The archeology of beer holds endless fascination. io9 has some new research from archeobotanist Hans-Peter Stika, of the University of Hohenheim. The post describes a brewing site and speculates about the ancient process used.
The first step to drinking like the Celts is to dig an oblong ditch. Pour in water and barley, and leave them there until the barley sprouts. Once they have, they need to be dried. Light a fire at each end of the ditch and keep it going until the barley is dried. This will darken the beer and give it a smokey flavor. It will also dry the grains slowly enough that they’ll secrete something called lactic acid. Like other acids, it tastes sour. Sourness and smoke; delicious. Some of the grains will char. Leave those in the ditch for future archeobotanists to uncover. Mash up the grains to maximize the amount of sugar that the yeast, which gets added later, has to feed on.
Esther Inglis-Arkell continues to summarize the kind of beers produced in these trenches. Lacking hops for which there isn’t evidence of use until over a thousand years later these beers were technical gruits using a mixer of other herbs for bittering. Hops also act as a preservative so these beers probably were consumed pretty much immediately.
Smoke and sour are still elements very much found in modern beers. These ancient Celtic brews if recreated using the most probable techniques may still appeal to many modern enthusiasts.