A Toast to Our Fermented Past: Case Studies in the Experimental Archaeology of Alcoholic Beverages

Posted in: Archaeology, ASOR, Cultural Heritage and Property
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Cullen_Fig1

Author with Neolithic sickle replica during the Ale Through The Ages Lecture Series

By: Kevin M. Cullen

 Archaeologists and historians are constantly in pursuit of the tangible human past, whether it is in the form of material culture or primary written sources.  This direct evidence of the past can still leave us disconnected from the full context in which the technology or writings were employed.  Therefore, one exciting field of research is experimental archaeology, in which the past literally comes alive though the step-by-step recreation process of an ancient technology, method, or even recipe. Thus, in an effort to make that intangible past more meaningful for the general public, in 2008 I began a brewing series in Milwaukee called Ale Through The Ages at Discovery World a nonprofit cultural institution located on the shores of Lake Michigan.  Relying on published data of ancient fermented beverages (Patrick McGovern, Delwan Samuel, Jeremy Geller, etc.), independent research, and the methods of experimental archaeology, to date we have recreated over thirty ancient and traditional fermented beverages from around the world.  More than a thousand people have attended these brewing programs, where participants are treated to a geographical, archaeological, botanical, chemical, and cultural overview of the recipe being recreated.  People then add the necessary ingredients to the brew at designated times and return two or so weeks later for bottling and sampling. (more…)

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