Medieval Ale & Beer Info

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Well-Known Member
Oct 18, 2011
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Hi All,

I have a bug to research and brew some medieval ale & beer. I've brewed a few gruits in my day and am not shy to trying new things or brewing without modern instruments. Anywhere from say 12th century to 16th century. None of that Renaissance stuff, too fancy.

Does anybody have any good sources? I'm mostly looking for European (any, from England to Latvia, etc.) and have been digging a bit myself, but so far have only come up with a bit. Treatise, original recipes, firsthand accounts of what it tasted like, all fair game. The more specific the time and place the better, but whatever is cool.

Hope this might be useful to some people, and thanks in advance!
Here are a few books I've (mostly) read and may be helpful to you.

Sacred and Herbal Healing Beers- Secrets of Ancient Fermentation

Ale, Beer, and Brewsters in England

The Barbarian's Beverage: A History of Beer in Ancient Europe
Ahhh yes, Sacred and Herbal Healing Beers. Fascinating and thoroughly entertaining book. Helped my gruits to success.

Thanks for the other recommendations!
Look up the gruit beer thread in this forum. Somewhere near the end, you can find some links to papers written by susann verberg. These are excellent sources, by far the best I know about. She's also here in the forum, so you can ask her directly.

She wrote quite some papers, only one of them is directly linked to in the thread, but you can find the rest on the same platform.
Basic Brewing Radio recently had Lars Garshol on the podcast:

My big takeaway from the interview is that in the old days people didn't have large metal kettles to brew in. Any metal items they had were small, so they brewed in wooden vats. Most of the time, the beer wasn't boiled.
In some areas, hot rocks were introduced to the brew to heat the mash, and in others, large ovens were used to heat the mash.

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Wow, thanks for all the resources, folks. I have read the gruit thread but it was quite some time ago. I'm fairly well versed in that stuff but I'm sure there's some info there that is new to me.

And yeah, the no boil thing is pretty much my takeaway too. That's a bit tough for me, especially in places like England where they weren't using hops until quite late, and in some cases no bittering agent at all. But I think I will probably try one of these no boils like the second video you posted (I saw that video before you posted, but thanks! Others will see it) with boiling the hops in some water and sort of using them in the filtering bed. I think with modern sanitation it will go alright.

Or something similar....I don't know yet, more research to do!
Apologies if this is listed in some of the resources mentioned earlier.

Devon White Ale or West Country While Ale
Simple ingredients:
Two-row pale malt
Egg whites

No boil and spontaneously fermented.
Thank you for your post - it gave me a day of searching and some great experiments to try!
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I think the most simple way of brewing a medieval beer, would be to create a wort und throw in some tablespoons of real wild sour dough. Maybe close the lid but I guess air locking wouldn't be authentic.

No hops, just let it start and drink while fermenting.

I think I'm gonna try this. Mini batch, just a few litres.
Came across this article (which is very well done) linked to a you tube video, sorry if this is duplicated somewhere above:
The article has a list of sources and using by searching the sources on google, I came across this:
They use commercial yeast and they sanitise everything... That doesn't work. Medieval ale used yeast sources from wild fermentation.
They use commercial yeast and they sanitise everything... That doesn't work. Medieval ale used yeast sources from wild fermentation.
That's true; they also had different varieties of grain than we have now and some brewers probably used the malt right after sprouting, drying it after malting would have been an extra step and used equipment they didn't have.