Anatolia, for instance, as well. In Europe and
> elsewhere I believe the evidence is less clearly
> defined, although there can of course be no doubt that
> fermented beverages were being produced.
> The 4500 or so constructions mentioned would likely
> not all have been in use during the same period--they
> may date over a range of several centuries. I didn't
> note any dating estimates for these sites in the press
> release. Therefore, the 250 liters or so volume of the
> troughs is not problematic. Volume of beer produced
> would depend upon the population consuming it and the
> purpose of its production and consumption (e.g.
> ceremonial, subsistence beverage, payment for services
> or work incentive).

 I think from about 600AD, there is decent documentation on legal
requirements for tenants to provide their landholders with malt for the
purposes of beermaking. It was a landowners duty to provide free beer for
his tenants (all the way up to king). So, perhaps that tracks.

> What
> would be needed to make this a more convincing
> argument is chemical evidence from the troughs (highly
> unlikely, given the environmental conditions to which
> they would have been exposed over the millennia) and
> other material remains (such as stones found at the
> sites in the general proximity of the troughs, if such
> were being used to heat the mash, traces of vessels
> for boiling or fermenting the wort, evidence of grain
> processing nearby, charcoal deposits at the sites
> suggestive of firepits or the like, etc.). Were any of
> these things found?

 Yes; quern stones have been found at many of the sites (though certainly
not all). All of the sites that were reasonably intact had heat-broken
granite stones and charcoal remnants. I'm not familiar of any vessels found

 Limestone is more prevalent in Ireland, though granite is always used to
line the pits. It's assumed that heated limestone would ruin water used for
beer, by giving off some calcium oxide into the water.


triad 238: Trí luchra ata mesa: luchra tuinde, luchra mná bóithe, luchra
Three worst smiles: the smile of a wave, the smile of a lewd woman, thegrin
of a dog ready to leap.

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