Welcome to “Teaching History through a Pint Glass,” a journey penned by Daniel James that brings the past alive in the most intoxicating way possible. On the afternoon of June 24th, 2023, from 11 am to 4 pm, Archival Brewing, a Michigan brewery nestled in Belmont, transported its patrons back to the origins of beer making.
This wasn’t just a Historic Brew Day – it was a classroom where history was taught not through books or lectures but through the rich, complex notes of a centuries-old beer recipe. So grab your pint and prepare to imbibe not just the making of a beautifully crafted beer but also a wealth of historical knowledge that has been brewing for millennia. Thanks, Daniel, for sharing with us!!
Brewing Ancient Beer at Archival Brewing
In the great state of Michigan, you can find locally-made beer around just about every corner or just up the road there, eh?
During past century, that hasn’t always been the case. Actually, locally-made beer has only become more readily available to consumers over the past few decades here in Michigan. The most well-known era was when the federal government established the prohibition of alcohol in the United States from 1920-1933. The Eighteenth Amendment (Amendment XVIII) impacted the production, sales, transportation, and sale of alcoholic beverages in the United States until it was repealed on December 5, 1933.
This is the only amendment in the United States Constitution ever to be repealed. Yet, the history of beer started quite (And I mean QUITE) a bit further back in time than prohibition, which was only a century ago or so. In fact, prohibition happened in other countries as well. Finland had a prohibition that nearly coincided with ours from 1919 until they repealed it in 1931.
From Ancient Times to the Present
We can understand that the production of fermented beverages goes back to 4000 B.C. There is even evidence that suggests that we have been producing beer as early as 10,000 B.C. Nowadays, there may not be as many people in the world that are interested in the process of how beer is made versus the number of people that would rather just enjoy consuming the delicious beverage.
Beer Making Enthusiasts
But luckily for the beer-drinking enthusiasts, there are beer-making enthusiasts too!
On Saturday, June 24th, a local brewery Archival Brewing in Belmont, MI (North Grand Rapids, Michigan), hosted a Historic Brew Day with some legendary Michigan Home-Brewers! The event featured Michigan beer brewing reenactors Mike “Brewguyver” O’Brien and his trusty side-kick Jake Egeler.
They collaborated with the brewery to create a version of a historic beer recipe from Finland known as a Sahti. It is regarded as one of the original beer styles that dates back to 3000 B.C. This type of beer was not traditionally brewed with hops.
In this case, it was brewed using freshly foraged juniper branches/berries and some additional rye in the grain bill. The brewers (Mike & Jake) used equipment replicating what our ancestors would have used to produce beer–an open flame, a copper cauldron, and a wooden paddle. They had an old barrel, a meticulously made wooden “cool ship,” and a lot of sweat, time, and determination.
The brewers and brewery provided guests with an experience of viewing the process of brewing the beer on a historical system over an open flame LIVE!
What is Sahti?
Good question! Sahti is a style of beer that can be traced back to Finland thousands of years ago. Some linguists suggest that the word could mean “juice of the barley,” but the origins are unknown. The earliest examples of this beer did not incorporate the use of “hops.”
Hops were not a known preservative or being used as a flavoring additive at this point. Finland didn’t have a large enough population density to support a brewery back then.
Beer was generally produced at home. Known as a Farmhouse Ale. There is evidence that suggests that the first brewers of Sahti were women. And that the recipe was passed down from Mother to Daughter for generations and generations. The earliest “written” references only date back to 1366. Yet, archaeological finds prove the elixir was produced thousands of years prior. Sahti is an easy drinker that is enjoyed by most!
The event sparked interest from local home-brew clubs and beer-brewing enthusiasts. It was fun to see some like-minded individuals come together in the community.
We had a lot of fun asking questions about the process and the history! And Mike was not shy about supplying us with answers. I think this guy could literally talk about beer all day long! They must call him “Brewguyver” for a reason. There was absolutely no short supply of beer knowledge & beer history around the brew kettle that day.
The brewery (Archival Brewing), which opened in July of 2021, prides itself on brewing beers, ciders, and meads with historical recipes and historic references to the styles of beer that it produces. You can find a little piece of history in every libation on their menu!
They also have a tasty offering of food from their scratch-made kitchen! We enjoyed their outdoor space. It features 3 Fire-Pits, Corn Hole, Bocce Ball, an outdoor bar, and a dining space that is Dog Friendly!
After the fermentation process is complete, you find beer brewed during the historic brew day available in the Archival Brewing taproom only.
Daniel took many more photos during the historic brew day event at Archival Brewing. Please take a peek and let us know what you think. Leave a comment and show some love by sharing this post.
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