I doubt it really

On two points:

It’s no secret that beer and blue cheese go hand in hand – but a new study reveals how deep their roots run in Europe, where workers at a salt mine in Austria were gorging on both up to 2,700 years ago.

Scientists made the discovery by analysing samples of human excrement found at the heart of the Hallstatt mine in the Austrian Alps.

Frank Maixner, a microbiologist at the Eurac Research Institute in Bolzano, Italy, who was the lead author of the report, said he was surprised to learn salt miners more than two millennia ago were advanced enough to “use fermentation intentionally.”

“This is very sophisticated in my opinion,” Maixner said. “This is something I did not expect at that time.”

The finding was the earliest evidence to date of cheese ripening in Europe, according to researchers.

And while alcohol consumption is certainly well documented in older writings and archaeological evidence, the salt miners’ faeces contained the first molecular evidence of beer consumption on the continent at that time.

They talk about “enjoying” blue cheese which is clearly impossible. But more than that they talk about beer, which I think is unlikely. Ale I would have thought – non-hopped, d’ye see?

32 thoughts on “I doubt it really”

  1. One is naturally horrified by the vicious modern practice of destroying all this valuable shit, that would have allowed curious archaeologists 3000 odd years in the future to determine such valuable information about the present day.

  2. Hallstatt is bloody fascinating, the tours of the mines are great.

    Austrian beer generally is excellent, but where I lived in the north, the local brewery was called St Hubertus based in Laa an der Thaya and their product was undrinkable. I bet that’s what they had in Hallstatt.

  3. Blue cheese is the best cheese you fucking heathen. Runny cheese is next best. One thing the French (and others) definitely do better than us.

  4. “One thing the French (and others) definitely do better than us.”
    In spades. Our supermarket in France had two aisles, both sides, of it. Plus an island counter with three servers where they’d cut cheese to request. And that’s just for a small market town. A particular variety I’m fond of is made by Trappist monks on a nearby hill, keep a herd of a dozen cows.
    Now here’s a weird thing. This is Flandres, the epicentre of the French dairy industry. They live for cheese. Every time I went over to the UK I used to bring back plastic packs of English mousetrap. Cheddar, Coloured Leicester, Caerphilly, Gloucester, Stilton. Off the cold shelf in Sainsbury. The French family loved the stuff. Couldn’t get enough of it.

  5. At least commie scum only sent you down a salt mine to mine salt.

    Analysing ancient shite is a new level of torment.

  6. There is an increasing number of magnificent British cheeses, although not so many of the rind-washed runny variety.

  7. Boganboy
    It may be more useful to record the information than to store the product. Also, there will be no shortage of real samples, though these will have been deposited by tourists so confounding attempts to discover what the locals were eating.

  8. BiS: Our supermarket in France had two aisles, both sides, of it. Plus an island counter with three servers where they’d cut cheese to request.

    Yes but have you noticed that regional cheeses don’t really stray out of their region when it comes to availability? You will find countless brands of camembert/plasterboard and maybe one made with raw milk and some plastic rubbery cantal. But for the rest, it’s the local varieties that dominate.

    It could be that there is too much variety for all regions to be represented in any given hypermarket or it could be that the French are parochial in their preferences or prejudices. Be that as it may, it’s possible to get lots of super French (and other) cheeses online in the UK from places like The Fine Cheese Co or Cheese Hub. Yum.

  9. Baron Bigod: hear, hear, lovely stuff. I also like Binham Blue. Yer East Angular has got some delish stuff.

  10. And thirdly: there’s a ‘tally cheese I like, Crucolo, available in some village markets near us. Best eaten on the day of cutting or the next day. I may never eat Frog cheese again. Except maybe Roquefort which I’ll buy once France has left the EU, or vice versa.

  11. Baron Bigod obviously comes well recommended but I do suck my teeth just a touch about this bit of the description … long lasting flavours of warm earth, farmyard and mushrooms.

  12. “non-hopped, d’ye see” We’ve discussed this before. That’s the historical distinction but I think the trade now uses “ale” for non-lager beer. Open to correction. (Come to think of it: is IPA unhopped?)

    P.S. I like Hoegaarden – is it classed as a lager? I also used to like Sainsbury’s alcohol-free Czech lager but the swine seem to have stopped selling it.

    P.P.S. Adnam’s low-alcohol Sole Bay is also to my taste. More East Angular delish.

    P.P.P.S. And Aspall’s cyders (purportedly the Suffolk spelling) are yet more East Angular delish.

    P.P.P.P.S. I once had a decent red wine from East Angular. I must keep an eye open for more.

  13. “(Come to think of it: is IPA unhopped?)”

    Very much the opposite. The hops are a preservative. IPA was – originally – brewed to survive the journey to India. Very, very, heavily hopped. Most modern stuff is a weak replica altho’ there are a few craft revivals of the original style.

  14. Hoegaarden is a weissbier rather than a lager. Of those I really like Erdinger Pikantus, a dark beer. Waitrose used to have it but then it just disappeared, and eventually I went the online route.

  15. Well that’s it, TMB. The monks & their cows ( I was on speaking terms with all of them. The cows not the monks, obviously) probably manage to put out 4 or 5 cheeses a week. In between God botherings & socially not having conversations. They sell some themselves, a half goes to E.Le-Clerk, fromageries & shops in the town take some, maybe some restaurants. Shouldn’t think it’s ever seen more than 20 klicks from where it’s made. When we shopped in St Antonin in 82 they had their own local cheeses likely didn’t travel as far as Montauban let alone Toulouse. People who don’t like cheese eat President emmental & brie. (One could hardly call what they put in foil wrapping camembert)
    Back in 59 we had an entire aisle side of butters. (Including 2kg blocks for those who spread it thick.) Half of those were local.

  16. Not the humorous Steve

    Re IPA,
    Has anyone actually taken an original recipe IPA, barrelled it,and put it on a sailing ship to India to determine what the taste is like at the end of the trip?
    Does the need for the use of much hop imply that its preservative quality degrades over time? What would that do to the taste?
    Might the “weak replica” be the more authentic replica of the taste at the destination? Especially as the replica would have been brewed by folks that were more likely to have tasted the real stuff.

  17. NthSteve: Does the need for the use of much hop imply that its preservative quality degrades over time?

    Depends if it’s brewewd by Pfizer.

  18. Iron age beer wouldn’t be called “beer” nowadays, period.
    For starters because the method of making it more resembles making sake than beer. The hint is in the article(s): they found specific funghi related to beer and cheese making.

    Same for the cheese. To preserve cheese you need either salt or funghi. We know the funghi have been used for as long as we can “look back” with a degree of certainty.
    And salt was precious.. The early use of those mines coïncide with the rise of the Etruskans in that area, They, like Rome ( same period of ascendance ) are well known to have payd important peeps, including their armies, in salt.

    This leads to the conclusion that the workers there weren’t fed “gourmet food”, but the Cheap Stuff.
    Cheap, strong cheese, and whatever grain would give alcohol for “beer”.
    The staple for “gourmet” ( or at least a measure of affluence ) at the time was , as always: meat, leavened bread, and wine.
    Which the lads there didn’t get…

  19. @ dearieme
    I think the use of “ale” for non-lager beer started with “Newcastle Brown Ale” as I can remember commentators pointing out in my dim-distant youth that NB was actually a beer, implying that other things called “Ale” actually *were* ales. Since Newcastle Brown was viewed by many as *the* and by many more as *a* premium drink, the use of “ale” to describe some beers was promoted by advertising salesmen.

  20. Steve

    Pete Brown wrote a book – “Hops and Glory” – about brewing a barrel of IPA, from the “original” Worthington White Shield recipe (not the modern one) and then sailing a circuitous route to India. It seemed to survive the trip but after 15 years I forget the tasting notes

  21. “it really was dangerously drinkable, and when the tandoori canapés came round it went beautifully, cutting through the heat and harmonising with the spices so perfectly it was as if the beer had been designed specially to go with the cuisine”

  22. @John77 It being a Boring Thursday Evening for me I decided to dive into some interweb-research, and dig up some etymology..

    Turns out the distinction between the two words is as old as the earliest written sources for western-Europe ( that’s for germanic, celtic and slavic) . and a source of a lot of academic biatchfights.

    With the average ending up as mid-13thC for our current distinction between the two. Because Taxes. With, again, the roots being a lot older than that.

    Whatever brand in the british isles did what when seems to have little to do with it.

  23. The point of my enquiry about IPA is that it’s a beer that’s been called an “ale” since, what?, the early 19th century.

  24. Last time I checked academic publications sort of predated the internet.
    It’s just that the internet allows me to not have to chase libraries all over the world where stuff might or might not be available for the day…

    I know there’s a thing like “youtube research”, but I do trust that you’ll allow for the availability of actual documentation through digitisation making Life a lot less complicated for those academically trained when it comes to idly digging through a topic of interest.

    Love and kisses, your local Gremlin.

  25. @notthehumouroussteve

    Marstons Old Empire is supposed to be a recreation of the original ipas. it’s pretty hoppy ( though popperinge hommelbier from memory was probably more hoppy- in fact Popperinge has a museum of hops ) The marstons has a taste I can only describe as flinty.

  26. Phipps brewery in Northampton were one of the early providers of an IPA. Founded 1801 They made a very heavily hopped beer for local consumption because leather workers taste buds were wrecked by the high tannin content of leather dust. Found it kept very well and would survive the journey. Also supplied bottled beer to the Tommies in WW1. Local enthusiast bought the brand from Carlsberg and has restored brewing in the original Albion brewery Good brewery tour, in the cellar is the well that was the only one Richard I would drink from when the court was briefly based in Northampton. The King’s well hence Kingswell street where the brewery stands. Worth a visit.

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