HBW #5: Recreating Xenophon’s Armenian Beer (Part 3: Brew Day)

Xenophon Passage
Germinating and Drying
Brew Day (All Lentil Beer and Pseudo-Xenophon)
Fermenting and Tasting

It is a brew day for the Armenian beer recreations. Today’s goals are to determine:
1. if malted lentils contribute fermentable sugars
2. what taste lentils contribute to a barley/wheat beer

This will surely be the first of several beers that I will brew during the next month (see Commentary), including a more faithful facsimile of Xenophon’s description of the Armenian beer. Two beers were brewed simultaneously and are currently fermenting at ambient temperatures.

All Lentil Beer
1 lb malted lentils
1 package Fleischmann’s Active Dry Yeast

First, I crushed the lentils with a rolling pin in order to break the hard outer shell. In retrospect, I did not crush the malted lentils sufficiently. When I re-brew this beer, I will use a grinder.

I mashed the beer in 1.5 gallons of 150water using a Brew-in-Bag technique (BIAB – place the grains/pulses in a mesh bag for an easier all-grain brewing method). The pulses remained at this temperature in the water for 1 hour so that the enzymes (if any) can convert the starch to fermentable sugars (if any).

All Lentil Beer mashing

After an hour, the wort had a noticeable, chocolate-brown color and the smell of old peas. Unfortunately, the taste matched the unappealing smell. I strained the lentils from the wort, took a pre-boil gravity (0.990 –  no/very little sugars) before bring the wort to a boil for one hour. After evaporation, 0.5 gallons of lentil-liquid remained. I allowed this to cool in a sterilized glass jug at ambient temperatures (there were no wort chillers in antiquity!) and then pitched the rehydrated yeast.

The Original Gravity (OG) is 1.003. This suggests that a very small amount of sugars were extracted from the pulses.

All Lentil Beer cooling

Pseudo-Xenophon Beer
0.75 lb Rahr Pilsner (stale)
0.45 lb Rahr White Wheat (stale)
0.30 lb crushed, malted lentils
1 package Fleischmann’s active dry yeast

This beer was brewed according to the same process as the All Lentil Beer, but I added malted grains at a ratio of barley/wheat/pulse, 5:3:2. I describe this as a Pseudo-Xenophon Beer (PXB), because I used the BIAB technique, rather than allowing the grains/pulses to remain in the wort during the entire brewing/fermentation as suggested by Xenophon’s description. Also, it does not contain the same fermenting bugs as would have been available to the Armenians.

R: All Lentil Beer; L: PXB Beer

Pre-boil G: 1.010
Taste: normal barley/wheat wort taste (sweet and bready) with a slight pea-ey aftertaste.
Color: Golden and hazy

The liquid was subject to a more vigorous boil than the All Lentil Beer, leaving only 1/3 gallon.


OG: 1.037
Taste: normal wort with earthy tones
Color: Dark gold and hazy

Notes: There was significantly more “hot break” in the PXB than the lentil-only beer


From this initial experiment, it appears that an all-lentil pulse-bill does not contribute much sugar to the wort nor does it have the necessary enzymes to convert the starch to fermentable sugars. Thus, it is quite possible that the lentils were added for flavor or some purpose other than to boost the alcohol content of the beer. I plan to re-brew this beer with more finely crushed lentils and a longer mash time (several hours). I will also side-by-side brew the PXB (again) and a beer with a similar grain bill sans pulse in order to compare OGs and FGs. This will help me to ascertain if the enzymes in the grain will help to convert any starches in the lentils. More immediately, I will re-brew the PXB with the “floaty bits” in order to determine if the remaining starches during mash and fermentation contribute any additional sugars/qualities to the beer. Finally, I will brew a “modern” version of the PXB that will have the addition of hops and be bottle conditioned (bubbles!). This has no scientific purpose.




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