Sunday, January 16, 2011

But Does It Taste Like Guinness?

Via io9, scientists have figured out how the Celts brewed their beer:
The first step to drinking like the Celts is to dig an oblong ditch. Pour in water and barley, and leave them there until the barley sprouts. Once they have, they need to be dried. Light a fire at each end of the ditch and keep it going until the barley is dried. This will darken the beer and give it a smokey flavor. It will also dry the grains slowly enough that they'll secrete something called lactic acid. Like other acids, it tastes sour. Sourness and smoke; delicious. Some of the grains will char. Leave those in the ditch for future archeobotanists to uncover. Mash up the grains to maximize the amount of sugar that the yeast, which gets added later, has to feed on.
Hops weren't used in beer until sometime in the High Middle Ages; at least, that's the earliest it's mentioned. Instead, beer was flavored with gruit, a combination of herbs, some of which were mild narcotics: nutmeg, mugwort, yarrow, and henbane were among those used. Henbane, of course, is potentially very toxic, though here it's obviously diluted. Moreover, henbane is interesting, as it's associated with the oracles of Apollo, and with the Celtic god Belenus, for its hallucinogenic elements.

Why you shouldn't drink beer with henbane.

The Greco-Roman world wasn't too keen on beer; the emperor Julian wrote
Who and from where are you Dionysus?
Since by the true Bacchus,
I do not recognize you; I know only the son of Zeus.
While he smells like nectar, you smell like a goat.
Can it be then that the Celts because of lack of grapes
Made you from cereals? Therefore one should call you
Demetrius, not Dionysus, rather wheat born and Bromus,
Not Bromius.

Of course, the poem is a little more complex than it looks; there's a lot of punning in there:

However, even a beer lover like myself knows that stale beer does pretty much smell like piss.

As we all know, primitive man invented beer; but the Celts invented Guinness. And for that, we are grateful.

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