Ancient monument may have been Bronze Age brewery

Two Galway archaeologists have put forward a theory that one of the most common ancient monuments around Ireland may have been used for brewing ale.

They believe Bronze Age Fulacht Fiadh – horseshoe shaped grass covered mounds which were conventionally thought of as ancient cooking spots – could have been the country’s earliest breweries.

And to prove their belief that an extensive brewing tradition existed in Ireland as far back as 2500BC, Billy Quinn and Declan Moore recreated the process.

After just three hours of hard work – and three days of patiently waiting for it to ferment – the men enjoyed a pint of the fruits of their labour.

Three hundred litres of water was transformed into a “very palatable” 110 litres of frothy ale with minimal work.

“It tasted really good,” said Mr Quinn, of Moore Archaeological and Environmental Services (Moore Group).

“We were very surprised. Even a professional brewer we had working with us compared it favourably to his own.

“It tasted like a traditional ale, but was sweeter because there were no hops in it.”

Mr Quinn said it was while nursing a hangover one morning – and discussing the natural predisposition of all men to seek means to alter their minds – he came to the startling conclusion that fulachts could have been the country’s earliest breweries.

The two set out to investigate their theory in a journey which took them across Europe in search of further evidence.

On their return, they used an old wooden trough filled with water and added heated stones. After achieving an optimum temperature of 60-70°C they began to add milled barley and approximately 45 minutes later simply baled the final product into fermentation vessels.

They added natural wild flavourings (taking care to avoid anything toxic or hallucinogenic) and yeast after cooling the vessels in a bath of cold water for several hours.

“Including the leftover liquid we could easily have produced up to 300 litres of this most basic ale,” added Mr Moore.

The men have since made two more batches of beer – the second which was stronger and the third which they describe as a disaster – but tomorrow plan to start work on batch number four which they hope will taste as good as their first.

The archaeologists – who reveal their experiment in full in next months Archaeology Ireland – point out that although their theory is based solely on circumstantial and experimental evidence, they believe that, although probably multifunctional in nature, a primary use of the fulacht fiadh was for brewing beer.

Most Read in Ireland