, Volume 3, Issue 1, pp 41-48
Date: 05 Jan 2011

Early Iron Age and Late Mediaeval malt finds from Germany—attempts at reconstruction of early Celtic brewing and the taste of Celtic beer

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Abstract

In this paper, we discuss specialised ditch structure from the early Iron Age settlement of Eberdingen–Hochdorf (early La Tène Period, fifth–fourth century BC), that contained large numbers of evenly germinated hulled barley grains. This malt appears to be the result of deliberate germination, given the purity of the finds and the associated unusual archaeological structure, which may have been used for germination and/or as a drying kiln for roasting the malt. The Hochdorf malt most probably was produced for the purpose of beer brewing. To learn more about the morphology of malt and the effects of carbonisation on it, experiments on modern barley grains were undertaken. Their results are compared to the ancient Hochdorf malt. Based on the excavated findings and finds as well as theoretical reflections on the early Iron Age brewing process, attempts at reconstructing the possible taste of early Celtic beer are presented. Additionally, a malt find from late mediaeval Berlin in northeast Germany is presented. A mixture of deliberately sprouted hulled barley as well as rye and oat grains, which were not germinated, was found. The three different cereals could have been used for brewing a typical mediaeval/early modern beer since the use of mixed crops for producing beer has been quite common. Because of a lack of further evidence, it remains unclear whether or not the half-timbered house in the late mediaeval town was a trading place and storehouse for malt or the brewery itself, where the malt was processed to make beer.