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Mumme’s the word

One of our more unusual beers is mumme (also spelt mumm). It is one of our recipes based on a very old and now hard to find style, but once it was so common in Germany that dark beer in general was referred to as mumme. Like many beers it eventually fell out of style and now into obscurity but now you can once again try it with our kit. But what is mumme?

A dark beer with some interesting ingredients which make it pretty unique. The one that really catches people’s eye is beans, yes beans. This compliments with the malty flavour without being sharp, sour or sweet. The beans are either added whole or as a powder and served as a substitute for grains. This helped when grain was short but unlike adjunct grains the beans add an interesting and unusual flavour that enhances mumme.

It tended not to contain a lot of hops yet still had a surprisingly good shelf life. Instead it added now unusual ingredients like mugwort, dandelion or thyme. In our case we use cardamom and elderflower, if this is starting to sound more like a hot pot than a beer then don’t worry cause mumme is as filling. Mumme is obviously somewhat removed from modern ale, while not alien it attempts things only the more experimental craft brewers would try.

But how exactly did mumme come to be? There are a few stories like with every beer but there are a few things agreed on. Braunschweig in north Germany is generally agreed to be the origin point, the earliest account being 1390 where it is mentioned in an invoice for a feast. The next claim is by Christian Mumme in 1492, a brewer by trade some claim he is who introduced it to the market. Though this is questionable given the previous information beers are known to change greatly over smaller periods so the idea he refined the idea and gave it mass appeal isn’t impossible.

It was from this point however that mumme saw wider success, in large part down to its good shelf life. Most unhopped ales could not last for long periods of time, not that they had any trouble drinking it but this made exporting difficult. Mumme however could be shipped far and wide and was a huge success till the end of the 1600s. Mumme went out of fashion and hop ales had been gaining popularity while also being incredibly good for exporting. Mumme didn’t completely die out, a non-alcoholic version became somewhat popular but for the most part is faded into obscurity outside Germany.

Mumme’s story is somewhat typical but it is a very early version of events we would later see with many ales. It is an important part of beer’s history that is often overlooked, you can try it out in our kit Mum’e Mumme.

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