Historical brewing and the preHistorisch Dorp; part 2

Did I… did I forget to post this? Yes, I did, didn’t I? Ok, then, I have to test my wonky memory, because it has been a while.

July 2021 Monique, Frank and I experimented with medieval brewery in our beloved museum preHistorisch Dorp Eindhoven. The goal was not to brew a drinkable beer (although that would have been nice) but to show people how brewing could have been done back then. After our earlier research we decided to use hot stones this time, based on Brew Viking Stone beer by Susan Verberg.

As said the last time: We planned on trying some options that are most likely to have been used in those times, based on archeological and historical research. That means mashing with hot stones and using juniper for filtering, but we couldn’t get juniper. It is most probable that people in those times bought their gruit as a prepared paste at the gruit houses. A lot of people know gruit to be a herb mixture used before the use of hops, but it was probably more than that. It was probably a mixture with the grains as well. This way the gruit houses had control over the herbs used as a safety measure ánd it was a way to collect taxes as well. But we don’t have that luxury, so we had to make everything ourselves. We had to use some anachronical things, like the vessels made with metal instead of willow, but well, first things first, we had to get started on the brewing and experimenting some time.

The day before Monique and I prepared what we could, that is: crushing the grains and cleaning the vessels (of which you shouldn’t expect too much, it was not like the new year’s evening brewing cleaning and neither could we burn out the vessels). We used a mix of grains, including buckwheat, since that was probably the most used grain in this vicinity due to the poor soil in Brabant. We also used barley, which was probably historically less correct, but which has all the properties you want to brew a beer.

Next day we started early by making the fire. Monique was also responsible for the cooking for that evening’s dinner for all volunteers, so that would take a lot of her time that day. Which is ok, because brewing is a lot of waiting and measuring anyway. So the three of us would be busy the entire day helping each other out when there was time, brewing and measuring and telling the visitors about the whole brewing process, the history of brewing and beer and more.

After Frank took care of the fire (I mean… Yes, I have been a volunteer for so many years and I still cannot make a fire. Yes. I know. Don’t judge me) we began with the mashing. First we heated the water in a cooking pot to about 60 degrees, transferred that to the vessel and added the grains. We stirred it and then added hot stones to steadily keep the water/mash warm. The hot stones came straight out of the fire. With all the sizzling and more the visuals were great! I am not sure the enzymes were happy with it, though, but it certainly looked impressive. This whole process took us, what… At least the entire morning and I think a good part into the afternoon. Then we used a cheese cloth to filter the mash into a cooking pot and filter and sparge again into a second cooking pot. I can tell you, soot goes straight through a cheese cloth. Sooth and all we still decided to cook the wort and added our package of gruit herbs. We cooked everything for over an hour, by which time the museum was already closed. But we wanted to finish our product anyway. Then came the most difficult part. We put the liquid in the yeast tank and with a lot of cursing and cold, streaming water we tried to cool down the wort as quickly as we could. This still took us, what… half an hour? Way too long for sure, but we don’t have the time in the museum, so to be honest I don’t know how long it really took. We then measured the density which was 1050 and added the yeast, which we had prepared beforehand. Even with all the probably infections, it still stood a chance because we used Kveik, which is a very enthusiastic yeast.

So, the brewing process was not going that well, but the presentation was! We got a lot of positive feedback from visitors, so all in all it was still a success.

A week later we checked our brew. It was… well… murky. we tasted it, it was sour in a bad way. I still bottled one bottle. which… to be honest… I forgot. So that bottle is still there. Ready to be opened and tasted. For the daring…

Do you dare?

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