hist-brewing: ancient ale

Daniel Butler-Ehle dwbutler at mtu.edu
Thu Feb 25 20:04:26 PST 2010

Martyn Cornell <mcornell at blueyonder.co.uk> writes:
> According to the Handbook of indigenous fermented foods by Keith Steinkraus,

One of my most disappointing eBay defeats was losing a 
bidding war on a copy of that several years ago.
> Even if malted grains contain more of the necessary enzymes to 
> bring about saccharinification than saliva, there must be a good 
> reason why Andean Indians continue to use chewing as a saccharinification 
> starter, rather than malting. 

I reckon so. 

Note, though, that malted maize only has a quarter the 
diastatic power of malted barley or wheat, and cassava 
has none.  It doesn't have enough enzymes to convert its 
own starch.  Now, I don't know if the chewing methods do 
any better, though.  But, as I mentioned in an earlier 
post, one advantage of chewing is that the enzymes, even 
if low in concentration, are in endless supply (unlike 
malt mashing, in which the enzymes are highly concentrated 
but limited in duration).

How do Bourbon distillers do it?

> Nobody here seems to have addressed that question.

I'm not terribly sure it's relevant when we're discussing 
barley and wheat.  If a culture is using a malting grain, 
it just doesn't seem likely (to me, anyway) that they 
would convert it with ptyalin instead of letting it 
convert itself.  Now, the question is whether they used 
a malting grain.

> I talk about the idea that salivary amylase was also a 
> plausible pre-malting route to beer in the Fertile Crescent 
> using cereal grains here:

Thanks for the link.  I wholly agree with the premise.
I've been telling folks for years that there's just no 
way that beer (which by even the simplest production 
methods still involves a complicated series of steps) 
can be older than wine or mead (which make themselves).

> even storing beer is possible in organic containers, vide the
> Zulu "beer basket":

Neat! But I'll point out that that's for *holding* beer, 
not storing it; it doesn't lengthen the shelf life of 
the beverage.

Dan Butler-Ehle

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