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History and Development of Brewing Beer(A)

Views: 7     Author: Site Editor     Publish Time: 2022-07-11      Origin: Site

The History Of Beer, quite literally, is the history of human civilization. Some anthropologists believe that man moved away from a hunter– gatherer existence to a settled agriculture-based existence largely to grow enough grain to brew large amounts of beer. This appears to be unproven, but the thought that beer would have been a powerful motivation to Neolithic humans would be no surprise. Virtually the entire animal kingdom, from insects to elephants, from fruit bats to monkeys, shows a clear predilection for the consumption of ethanol. It is reasonable to believe that we and other animals evolved according to advantages alcoholic beverages can confer. Fruit, when ripe, gives off an alluring scent that tells animals that it is full of sugar and ready to eat. Ripe fruit can become quite alcoholic when naturally present yeasts begin to consume the sugars. Animals get the benefit of the food value of the fruit, but undoubtedly also find a value in the physiological effects of consuming alcohol. The fruiting plants, in turn, derived the benefit of the animal’s actions as a disperser of its seeds. One of the great turning points for ancient humanity was the discovery of a method by which sugar could actually be created and fermented into alcohol in the absence of honey or fruit. This technique was the start of what we now call brewing.

As best we are able to determine, brewing emerged more than 5,000 years ago in the grasslands of southern Babylonia, between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. Rich alluvial soils supported wild grain plants, and the people there gathered them for food … and to make beer. How was the discovery made? It is impossible to be sure. But grain left out in the rain will sprout, essentially starting the malting process and developing enzymes inside the seeds. Someone coming upon a sprouting grain store probably hurriedly went to make bread out of the grain before all of the nutritious starch was lost to the growing plants. Upon heating, the starches, now full of enzymes, liquefied into sugars. And once people had sugars, they knew what to do with them.

Soon the Sumerians settled upon the plains, creating a civilization, the world’s first, in Lower Mesopotamia. They began to grow the grains, making them into a form of bread called bappir. In the oldest written recipe known to archeologists, they praised the goddess Ninkasi, whose name means “lady who fills the mouth.” Brewer to the gods, Ninkasi taught mankind to make beer too, which they called kas. In a hymn to the goddess, they described her as “the one who waters the malt set on the ground … you are the one who bakes the bappir-malt in the great oven…. You are the one who soaks the malt in a jar … the waves rise, the waves fall.” Finally Ninkasi is the one who “pours the fragrant beer in the lahtan-vessel, which is like the Tigris and Euphrates joined.” The resulting sugary bread was soaked in water, spontaneously fermented, and then strained. And so beer became part of the day-to-day life of mankind. Beer was healthy, pleasantly mood-altering, and full of nutrients and calories, and to obtain it, people created settled agriculture. At Godin Tepe, in the Zagros Mountains of modern Iran, the evidence remains. Shards of pottery from the Sumerian era are studded with calcium oxalate, a deposit from grain also known as “beer stone.” The Sumerian written character for beer is a pictogram of a type of jar, wide at the base and narrowing at the neck. Any homebrewer today would recognize it.

The Babylonians eventually conquered Sumer, and one of the benefits was the adoption of the superior beer-making skills of the people they had vanquished. The Babylonian king, Hammurabi, promulgated laws about just about everything, including beer, which he categorized into 20 different varieties.

The beer culture of Sumer also made its way into Egypt. According to Dr Delwen Samuel, who did pioneering work at the Department of Archeology at the University of Cambridge, brewing was well established in the Egyptian predynastic period. By the early Dynastic period, 3100–2686 bce, it had become an important part of Egyptian culture. Eventually beer, far healthier than water, became the everyday drink of the Egyptian people, from Pharaoh to the lowliest peasant. Great grain stores were built, and the Egyptian economy was underpinned by bread and beer. The god Osiris held in his hands the very stuff of life—fertility, death, resurrection, and the brewing staff. Depictions of people drinking beer from jars through long straws cover the insides of Egyptian tombs. We still have the beer-drinking straws of potentates, handsomely inlaid with gold and lapis lazuli.

When the Greeks arrived in Egypt, they were unimpressed by beer, which they called zythos, referring to its foaminess. Preferring wine, they thought of the sprouted malt as a form of rotted grain and disdained the drink the Egyptians derived from it. It was not that the Egyptians did not know wine, but growing grape vines, in many parts of Egypt, was not nearly so easy as growing grain, and Egypt could grow enough grain to feed itself and still have some left for export.

The Egyptians brewed from several grains, including barley and the ancient wheat type, emmer. Texts make mention of many types of beer, some of them clearly designated for ceremonial purposes. They had “dark beer,” “sweet beer,” “thick beer,” “friend’s beer,” “garnished beer,” and “beer of the protector.” The gods who guarded the shrine of Osiris partook of the “beer of truth.” For funerary purposes, they needed a beer that would last until the afterlife and provided tombs with “beer that does not sour” and “beer of eternity.” Massive breweries were built, and both grain and beer were offered in payment for common labor. It is worth noting that brewing was largely the work of women, a tradition that lasted throughout various civilizations until the end of the Middle Ages.

In 332 bce, the Greeks, led by Alexander the Great, took control of Egypt. Brewing continued apace, but the Greeks, seeing beer as the drink of their rivals and of the conquered, largely disdained it. By the Hellenistic period, Egypt exported beer out of the city of Pelusium, at the mouth of the Nile, to Palestine and beyond. The tax inspectors arrived, carrying titles such as “Inspector of the Breweries” and “Royal Chief Beer Inspector.” Alexander’s reign as Pharaoh lasted less than a decade, but Egypt was ruled by the Ptolemys until the naval battle at Actium in 31 bce, after which Cleopatra and her lover Marc Antony took their lives. Egypt became a Roman province.

Ancient Greece and Rome, with plentiful stores of wine, never truly took to beer. But as Rome ranged out from its own lands and sought to build an empire, they made their way over mountains and found on the other side fierce people, often ready for a fight and fortified by beer. Pliny, in his Natural History, noted that “the populace of western Europe have a liquid with which they intoxicate themselves, made from grain and water. The manner of making this is somewhat different in Gaul, Spain and other countries, and it is called by different names, but its nature and properties are everywhere the same. The people in Spain in particular brew this liquid so well that it will keep good a long time. So exquisite is the cunning of mankind in gratifying their vices and appetites that they have invented a method to make water itself produce intoxication.”

In the south of present Germany, the Romans encountered the Celts, and in the north they found the Germans, who had followed the Celts into Western Europe out of Asia. These tribes, unlike the Romans, were largely illiterate, but they were fairly proficient at making beer. The nomadic Germans eventually drove the Celts out, across the English Channel into Britain. The Germans and assimilated Celts settled into a network of powerful city-states between the 6th and 7th centuries ce. Slavic tribes settled to the east. As the Roman Empire finally crumbled with the abdication of the last Roman emperor in 476, the Romans, Germans, and Slavs assimilated into each other’s cultures, and Western Europe took on Roman Catholicism. Monasteries were set up and became places of learning. To sustain themselves and provide hospitality for weary travelers, the monks established breweries.

During the 500 years of the Dark Ages, from 500 to 1000 ce, brewing continued, but largely without advancement. The light of civilization shone most brightly inside the monasteries, but the monks kept their beer to themselves.

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