Celtic Beer Brewery

A 2500-year-old beer brewery has been discovered in Germany, in an ancient Celtic site near Stuttgart. That would be over four centuries before the time of Death Speaker.

And yes, it has to be said: I’ll drink to that!

433px-Hordeum-barleyThe place is Eberdingen-Hochdorf,  and the discoverer is archaeobotanist Dr. Hans-Peter Stika. What he’s found, according to this 2011 article from Phys.org, a Wired.com piece,  and a 1996 journal article here, are six ditches with thousands of charred hulled barley grains. This, Dr. Stika says, are the logical remnants of making barley malt for beer. High quality barley malt!

Stika knows that because he’s reconstructed the way this Celtic beer would have been made, and experimented to determine how it would have tasted. Not like any beer we buy today.

The barley grains would have soaked in the ditches until they sprouted, and then fires were lit at both ends of each ditch to dry the grains slowly, producing a dark, smoky malt.  Fermentation could have come from adding fruit or honey, which would have contained wild yeast.

Henbane1Sitka also found seeds of stinking nightshade—henbane, which—if added—would’ve added quite a kick, and not to the taste. One thing not in the beer—or in any beer brewed before 800 AD—is hops.

So the result would be a slightly sour, yeasty, dark and cloudy brewski, probably consumed at room temperature. Whatever room temperatures was in a big long house in 500 BC.

Why was anyone poking around that place, anyway, you may wonder.  Well, the main archaeological find in the area—and probably the reason that Dr. Stika was there—is a Celtic chieftain’s barrow-style grave found nearby.

723px-Hochdorf_golden_shoes_ornamentsIf you’ve ever looked through a one of those full color coffee table book on Celts, you’ve probably seen pictures of some of the finds of the Hochdorf chieftain’s grave. It was found in the 1970s.

The man buried there  was presumed to be a chief because he was laid out with gold jewelry—a torque and armbands—as well as a dagger covered in gold foil. His shoes were decorated with embossed gold plates, though the leather had disintegrated. He reclined on a etched bronze couch  and was surrounded by rich grave goods, including drinking horns and bronze dishes, enough for a party of nine.

I wonder what all that implied. Nine? Not eight or six, but nine. Three threes.

If you want to learn more about the Hochdorf chieftain’s grave, About.com has a good overview.

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