7th Experimental Archaeology Conference Poster Abstract – Dineley and Dineley
Where were the Viking Brew Houses?
Graham Dineley (1) and Merryn Dineley
1. Craft brewer
2. Independent researcher
A PDF of this poster, copyright of the authors, is available to download.
There is no doubt that the Vikings drank Ale – it is written about extensively in the Sagas. Nor is there any doubt about what the Ale was made from – malt. So, where was the Ale being made? We have identified the Viking Brew Houses at a number of well known sites. Some of these facilities have been misinterpreted as saunas or bath houses, simply because of the presence of drains and fire cracked rocks. Others have been interpreted as dairying facilities, or as sheep or goat barns.
All the products and by products of brewing ale are ephemeral and leave no trace in the archaeological record. The Ale is drunk, the draff or spent grain is fed to the animals and residues are washed down the drains. All that is left is the equipment and installations and, in order to recognise these in context, it is essential to know how to make ale from the grain. This is something which few people do nowadays, but it is an ancient and traditional craft that has changed very little over the millennia.
Merryn has been investigating ancient and traditional malting and ale-making techniques for the past 15 years. Graham has 30 years’ experience as a craft brewer and it is this knowledge, as well as an understanding of the necessary facilities and installations that any brewer requires, that has enabled us to identify the Brew Houses at a number of Viking sites. Over the last two years, we have been visiting some of the best preserved Viking settlements in the UK, including Jarlshof, Shetland, the Brough of Birsay on Mainland Orkney and Cubbie Roo’s Castle, Wyre. We have also been studying the excavation reports of a number of sites, such as Stong, Iceland, and several sites in Caithness and Sutherland. Once the relevance of fire cracked rocks, drains and large vats is realised, then the identification of ale making facilities is obvious.