The Brewing Shed The Veg Plot

Brewing Ninkasi beer – that’s the skirret!

skirret root ninkasi beer

A few years ago we started growing an ancient relative of the parsnip, skirret, rumoured to be a key ingredient in the first recorded recipe for beer, ‘Hymn to Ninkasi’. Earlier this week we received an email from Matt Buist, a student at the University of Birmingham, who is putting together a dissertation on ancient beer, in particular the Mesopotamian beer described in that hymn.

Like us, Matt’s research led him to believe that skirret is the key flavouring mentioned. Unlike us*, he did more research and has even managed to work out how Mesopotamian might be made – a process that involves baking the skirret into a barley loaf (known as a bappir) before brewing it. The resulting beer, he thinks, would be a porridge-like, pulpy liquid drunk through a straw (unlikely to be one of those plastic bendy ones).

In order to further his studies, Matt has to put his skirret where his mouth is and brew some beer for real – the only problem being, no-one grows skirret any more and he had no idea how to get any. Until he found our site…

So, our last standing skirret plant has been dug up (we sheared off a lump of root which will hopefully regrow) and dispatched to Birmingham, first class mail. He promised to update us with brewing progress and has offered us a bottle of the finished beer. We’ll let you know the verdict when it reaches our bendy straws…

*We brewed a skirret ale by simply tossing some roots into the boiling wort. It was hard to detect much flavour, but it did make the finished beer very cloudy.


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