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Author Topic: Alcoholic drinks of the Anglo Saxons  (Read 8587 times)

Horsa

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Alcoholic drinks of the Anglo Saxons
« on: November 30, 2011, 11:34:52 PM »
So, the "How do we spread knowledge that A-S is a large part of Modern English?" has produced some great conversations and has wandered off topic a few times, but I thought that I should transfer this to its own thread because we don't want to clutter up the thread with off topic conversations, and I think booze deserves a thread all of its own.

Quote from: Peter Horn
Lith is harder to pin down. I think, but cannot prove it, that Lith prob means mild. We say today, or we used to say not that long ago, 'a pint of Mild'  Lith was certainly used by the AS to mean a weaker (less alcoholic?) form of drink.
peter

I'm very curious about líþ being certainly used to refer to weaker less alcoholic drinks. What leads you to this conclusion. I understood it to mean 'strong drink', but then I'm getting that only from B&T - entry for líþ. However, when I read the entry, there's not much about the example sentences that suggests 'strong drink'. In fact, a couple of them suggest that it was a generic term for drink - almost certainly alcoholic given the nature of mediaeval practice. Then again, I don't know latin, and B&T although good and comprehensive does have its problems. You seem to have access to some great sources, so you could enlighten me on this.

It's interesting that you mention mild. That's my favourite beer. Indeed it is characterized these days by its low alcohol content as well as the low hopping rate. However, according to Graham Wheeler, a beer historian, mild was originally called such to differentiate it from 'stale'. In the 1700s, properly matured beer had started the process of turning to vinegar and had a sour acidic taste. Mild was the same beer but served young.

The point I'm making is that líþ may well mean mild, but it might not necessarily refer to alcohol content as we can see with mild. Then again you did put a question mark by 'less alcoholic'.

Peter, you said you were a botanist and come at the subject from that perspective. I come at this subject as a home brewer. What gets me about beer making is that it's so labour intensive. You need to grow the barley, harvest it, malt it (which takes about 3 days and lots of attention), then you kiln it, crush it, steep it, run off the wort, boil it, cool it, ferment it. Mead and wine is so much easier. Mead, mix honey with water, add yeast and wait. Wine - crush and press the fruit, wait (fruit has yeast on the skins so you don't even have to add yeast).

It is interesting that all the Germanic names for cider translate into apple-wine. This suggests that the drink was imported after wine had become established.

« Last Edit: December 01, 2011, 06:58:23 PM by Horsa »

peter horn

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Re: Alcoholic drinks of the Anglo Saxons
« Reply #1 on: December 02, 2011, 11:36:16 AM »
[
Quote from: Peter Horn
Lith is harder to pin down. I think, but cannot prove it, that Lith prob means mild. We say today, or we used to say not that long ago, 'a pint of Mild'  Lith was certainly used by the AS to mean a weaker (less alcoholic?) form of drink.
peter

I'm very curious about líþ being certainly used to refer to weaker less alcoholic drinks. What leads you to this conclusion. I understood it to mean 'strong drink',

as I show in my article, lith appears to be associated, in the Herbarium, with watered-down drinks.

 

It is interesting that all the Germanic names for cider translate into apple-wine. This suggests that the drink was imported after wine had become established.
[/quote]

yes, in my article I give the sequence as vinyards followed by apple orchards in England.

Lith is a term very difficult to decide upon a particular meaning because it is use with a number of meanings.   

    Cockayne gives the meaning 'drink' but not a specific drink (Vol 2 Glossary)
But then, in the same volume,( LB 1 xix) he translates lithes as cup. But this is I think where cup can mean drink as in 'He likes his cup' meaning 'he likes his drink'

peter
« Last Edit: December 02, 2011, 11:42:55 AM by peter horn »

Horsa

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Re: Alcoholic drinks of the Anglo Saxons
« Reply #2 on: December 07, 2011, 06:18:47 AM »

as I show in my article, lith appears to be associated, in the Herbarium, with watered-down drinks.

Ah yes, I had completely missed that. I read liðon as being a different word to lið like, I don't know, gesture and jest. This is perhaps because I read liðon as liðe and I'm used to líþ as a noun referring to wine from Heliand.

Lith is a term very difficult to decide upon a particular meaning because it is use with a number of meanings.   

    Cockayne gives the meaning 'drink' but not a specific drink (Vol 2 Glossary)
But then, in the same volume,( LB 1 xix) he translates lithes as cup. But this is I think where cup can mean drink as in 'He likes his cup' meaning 'he likes his drink'

peter

Yes, I'm beginning to get the feeling that liþ is an umbrella term like this.

What I also liked about this article is that I learned what mulsum was. I had to look it up on Wikipedia. It is quite a different drink from beer. It is strange that the translator chose to translate mulsum with beor, especially if beor was similar to what we understand by the word beer.

I seem to remember reading somewhere that ancient wine was not aged like it is now, possibly because of sanitation issues, consequently it can't have tasted very nice - acidic and 'hot' (alcoholic tasting). It makes sense that they would water it down and/or add a sweetener.

The thing with beer as opposed to wine is that you can control the alcohol level. Add more malt, get more sugar. If they didn't add hops or other bittering agents, beer would have tasted fairly sweet.

Or is it possible that the translator didn't know exactly what mulsum was? I would have translated it as honeyed wine or hunig-menged wín or something along those lines, but then again, I'm not a 10th century English scribe.

peter horn

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Re: Alcoholic drinks of the Anglo Saxons
« Reply #3 on: December 07, 2011, 12:54:34 PM »

Or is it possible that the translator didn't know exactly what mulsum was? I would have translated it as honeyed wine or hunig-menged wín or something along those lines, but then again, I'm not a 10th century English scribe.
[/quote]


Yes there are two possible explanations involved here.

Its quite possible that this particular scribe was unfamiliar with, the foreign drink, mulsum. He therefore translated the passage using the native beor.  Or,
'Beor' was a term used not only for a specific drink, ie fermented barley, but also sometimes used as a general term for alcoholic drinks. It is interesting that today people sometimes say 'he likes his beer' not necessarily meaning beer.
"Beor' used as a general term explains the glosses with all sorts of alcoholic drinks.

Wulfric

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Re: Alcoholic drinks of the Anglo Saxons
« Reply #4 on: March 25, 2012, 05:07:14 PM »
I've been doing a lot of revisiting threads.

Peter or Horsa, or both. Could you explain the difference in the processes of making apple wine as opposed to cider.

Our garden in Devon gets a good crop of apples from a range of varieties, I believe largely Katy. My brother and I have experimented a little with cider making, the first time it was quite palatable, just a little yeasty, but the second time it was only really fit for cooking with or as a joke around re-enactment camp fires where the macho factor was quite high, it was more like cider-vinegar. It was strong stuff on both occasions, that's for sure.

We cored and sliced the apples, then through great effort and curious ingenuity managed to squeeze the delicious fresh apple juice out. We didn't add any yeast but left the juice in otherwise clean, loosely lidded buckets and let nature run it's course for a while. I'm sure we made many mistakes, the biggest one being not taking exact notes on what we did either time.

Would this process count as cider or wine making? Due to the result I'm tempted to say neither but which were we closest to? And where did we go wrong?

peter horn

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Re: Alcoholic drinks of the Anglo Saxons
« Reply #5 on: March 25, 2012, 09:29:54 PM »
some say there is a difference in ABV

Clark hall equates OE applewin with cider

Horsa

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Re: Alcoholic drinks of the Anglo Saxons
« Reply #6 on: March 26, 2012, 02:46:48 AM »
Cider is technically a wine seeing as it comes from pressed fruit, but then saki is technically a beer seeing as it comes from grain, yet it can be as high as 18%ABV.

The word 'cider' comes from the French cidre which originally came via a circuitous route from the babylonian or phoenician sikara meaning strong drink and it replaced the native æppelwin.

I'm curious what your ingenious methods of extracting the juice were. But your methods of making the cider sound good to me. Your second batch may have got infected by the vinegar fly or lactobacillus or any number of moulds and bacteria, or it may have turned out just as it was supposed to.

I made a batch of cider from real cidery apples. I let it ferment out naturally. Others killed off the native yeasts with campden tablet and added their preferred yeast. When it was ready I thought it had gone bad, but instead of throwing it away, I just left it in the bottle with an airlock hoping it would get better. Then I went home to England to visit my family and we went to a pub which had authentic west country cider on tap, I ordered a pint of that against the advice of my sister and her boyfriend who claimed it was 'disgusting gut-rot'. When I drank it, I thought it was disgusting, but in exactly the same way as my home brewed cider.

When I got home, I bottled the stuff and kept taking sips of it. When I had finished I had gained a taste for it.

Seeing as you're in Devon, get your hands on some old school traditional cider and compare the taste.

In Germany they mix their apfelwein with apple juice to give it a bit of sweetness. Apple juice will ferment out extremely dry, which makes it taste very odd to some people. When it's just finished fermenting it will often have a strange funk to it and may even taste sulphury. Your yeasty cider had probably not even finished fermenting and therefore still had some sweetness to it.

I mostly make my cider out of supermarket apple juice, but I have a plan to build a cider press out of bread boards and a bottle jack and go scrumping this year from apple trees growing on municipal land. Ha ha! Booze pirate!
« Last Edit: March 26, 2012, 02:49:36 AM by Horsa »

Wulfric

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Re: Alcoholic drinks of the Anglo Saxons
« Reply #7 on: March 26, 2012, 05:50:37 PM »
Thanks for the feedback,

I may well try again this year. The particularly ingenious method I was referring to involved a board on top of the apples in a bucket with me standing on the board at the same time as pushing up against the ceiling with all my strength.  :)

I have in fact tried some pretty rough ciders. I made it to a couple of CAMRA festivals in Falmouth, Cornwall, the cider tent had a variety of tipples capable of creating a whole range of facial contortions.

I know what you been by acquiring the taste. That was the best part of the camp fire jest. Take a swig yourself keeping a straight face and even managing a smile after a bit of practice or a few too many then offer the bottle to the next person. They ask what it is as it comes in a dubious bottle, you tell them it's cider. As they start to drink tell them you made it yourself and then wait to see how polite they are. Hee hee!

Horsa

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Re: Alcoholic drinks of the Anglo Saxons
« Reply #8 on: March 26, 2012, 07:30:22 PM »
In order to present something approaching an authentic pre-conquest drink, you might want to brew up a batch of berry wine using your unorthodox fruit press. I don't know what berries were native to England maybe blackcurrants, crowberries, and possibly blackberries.

You might also like to try this recipe for beer. Unboiled and unhopped, but if you toast the grains, make sure that you leave them a couple of weeks before brewing with them. I brewed with them immediately, and the resulting mess tasted like furniture polish.

Regarding acquiring taste, a brewer friend of mine brewed up a batch of beer as normal, but instead of putting in yeast, he threw in a handful of malted barley. Malted barley is teeming with all the kinds of moulds and bacteria that responsible brewers do their utmost to avoid.

The beer then grew green and white fur on the surface, but when it had finished fermenting, the brewer kegged and pressurized the 20 litres, and proceeded to drink it over the next few weeks. He said that the first 3rd was revolting - it was so sour and dry it hurt his mouth. The next 3rd he kind of got used to. By the final 3rd he had started to enjoy it and sorry when it was finished.

Which goes to show that you can acquire a taste for anything, and even the worst infected brew will not kill you or make you sick.

Bowerthane

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Re: Alcoholic drinks of the Anglo Saxons
« Reply #9 on: February 15, 2022, 08:09:38 PM »
Hello everyone.

Ive just exasperated myself googling round in circles failing to get straight, or even get much of a clue, as to what kind of high-energy drink was feasible for the Old English to concoct, with ingredients available to them.
 
 
So I’m hoping that a ġesīþa or two with better culinary, dietary or medical knowledge than I, because that shouldn’t be difficult, can suggest something.  It’s meant to give an overworked, underfed and downhearted slave of the Norsemen a boost about three nights before a rescue bid, and maybe help him bear up ( and keep up) if this is successful.  So it need not taste nice or be hot and it was not originally meant for children; but in the event, a few slave-children insist on coming along with this or that chap the rescuers actually came for, getting away with it because they’ll be too much noise and trouble ( or threaten to make too much noise and trouble) if they’re left behind.
 
 
( I was thinking of the Bengal famine mix, a high-protein gruel we flew in from Bengal to treat concentration camp inmates immediately after the liberation of Belsen.  That was a high-protein gruel made easy to digest, and the female lead in my kiddies’ book is quite clever enough to think of something similar for these slaves she, Lord Athelred of Mercia and King Edward the Elder want rescuing. But only with ingredients and cooking methods likely to be available to her in early tenth-century Mercia.)
 
 
Would anything like a beef broth with eggs and nutmeg stirred in be a step in the right direction, or am I just betraying my bachelor cooking skills?

Clues anyone?



« Last Edit: February 15, 2022, 08:35:00 PM by Bowerthane »