Early Iron Age And Late Mediaeval Malt Finds From Germany—Attempts At Reconstruction Of Early Celtic Brewing And The Taste Of Celtic Beer, Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences, January 2011
The process of beer-making - from grain to beverage - seems labor intensive. The end result must have been a mighty motivator for early maltsters.
First they had to acquire a substantial quantity of grain, either through farming and post-harvest processing or through trading.
Then they had to germinate the grain, a process I know from experience requires care to prevent mold formation. It looks like some grain used in early beer-making wasn't germinated:
"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." 1Then they had to stop the germination process, which was accomplished by drying. According to Stika, the barley was initially soaked (germinated) in specially constructed ditches and:
"Grains were then dried by lighting fires at the ends of the ditches, giving the malt a smoky taste and a darkened color." 2I'm lost after that. I guess they mixed the grain with water to create a mash then heated it:
"Heated stones placed in liquefied malt during the brewing process would have added a caramelized flavor to this fermented Celtic drink." 2At some point they had to filter it, and flavor it:
"Unlike modern beers that are flavored with flowers of the hop plant, the [Celtic] brew probably contained spices such as mugwort, carrot seeds or henbane, in Stika’s opinion." 2And of course ferment it:
"[Stika] suspects that fermentation was triggered by using yeast-coated brewing equipment or by adding honey or fruit, which both contain wild yeasts." 2
That reminds me of the time I used raisins as a source for yeast to make my sprouted wheat bread (shown).
This is an awful lot of work, but they persevered. I would love to try their end result. (Carrot seeds?)
2 2,550-Year-Old Celtic Beer Recipe Resurrected, Wired, January 17, 2010
Photo of excavated, charred barley grains from an Iron Age Celtic settlement from Wired article. Thanks to BL.
Photo of raisins used to derive yeast: Bix.