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Strange Brews, 'shrooms And Berserkers - Recipes From The Dark Ages

Discussion in 'Maddrakkett's Caffe' started by ectoflanger, Mar 24, 2020.

  1. ectoflanger

    ectoflanger Supporting Member

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    Hello my Warwick bros! One of the benefits of writing is the things you learn researching for them.

    In this case it stems from that done for a graphic sci-fi short story about a group of Vikings stationed at an early-warning outpost somewhere in Norway in the 7th century-- yes Vikings did exist before the so-called "Viking Age". However the majority of the research stemmed from the screenplay adaptation (35 to 45 minute run time) I'm currently hoping to finish sometime today or tomorrow.

    To give a bit of context-- here is a clip from the screenplay--

    INT. LONGHOUSE - NIGHT

    Members of the garrison are gathered around the long table feasting and drinking beer and mead, their states of inebriation range from buzzed to drunk. Laughter and shouts fill the air, as ERIK, their unofficial bard, regales them with tales tall, true, and somewhere between.
    ERIK
    ...this Dane was ten feet tall, his axe eight feet long, and his mail made of dragon scales...

    CLOSE ON THE LONGHOUSE DOOR: A VIKING bursts in and collapses on the floor, he’s breathing hard, trying to catch his breath. It’s NJAL, a huge man, as his name implies.

    OLAV
    Njal! What happened?

    NJAL
    The forest is alive. A tree took Skarde.

    OLAV
    Have you been eating those mushrooms again?

    The longhouse roars with laughter.

    NJAL
    A demon tree with glowing eyes. I saw its branches wrap around him and drag him off. I came at it with my axe, but another branch struck me down.

    FRODE, the keeper of the scrolls and physician, crouches near NJAL and notes blood matted in his hair, with bleeding and bruising on the left side of his head and face. He peers into his wild eyes.

    FRODE
    His eyes are normal--he shows no signs of the mushroom or the henbane.

    Now, although in the past, historical botanists posited that it could have been the mushroom Amanita muscaria aka "fly agaric" that was responsible for Viking berserker rages, they have come to suspect that it was more likely the leaves, juice, or seeds of Hyocyamus niger "black henbane" that was the causative agent, or at least one of them.

    Exhibit A: Fly agaric-- btw it got it's name because it was used as a poison to kill flies.

    2006-10-25_Amanita_muscaria_crop.jpg

    Here's another psychoactive mushroom found in Norway--- note that the caps look like helmets-

    Norwegian Mushrooms.jpg

    And here is our henbane- 100 seeds of this were found in Fyrkat, Denmark in the grave of a Viking woman.

    Stinking Henbane.jpg

    So I found that henbane was an ingredient in gruit, a mixture of herbs used to flavor beers before the advent of hops. Interesting point-- Pilsen got it's name from the German name for this plant "Bilsenkraut."

    According to one source the recipe for henbane beer included-

    "40 g dried chopped henbane herbage, 5 g bayberry, 23 l water, 1 l brewing malt, 900 g honey, 5 g dried yeast, and brown sugar."

    Henbane and other types of gruit-flavored beers were eventually discontinued in favor of hops for economic reasons and later as result of the Bavarian Purity Law of 1516.

    I wonder what it was like to drink a beer with henbane in it given some of the effects of low to moderate ingestion of henbane, listed as follows--

    Inebriation, hallucinations, sensations of flight, and increased sexual arousal.

    If any of the brewing inclined would like to brew some henbane beer, I found instructions on the White Dragon website -- Henbane - the insane seed that breedeth madness

    Henbane Pilsener

    20 litres of water
    1 litre of malt
    1/2 litre honey
    40 grams of dried henbane leaves
    yeast for beer (amount depends on the product)

    Find a container which is large enough to hold all the ingredients. Cook the henbane in water for 5 to 10 minutes. Meanwhile dissolve the malt in a couple of litres of water, dissolve the honey into it and add the henbane leaf-water. Then add the yeast. It might be useful to add a little bit more yeast than recommended because the tropane-alkaloids affect the yeast. Don't seal the container as it may explode.

    The brew should start fermenting after a day or so and the fermentation should be finished after 4 or 5 days. The beer is now ready for drinking. You can also bottle it, in which case you can add a few drops of honey to each bottle and let it ferment for another week or two.

    Serve preferably chilled. Store as normal beer.

    Well-- there you have it. Research can be quite fun!
     
    Last edited: Mar 24, 2020
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  2. ectoflanger

    ectoflanger Supporting Member

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    With regard to our Viking Njal, his vision was not unlike what German writer Gustav Schenk experienced when he inhaled the smoke of burning henbane seeds-

    "There were animals which looked at me keenly with contorted grimaces and staring, terrified eyes; there were terrifying stones and clouds of mist, all sweeping along in the same direction. They carried me irresistibly with them. Their coloring must be described - but it was not a pure hue. They enveloped in a vague gray light, which emitted a dull glow and rolled onward and upward into a black and smoky sky. I was flung into a flaring drunkenness, a witches' cauldron of madness. Above my head water was flowing, dark and blood-red. The sky was filled with herds of animals. Fluid, formless creatures emerged from the darkness ..."

    A funny aside-- the Wikipedia article incorrectly lists him as "Michael" Schenk. I guess they were a Scorpions/UFO fan! LOL!!!
     
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