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Author Topic: Medieval Fermentation and Distilling  (Read 518 times)

jeff37923

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Medieval Fermentation and Distilling
« on: April 11, 2020, 02:31:43 PM »
OK, so making beer and wine are relatively easy, but how did they make harder drinks with greater alcohol content? I know that a few used freeze distillation (where they took beer or wine or just grapes up to mountain tops and then scooped out the frozen water from the barrels, thus concentrating the alcohol), but also boiling the beer or wine was also done to get rid of the water content. Does anyone know of any other forms that were used in medieval or earlier times?

(I'm basing part of my dwarf culture's economics on the freeze distillation and sale of alcoholic beverages.)

soltakss

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Medieval Fermentation and Distilling
« Reply #1 on: April 12, 2020, 05:25:13 PM »
Islamic Alchemists could use distillation and produced almost pure alcohol, so medieval alchemists could do that in a game.

People of the Russian Taiga drank fermented birch sap, but I don't think it was distilled in any way, as birch sap rises in the spring, when there isn't much ice around.

Steppe Nomads drink Koumiss, which is fermented mare's milk. Again, not distilled, so a very weak alcoholic drink.

People in the tropics drank palm wine, which is fermented palm sap, this can be distilled and was widely distilled from the 14th Century.
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jeff37923

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Medieval Fermentation and Distilling
« Reply #2 on: April 12, 2020, 11:07:33 PM »
Quote from: soltakss;1126635
Islamic Alchemists could use distillation and produced almost pure alcohol, so medieval alchemists could do that in a game.

Found an interesting article on this one. I didn't think that the still used was developed until a few centuries later - I'm glad to be wrong.


Quote from: soltakss;1126635
Steppe Nomads drink Koumiss, which is fermented mare's milk. Again, not distilled, so a very weak alcoholic drink.

Read about this, but didn't know where to fit it in the world I'm working on.

Quote from: soltakss;1126635
People of the Russian Taiga drank fermented birch sap, but I don't think it was distilled in any way, as birch sap rises in the spring, when there isn't much ice around.

People in the tropics drank palm wine, which is fermented palm sap, this can be distilled and was widely distilled from the 14th Century.

These I did not know about.....Thank you.

nDervish

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Medieval Fermentation and Distilling
« Reply #3 on: April 13, 2020, 09:07:14 AM »
Quote from: soltakss;1126635
Steppe Nomads drink Koumiss, which is fermented mare's milk. Again, not distilled, so a very weak alcoholic drink.

I think I'd be more inclined to attribute it being very weak to the limited amount of sugar in the milk.  You can easily get alcohol percentages into the teens with fermentation alone (most non-fortified wines are 12-14%) and, if you get a good modern champagne yeast and start out sweet enough, you can get close to 20%.  Once I tried making a mead using apple juice instead of water, plus champagne yeast, and my measurements said it came out at 21% (although I suspect I measured wrong) - it was very sweet, very potent, and it went down real easy.  Dangerous stuff.  I really should try to make another batch like that one of these days...

But I don't know how modern-day you need to be to have yeast strains with those levels of alcohol tolerance.

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Medieval Fermentation and Distilling
« Reply #4 on: April 14, 2020, 07:11:42 AM »
The still was invented around the 8th century. This lead to the creation of stronger spirits like vodka, brandy and whisky, but only over time. Earlier than the 15th century or so, 'spirits' (aqua vitae in Latin) were concoctions of liquor that were stronger than regular ale but could not reach anywhere near the strength of modern spirits, and they were used largely as a kind of medicine.  Their production was originally based in monasteries. By the late middle ages, it was the Barber-surgeon guilds that brought these spirits into common public consumption beyond the monasteries.

The first references to vodka appear in Poland around the early 15th century. From Poland they reached Russia by the early 16th century. Zubrowka is probably the oldest vodka blend still in use today, dating to the 16th century.
The earliest reliable references to Whisky date to the very late 15th century, but Whisky at that time would have been very different from the modern version, for starters, it wouldn't have been aged at all.
The earliest references to brandy date to France in the 14th century, where it was used medicinally. Possibly as early as the 15th century it began to be traded in French cities.
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