Recalling a Taste of the Iron Age: Barley Grains Offer Savory Insights into Ancient Celtic Malt

Article excerpt

Early rulers of a community in what's now southwestern Germany liked to party, staging elaborate feasts in a ceremonial center. The business side of their revelries was in a nearby brewery capable of turning out large quantities of a beer with a dark, smoky, slightly sour taste, new evidence suggests.

Six ditches at Eberdingen-Hochdorf, a 2,550-year-old Celtic settlement, were used to make high-quality barley malt, a key beer ingredient, says archaeobotanist Hans-Peter Stika of the University of Hohenheim in Stuttgart, Germany. Thousands of charred grains unearthed in the ditches came from a large malt-making enterprise, Stika reports in a paper published online January 4 in Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences.

Stika bases that conclusion on a close resemblance of the ancient grains to barley malt that he made by reproducing several methods that Iron Age folk might have used. He also compared the ancient grains with malt produced in modern facilities. Upon confirming the presence of malt at the Celtic site, Stika reconstructed malt-making techniques there to determine how they must have affected beer taste. …