Ancient Ale

We know that beer has been around for a long while—there were so many good brewers in the Shire, for instance. But archeologists have found evidence in—where else but the birthplace of Guinness?—Ireland that brewing beer may have been going on since the Bronze Age.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald article “Love affair with beer tinged with bronze,” Ireland is dotted with “fulacht fiadhs” (pits surrounded by horseshoe-shaped mounds) that date from 1500 BC-2500 BC. At first it was thought that the pits were used for boiling mutton, but the absence of animal bones surrounding the holes makes that idea suspect. Inspired by a hangover and the supposition that man has always desired to change his consciousness, archological consultants Declan Moore and Billy Quinn have recently advanced the theory that the fulacht fiadhs were used to brew beer.

‘It means that there were up to 4500 breweries in Ireland in the Bronze Age, which means it was the most widespread brewing industry in prehistory in the world,’ Mr. Moore said.

And what better way to prove their theory than to brew up a batch of anicent ale? A BBC News article chronicles Moore’s and Quinn’s efforts to recreate a prehistoric pint by heating up the mash with hot stores in wooden troughs.

The first batch was mild and drinkable:

‘It tasted really good,’ said Mr Quinn, ‘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.’

Unfortunately, like many other homebrewers, they found it hard to replicate their results. “The second [batch] was stronger and the third was ‘a disaster’—but they have started work on batch number four which the hope will taste as good as their first.”