Sunday, April 20, 2008

History of Beer, Part 1

Something that I have always found interesting is that beer is the earliest known alcoholic beverage. Beer’s story has pretty much followed the history of civilization.

There are different accounts of what may have been the very first beer brewed. As always, leading the way in the cutting edge of beer is Dogfish Head (is it really the cutting edge if the beer is thousands of years old?). Check out Chateau Jiahu for a taste of ancient history, brewed from a recipe that may be 9,000 years old.

Professor Solomon Katz, of the University of Pennsylvania, proposes the theory that the earliest farmers were moved to stop their hunting-and-gathering way of life and settle down to a life built around agriculture because of the desire to cultivate barley, not for baking bread, but for making beer!


The generally accepted origin of beer is Mesopotamia and the Sumerian civilization. In Mesopotamia, the oldest evidence of beer is believed to be 4,000 years old. A Sumerian tablet was discovered, depicting people drinking a brew through reed straws from a communal bowl. A 3900-year-old Sumerian poem honoring Ninkasi, the patron goddess of brewing, contains the oldest surviving beer recipe, describing the production of beer from barley via bread.

The Gilgamesh Epic describes the progression from primitive man to "cultured man".

"Enkidu, a shaggy, unkempt, almost bestial 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 (prostitute) to Enkidu 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 (prostitute) 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. "

How crazy is that story? A prostitute civilized a man by making him drink beer.

That’s all for now,


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