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History written in beer. Part I

2023-06-14
History written in beer. Part I

Martin Luther once said, "God himself has given mankind two forms of sustenance in the form of grain – beer and bread. Those who do not drink beer have nothing to drink." With this statement, it's hard to disagree. For years, beer has been more than just a drink consumed at bars on a Friday night with a group of friends. Have you ever wondered about its origins?

It all began around 10,000 B.C. as people increasingly settled in one place, abandoning their nomadic way of life. They began cultivating agricultural lands, which provided grains, and they learned how to make use of them. This is when bread making started, which was fundamental in brewing beer. The production of this beverage was quite different from what we know today. The base was a baked flatbread which was then combined with water and left for fermentation in clay vessels, often with the addition of honey or spices. The resulting beverage from the fermentation process was unfiltered, cloudy, and not particularly tasty – more like a porridge than beer – but it was incredibly nutritious and contained (albeit in small amounts) alcohol. To deal with floating residue, the inventive humans of the time used reed straws to drink it!

Around 4,000 B.C., the Sumerians documented a recipe for barley beer on clay tablets. The recipe also appeared in a Sumerian poem about the goddess of beer titled "Hymn to Ninkasi." In Sumerian culture, beer was more than just a nutritious alcoholic beverage. It was used for religious purposes (offered to the gods) and was believed to have medicinal properties, being the basis for many remedies and healing treatments. Interestingly, in those times, beer and bread were a means of redistributing goods – farmers and craftsmen received payment in beer and bread, and archaeological evidence even suggests that you could pay for a bride with them!

Beer also played a significant role in ancient Egypt. According to Ancient Egyptian beliefs, beer was invented by Osiris and given to humanity (along with the knowledge of agriculture). However, beer was associated with the goddess Hathor, regarded as the deity of love, music, and all pleasures. In artistic depictions, she was referred to as the "Lady of Drunkenness," and her temples were known as "houses of revelry." In Egypt, the oldest known brewery was discovered in the town of Hierakonpolis, capable of producing up to 1,400 litres of beer per day! In Egypt, just as in Sumer, brewing beer was exclusively the domain of women under divine protection.

The Sumerians brewed dark and strong beer for men and delicate wheat beer for women. In Egypt, beer did not contain much alcohol, except for one type, reserved exclusively for men, which had a whopping 15% alcohol content, called "dzythum."

To emphasize the timelessness of this beverage, we present a quote (one of the oldest) from the Sumerian "Epic of Gilgamesh":

"Drink the beer, as is the custom of the land! So, Enkidu drank the beer, the Seven-Shades beer, and became expansive and sang with joy! His heart exulted, and his face glowed."

So, how many "Seven-Shades" of beer does it take to make your heart exult and your face glow?**

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