During the latest “Ale through the Ages” brewing seminar (January 14th) we brewed a Medieval Period strong ale known as “Mumm” (also spelled mum or mumme). Mumm ale is truly an historic beer, where it earned the reputation from Germany to England as being “strong as six horses, coach and all” (Anonymous author ca.1720). Many attribute its origin to the northern German city of Braunschweig and a brewer by the name of Christian Mumme in 1492. However an invoice dated to 1390 for beer sold to the city of Braunschweig for a feast mentions the drink “mumm”. Therefore it is doubtful that, “mumme” actually derived from the name of a Christian Mumme, because the account was created 102 years before the alleged formulation (Roloff 1955:175).
By the mid 1500s more than five varieties of mumme were being brewed in Braunschweig. Over time the term “Mumme” became a general designation for “dark beer” (Mack 1911:17). By the 16th Century Mumm was being exported to England where it was enjoyed greatly as a potent tonic. It was soon copied and endured as a popular strong ale into the mid 18th Century. “…with Mr. Norbury near hand to the Fleece, a mum-house in Leadenhall, and there drank mum, and by-and-by broke up” (Pepys 1664). The decline of Mumm production in Germany began in the 18th Century due to heavy taxation in addition to changing laws. Today, very few breweries still produce Mumm(e), these include the German breweries of Nettelbeck and Wismarer.
“To make a vessel of sixty-three gallons, we are instructed that the water must be first boiled to the consumption of a third part, then let it be brewed according to art with seven barrels of wheat-malt, one bushel of oat-malt and one bushel of ground beans. When the mixture begins to work, the following ingredients are to be added: Three pounds of the inner bark of fir, one pound each of the tops of the fir and birch; three handfuls of dried Carduus Benedictus [blessed thistle], two handfuls of flowers of Rosa solis [sundew]; of burnet, betony, marjoram, avens, pennyroyal, flowers of elder and wild thyme, three ounces of bruised seeds of cardamom, one ounce of bruised bayberries. Subsequently ten new-laid eggs, not cracked or broken, are to be put into the hogshead, which is then to be stopped close, and not tapped for two years, a sea voyage greatly improving the drink” (John Nott 1680).
Therefore, the following recipe is based on this English Mumm recipe and converted to a 6 gallon batch.
It required a significant amount of malted grain (nearly 20lbs of grain) to brew this strong ale, whereby resulting in a specific gravity of 1.80 (i.e. 9% -10% ABV). After the Thames River Valley yeast began to ferment the wort, all of the herbs were added three days later. Mind you, these herbs were first steeped in boiling water for 5minutes to minimize bacterial contamination.
Nevertheless, this ale is sure to be very unique in flavor and quite strong, much like a barley wine. As there are very few examples of this variety of beer still being brewed worldwide, it will be a surprise to taste how it turns out!