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Old 01-11-2012, 08:29 AM   #1
odinraven
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Default Attempt at a "Historic" Norse Beor

I have recently become interested in brewing an authentic as possible example of beer or "beor" brewed in Scandinavia (specifically Denmark) around 900 AD. This turned out to be a huge can of worms and doing the research was a project in and of itself. Turns out historians and archaeologists debate furiously over what was brewed, how it was brewed and what it was called (some historians think beor is actually cider not beer for example, this is by no means the only point of contention). After several headaches and reading some very poorly written yet interesting stuff on all types of fermented beverages in Medieval Scandinavia, here is what I worked out that is known:

1) Beer in this period and region used mainly malted Barley and some Rye. Other ingredients may have been used but this is where the arguments start. Other fermented beverages drank were probably rare or imported since not much else grew there worth fermenting (yes this includes mead, bees don't like cold either).

2) Hops were used for bittering, clarification, preservation and flavor but were definetly not exclusive to this task. Others included Aleshoof, Sweet Gale, Meadowort, and Juniper berries.

3) Modern brewers in the region use ingredients similar to the above to brew traditional ales and a drink called Sahti.

Now for the assumptions. First of all I figure a brewer in this period would not be pretentious about her ingredients (oh yeah, brewing was women's work back then). She would use what she had on hand to make the best ale possible. Now in this time period in Denmark they had crop rotation worked out and rotated rye with barley so a typical example would have mostly barley and a bit of rye. For bittering, preservation and flavor a mix of on-hand ingredients would be likely as well. Second, an ale during this time would be strong because part of the reason for brewing was to make "liquid bread" a long lasting, portable source of calories and nutrition. This also matches with the modern examples. Third, the malt would be imperfect (some not totally converted) and kilned over a fire imparting smoke flavors and some malt that would be brown or even black. Finally, this ale would be stored for months at a time in wooden casks so would pick up oaky flavors as it aged. So the result? A Dark Brown, cloudy-as-a-thunderstorm, alcoholic brew with spicy fruity and oak notes.

At least that's what I think it would be like and what I hope to produce with this recipe. Let me know what you think and if any improvements could be made for either flavor or authenticity. I am limited to my current equipment so please keep that in mind.

Batch Size: 4.5 Gallons

Grain bill:

8 lbs Smoked Malt
3 lbs Rye Malt
1 lb Flaked Barley
1 lb Flaked Rye
1 lb Brown Malt
4 oz Black Patent Malt

Yeast:
Notingham Ale Yeast (dry)
pitched into 1/2 Gallon starter with 1/2 lb DME the day before

Hop/Herb/Mineral additions:
1 Tbsp Gypsum (Strike Water)
1 Tsp Kosher Salt (Strike Water)
1 oz Northern Brewer Hops (60 mins)
0.25 oz Aleshoof (60 mins)
1 oz Northern Brewer Hops (30 mins)
2 oz Juniper Berries (15 mins)

Secondary:
2 oz light toast Oak Chips

Bottling:
1/4 Cup DME (Really light Carbonation)

Target OG: 1.084
Target FG: 1.020
Target ABV: 8.5%

Heat 4 Gallons water in brewpot to 180 degrees add Salt and Gypsum. Put all the grain in a Nylon mesh bag and steep for 1 hour keeping temp stable at 154-158 degrees. Remove grain, adding additional water through grain bag if needed to get 4 gallons wort and boil adding Hops, Aleshoof and Juniper berries according to schedule. Rack to primary and pitch. Ferment to completion at 60 degrees then transfer to secondary on oak and age for 2 months. Bottle with priming sugar.

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Old 01-11-2012, 10:13 AM   #2
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Never heard of a "beor" but maybe its a danish thing (doesn't show up on Danish wiki though). Also, we have plenty of berries, fruits and bees here so I don't think your information is correct on that account.

That said you are probably on the right track with your recipe. Smoked malts were what was used because that was how you prepared them for brewing back then. From what I understand hops were not really used at that time, but plenty of recipes I've seen call for sweet gale and juniper berries, and honey sometimes. As you have probably seen while you researched a few traditional beers with juniper has survived to this day; gotlandsdricku and sahti. This would probably be the common mans beverage in those times. In larger towns and amongs the ruling elite I don't think the beer drunk would have been much different from those in Germany and along the Baltic coast.

Good luck with your beer, would love to hear how it turns out .

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Old 01-11-2012, 05:37 PM   #3
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You probably should get some Gotlandic smoked malt. It's very traditional.

As for hops, I think they were introduced much later. 14th century or so.

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Old 01-11-2012, 07:09 PM   #4
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To Nanannan:

Beor is an old Norse word now totally out of use. The style (if it was a style at all, it may have been a generic word for "thing that gets me drunk") is now totally dead as far as anyone can tell. Also, I wasn't implying that there weren't any berries, fruits, or bees there, simply that it was more economical to grow grain and brew with that due to climate and the methods of the age. Sorry if I wasn't clear.

To Ølbart:

Thanks a ton for the suggestion on the malt, I will definitely use it if I can get my hands on it.

Correct on the widespread use of hops, however hop use goes WAY back (first Egyptian recipes mention it). Since hops grew wild in Denmark there is archaeological evidence of hop use in the region as early as 454 ad. Hops grew in popularity over time in that region so by the period I am shooting for use should be appropriate.

Thanks for the input!

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Old 01-11-2012, 07:36 PM   #5
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Google gottsland drika. It's an old school norse drink. Tough to describe: high alcohol, smoked, sweet, juniper instead of hops, drunk while it's fermenting.

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Old 01-11-2012, 07:41 PM   #6
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Sounds awesome! Why not smoke your own malt over some juniper branches and be even more authentic? Regardless, would love to hear about the progress on this.

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Old 01-12-2012, 12:07 AM   #7
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I would like to see some pictures and a description of the taste as well. Would the brew have been carbonated in this period?

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Old 01-12-2012, 07:51 AM   #8
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Default Alehoof

Sounds like a good project! Looking forward to hearing the results!

BTW, I had to look up Alehoof aka Ground Ivy, Tunhoof, Gill-over-the-ground & Creeping Charlie. Where did you find some? Online or in the garden?

Good luck!
--LexusChris

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Old 01-12-2012, 12:24 PM   #9
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Subscribed. Let us know on the progress on this one. I would like something in my folder for my nordic heritage....Danish and Sweedish!

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Old 01-12-2012, 03:17 PM   #10
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This is from a recent BYO magazine article on Gotlandsdricka

3.3lb Smoked Malt
6.8lb Vienna Malt
.25lb Cara-Aroma
1.5lb Pale Wheat Malt
.25lb Carafa 1
.25lb Peated Malt
1.9lb Cane Sugar
4 POUNDS Juniper boughs, with berries
.19lbs Dried Juniper Berries
13AAU Perle hops @ 60 minutes
1oz Bakers yeast

Boil 2lbs of the juniper boughs in 8-9 gallons water, until the liquor turns dark brown. Cool to 180 degrees. In the MLT, put the remaining boughs over the false bottom/manifold/etc so they form a layer 2-4 inches sick.

Mash in the grist to the juniper liquor @ 1.2 qt/lb. Also add the dried juniper berries at this point. Mash 120 minutes @ 154. Runoff until appx 6.5ish gallons total, then boil 75 minutes. First hop addition at 60 minutes, add sugar at 15 minutes. Cool to appx 70 degrees, then pitch bread yeast.

Ferment in the primary for 3-5 days (article doesnt give the fermentation temp, but i'm guessing about 70-75 degrees based on my experience with bread yeast). Rack to secondary for 4-6 days, then rack to a serving vessel.

The article says that if using a keg, use just enough pressure to keep it flowing. It also states to remove pressure once a day and add a tablespoon of honey or sugar to the keg to keep it actively fermenting. If bottling, use 1/2 as much priming sugar as normal (appx .5oz of corn sugar per gallon).

***

Sounds... interesting. I'd like to know if anyone tries it.

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