The Development of Beer
by Ricardo Roces
Take a swig, and read on!
No children without sex - no drunkenness without beer.
-Ancient Sumerian Proverb
Ancient Near East
Ancient Sumerians have the earliest written record mentioning beer.
Their prayers or songs to their gods, specifically the Hymn to Ninkasi, which can be taken as an actual recipe.
Hammurabi makes special mention of brewers also to assure quality. The
beer in this case was most likely used for nutrition, like a liquid form
of bread. Probably, the first brewers were women, the ones who processed
harvested grain. Beers had a much higher nutrition value, and was a meal
by itself. Could it be that nature did the process by herself, when wet
grain was stored in the wrong place? What sort of person could you be to
try out spoiled wet grain?
See the link below for an interesting argument and a recipe from the Hymn
of Ninkasi. The argument questions whether beer came before bread,
and if beer caused the shift from hunter-gatherers to settled farmers.
- Sumerian Beer Page [Link no longer works]
Old Egyptian Brewery as described
by Manathos High Priest in
(Sketch of Egyptian brewery to go here)
Heliopolis 3rd century BC
He who drinks beer sleeps well. he who sleeps well cannot
sin. He who does not sin goes to heaven. Amen.
Beer during the middle ages was very popular, and probably went through
During the early medieval period, beer was being brewed in homes, and sometimes
among communities. The brew probably tasted like a malted porridge of some
sort, no way near what we have now. It was also probably much stronger
in alcohol, since the preservative effects of hops had not yet been introduced.
We can never be sure what herbs were used then, any ingredient from oak
bark, garlic, ginger, cinnamon, rosemary or berries could have been used.
One recipe called cock ale uses chicken for flavor! Charlemagne himself
is said to have brewed and drank beer. The Domesday Book, Walter de Biblesworth,
Chaucer and many other medieval authors write about ales and beer.
What made beer so cherished was probably due to health reasons. In a period
of plagues, water was probably the most unsafe beverage. However, beer,
because of the "cooking" process was some how sterilized. By then beer
had become a standard beverage, drank by men and women of all ages, and
enjoyed with a meal or in a tavern. Monasteries had the best brews, with
monks becoming experts at brewing. The beer they served, no doubt, had
the effect of cheer for the troubled population.
Hops were probably introduced in the early 16th century. From then on,
beer got it's bitter taste, and aided the clearing process and improved
Try these links for Medieval brews:
The Reinheitsgebot of 1516 AD, oldest consumer protection text we have, also known as the
German Beer Purity Law, shows the concern of the Medieval peoples about
their beer. See the link below for more trivia:
For actual period recipes, see this recipe
Women and Beer
A woman is a lot like beer. They smell good, they look good,
and you'd step over your own mother to get one.
We must credit women for their part in beer's development. Most likely,
it was women who discovered beer. Furthermore, though most men claim this
role today, beer brewers were mostly women up until the late medieval period.
Stiles' Women & Brewing in the Middle Ages
Inside an Early Modern Medieval
Woodcut of Medieval brewery to go here
For More on Beer follow These Links: