|12 August 2007
Ancient Irish monuments may have been Bronze Age breweries
Two Galway Archaeologists have proposed a theory that one of the most common archaeological monuments in the Irish landscape may have been used for brewing a Bronze Age Beer. Billy Quinn and Declan Moore, two archaeologists with Moore Archaeological & Environmental Services in Galway, believe that an extensive brewing tradition existed in Ireland as far back as 2500 BCE. In an article to be published in Archaeology Ireland next month, they detail their experiments and research into the enigmatic sites that are the fulacht fiadh.
These monuments (of which there are approx. 4500), which present in the landscape as small, horseshoe shaped grass covered mounds, have been conventionally thought of by archaeologists as ancient cooking spots. However, Quinn and Moore believe that they may have also been used as breweries. According to Quinn "We think that the fulacht may have been used as a kitchen sink, for cooking, dying, many uses, but that a primary use was the brewing of ale."
To prove their theory, Quinn & Moore set out to recreate the process. They used an old wooden trough filled with water and added heated stones. After achieving an optimum temperature of 60-70°C they began to add milled barley and after approx 45 minutes simply baled the final product into fermentation vessels. They added natural wild flavourings and then added yeast after cooling the vessels in a bath of cold water for several hours.
After just three hours of hard work – and three days of patiently waiting for it to ferment – the men enjoyed a pint of the fruits of their labour. Three hundred litres of water was transformed into a 'very palatable' 110 litres of frothy ale with minimal work. "We were very surprised. Even a professional brewer we had working with us compared it favourably to his own. It tasted like a traditional ale, but was sweeter because there were no hops in it."
Through their experiments, they discovered that the process of brewing ale in a fulacht using hot rock technology is a simple process. To produce the ale took only a few hours, followed by a three-day wait to allow for fermentation.
Quinn and Moore point out that although their theory is based solely on circumstantial and experimental evidence, they believe that, although probably multifunctional in nature, a primary use of the fulacht fiadh was for brewing beer. For additional information on ancient Irish beer visit www.mooregroup.ie/beer.
Sources: Evening Echo News, IndiaPRwire (10 August 2007), BBC News (11 August 2007)
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