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25th April 2024

Research Inspires New Beer Based on Ancient Recipe

Northern Monk Brew Co. and a historian at the University of Leeds have collaborated to brew Mhór,  a beer inspired by a 5,000-year-old recipe made in Northern England.

Working with Dr Samuel Gartland, from the University’s School of Languages, Cultures and Societies, the brewery, based in Leeds, has produced a beer made using traditional ingredients of meadowsweet, spelt and honey, combined with modern hops.

Although few records of ancient beer-drinking remain, Dr Gartland’s research analysed tablets written by Roman soldiers near Hadrian’s Wall, demanding beer. An ancient inscription on display at the University helped Dr Gartland to find that peers of those soldiers would have been posted in Yorkshire and drinking beer at the time.

Russell Bisset, Co-Founder and CEO of Northern Monk, said: “Beer has been brewed for thousands of years, right here in the North of England. Beer and brewing’s connection with the North, and Yorkshire, is deep rooted and part of our shared history. When we began looking into bringing back an historic brew, initially for a beer festival, we spoke to Dr Gartland who helped us delve into the beers and brewing methods of our ancestors.

“Taking inspiration from academic research, and the evidence of vessels that contained cereal, honey and meadowsweet from the early bronze age found in Scotland we brewed a pilot beer. It let us try and get as close to those 5,000 years of brewing history as possible, and it kept it relatively close to home.

“Roll on to now, and we’re excited to release Mhór, a beer 5,000 years in the making. We kept the base pale as it seems likely early brewers would be sun-drying their malt, or using fresh un-dried malt rather than any form of direct heating, smoking or kilning. Initially using dried meadowsweet flowers instead of hops for flavour and stability, which add a creamy, honey like aroma and flavour along with a root beer like finish with honey added towards the end of the ferment.

We’ve then combined this ancient-style brew with hops, El Dorado Cryo, Centennial, and Citra to give a modern twist. This is a modern take on an authentic ancient ale, a barbarian’s beverage. Northern Monk’s very first slogan was ‘5,000 years of history, re-inspired’. Now, truly, five millennia of beer has been given a modern update.”

Dr Samuel Gartland, Associate Professor in Ancient History and Culture at Leeds, said: “From the Mediterranean to Britain, beer was as popular in the ancient world as it is today. The local peoples of these islands, and even those posted right here in Yorkshire with the Roman army loved a beer, and this new drink therefore has the special quality of bringing us closer to those that lived in the ancient landscapes of Britain.

“Having an enthusiastic and creative partner like Northern Monk has made this process of recapturing an ancient beer possible. And thanks to the hard work and careful research that lies behind Mhór, each time we take a sip we can sit at the bar next to people from thousands of years ago and drink together – that rootedness of experience and connection across thousands of years makes this a truly magical project.”

The beer is the seventh and final beer released as part of the brewery’s Evolution of Tradition series, which is part of Northern Monk’s Patrons Projects, which sees the brewery collaborate with creatives, artists, designers, and illustrators. Previous beers in the Evolution of Tradition series have included traditional Belgian pale ales and English IPAs.

Mhór will be available in cans from and in cans and on draft from Northern Monk venues, The Refectory Leeds and The Refectory Manchester from 25 April, and from usual Northern Monk independent stockists and bars.


Notes to editors

University of Leeds 

The University of Leeds is one of the largest higher education institutions in the UK, with more than 40,000 students from about 140 different countries. We are renowned globally for the quality of our teaching and research. 

We are a values-driven university, and we harness our expertise in research and education to help shape a better future for humanity, working through collaboration to tackle inequalities, achieve societal impact and drive change.  

The University is a member of the Russell Group of research-intensive universities, and is a major partner in the Alan Turing, Rosalind Franklin and Royce Institutes

Follow University of Leeds or tag us in to coverage: Twitter | Facebook | LinkedIn | Instagram

About Northern Monk 

Northern Monk is an independent brewery focused on creating the best beer experiences in the world. From two people in a parent’s cellar in 2013, to more than a hundred employees, Northern Monk is one of the North’s fastest growing drinks companies.  

In March 2021, Northern Monk were ranked number 1 in the Ward Hadaway Yorkshire Fastest 50 list, achieving the titles of ‘fastest overall growing business’ and ‘fastest growing small business’. In May 2021 they were ranked 60th in The Sunday Times Best Small Companies to Work For 2021 list. 

Creativity, community and collaboration are at the core of Northern Monk’s business, they focus on working with the people that share their passion, and their values. They regularly collaborate with national and international breweries, businesses and causes to help strengthen the North for positive change.  

Contact: Tim Ward

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