Beer in Ancient Times - Who Invented Beer?
Posted 09/18/2022 in News

Beer in Ancient Times


Beer in Ancient Times

Who Invented Beer?

The evidence for the earliest brewing of beer is uncertain. Some slate tablets found in the British Museum in London have been estimated to be about 9000 years old, but more recent research suggests they may not be so old. The inscriptions on these tablets might show the coarse milling of emmer, a prehistoric grain type used for brewing beer, but it is not certain. 

The oldest proven records of brewing are about 6000 years old and refer to the Sumerians in Mesopotamia. Beer was an important part of Sumerian culture, and they had many different types of beer. Today, there are many different types of beer brewed all over the world. 

Sumarians

Sumarians discovered the fermentation process by chance, and it is believed that they were the first to brew beer. It is thought that they discovered this process when a piece of bread became wet and was forgotten. After a short time, the bread began to ferment, and an inebriating pulp resulted. The Sumarians were able to repeat this process and offer this "divine drink" to their gods. 

Gilgamesh

From the Gilgamesh Epic, written in the 3rd millennium B.C., we glean that bread and beer were both very important. This epic is recognized as one of the first great works of world literature. Ancient oral sagas from the beginning of human history were recorded in writing for the first time. The Gilgamesh Epic describes the evolution from primitive man to "cultured man".

Enkidu, a shaggy, unkempt, almost beastial primitive man, who ate grass and could milk wild animals, wanted to test his strength against Gilgamesh, the demigod-like sovereign. Taking no chances, Gilgamesh sent a sex worker to learn of his strengths and weaknesses. Enkidu enjoyed a week with her, during which she taught him of civilization: 

"(..)Enkidu knew not, what bread was nor how one ate it. He had also not learned to drink beer. The sex worker opened her mouth and spoke to Enkidu: `Eat the bread now, O Enkidu, as it belongs to life. Drink also beer, as it is the custom of the land. (..) " Enkidu drank seven cups of beer and his heart soared. In this condition he washed himself and became a human being.

The Sumarian empire collapsed during the 2nd millennium B.C., hopefully not because of their beer consumption, and the Babylonians became the rulers of Mesopotamia.

Babylonians

The culture of the Babylonians was derived from that of the Sumarians. As a result, they also mastered the art of brewing beer. It is believed that the Babylonians knew how to brew 20 different types of beer, 8 of which were brewed from pure emmer, 8 from pure barley, and 4 from a mixture of grains. 

In those times, beer was usually cloudy and unfiltered. To avoid drinking the brewing residue (which was quite bitter), people would use a straw-like object. Lager beer was even exported to Egypt, 1000 kilometers away. Hammurabi, an important Babylonian king and empire founder, decreed the oldest known collection of laws.

Beer was a common daily dietary staple in ancient Mesopotamia

One of these laws established a daily beer ration, which varied depending on the social status of the individual. For example, a normal worker would receive 2 liters, while civil servants would receive 3 liters, and administrators and high priests would get 5 liters per day. 

In ancient times, beer was not sold but exchanged for barley. Since beer brewing was typically a household task, it was usually women who took care of this. King Hammurabi ordered a female saloonkeeper drowned because she accepted silver for her beer. Drowning was also the punishment for serving low quality beer.

Egyptians

The tradition of beer brewing was continued by the Egyptians. They also used unbaked bread dough to make Egyptian beer. Peasants along the Nile, the so-called Fellahs, still make beer the same way today. The Egyptians added dates to the brew to improve the taste. 

The importance of beer brewing in ancient Egypt can be seen from the fact that the scribes created an extra hieroglyph for "brewer". After Egypt was succeeded by the Greeks and Romans, beer brewing continued to be an important part of life. 

Romans

The Romans considered beer to be a horrible, barbarian drink. This is because it was primarily only brewed in the outer areas of the Roman Empire, where wine was more difficult to obtain. Tacitus was the first to write an extensive report about the ancient Germans and he noted that beer was the primary drink of choice for these people. 

Plinius also reported on the popularity of beer in the Mediterranean area before the growth of grapes for wine became more prevalent. In Rome itself, wine was considered the drink of the gods (Bacchus) and thus held a higher status than beer. 

Teutons

The Teutons have a long history of brewing beer, dating back to 800 B.C. Beer was an important part of daily life for the ancient Germans, and was even considered a sacrifice to the gods. In the Finnish epic Kalewala, 400 verses are devoted to beer, more than the amount needed to describe the creation of the earth. 

According to the Edda, the great Nordic epic, wine was reserved for the gods, beer belonged to mortals, and mead belonged to the inhabitants of the realm of the dead. Baking bread and brewing beer were originally women's work in the first centuries after the birth of Christ, but this changed in the Middle Ages. Today, the Teutons continue to enjoy their beer, and it remains an important part of their culture.


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