hist-brewing: ancient ale

Will Hanrott w_hanrott at yahoo.co.uk
Tue Feb 23 05:16:58 PST 2010

I've been meaning to get back onto this thread. My comments about chewing the grain were a bit speculative but I don't think that the responses adequately rule the possibility out.

Mr Butler-Ehle commented that Amylase is present in malted grain as well as saliva and that the concentrations are considerably greater in the latter. This is fair, but optimal temperature and time matters as well as concentrations. We have seen that Amylase is a general term for enzymes which convert starch to sugars. There are two very different types in grain with different optimal temperatures. Since salivary amylase works well at body temperature I remain unconvinced -from those arguments- that it lacks efficacy.

Merryn Dineley commented below that it wouldn't be wise to chew grain. This is fair, if you assume that you're using the high dried grain that we're accustomed to. If, however, it was crushed and soaked first in a pestle (or grinding rock) then it might not cause you injury. 

I am still neither a biochemist nor an archaeologist. This thread has been very interesting and I hope that you'll take my comments in the vein that they are made.


--- On Tue, 23/2/10, Merryn Dineley <merryn at dineley.com> wrote:

> From: Merryn Dineley <merryn at dineley.com>
> Subject: hist-brewing: ancient ale
> To: hist-brewing at pbm.com
> Date: Tuesday, 23 February, 2010, 12:50
> 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 
> method.
> 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
> http://independent.academia.edu/MerrynDineley
> _______________________________________________
> hist-brewing mailing list
> hist-brewing at pbm.com
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