Apparently they’ve found Iron Age beer, or the remains of it, in roadworks in Cambridgeshire – this isn’t true, they’ve found ale instead. OK, true, the distinction I’m talking about is archaic but then when talking about archaeology we should be so, no? We should and do distinguish between Scots and Picts in history, they being different from the Scots today. We distinguish rather less than we should over things like slavery – the moral condemnation of those in the past who did what every society in the past did is a tad de trop at times.
The distinction between beer and ale, it’s important:
Road workers have uncovered what is thought to be the earliest evidence of beer being brewed in Britain, dating back more than 2,000 years.
No, they haven’t.
A team working along the A14 say tiny fragments of charred residue from the beer-making process were found in excavated earth.
Nope, really not.
Dr Steve Sherlock, of the Highways England archaeology project, added: “It’s well known ancient populations used beer-making to create a safe source of hydration. But this is potentially the earliest physical evidence in the UK.”
No, it isn’t. For this reason:
Today, the words beer and ale mean much the same, but the word ‘ale’ was originally reserved for brews produced from malt without hops. This was the original drink of the Anglo-Saxons and English, whereas ‘beer’, a brew using hops, probably originated in Germany. Hops were cultivated in the Low Countries (modern Belgium and Holland) from the 13th century.
Cooking up the alcoholic goodness from barley – and probably wheat as well – yes, that’s as old as human civilisation. There’s serious consideration given to the idea that civilisation itself, static agriculture, came from the desire to create booze, not bread.
But beer is with hops, ale is without. And what they’ve found evidence of is booze without hops, thus it’s ale, not beer. Sure, pendantry on a massive scale but archaic is important about the past.
Altogether now – Beer, oh happy produce of our isle, they balmy waters we drink with glee and water leave to France….