Brewing beer toan 18th-century recipe Objectives
The brewing process
Science happening in Bokrijk
Science is not always dry as dust
The “Paenhuys van Diepenbeek”
Scientific analysis of a historic brewing process (dating from 1750)
The experiment of 4 May 2002
A variety of historic publications tell us that our ancestors were serious beer-drinkers : per capita beer consumption, from the 14th to the 18th Century, was: 0.6 litre per day (by way of comparison: in 1998 we drank only 0.27l per day) . But whether they drank ‘skull-attack’ or strong beer, or a beverage more like ‘liquid bread’, drunk more for its health-giving effects than for its taste, is now a matter of educated guesswork. Nor, in fact, are we any the wiser as to the organization and daily running of the country breweries in the 18th Century . How did the good people of Diepenbeek organize matters to pool their supplies of grain to produce this or that beer? How much of this, how much of that cereal did they use for their beer? Did they use wheat, barley and oats? Or did they brew wheat beer and nothing else? Where did they get their recipes from? Where did Diepenbeek get its hops from?
The experiment will not yield answers to all the questions. We know that the grain used in the Ancien Regime would not pass the quality test for today’s brewing grain, that today’s malting techniques are much more efficient. So, can we draw any conclusions? The experiment will in any event tell us whether the brewer’s tanks, vats, coppers, etc., as set up in the refurbishment, were set up in their correct positions. Whether the pumps work, whether the cooling vessel ought not to have been lower after all, whether the logic of the successive brewing operations can be respected. But, and this most of all, the researchers from Antwerp University will have experienced for themselves just how hard our forefathers had to work.