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Museum News

Brewing at the Museum

The Vat

The BrewersVisitors to Weald & Downland Living Museum recently had the chance to watch our Interpretation Team demonstrating the historic brewing process to make beer and ale. Led by our Museum interpreter Aaron Baker and food historian Marc Meltonville, the demonstration took place in Winkhurst Tudor Kitchen using a copper pot over a fire, lit by bundles of wood which had been coppiced at the Museum.

MaltDuring the Tudor era, the kitchen would become a hub of activity three or four times a year, usually during spring and autumn, as people created enough beer for the coming months.

It is a common misconception that beer and ale were drunk due to unclean drinking water. In fact, most households at the time would have had a supply of fresh water available to them – an ingredient which is also integral when making beer. It was the high calorie count of these drinks which made them so useful. Acting as an additional food source, beer and ale provided the extra calories workers needed to get them through the day.

The beer is created using malt, a grain that has been through an enzymatic change, created by soaking, which turns the starches to sugar. This malted grain is then added to hot water in order to start the brewing process.

BoilingThe water is boiled and left to cool slightly until you can see your reflection on the surface. The hot water is then added to a pot, which is continuously stirred whilst nearly all the malt is added. The remaining malt is sprinkled on top of the water to form a cap and help to retain the heat. Then a lid is added and it is left for an hour and a half to brew.

DrainingAfter the beer has brewed the tap is pulled out of the side of the pot to drain the liquid, which is now called ‘wort’. Then the liquid is returned to the copper kettle pot and cooked for another hour along with hops which give the drink its bitter flavour. The hops we used have been grown onsite at the Museum. It then goes back into a barrel and when cool yeast is added. Over the next two to three weeks the yeast performs fermentation by eating the sugar in the mixture and converting it into alcohol. Once the liquid is clear, you have beer!