Ancient Mumme Ale (on tap 2/25!)

mummeBy Emerson “Tad” Baker

Mumme Beer (pronounced moom-muh), was a beer first noted in the early sixteenth century that was produced in the northern German city of Brunswick. It became so popular that it was shipped to the Netherlands and England and from there spread around the globe. In the seventeenth century, the Dutch East India Company was shipping it to India – well before the British had invented India Pale Ale. Although the descriptions of it are varied, Brunswick Mumme was probably a hopped red to brown ale with substantial amount of barley – a fortified beverage, perfect for withstanding long voyages overseas.

Then as now, everyone wants to imitate a successful product. So, in England in the seventeenth century, there appeared a knock-off, also called Mumme. I found it in a booklet published in England in 1695, under the title “How to Brew as good Mum as any made in Brumswick.” However, the ingredients could not be more different than the traditional German Mumme, which adhered to the Reinheitsgebot. These German Purity Laws limited the ingredients of beer to just barley, hops, and water (this was before the discovery of yeast and its importance to fermentation).

Mum recipe 1695
The original recipe from 1695!

Instead, English Mumme contains everything but the kitchen sink, including beans, elder flowers, wood betony, blessed thistle, birch tips, spruce tips, berberies, thyme, blessed thistle, cardamom and pennyroyal! I suspect it tastes quite different from the German version, but that is true of most foreign imitations- even today.

As soon as I saw it, I knew Butch would want to brew a version of this most unusual ale. So, I showed him the 1695 recipe and he worked his magic. The result has a heavy malt bill with 200 pounds of Maris Otter pale malt, crystal malt, chocolate malt and malted oats going into the boil, in addition to fourteen pounds of beans. This explains an ABV of 8.1%.

We had to wait to brew our Ancient Mumme Ale until late spring when we could get fresh spruce and birch tips. And, the recipe tells you to barrel age it for “one, two or three years before you use it, for the longer you keep it the better it is.” We just could not wait that long to try an ale that has not been made in several hundred years. But it has aged for eight months in an oak Buffalo Trace bourbon barrel. We hope you will enjoy this reproduction of a unique beer that is itself a replica. Maybe next time we will have to make German Mumme.

Drink this Beer! Thursday 2/25, 6:30pm, Mumme Ancient Ale TAP RELEASE & TALK w/ Emerson Baker, author and professor of history at Salem State University.