The History of Beer
Beer. Tasty, incredibly bubbly and refreshing, it allows many of us to get through the week in a less than stressful way. After a long day of work, after lunch, with sports or movies, it goes so well with most of the things that we do. Beer is presently the most consumed alcoholic beverage in the world, and is the most popular drink after water and tea. Yet, throughout the world, pints of Ale and cans of Lager are consumed with little thought of how such a beverage, made from malted cereals, hops, yeast, and water (and sometimes other ingredients as well), came to look and taste the way it does.
Since it has been a monumental part of our lives for such a long time, it would seem important to learn some things about its history, origins and why it became so important. We spend so much time drinking and sharing, that maybe now is the time to sit back and listen – or read, in this particular case.
The earliest archaeological evidence of fermentation dates back to 13,000 years ago. Beer used to have the consistency of gruel, and was consumed by the semi-nomadic tribe Natufians, near Israel. Ancient Sumerians were cultivating grains thousands of years ago, and eventually they happened to make beer out of it. This was one of their most influential contributions to the world, right behind written language and a formal numeric system. They even had a goddess of beer and brewing named Ninkasi. In the year 1800 bc, a hymn was written for Ninkasi.
Writing songs also could have been a way to introduce people to what it was they were actually drinking. Because it was written in music, the recipe was easy for the average beer drinker to memorize if they didn’t know how to read. It’s also the oldest beer recipe ever discovered. Here goes a part:
“Ninkasi, You are the one who handles the dough with a big shovel….you are the one who waters the malt set on the ground. … You are the one who soaks the malt in a jar, the waves rise, the waves fall… You are the one who spreads the cooked mash on large reed mats, and coolness overcomes.”
The Ancient Egyptians were also beer fanatics. They believed that beer brewing knowledge was a gift from the god Osiris, and they incorporated the beverage into their religious ceremonies. It also infiltrated other parts of Egyptian culture – during the building of the Great Pyramids in Gaza, every Egyptian worker got a daily ration of four to five liters of beer, which served as both nutrition and refreshment. This was crucial to the pyramids’ construction.
Adding unusual flavors to beer is not a new phenomenon. Before the first hipster microbrewery opened, ancient beer-makers were using ingredients like carrots, bog myrtle, hemp and cheese to make their concoctions. But one component that can be found in virtually every beer today took a while to enter the picture. That would be hops, the ingredient that gives beer its bitter, floral taste. Though it’s more noticeable in IPAs, the vast majority of beers depend on hops to balance out their sweetness. And hops, by the way, isn’t the name of the plant: it’s the name of the flower, or “cone”, that comes from the plant. The plant itself is called Humulus lupulus, which means “climbing wolf” in Latin.
Given that, at this point, you have gained some new knowledge on the mighty beverage we all so deeply enjoy, if you have satisfied your curiosity I encourage you to go to your fridge, open a cold frisky one and enjoy the rest of your day!
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