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Grassy mounds our earliest breweries, claim archaeologists

by Sarah Stack (Irish Examiner 11 August 2007)

'Bronze age Irish men were as fond of their beer as their 21st century counterparts, it was claimed yesterday.

Two Galway archaeologists have put forward a theory that one of the most common ancient monuments around Ireland may have been used for brewing ale.

They believe fulacht fiadh -horseshoe shaped, grass-covered mounds which were conventionally thought of as ancient cooking spots- could have been the country's earliest breweries.

To prove their belief that an extensive brewing tradition existed in Ireland as far back as 2500BC, Billy Quinn and Declan Moore recreated the process. After just three hours of hard work, and three days of waiting for their brew to ferment, the men enjoyed a pint of the fruits of their labour.

Three hundred litres of water was transformed into a "very palatable" 110 litres of frothy ale.
"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."

Mr Quinn said it was while nursing a hangover one morning, and discussing the natural predisposition of men to seek means to alter their minds, that he came to the startling conclusion that fulacht fiadh could have been the country's earliest breweries.

The two set out to investigate their theory in a journey which took them across Europe in search of further evidence.

On their return they used an old wooden trough filled with water and added heated stones. After achieving an optimum temperature of 60C to 70C they began to add milled barley, and about 45 minutes later simply bailed the final product into fermentation vessels. They added natural wild flavourings and yeast after cooling the vessels in a bath of cold water for several hours.
Tomorrow they plan to start work on a fourth batch they hope will taste as good as their first.

The archaeologists, who reveal their experiment in full in next month's Archaeology Ireland, point out that while their theory is based on circumstantial and experimental evidence, they believe that although fulacht fiadh were probably multifunctional, a primary use was for brewing beer.
gjrk Posted by gjrk
13th August 2007ce
Edited 30th September 2008ce

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