The History of Beer - Beer Selections from and

Between 10,000 and 15,000 years ago, some humans discontinued their nomadic hunting and gathering and settled down to farm. Grain was the first domesticated crop that started that farming process. The oldest proven records of brewing are about 6,000 years old and refer to the Sumerians. Sumeria lay between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers including Southern Mesopotamia and the ancient cities of Babylon and Ur. It is said that the Sumerians discovered the fermentation process by chance. No one knows today exactly how this occurred, but it could be that a piece of bread or grain became wet and a short time later, it began to ferment and a inebriating pulp resulted. A seal around 4,000 years old is a Sumerian "Hymn to Ninkasi", the goddess of brewing. This "hymn" is also a recipe for making beer. A description of the making of beer on this ancient engraving in the Sumerian language is the earliest account of what is easily recognized as barley, followed by a pictograph of bread being baked, crumbled into water to form a mash, and then made into a drink that is recorded as having made people feel "exhilarated, wonderful and blissful." It could be that baked bread was a convenient method of storing and transporting a resource for making beer. The Sumerians were able to repeat this process and are assumed to be he first civilized culture to brew beer. They had discovered a "divine drink" which certainly was a gift from the gods. From the Gilgamesh Epic, written in the 3rd millennium B.C., we learn that not only bread but also beer was 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 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."

The Babylonians became the rulers of Mesopotamia after the Sumerian empire collapsed during the 2nd millennium bc. Their culture was derived from that of the Sumerians, and as a consequence of this, they also mastered the art of brewing beer. Today we know that the Babylonians new how to brew 20 different types of beer. In ancient times beer was cloudy and unfiltered. The "drinking straws" were used to avoid getting the brewing residue, which was very bitter, in the mouth. Beer from Babylon was exported and distributed as far away as Egypt. Hammurabi, an important Babylonian King, decreed the oldest known collection of laws. One of these laws established a daily beer ration. This ration was dependent on the social standing of the individual, a normal worker received 2 liters, civil servants 3 liters, administrators and high priests 5 liters per day. In these ancient times beer was often not sold, but used as barter. The Egyptians carried on the tradition of beer brewing. They also used unbaked bread dough for making beer and 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". Although beer as we know it had its origins in Mesopotamia, fermented beverages of some sort or another were produced in various forms around the world. For example, Chang is a Tibetan beer and Chicha is a corn beer and kumis is a drink produced from fermented camel milk. The word beer comes from the Latin word bibere, meaning "to drink", and the Spanish word cerveza originates from the Greek goddess of agriculture, Ceres. After Egypt was succeeded by the Greeks and Romans, beer continued to be brewed. Plinius reported of the popularity of beer in the Mediterranean area before wine took hold. In Rome, wine became ambrosia from the god Bacchus. Beer was only brewed in the outer areas of the Roman Empire where wine was difficult to obtain. For the Romans beer was considered a barbarian drink.

The oldest proof that beer was brewed on German soil, comes from around 800 B.C. in the early Hallstatt Period, where beer amphora found near the present day city of Kulmbach have been dated back to this time. As Tacitus, who first wrote about the ancient Germans or Teutons, put it like this: "To drink, the Teutons have a horrible brew fermented from barley or wheat, a brew which has only a very far removed similarity to wine". Beer of that era could not be stored, was cloudy and produced almost no foam. Early civilizations found the mood-altering properties of beer supernatural, and intoxication was considered divine. Beer, it was thought, must contain a spirit or god, since drinking the liquid so possessed the spirit of the drinker. The ancient Germans regarded beer not only a sacrifice to the gods but they, as in Egypt, also brewed beer for their own enjoyment. For example, in the Finnish poetic saga Kalewala, 400 verses are devoted to beer but only 200 were needed for 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 to inhabitants of the realm of the dead. Beer brewing played an important role in daily lives. Beer was clearly so desired that it led nomadic groups into village life. Beer was considered a valuable (potable) foodstuff and workers were often paid with jugs of beer.

Beer Selections from and

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