Author Topic: Corn Beer Boiling and Fermentation Question  (Read 3895 times)

Offline redpotter

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Corn Beer Boiling and Fermentation Question
« on: July 06, 2011, 05:19:31 PM »
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
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Offline tschmidlin

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Re: Corn Beer Boiling and Fermentation Question
« Reply #1 on: July 06, 2011, 05:34:48 PM »
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.
Tom Schmidlin

Online hopfenundmalz

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Re: Corn Beer Boiling and Fermentation Question
« Reply #2 on: July 06, 2011, 05:58:55 PM »
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
« Last Edit: July 06, 2011, 06:00:27 PM by hopfenundmalz »
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Offline tomsawyer

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Re: Corn Beer Boiling and Fermentation Question
« Reply #3 on: July 06, 2011, 06:28:06 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.
Lennie
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Offline tschmidlin

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Re: Corn Beer Boiling and Fermentation Question
« Reply #4 on: July 06, 2011, 06:39:21 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.
Tom Schmidlin

Offline weithman5

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Re: Corn Beer Boiling and Fermentation Question
« Reply #5 on: July 06, 2011, 06:49:03 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.
Don AHA member

Offline tomsawyer

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Re: Corn Beer Boiling and Fermentation Question
« Reply #6 on: July 06, 2011, 06:53:39 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.
Lennie
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Offline tschmidlin

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Re: Corn Beer Boiling and Fermentation Question
« Reply #7 on: July 06, 2011, 07:12:35 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.
Tom Schmidlin

Offline SpanishCastleAle

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Re: Corn Beer Boiling and Fermentation Question
« Reply #8 on: July 06, 2011, 07:14:54 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. :)

Offline tomsawyer

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Re: Corn Beer Boiling and Fermentation Question
« Reply #9 on: July 06, 2011, 08:00:25 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
« Last Edit: July 06, 2011, 08:03:15 PM by tomsawyer »
Lennie
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Offline tschmidlin

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Re: Corn Beer Boiling and Fermentation Question
« Reply #10 on: July 06, 2011, 08:25:44 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.
Tom Schmidlin

Offline redpotter

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Re: Corn Beer Boiling and Fermentation Question
« Reply #11 on: July 06, 2011, 10:49:23 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).

Offline tschmidlin

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Re: Corn Beer Boiling and Fermentation Question
« Reply #12 on: July 06, 2011, 11:16:10 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.
Tom Schmidlin

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Re: Corn Beer Boiling and Fermentation Question
« Reply #13 on: July 06, 2011, 11:33:12 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.

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Home-brewing, not just a hobby, it is a lifestyle!

Offline tomsawyer

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Re: Corn Beer Boiling and Fermentation Question
« Reply #14 on: July 07, 2011, 12:07:51 AM »
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.
Lennie
Hannibal, MO