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General Category => General Homebrew Discussion => Topic started by: redpotter on July 06, 2011, 11:19:31 am

Title: Corn Beer Boiling and Fermentation Question
Post by: redpotter on July 06, 2011, 11:19:31 am
I recently found a link to your site and registered in order to pose a question about beer making.  Although I am not much of a beer drinker (except during my graduate residence in Toronto, Canada - they make good beer eh!), I need to know more about the process of making beer.

In particular, I am a ceramic archaeologist who recently has finished the analysis of a ceramic assemblage from a small prehistoric hamlet located in Blanding, Utah.  Various lines of evidence suggest that many of the large, restricted neck jars might have been used in making corn (tizwin) beer.  There is no doubt that the jars were being used to boil something over an open fire (sooted pastes) and that many of the sherds (fragments) exhibit pitting consistent with fermentation:

Arthur, John W.
2003  Brewing Beer: Status, Wealth and Ceramic Use-alteration among the Gamo of Southwestern Ethiopia. World Archaeology 34:516-528.

In a world with enough money to pay for the analysis, it would be is possible to use residue analysis to determine the ingredients of the concoction:

Eerkens, Jelmer W.
2007  Organic Residue Analysis and the Decomposition of Fatty Acids in Ancient Potsherds. In Theory and Practice in Archaeological Residue Analysis, edited by H. Barnard and J.W. Eerkens, pp. 90-98. BAR International Series 1650, Archaeopress, Oxford.

That is not going to happen in this economy, but in writing the report I realized that I do not know the various steps necessary to turn corn into beer using only pottery heated over an open fire.  I envision that you know about a video or a publication that presents a stepwise account of the process.  I do remember seeing a Dogfish Brewery film about replicating corn beer from Peru but it really shortchanged the actual production steps and focused on chewing and spitting to introduce yeast into the mix.  Of course my focus is on the pottery, although I would not mind tasting their corn beer.

I would appreciate whatever information that you may be able to forward.

William A. Lucius, Ph.D.
Board President and Director
Institute for Archaeological Ceramic Research (IACR)
iacr@msn.com
www.instituteforceramicarchaeology.org
http://www.ourlkcpage.multiply.com
http://www.leuppkilnconferenceorg.web.officelive.com
Title: Re: Corn Beer Boiling and Fermentation Question
Post by: tschmidlin on July 06, 2011, 11:34:48 am
Basically you need to free the starch, provide enzymes to convert the starch to sugar, and ferment the sugar.  In modern beer making this is done by malting (provides the enzymes), mashing (liberates the starch and converts it to sugar), and fermentation.  Boiling is not necessary, it is done for other reasons (sterilizes the liquid, makes it look nicer by coagulating proteins, boiling hops adds bitterness, flavor, and aroma, etc.)

Chewing the corn introduces enzymes to break the starch down into fermentable sugars and liberates the starch.  Boiling could facilitate chewing by softening the corn, while also serving to gelatinize the starch.  Or perhaps they ground the corn to free the starch, boiled it for gelatinization, then spit in it to give the necessary enzymes.  The yeast could be added with raw corn or other other uncooked ingredients, or just left open to see what lands in it, or with a stick used to stir the batches which would transfer yeast, or by adding a portion of already fermented corn, etc.

I don't know anything about their culture, but it seems likely to me that pots would be multipurpose.  So the scorch marks on the pot might be unrelated to the fermentation marks on the inside.
Title: Re: Corn Beer Boiling and Fermentation Question
Post by: hopfenundmalz on July 06, 2011, 11:58:55 am
Tom summed it up on the brewing side.

I have spent previous vacations traipsing around San Juan county, and am familiar with Blanding, and some of the places like Edge of the Cedars St. Park.  There were many settlements in that part of Utah.

Looking at your organizations website, you are in Boulder Colorado.  By coincidence, the headquarters of the AHA and the BA are in Boulder.  You might contact them and see what else you can learn.  Charlie Papazian has probably made some chicha in the past.  He also has a "few" industry contacts, and might refer you to someone else that has done research.
http://www.brewersassociation.org/pages/contact-us/contact-us

The folowing was a fun read that covered some of the Dogfish Head ancient beers, but is mainly about Dr. Patrick McGovern, who you may or may not know.
http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history-archaeology/The-Beer-Archaeologist.html
Title: Re: Corn Beer Boiling and Fermentation Question
Post by: tomsawyer on July 06, 2011, 12:28:06 pm
They could have malted the corn by soaking the corn in water then keeping it warm until it sprouted.  This causes amylase enzymes to be produced in the aleurone layer surrounding the starchy endosperm, and the enzymes will then break down the starches.  They could have either dried this malted corn and ground it or just let it sit in water while natural yeasts drifted in from the air and started fermentation.

I don't really see a need to boil anything unless they wanted to make it more concentrated, or if they drank the beverage warm.

You might be able to do an iodine test for starch to determine if the pots contained starchy materials.

The Smithsonian article on Patrick McGovern was interesting.  Its amazing how old brewing/winemaking is and how it may have shaped our future as a species.
Title: Re: Corn Beer Boiling and Fermentation Question
Post by: tschmidlin on July 06, 2011, 12:39:21 pm
I don't think there's any evidence that natives of the Americas had malting technology.  If there is, I'd love to read about it.
Title: Re: Corn Beer Boiling and Fermentation Question
Post by: weithman5 on July 06, 2011, 12:49:03 pm
they may not have been deliberately malting, but maybe they just made a beverage out of  leftover or unused stuff that had started to sprout and was not planted. just out of coincidence.
Title: Re: Corn Beer Boiling and Fermentation Question
Post by: tomsawyer on July 06, 2011, 12:53:39 pm
I don't think there's any evidence that natives of the Americas had malting technology.  If there is, I'd love to read about it.

I see, but what evidence would remain from a culture without written language?  I could more easily imagine malting being discovered by accident (grain gets wet, better make a porridge while you can, leftovers start fermenting), as I could the use of chicha technology.

Then again I like to imagine primitive man had a lot more expertise than we give them credit for.  It thrilled me to read that some people think brewing might be as old as 100,000 years.
Title: Re: Corn Beer Boiling and Fermentation Question
Post by: tschmidlin on July 06, 2011, 01:12:35 pm
I'm not an expert, but it is my understanding that the native cultures were largely unchanged for thousands of years.  I agree that "primitive cultures" probably knew more than the average person believes, but I think the main evidence of a technological advancement that would remain would be that they would be using it.  Yes, the chicha technology is a strange discovery, but they clearly made that discovery and since it was useful its use persisted.
Title: Re: Corn Beer Boiling and Fermentation Question
Post by: SpanishCastleAle on July 06, 2011, 01:14:54 pm
Then again I like to imagine primitive man had a lot more expertise than we give them credit for.  It thrilled me to read that some people think brewing might be as old as 100,000 years.
If Jared Diamond's accounts of his encounters with the 'primitive' peoples of today are any indication; then 'primitive' people have WAY more expertise than we typ give them credit for. :)
Title: Re: Corn Beer Boiling and Fermentation Question
Post by: tomsawyer on July 06, 2011, 02:00:25 pm
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tiswin

While this link says Tiswin was made from saguaro, if you click on a link at the bottom it describes something that sounds like malting to me.  Its not referenced though so I don't know if it is accurate.

There's also this, although I don't know that it might not be a chicha-style preparation.

http://www.sandia.gov/news/publications/technology/2008/0308/note3.html

http://food.oregonstate.edu/glossary/t/tiswin.html
Title: Re: Corn Beer Boiling and Fermentation Question
Post by: tschmidlin on July 06, 2011, 02:25:44 pm
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tiswin

While this link says Tiswin was made from saguaro, if you click on a link at the bottom it describes something that sounds like malting to me.  Its not referenced though so I don't know if it is accurate.
Yup, that sounds like malting to me too.  If that is accurate and traditional, then clearly I was wrong. :)

The wiki thing is weird, the first line says corn but then it talks about saguaro after that.

The last link is interesting, the flour and sweetener must have added the necessary yeast.
Title: Re: Corn Beer Boiling and Fermentation Question
Post by: redpotter on July 06, 2011, 04:49:23 pm
What I am reading is that the "European" approch to brewing beer does not normally involve boiling the brew.  In contrast, the Apache process of making tiswin involves long-term boiling.  Does anyone have any idea why the Apache (and perhaps the Pueblo I corn farmers of the American Southwest) would have boiled their brew? 

I was warned that the opinions of home brewers may not be pertient given that here in the New World in prehistoric times folks did not have access to yeasts (except that provided by women who chew the corn and spit it into the mix), lacked any sources of sugar (with the exception of natural sugars present in green corn stalks or other plants)  and probably in their isolation developed what must appear as very odd approach to creating alchohol.

I would disagree, given the number of posts that have appeared so soon after starting this post.  Thank you, and please remember that I hope to find a post that details the steps that a corn farmer would have taken to create corn beer in a ceramic pot (theoretically is fine if no one has actually tried to replicate that technology).
Title: Re: Corn Beer Boiling and Fermentation Question
Post by: tschmidlin on July 06, 2011, 05:16:10 pm
European brewers normally DO boil their wort (pre-fermented beer), it is just not necessary and might not apply to prehistoric European brewers.  Certainly some styles are not necessarily boiled even today (Berliner Weisse), but that is the exception not the norm.  Some are also boiled extensively.

Again, saliva does not contribute yeast to the brew, saliva contributes enzymes to convert the starch to sugar.

Yeast is ubiquitous, it would be on the corn and in the pots and on the sticks they used to stir it.  Adding yeast intentionally was not required for making beer, it was either added without knowing what they were doing or it was already present along with a variety of other microorganisms that would contribute to the final flavor of the beverage.

If you follow the links above you will find some reference for how tiswin was made.  This one seems especially good:
http://food.oregonstate.edu/glossary/t/tiswin.html

In this case, they are sprouting the corn - this is malting and it will cause the kernels to create enzymes to convert the starch to sugar.  The plant is doing this so it can grow, but they stop the process via drying and then ground it up.  This was boiled, which would have killed off any organisms on the malted corn.  It would also concentrate the mixture and create some flavor components.  After it was cooled, flour and sweetener were added - the flour would contain yeast to help it ferment, the sweetener would probably ferment too depending on the sugar source and yeast.  With only a 12 hour ferment it was very likely to be low alcohol.
Title: Re: Corn Beer Boiling and Fermentation Question
Post by: hopfenundmalz on July 06, 2011, 05:33:12 pm
Redpotter, you might want to read howtobrew.com by John Palmer.  This is the online edition of his book.

There is also an instruction part of this site.
http://www.homebrewersassociation.org/pages/lets-brew/get-schooled/get-started

Almost all beers are boiled, with few exceptions.

In times before large metal pots, beer was made by dropping superheated rocks into the wort (sugar solution).  This is now called steinbier and there are some made today (the hot rocks part).  There are youtube videos, I am certain.

Boiling does several things, one of which is to sanitize the wort.  There is a German saying- "In wine there is wisdom, in beer there is strength, in water there is bacteria".  Well not that old, as bacteria were not know of before the discovery of microorganisms.  But this is Tom's area, so I will go into lurk mode.

Title: Re: Corn Beer Boiling and Fermentation Question
Post by: tomsawyer on July 06, 2011, 06:07:51 pm
Dr Luclus, I think you really need to become familiar with conventional beer and winemaking techniques if you are to properly interpret any results you might come up with from your pottery.  Notice that Dr. McGovern has gone to great lengths to learn about beer and wine making technology, including visiting historic production locations.  Tough work but somebody has to do it!  How else can you hope to understand any traces of characteristic compounds you might find on your pottery?  Visit this site for a few months, read Palmer's online book, maybe make a conventional brew or two and then try a corn beer for yourself.  Its going to give you far more insight into what you might expect to find in the way of deposits on clay pottery.  I'd hesitate to over-interpret the presence of starch in a pot, maybe they were just boiling up some primitive spaghetti.
Title: Re: Corn Beer Boiling and Fermentation Question
Post by: hopfenundmalz on July 06, 2011, 07:14:44 pm
Lennie makes some good points aboiut learning the brewing side of your question.  Then once you have a good idea of what residue is on the pottery, you might want to do a recreation.  There are many, many breweries along the Front Range in Colorado.  One would think one of those might say yes to doing a recreation of an indigenous/ancient beer. 

You can do some serious academic work, and have some fun at the end with a beer no one has had in ages.
Title: Re: Corn Beer Boiling and Fermentation Question
Post by: timberati on July 07, 2011, 08:32:51 pm
I was warned that the opinions of home brewers may not be pertient given that here in the New World in prehistoric times folks did not have access to yeasts (except that provided by women who chew the corn and spit it into the mix), lacked any sources of sugar (with the exception of natural sugars present in green corn stalks or other plants)  and probably in their isolation developed what must appear as very odd approach to creating alchohol.

I would disagree, given the number of posts that have appeared so soon after starting this post.  Thank you, and please remember that I hope to find a post that details the steps that a corn farmer would have taken to create corn beer in a ceramic pot (theoretically is fine if no one has actually tried to replicate that technology).

What an incredible and fun project.

The Dogfish episode on the brewing of Chicha is available on iTunes for $2. Also, you might find this video of Sam Calagione explaining Chicha useful: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QSXpLjewfMo

Sam can be reached through their website.
http://www.dogfish.com/contact-us.htm  I think he used to answer email personally. That may not be the case anymore. Yet, you're a much different case than simple fan mail.

The chewing by the women simply provided the enzymes that break down the complex starches into simple fermentable sugars that the yeasts could then eat. The early brewers didn't know about yeast, they only knew what worked. In fact, the "Beer Purity Law" or the "Bavarian Purity Law" of 1516 does not mention yeast in the ingredients for beer, yet beer (or wine or any other alcoholic drink) can not be made without them. The yeast probably hung out in the fissures and cracks of the clay pots. When the brewer had a good clay pot that produced the beer she liked, no doubt she kept it and guarded it because it had the magic to make the beer.

Chapter One of Tom Standage's book, A History of the World in Six Glasses, starts with beer in ancient Egypt. It's well written and very informative.

Title: Re: Corn Beer Boiling and Fermentation Question
Post by: timberati on July 07, 2011, 08:47:07 pm
European brewers normally DO boil their wort (pre-fermented beer), it is just not necessary and might not apply to prehistoric European brewers.  Certainly some styles are not necessarily boiled even today (Berliner Weisse), but that is the exception not the norm.  Some are also boiled extensively.

Again, saliva does not contribute yeast to the brew, saliva contributes enzymes to convert the starch to sugar.

Yeast is ubiquitous, it would be on the corn and in the pots and on the sticks they used to stir it.  Adding yeast intentionally was not required for making beer, it was either added without knowing what they were doing or it was already present along with a variety of other microorganisms that would contribute to the final flavor of the beverage.

If you follow the links above you will find some reference for how tiswin was made.  This one seems especially good:
http://food.oregonstate.edu/glossary/t/tiswin.html

In this case, they are sprouting the corn - this is malting and it will cause the kernels to create enzymes to convert the starch to sugar.  The plant is doing this so it can grow, but they stop the process via drying and then ground it up.  This was boiled, which would have killed off any organisms on the malted corn.  It would also concentrate the mixture and create some flavor components.  After it was cooled, flour and sweetener were added - the flour would contain yeast to help it ferment, the sweetener would probably ferment too depending on the sugar source and yeast.  With only a 12 hour ferment it was very likely to be low alcohol.
+1 The short fermentation period would also mean that yeast would still be in suspension and their presence would add vital protein and vitamins to the drink.
Title: Re: Corn Beer Boiling and Fermentation Question
Post by: tschmidlin on July 12, 2011, 10:55:55 pm
It's a good thing I'm behind on reading Zymurgy . . . there is an article in the May/June issue about several indigenous beverages, one of which is called tesguino.  The similarities in the name and the procedure described lead me to think it is the same beverage.

It is still being made by the Tarahumara people of Mexico, so it might be worth a trip if you are really interested.  Or it is another source of information at least.
Title: Re: Corn Beer Boiling and Fermentation Question
Post by: phillamb168 on July 13, 2011, 02:50:21 am
Now, IANAC (I am not a Chemist) but with the "sooted pastes" bit I'm quite surprised that at least tschmidlin didn't mention nixtamalization. According to Wikipedia, it's been around in Mesoamerica since at least 1500 BCE. The same wikipedia article references enzymatic nixtamalization, which "uses protease enzymes to accelerate the changes that occur in traditional nixtamalization." [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nixtamalization]

This needs a lot more research to back up, but if I were to hazard a guess, I'd say that the containers were used to boil raw maize with a wood ash paste to nixtamalize them, then left to open ferment (magic yeast stick method).

I don't know what the diastatic/enzymatic power of maize is, but it could also be possible that a sort of proto-chicha was produced with this method - de-husked maize would be way, way easier to chew than raw.

See what I'm sayin'?

This could be a really interesting experiment. Tschmidlin, I have some lye and can probably get raw maize somewhere. Should we try for an experiment?
Title: Re: Corn Beer Boiling and Fermentation Question
Post by: tschmidlin on July 13, 2011, 10:30:48 am
As far as I understand it, the sooted pastes were on the outside of the pots, not the inside.

That being said, I totally think you should do an experiment.  I've been thinking about getting some raw maize and trying it too, although without the lye.
Title: Re: Corn Beer Boiling and Fermentation Question
Post by: richardt on July 13, 2011, 11:37:33 am
As far as I understand it, the sooted pastes were on the outside of the pots, not the inside.

That being said, I totally think you should do an experiment.  I've been thinking about getting some raw maize and trying it too, although without the lye.

Another possibility is Naan or Flatbread which, as you may already know, is formed and then stuck on the inside walls of the tandoori oven or on the outsides of clay pots (in Mexican and Latin cultures).  Either route gives you dry heat and a hot cooking surface.

Another possibility is the person who handled the pot was also responsible for handling the corn-based product.  Cooks hands often get messy.
Title: Re: Corn Beer Boiling and Fermentation Question
Post by: weithman5 on July 13, 2011, 12:50:53 pm
not knowing the general health of the population.  many of those spitters into the wort may have low grades of thrush.  i am not sure if candida is a fungus that can ferment  :D
Title: Re: Corn Beer Boiling and Fermentation Question
Post by: timberati on July 13, 2011, 04:06:09 pm
In his book, A History of the World in 6 Glasses, Tom Standage writes, "To neolithic drinkers, beer's ability to intoxicate and induce a state of altered consciousness seemed magical. So, too, did the mysterious process of fermentation, which transformed ordinary gruel into beer. The obvious conclusion was that beer was a gift from the gods; accordingly, many cultures have myths that explain how the gods invented beer and then showed humankind how to make it. The Egyptians, for example, believe that beer was accidentally discovered by Osiris, the God of agriculture and king of the afterlife. One day he prepared a mixture of water and sprouted grain, but forgot about it and left it in the sun. He later returned to find the gruel had fermented, decided to drink it, and was so pleased with the result that he passed his knowledge on the humankind. (This tale seems to tally closely with the way beer was probably discovered in the stone age.) Other beer drinking cultures tell similar stories."

I wonder what tale was told about the tizwin beer?
Title: Re: Corn Beer Boiling and Fermentation Question
Post by: timberati on August 01, 2011, 02:38:02 pm
Here's a South African beer that uses either sorghum or corn: http://beervana.blogspot.com/2011/08/traditional-south-african-utwala-beer.html (http://beervana.blogspot.com/2011/08/traditional-south-african-utwala-beer.html). The brewing process may parallel what is being searched for.
Title: Re: Corn Beer Boiling and Fermentation Question
Post by: redpotter on August 05, 2011, 11:12:33 am
The link provided by Norm about South African beer making really filled in an empty slot in my developing model for brewing prehistoric maize beer.  Thanks to you all for the information about sprouting, drying and grinding the (malted) kernels, followed by women chewing and spitting into the batch in order to add the enzyme needed to begin to break down the starches.  The various natural sources of yeast and the resulting fermentation cap formed by the addition of flour all makes sense.  However, the addition of sweeteners (such as sorghum) continued to bother me until an archaeologist friend of mine (somewhat of an expert in the glycemic index of food products) relayed that maize contains a lot of sugar, probably enough to negate having to add unavailable sweeteners.

He further suggested that I make up a few large, constricted necked jars so we can initiate a replication program.  I just happen to have about a hundred pounds of dried Hopi blue corn kernels from a corn field experiment my wife and I did years ago as well as a motorized corn grinder.  We will see.

And finally, sorry about using terminology without its definition.  As a ceramic analylist, I look at thousands of broken pieces of pottery (sherds) under a microscope.  The paste is the combination of clay and temper (an aplastic such as sand or ground up rock) that makes up the clay body that I see in cross section.  Because all cooking was done over campfire coals and the earthenware clay body is quite porous, the free carbon from the fire penetrates the vessel wall, resulting in sooted pastes that can only be burned out by refiring those sherds to 950 degrees C in full oxidation.  Sooted pastes, and the companion carbon encrustation on the exterior surface of the vessel are commonly observed on cooking (utility ware) jars.  However, the jars in question are polished serving ware (serving and ceremonial) vessels, which they almost never used for cooking.  My answer to the conumdrum (supported by the co-occurrence of pitted interior surfaces) was that the vessels were being used for ceremonial purposes - what is more ritual than brewing and drinking beer, even weak, sour beer?