Science Questions

Why did they put dead mice in the beer?

Sun, 7th Oct 2007

Listen Now    Download as mp3 from the show Brewing and Alcohol

Question

Kay asked:

My daughter recently went on a school trip and she was told that in Tudor times, if beers were poured with no head on them then they would put dead mice in the beer! Can you explain what this would achieve and why?

Answer

We put this question to Charlie Bamforth, Professor of Beer and Brewing at the University of California at Davis.  You can hear the whole interview here.

I’ve never heard that one! There’s all sorts of crazy mythologies and truisms that people have handed down the ages. Possibly one of the things with mice is that some beer can get contaminated with Brettanomyces and Brett classically has a barnyard type, sometimes called a ‘mouse urine’, type of flavour.  Maybe something’s got lost in the telling.

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