hist-brewing: ancient ale

Merryn Dineley merryn at dineley.com
Tue Feb 23 04:50:24 PST 2010

Hello all, I am still reading through the excellent posts that came as a 
reply to my initial query about this! Thank you all very much indeed - I 
have been delighted by the response. I aim to reply to individual points 
raised. However, I am still spending far too much time tussling with 
computers to get my papers and research on line and meeting other 
necessary deadlines.

I agree with most of what has been said  - except for the chewing grain 
bit. My investigations indicate that in South America, when they make 
chicha, they cook the corn to a mush, then they roll it into little 
balls and 'chew' it, ie roll it round their mouths, then spit it out. I 
could be wrong, of course. Corn is too hard to chew when raw, so is 
barley, or wheat for that matter. Teeth would break, let's not go there!

I work at a Visitor Centre to a Neolithic tomb on Orkney, Scotland - the 
Tomb of the Eagles. The tour guides there would tell tales of Granny 
chewing at the barley, then spitting it out into a pot to make the beer. 
It would have tourists shuddering in horror (some of the tour guides 
there tell a very good tale). I do not advise chewing raw barley..... 
the grains are tough as little stones! I did not damage my teeth but 
imagine it could happen. As one contributor pointed out - there is far 
more amylase released during germination, so that is the more likely 

Finally, for this email anyway, I have recently had a response from my 
ex Professor - who, ten years ago, refused to support my funding bid to 
investigate the possible biomarkers/archaeobotanical evidence for 
brewing ale in prehistory. Now he says they might have been drinking 
'some kind of alcohol' There are some archaeologists out there who 
reckon 'cider not ale' in the British neolithic. Cider made from 
crab-apples .....

.... what is it they say? One step forwards, two steps backwards!

Thanks again for your informed, intelligent, erudite and sometimes 
amusing comments on ancient malt and ale. I shall write more to you 
later, bye for now, and Cheers!
Merryn Dineley

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