HBW #6: Recreating Xenophon’s Armenian Beer (Part 4: Fermentation and Tasting)

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

I allowed the beer to ferment for 8 days (at 75o F) in a dark basement niche. Within a few hours of pitching the yeast, the barley-wheat-lentil beer (Pseudo-Xenophon Beer, PXB) had a 2 inch krausen that had dropped by the time I woke up the next morning. The all-lentil “beer” (ALB) never had a krausen.

The beers immediately after pitching the yeast.

I closely watched the beers during the next few days. The color of the ALB became much lighter each day. In fact, by the end of fermentation the PXB was darker than the ALB. I suspect the color change of the ALB was due to any particles that were in suspension settling to the bottom of the fermenter.

The ALB (left) and PXB (right)

I measured the final gravity (FG) of both beers. The ALB remained unchanged, indicating that there was no noticeable fermentation. The FG of the PXB was 1.006 (OG=1.036) meaning that the beer had a 3.94% ABV with an apparent attenuation of 83%. A true session beer!

The Verdict

ALB (left) and PXB (right)

Color: light yellow, straw
Aroma: absolutely revolting; the pungent stank of pea-ey urine; I had second thoughts about trying the beer after smelling
Taste: not as bad as the smell, but certainly not good; it is light and watery with a robust pea-flavor that floods the back of the palate; up front, there is a strong wheat flavor that quickly (and regrettably) fades

Color: golden and hazy
Aroma: strong bread aroma (from the bread yeast?); also, it almost smells like a saison
Taste: a complete 180 from the ALB; surprisingly sweet and pleasant; any pea flavor is almost completely nonexistent; it tastes like a back-sweetened cider with the cleanest and clearest apple flavor I have ever experienced in a beverage

Future Experiment
In the previous post, I described a number of possible avenues for future exploration. For next week, I will rebrew the PXB as the XB (Xenophon Brew). I plan to keep the recipe the same as the PXB, but leave the grains and peas in the wort during fermentation.




11 Comments Add yours

  1. thomas burgon says:

    Hi Kyle,

    I have read with much interest about your experiment recreating Xenophon’s Armenian Beer!

    I am far from being a beer expert, but have been fermenting vegetables for some years now. Based on what I know about lact-fermentation I would venture the thought that pulses might have been used as a lacto-fermented part of the Armenian beer.

    I’d speculate if you use
    – malted grains in the mash
    and then aded separately
    – sprouted and cooked and mashed lentils (you have to cook pulses before lacto-fermentating them!)
    –> into the wort,
    –> and then went through an open air cooling process like it is done with lambic beers, you could coem closer to what this beer nmight have been like.

    The malted grain would provide the sugars for wild yeasts, and the cooked lentils (or by the way other pulses, like garbanzo or other beans) would providing food for lactic and other bacteria in the open air vessel.

    I am no microbioligists, so I might be wrong, but the readily digestible starches (even some oligosaccharides) in lentils might even contribute to the sugars in the mash, so a mashing with cooked and pureed lentils might be possible too. Though the oligosaccharides (that are anyway not broken down by the amylases), would be needed later in the wort so that they could be broken down by lactobacilli and maybe even some bifidobacteria having hopefully found their way into the open air vessel, so you might not want to filter them out at sparging. They’d be best added before the boiling stage (using some herbs instead of hoping) if there was any,

    Provided one gets the proportions right, this might result in an interesting lambic-type taste! In any case, the beer would probably get gradually more sour, but it would be most probably consumed by then… Part of the remainder in the vessel after consumption might be used as an inoculant for the next batch, getting gradually better and better with new bacteria and yeast strains finding thjeir way into this symbiotic “community” of yeast and bacteria, as with sourdough or kombucha.

    Some links for the underlying theme of my hypothesis:


    Greetings from Budapest,



    1. Hi Thomas,
      Thank you so much for the detailed response! I was thinking of souring a batch in the future with (purchased) lacto. However, I will certainly give the method you describe a try as well. I am very interested to see how the natural fermentation will taste.


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