Recreating an Early Modern Beer Recipe

by | Feb 16, 2020 | Environmental sustainability, History, Teaching and Learning | 0 comments

This project will introduce a dedicated week of activities relating to key themes in the social responsibility agenda within the level two undergraduate module HIST21152: The Stuff of History: Objects Across Borders, by inviting a professional brewer, for a period of three years, to recreate an early modern beer recipe and to deliver a lecture outlining the environmental challenges of the modern brewing process. The speaker will share professional expertise (including the brewing process and how it differs to early modern approaches and industry strategies for making brewing more environmentally sustainable) with our students and, alongside the course lecturers, will encourage students to think about how historical approaches to brewing can help inform a more environmentally friendly approach to modern-day brewing.

The targeted expert, Jonathan Winchcombe, is a small-scale independent brewer. Mr Winchcombe will offer our students’ a unique perspective on how practical experience can inform out understanding of the past by demonstrating how and why early modern brewing techniques converge with and diverge from modern processes. His expert knowledge of the environmental challenges of the brewing industry, alongside his innovative approaches to tackling such challenges (e.g. reducing water consumption, recycling spent grain by working with local farmers, focusing on traditional cask ale in order to reduce the production of storage vessels), also maps perfectly onto the University’s goal of producing responsible graduates who are both engaged with social and environmental challenges in the wider world and able to effect positive changes in these areas using the skills they have developed during their degree programmes. During the lecture, Mr Winchcombe and the course lecturers will make connections between these modern approaches to environmentally sustainable beer production and how early modern people sought to brew as efficiently as possible. This will demonstrate to students that past approaches to beer production, in which waste was effectively recycled and production was small-scale and ingredients locally sourced, could help tackle some of the environmental challenges inherent in modern industries such as brewing. By reproducing an early modern beer recipe, moreover, our students will be encouraged to think about the methodology of ‘remaking’ and historical archaeology and its value for not only understanding the past more fully, but also for engaging with and rectifying contemporary problems of sustainability.

Internal Partner(s): Professor Sasha Handley; Dr Stefan Hanß

External Partner(s): Mr Jonathan Winchcombe 

Funding source(s): SALC SR

Project duration: 2020

Project lead(s): Dr Rachel Winchcombe