hist-brewing: ancient ale

Baden,Doug baden at oclc.org
Fri Mar 5 09:23:21 PST 2010

You are very correct about the broom over the door.  I have LOTS of
documentation about that.  Alewives were very real :).

I was teaching a class on brewing (for SCA folks, it was a Pennsic) and
I happened to have a few guys there that decided to make their house
into a brewery from the attic (fermenting and cooling) down.  They also
tried to make beer with wild yeast (literally cut slats in the attic and
let the air flow do the work).  Their thought was that the best
fermenting yeast would push out the rest over time, say a year or two.
They started making beer and it surprised them greatly that in two
months it was a passable beer and in three it was very good.

I am leaving a lot out, but the gist is that the wood harbored the yeast
that was the strongest without special equipment.  There have been other
experiments of this sort and they all bore the same fruit.


When I see the words "And it is obvious that...", I know I have many
hours of hard work to "see" the obvious.

-----Original Message-----
From: hist-brewing-bounces at pbm.com [mailto:hist-brewing-bounces at pbm.com]
On Behalf Of Merryn Dineley
Sent: Friday, March 05, 2010 4:53 AM
To: hist-brewing at pbm.com
Subject: Re: hist-brewing: ancient ale

In the Western Isles of Scotland, they stirred the wort with a hazel 
stick or wand; it had dried yeast on it, the result of being used to 
stir previous brews. I think there was a tradition to hang the 
'wand'over the front door, to tell everyone that a brew in on, but not 
entirely sure on this.

In our house, where brewing went on for over twenty years, orange juice 
would start to ferment overnight from the wild yeasts 'in the air' I

Egyptian pots used for brewing had traces of yeast on the inside 
surfaces - making it a 'magic pot' - when you put the wort into it, it 

On a recent demonstration, where we mashed using hot rocks in a wooden 
tub, again, the mash had begun to ferment by the morning.

Greg Lindahl wrote:
> On Thu, Mar 04, 2010 at 07:59:29AM +0000, John P. Looney wrote:
>> Where do you get wild yeasts that will ferment beer better
> Google tells me that you can brew beer using sourdough as a starter.
> You've got to figure that our ancient brewer has a way of propagating
> his yeast -- and then the problem reduces to another unsolved problem:
> How did the first sourdough yeast get developed?
> -- greg
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