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Posted: 29 November 2012
Author: S Tricker
We are very proud to be Britain’s Oldest Brewery with a nominal starting date of 1698 although we now know that brewing on this site precedes this by at least 150 years.
Brewing can obviously be traced back long before our direct heritage into the mists of time.
Archaeologists in Western Cyprus appear to have found the remains of a Bronze Age brewery although it is not quite what we would visualise when thinking of a modern brewery.
They have unearthed a 2 metre square mud plaster domed structure believed to be a malt kiln. There are also various items of pottery and tools possibly used to grind the malted grains as well as a hearth, cooking pots and small containers which may well have held sweeteners or other flavour additives. Carbonised yeast and malt were also found which strengthens the idea that it was a site of brewing.
The yeast source would most likely be from fruits or wild yeasts leading to slightly more variable fermentations than we enjoy with carefully kept brewer’s yeast but with malted grains the end product would definitely be beer.
How anyone happened upon the idea of malting the grain, grinding it, mixing it with yeast and leaving for several days before drinking the resultant liquid is lost in the annuls of time, having discovered it the question of why did they continue is a little simpler to answer.
Beer is nutritious; its low pH stops pathogens growing in it which makes it safer to drink than water in many parts of the world (and certainly in London in days gone by).
Beer is a social drink which gives much pleasure and was probably used at gatherings when celebrations were appropriate – great victories, harvest, births of royalty, crowning of tribe leaders etc and so you could say very little has changed, did we not all celebrate the Olympics and the Queen’s Jubilee with the odd glass or even a specially brewed beer.
So from Britain’s Oldest Brewery we can only look back over the centuries all the way back to the Bronze Age (and beyond?) and be thankful to those ancestors who tried the strange fermented liquids that were the precursors of the beer that we all enjoy today
Stewart Tricker - Senior Brewer