More than 1,000 years before gastro pubs or craft beer came to the Norfolk coast, the Anglo Saxons liked their tipple.

Now more evidence has emerged they were malting grain on an industrial scale to supply the demand for ancient homebrew, as an archaeological dig resumes on a hill at Sedgeford, near Hunstanton.

The remains of six separate malthouses have been found over the last five summers in one of the fields that rise up from the Heacham River above the village. More may lay undiscovered nearby.

As this summer's Sedgeford Historical and Archaeological Research Project (Sharp) got under way in early July, archaeologists who camp on a nearby field for the annual six-week dig began finding further fragments of wattle and daub walls and clay flooring.

Eastern Daily Press: The excavated field where the remains of malthouses have been found The excavated field where the remains of malthouses have been found (Image: Chris Bishop)

The complex may already be the largest uncovered to date in the UK and Sharp's director of excavations, Eleanor Blakelock, believes it may also be the earliest.

Rather than operating simultaneously, buildings were put up successively over a period of years around the 8th century as one by one they fell into disrepair or were damaged by fire.

READ MORE: Dig uncovers evidence of Anglo Saxon lifestyles

READ MORE: Archaeologists to explore mysteries of shrunken river

READ MORE: Handprint dating back 1,200 years found at dig

Eastern Daily Press: Dr Eleanor Blakelock at the Sedgeford digDr Eleanor Blakelock at the Sedgeford dig (Image: Chris Bishop)

"This has been getting bigger every year," said Dr Blakelock.

"It's like an industry but it's not a cottage industry - this would have been supplying several villages."

Dr Blakelock said grain would have been steeped - allowed to begin germinating, to allow sugars and enzymes to develop in the seed - before being gently dried by kilns whose blackened floors can be seen in places where the soil has been carefully scraped away.

But there is no evidence beer was ever brewed on the site. 

Eastern Daily Press: Remains of an ancient malthouse uncovered at SedgefordRemains of an ancient malthouse uncovered at Sedgeford (Image: Chris Bishop)

Dr Blakelock said instead malt would have been divided up among families who would then have brewed their own at home.

She added the malthouses would have supplied enough raw material to slake the thirst of a community 200 or more strong, perhaps overseen by a benevolent lord.

"Their beer would have been weak and everyone would have drank it, even the children," said Dr Blakelock.

"It was made with rye, so it would have had a different taste to wheat beers made from barley and oats."

Eastern Daily Press: Dr Eleanor Blakelock with a large fragment of a malthouse wall uncovered over the weekendDr Eleanor Blakelock with a large fragment of a malthouse wall uncovered over the weekend (Image: Chris Bishop)

Archaeologists have also found fragments of weeds including bindweed along with grain in the malting houses - suggesting it may have been left in to add further flavouring to the brew.

While the team took shelter from a thunderstorm earlier this week, Dr Blakelock said the recent soggy spell had created "perfect digging weather".

During last summer's heatwave, team members had had to lug water up the hill to dampen the soil to soften it enough to get their trowels in.

Eastern Daily Press:

Previous seasons at the site across the valley from the modern-day village, have seen Bronze Age, Iron Age and Romano-British remains uncovered, since work began on the site in 1996.

They include hundreds of skeletons and a hoard of coins hidden in a cow horn, along with evidence of how our ancestors lived. 

Sharp is staging its festival of archaeology on the Boneyard Field, as the site is known, on Sunday (July 23), from 10am to 5pm.

The event offers tours, demonstrations, children's activities and refreshments.