Where Did Beer Originate From?
While enjoying a pint of craft beer, have you ever stopped and wondered about the history of the world’s most popular fermented beverage? We often hear this question from guests on our Brews Cruise tours. We’ve put together a lesson on the origins of beer from its oldest records all the way to the present day, so the next time you crack open a cold one you will have a deeper understanding of the history of beer.
Let’s start with a pop quiz: Where in the world and during what period of time was beer invented?
If you said in Germany in the Middle Ages, you are not alone with that belief. Many people associate the well-known German drinking culture with the birthplace of beer.
It is true that modern-day beer styles were mostly developed in Europe (especially in Germany). But through research, we now know that beer was first enjoyed in ancient Mesopotamia.
The Germans do love their beer, but it was not actually first created there. Zum wohl!
Here are some of the key civilizations involved in the foundation of the beer we know and love today.
There are some theories that beer brewing happened at Godin Tepe settlement (now in modern-day Iran) as early as 10,000 BCE when agriculture first developed in the region.
The people who lived in the land between the Euphrates and Tigris rivers considered beer a very important part of their diet. They called it “
Alulu beer receipt – This records a purchase of “best” beer from a brewer, c. 2050 BC from the Sumerian city of Umma in ancient Iraq
The first solid proof of beer production comes from the period of the Sumerians around 4,000 BCE. During an archeological excavation in Mesopotamia, a tablet was discovered that showed villagers drinking a beverage from a bowl with straws.
Archeologists also found an ode to Ninkasi, the patron goddess of brewing. This poem also contained the oldest known recipe for making beer using barley from bread.
The next civilization known for beer consumption was also from Mesopotamia – the people from the great city of Babylon.
Babylonians produced over 20 different types of beer around 3,000 BCE.
Beer was also considered divine in Babylon, a true gift from the Gods. It was also a sign of wealth.
The temples issued workers with daily rations of barley beer, the staple drink of Mesopotamia.
The Code of Hammurabi, the ancient Babylonian set of laws, decreed a daily beer ration to citizens.
Every citizen had his daily dose of beer, depending on his wealth. The drink was so respected that people were sometimes paid for work in beer, instead of money.
There was no way of filtering beer back then, so their beer was pretty thick (like porridge) and hard to drink.
To avoid this problem, ancient Babylonians were first to use straws to drink a beverage.
Although Sumerians and Babylonians both considered beer sacred, there was hardly a civilization that adored beer as much as the ancient Egyptians did around 1500 BCE.
The Egyptian goddess of beer was Tenenit. Her name derives from tenemu, one of the many words in the Egyptian language for beer.
Egyptians were excellent brewers and they were constantly working on the taste of beer step-by-step so that it would be less bitter and taste better.
Ancient Egyptian Brewery and Bakery
The most popular beer in Egypt was Heqet (or Hecht). This was a honey-flavored brew and their general word for beer was zytum.
Beer was often used throughout Egypt as compensation for labor. The workers at the Giza plateau received beer rations three times a day and workers on the Nile were often paid for their work in beer.
Archeologists have even found beer buried in the tombs of the Pharaohs, so they could enjoy the taste of this delicious beverage in the afterlife.
Ancient Greece and Rome
How did beer migrate to Europe and become popular around that continent? The Greeks and Romans!
Beer brewing techniques made its way from Egypt to Greece (as we know from the Greek word for beer,
At this time, wine was so popular that it was the drink considered a gift from the gods. Therefore, beer was considered a barbaric drink and only fit for lower classes to imbibe.
Mosaic floor with slaves serving beer at a banquet, found in Dougga (3rd century CE)
Even so, the Romans were brewing beer (called cerevisia) quite early as evidenced by discoveries in the tomb of a beer brewer and merchant (a Cerveserius) in ancient Treveris (modern-day Trier).
Beer was one of the most common drinks on the outskirts of the empire, and the legions of Rome brought beer to Northern Europe. Roman soldiers were able to enjoy a refreshing cup of beer on their long journeys.
The Middle Ages
And then came the Middle Ages. During this period beer was mostly produced in monasteries all across Europe.
With its high nutritional value, beer was a perfect beverage for monks during times of fasting.Since monks liked the beverage, in some monasteries, monks could drink up to five liters of beer per day.
It was the beer production that helped the monasteries to survive the Dark Ages, as they made enough money to live from selling their beer.
Introduction of Hops
Around 1000 AD, people started using hops in the brewing process. This refined its taste by making it much less bitter and gave us the beer as we know it today.
Usage of hops in beer production started spreading across Europe.
First Commercial Breweries
In the 13th century AD, beer finally started being produced commercially in Germany, England, and Austria. You know we would get back to Germany at some point.
The Germans were brewing beer (which they called ol, for `ale’) as early as 800 BCE.
Large quantities of beer jugs, still containing evidence of the beer, were discovered in a tomb in the Village of Kasendorf in northern Bavaria, near Kulmbach.
The German brewers soon set the standard for most beer makers in Europe. Their beer was of the highest quality, particularly because it was really cold and had a better taste.
The Renaissance Period
During the Renaissance period, beer production also had its “Renaissance”, which means “rebirth” in English.
In 1516, came the German Reinheitsgebot (Beer Purity Law).
The actual text of the Reinheitsgebot.
According to this German law, beer could only contain water, barley, and hops. In the mid-1800s, the importance of yeast was discovered by people such as Louis Pasteur and it was added to the “approved” ingredient list.
The Reinheitsgebot was the world’s first consumer protection law as it regulated the ingredients which could legally be used in brewing beer. It also guaranteed that there was a certain level of purity in German-made beer, which gave it the perception that it was safe to drink.
The Germans, like those who preceded them, also instituted a daily beer ration and considered beer a necessary staple of their diet.
The Modern ages
Breweries were emerging one after another in the colonies of North America. The first brewery on the New Continent was in New Amsterdam (which will later become New York City). Both George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were producing beer. George Washington himself wrote a recipe on how to brew beer.
In the nineteenth century, beer was widely famous as the world’s number one alcoholic beverage. This period of modern history marks the start of the biggest changes in beer production, such as using yeast for fermentation.
In 1810, Oktoberfest was first held in Munich. Its origins can be traced back to wedding festivities that actually featured mostly wine.
The citizens of Munich were invited to attend the festivities held on the fields in front of the city gates to celebrate the happy royal event.
Prince Regent Ludwig of Bavaria, the later King Ludwig I, and Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen were married on October 17, 1810. The entire city was invited to the city gates to celebrate and observe a huge horse race.
Over two hundred years later, it’s now the world’s largest beer festival. Munich traditionally hosts millions of beer lovers who all gather annually to enjoy the finest German beer.
As mentioned earlier, it was the famous Louis Pasteur who discovered that yeast causes fermentation. His writings on the impact of yeast to control fermentation marked the single biggest discovery to allow for faithful replication of consistent beer batches.
Along with the newly invented processes of automatic bottling and refrigeration, breweries and beer grew tremendously across the world. By the end of the nineteenth century, there were 3200 breweries in the United States of America alone.
And then the Dark Ages hit again. But this time, they were dark only for ones who enjoyed a nice cold drink.
Prohibition started in Portland, Maine, with the so-called Maine Law penned by Neal Dow in 1851. The new law forbid the manufacture and sale of all types of alcohol statewide.
Soon, other states followed suit and America was well on its way to total abstinence from alcohol.
Prohibition took effect nationally in 1920, and suddenly everyone who enjoyed a nice drink was considered a criminal. Of course, there were people who profited from this, mostly mobsters and bootleggers who ran underground breweries.
New Yorkers bid farewell to the 18th Amendment that legalized Prohibition and which was repealed by the 21st Amendment on Dec. 5, 1933.
The Prohibition eventually ended in 1933, but its impact was obvious. From the 3,200 breweries mentioned above, there were only 160 still operating after the era of Prohibition.
Today, we can call ourselves incredibly lucky. We live in an era where not only can you drink beer when you want, but we also have an incredible variety of different beers to choose from. There are nearly 9,000 breweries in the U.S., and they are producing an endless array of different styles and flavors of beer.
We’ll drink to that!
For over 15 years, Brews Cruise tours have been bringing thirsty guests on expertly guided all-inclusive tours and activities to discover incredible breweries, wineries, and distilleries all over the United States.
Learn more about our various activities in Asheville, Boise, Charlotte, Charleston, Chicagoland, Greenville, Portland (ME), Walla Walla, and Whitefish (MT).
Who Invented Beer? – HISTORY
If you’re searching for an original brewmaster to toast the next time you knock back a cold one, you might be out of luck. It’s difficult to attribute the invention of beer to a particular culture or time period, but the world’s first fermented beverages most likely emerged alongside the development of cereal agriculture some 12,000 years ago. As hunter-gatherer tribes settled into agrarian civilizations based around staple crops like wheat, rice, barley and maize, they may have also stumbled upon the fermentation process and started brewing beer. In fact, some anthropologists have argued that these early peoples’ insatiable thirst for hooch may have contributed to the Neolithic Revolution by inspiring new agricultural technologies.
The earliest known alcoholic beverage is a 9,000-year-old Chinese concoction made from rice, honey and fruit, but the first barley beer was most likely born in the Middle East. While people were no doubt imbibing it much earlier, hard evidence of beer production dates back about 5,000 years to the Sumerians of ancient Mesopotamia. Archeologists have unearthed ceramic vessels from 3400 B.C. still sticky with beer residue, and 1800 B.C.’s “Hymn to Ninkasi”—an ode to the Sumerian goddess of beer—describes a recipe for a beloved ancient brew made by female priestesses. These nutrient-rich suds were a cornerstone of the Sumerian diet, and were likely a safer alternative to drinking water from nearby rivers and canals, which were often contaminated by animal waste.
Beer consumption also flourished under the Babylonian Empire, but few ancient cultures loved knocking back a few as much as the Egyptians. Workers along the Nile were often paid with an allotment of a nutritious, sweet brew, and everyone from pharaohs to peasants and even children drank beer as part of their everyday diet. Many of these ancient beers were flavored with unusual additives such as mandrake, dates and olive oil. More modern-tasting libations would not arrive until the Middle Ages, when Christian monks and other artisans began brewing beers seasoned with hops.
Beer in the Ancient World
The intoxicant known in English as `beer’ takes its name from the Latin `bibere’ (by way of the German `bier’) meaning `to drink’ and the Spanish word for beer, cerveza’ comes from the Latin word `cerevisia’ for `of beer’, giving some indication of the long span human beings have been enjoying the drink.
Even so, beer brewing did not originate with the Romans but began thousands of years earlier. The Chinese brewed a type of beer but the product which became the most popular is credited to the Sumerians of Mesopotamia and most likely began over 10,000 years ago. The site known as Godin Tepe (in modern-day Iran) has provided evidence of beer brewing c. 3500 while sites excavated in Sumer suggest an even earlier date based on ceramics considered the remains of beer jugs and residue found in other ancient containers. Even so, the date of c. 4000 BCE is usually given for the creation of beer.
The craft of beer brewing traveled to Egypt through trade and the Egyptians improved upon the original process, creating a lighter product that enjoyed great popularity. Although beer was known afterwards to the Greeks and Romans, it never gained the same kind of following as those cultures preferred wine and thought of beer as a “barbarian” drink. One of the many peoples they regarded as “barbarians” – the Germans – perfected the art of brewing and created what is recognized today as beer.
First Beer Brewing
The first beer in the world was brewed by the ancient Chinese around the year 7000 BCE (known as kui). In the west, however, the process now recognized as beer brewing began in Mesopotamia at the Godin Tepe settlement now in modern-day Iran between 3500 – 3100 BCE. Evidence of beer manufacture has been confirmed between these dates but it is probable that the brewing of beer in Sumer (southern Mesopotamia, modern-day Iraq) was in practice much earlier.
Some evidence has been interpreted, however, which sets the date of beer brewing at Godin Tepe as early as 10,000 BCE when agriculture first developed in the region. While some scholars have contended that beer was discovered accidentally through grains used for bread-making which fermented, others claim that it preceded bread as a staple and that it was developed intentionally as an intoxicant. The scholar Max Nelson writes:
Fruits often naturally ferment through the actions of wild yeast and the resultant alcoholic mixtures are often sought out and enjoyed by animals. Pre-agricultural humans in various areas from the Neolithic Period on surely similarly sought out such fermenting fruits and probably even collected wild fruits in the hopes that they would have an interesting physical effect (that is, be intoxicating) if left in the open air. (9)
This theory of the intentional brewing of intoxicants, whether beer, wine, or other drink, is supported by the historical record which strongly suggests that human beings, after taking care of their immediate needs of food, shelter, and rudimentary laws, will then pursue the creation of some type of intoxicant. Although beer as it is recognized in the modern day was developed in Europe (specifically in Germany), the brew was first enjoyed in ancient Mesopotamia.
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Mesopotamian Beer Rations Tablet
Osama Shukir Muhammed Amin (CC BY-NC-SA)
Beer in Mesopotamia
The people of ancient Mesopotamia enjoyed beer so much that it was a daily dietary staple. Paintings, poems, and myths depict both human beings and their gods enjoying beer which was consumed through a straw to filter out pieces of bread or herbs in the drink. The brew was thick, of the consistency of modern-day porridge, and the straw was invented by the Sumerians or the Babylonians, it is thought, specifically for the purpose of drinking beer.
The famous poem Inanna and the God of Wisdom describes the two deities drinking beer together and the god of wisdom, Enki, becoming so drunk he gives away the sacred meh (laws of civilization) to Inanna (thought to symbolize the transfer of power from Eridu, the city of Enki, to Uruk, the city of Inanna). The Sumerian poem Hymn to Ninkasi is both a song of praise to the goddess of beer, Ninkasi, and a recipe for beer, first written down around 1800 BCE.
In the Sumerian/Babylonian The Epic of Gilgamesh, the hero Enkidu becomes civilized through the ministrations of the temple harlot Shamhat who, among other things, teaches him to drink beer. Later in the story, the barmaid Siduri counsels Gilgamesh to give up his quest for the meaning of life and simply enjoy what it has to offer, including beer.
The Sumerians had many different words for beer from sikaru to dida to ebir (which meant `beer mug’) and regarded the drink as a gift from the gods to promote human happiness and well being. The original brewers were women, the priestesses of Ninkasi, and women brewed beer regularly in the home as part of their preparation of meals. Beer was made from bippar (twice-baked barley bread) which was then fermented and beer brewing was always associated with baking. The famous Alulu beer receipt from the city of Ur in 2050 BCE, however, shows that beer brewing had become commercialized by that time. The tablet acknowledges receipt of 5 Silas of `the best beer’ from the brewer Alulu (five Silas being approximately four and a half litres).
Under Babylonian rule, Mesopotamian beer production increased dramatically, became more commercialized, and laws were instituted concerning it as paragraphs 108-110 of the Code of Hammurabi make clear:
If a tavern-keeper (feminine) does not accept grain according to gross weight in payment of drink, but takes money, and the price of the drink is less than that of the grain, she shall be convicted and thrown into the water.
If conspirators meet in the house of a tavern-keeper, and these conspirators are not captured and delivered to the court, the tavern-keeper shall be put to death.
If a “sister of a god” open a tavern, or enter a tavern to drink, then shall this woman be burned to death.
Law 108 had to do with those tavern keepers who poured `short measures’ of beer in return for cash instead of grain (which could be weighed and held to a measure) to cheat their customers; they would be drowned if caught doing so. Beer was commonly used in barter, not for cash sale, and a daily ration of beer was provided for all citizens; the amount received depended on one’s social status.
The second law concerns tavern keepers encouraging treason by allowing malcontents to gather in their establishment and the third law cited concerns women who were consecrated to, or were priestesses of, a certain deity opening a common drinking house or drinking in an already established tavern. The Babylonians had nothing against a priestess drinking beer (as, with the Sumerians, beer was considered a gift from the gods) but objected to one doing so in the same way as common women would.
The Babylonians brewed many different kinds of beer and classified them into twenty categories which recorded their various characteristics. Beer became a regular commodity in foreign trade, especially with Egypt, where it was very popular.
Beer in Ancient Egypt
The Egyptian goddess of beer was Tenenit (closely associated Meskhenet, goddess of childbirth and protector of the birthing house) whose name derives from tenemu, one of the Egyptian words for beer. The most popular beer in Egypt was Heqet (or Hecht) which was a honey-flavored brew and their word for beer in general was zytum. The workers at the Giza plateau received beer rations three times a day and beer was often used throughout Egypt as compensation for labor.
The Egyptians believed that brewing was taught to human beings by the great god Osiris himself and in this, and other regards, they viewed beer in much the same way as the Mesopotamians did. As in Mesopotamia, women were the chief brewers at first and brewed in their homes, the beer initially had the same thick, porridge-like consistency, and was brewed in much the same way. Later, men took over the business of brewing and miniature carved figures found in the tomb of Meketre (Prime Minister to the pharaoh Mentuhotep II, 2050-2000 BCE) show an ancient brewery at work. According to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, describing the diorama, “The overseer with a baton sits inside the door. In the brewery two women grind flour, which another man works into dough. After a second man treads the dough into mash in a tall vat, it is put into tall crocks to ferment. After fermentation, it is poured off into round jugs with black clay stoppers” (1).
Ancient Egyptian Brewery and Bakery
Keith Schengili-Roberts (CC BY-SA)
Beer played an integral role in the very popular myth of the birth of the goddess Hathor. According to the tale (which forms part of the text of the Book of the Heavenly Cow – a version of the Great Flood myth which pre-dates the biblical tale of the Flood in the biblical book of Genesis) the god Ra, incensed at the evil and ingratitude of humanity who have rebelled against him, sends Hathor to earth to destroy his creation. Hathor sets to work and falls into an intense blood lust as she slaughters humanity, transforming herself into the goddess Sekhmet. Ra is at first pleased but then repents of his decision as Sekhmet’s blood lust grows with the destruction of every town and city. He has a great quantity of beer dyed red and dropped at the city of Dendera where Sekhmet, thinking it is a huge pool of blood, stops her rampage to drink. She gets drunk, falls asleep, and wakes again as the goddess Hathor, the benevolent deity of, among other things, music, laughter, the sky and, especially, gratitude.
The association between gratitude, Hathor and beer, is highlighted by an inscription from 2200 BCE found at Dendera, Hathor’s cult center: “The mouth of a perfectly contented man is filled with beer.” Beer was enjoyed so regularly among the Egyptians that Queen Cleopatra VII (c.69-30 BCE) lost popularity toward the end of her reign more for implementing a tax on beer (the first ever) than for her wars with Rome which the beer tax went to help pay for (although she claimed the tax was to deter public drunkeness). As beer was often prescribed for medicinal purposes (there were over 100 remedies using beer) the tax was considered unjust.
Beer in Ancient Greece and Rome
Beer brewing traveled from Egypt to Greece (as we know from the Greek word for beer, zythos from the Egyptian zytum) but did not find the same receptive climate there. The Greeks favored strong wine over beer, as did the Romans after them, and both cultures considered beer a low-class drink of barbarians. The Greek general and writer Xenophon, in Book IV of his Anabasis, writes:
There were stores within of wheat and barley and vegetables, and wine made from barley in great big bowls; the grains of barley malt lay floating in the beverage up to the lip of the vessel, and reeds lay in them, some longer, some shorter, without joints; when you were thirsty you must take one of these into your mouth, and suck. The beverage without admixture of water was very strong, and of a delicious flavour to certain palates, but the taste must be acquired. (26-27)
Clearly, beer was not to Xenophon’s taste; nor was it any more popular with his countrymen. The playwright Sophocles, among others, also refers to beer somewhat unfavorably and recommends moderation in its use. The Roman historian, Tacitus, writing of the Germans, says, “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” and the Emperor Julian composed a poem claiming the scent of wine was of nectar while the smell of beer was that of a goat.
Even so, the Romans were brewing beer (cerevisia) quite early as evidenced by the tomb of a beer brewer and merchant (a Cerveserius) in ancient Treveris (modern day Trier). Excavations of the Roman military encampment on the Danube, Castra Regina (modern day Regensburg) have unearthed evidence of beer brewing on a significant scale shortly after the community was built in 179 CE by Marcus Aurelius.
Still, beer was not as popular as wine among the Celts and this attitude was encouraged by the Romans who had favored wine all along. The Celtic tribes paid enormous sums for wine provided by Italian merchants and the people of Gaul were famous for their love of Italian wines. Beer brewing continued to develop, however, in spite of the views of the elite that it was a low-class drink suitable only to barbarians and developed throughout Europe beginning in Germany.
Beer in Northern Europe
The Germans were brewing beer (which they called ol, for `ale’) as early as 800 BCE as is known from great quantities of beer jugs, still containing evidence of the beer, in a tomb in the Village of Kasendorf in northern Bavaria, near Kulmbach. That the practice continued into the Christian era is evidenced by further archaeological finds and the written record. Early on, as it had been in Mesopotamia and Egypt, the craft of the brewer was the provenance of women and the Hausfrau brewed her beer in the home to supplement the daily meals.
In time, however, the craft was taken over by Christian monks, primarily, and brewing became an integral part of the Monastic life. The Kulmbacher Monchshof Kloster, a monastery founded in 1349 CE in Kulmbach, still produces their famous Schwartzbier, among other brews, today. In 1516 CE the German Reinheitsgebot (purity law) was instituted which regulated the ingredients which could legally be used in brewing beer (only water, barley, hops and, later, yeast) and, in so doing, continued the practice of legislation concerning beer which the Babylonians under Hammurabi had done some three thousand years earlier. The Germans, like those who preceeded them, also instituted a daily beer ration and considered beer a necessary staple of their diet.
From the Celtic lands (Germany through Britain, though which country brewed first is disputed) beer brewing spread, always following the same basic principles first instituted by the Sumerians: female brewers making beer in the home, use of fresh, hot water and fermented grains. The Finnish Saga of Kalewala (first written down in the 17th century CE from much older, pre-Christian, tales and consolidated in its present form in the 19th century) sings of the creation of beer at length, devoting more lines to the creation of beer than the creation of the world.
The female brewer, Osmata, trying to make a great beer for a wedding feast, discovers the use of hops in brewing with the help of a bee she sends to gather the magical plant. The poem expresses an admiration for the effects of beer which any modern-day drinker would recognize:
Great indeed the reputation
Of the ancient beer of Kalew,
Said to make the feeble hardy,
Famed to dry the tears of women,
Famed to cheer the broken-hearted,
Make the aged young and supple,
Make the timid brave and mighty,
Make the brave men ever braver,
Fill the heart with joy and gladness,
Fill the mind with wisdom-sayings,
Fill the tongue with ancient legends,
Only makes the fool more foolish.
In the Finnish saga, as in the writings of the ancient Sumerians, beer was considered a magical brew from the gods endowing the drinker with health, peace of mind and happiness. This idea was cleverly phrased by the poet A.E. Houseman when he wrote, “Malt does more than Milton can to justify God’s ways to man” (a reference to the English poet John Milton and his `Paradise Lost’). From ancient Sumeria to the present day, Houseman’s claim would go undisputed among those who have enjoyed the drink of the gods.
This article has been reviewed for accuracy, reliability and adherence to academic standards prior to publication.
The Beer Archaeologist | HistoryAncient cultures used an array of ingredients to make their alcoholic beverages, including emmer wheat, wild yeast, chamomile, thyme and oregano. Landon Nordeman
It’s just after dawn at the Dogfish Head brewpub in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, where the ambition for the morning is to resurrect an Egyptian ale whose recipe dates back thousands of years.
But will the za’atar—a potent Middle Eastern spice mixture redolent of oregano—clobber the soft, floral flavor of the chamomile? And what about the dried doum-palm fruit, which has been giving off a worrisome fungusy scent ever since it was dropped in a brandy snifter of hot water and sampled as a tea?
“I want Dr. Pat to try this,” says Sam Calagione, Dogfish Head’s founder, frowning into his glass.
At last, Patrick McGovern, a 66-year-old archaeologist, wanders into the little pub, an oddity among the hip young brewers in their sweat shirts and flannel. Proper to the point of primness, the University of Pennsylvania adjunct professor sports a crisp polo shirt, pressed khakis and well-tended loafers; his wire spectacles peek out from a blizzard of white hair and beard. But Calagione, grinning broadly, greets the dignified visitor like a treasured drinking buddy. Which, in a sense, he is.
The truest alcohol enthusiasts will try almost anything to conjure the libations of old. They’ll slaughter goats to fashion fresh wineskins, so the vintage takes on an authentically gamey taste. They’ll brew beer in dung-tempered pottery or boil it by dropping in hot rocks. The Anchor Steam Brewery, in San Francisco, once cribbed ingredients from a 4,000-year-old hymn to Ninkasi, the Sumerian beer goddess.
“Dr. Pat,” as he’s known at Dogfish Head, is the world’s foremost expert on ancient fermented beverages, and he cracks long-forgotten recipes with chemistry, scouring ancient kegs and bottles for residue samples to scrutinize in the lab. He has identified the world’s oldest known barley beer (from Iran’s Zagros Mountains, dating to 3400 B.C.), the oldest grape wine (also from the Zagros, circa 5400 B.C.) and the earliest known booze of any kind, a Neolithic grog from China’s Yellow River Valley brewed some 9,000 years ago.
Widely published in academic journals and books, McGovern’s research has shed light on agriculture, medicine and trade routes during the pre-biblical era. But—and here’s where Calagione’s grin comes in—it’s also inspired a couple of Dogfish Head’s offerings, including Midas Touch, a beer based on decrepit refreshments recovered from King Midas’ 700 B.C. tomb, which has received more medals than any other Dogfish creation.
“It’s called experimental archaeology,” McGovern explains.
To devise this latest Egyptian drink, the archaeologist and the brewer toured acres of spice stalls at the Khan el-Khalili, Cairo’s oldest and largest market, handpicking ingredients amid the squawks of soon-to-be decapitated chickens and under the surveillance of cameras for “Brew Masters,” a Discovery Channel reality show about Calagione’s business.
The ancients were liable to spike their drinks with all sorts of unpredictable stuff—olive oil, bog myrtle, cheese, meadowsweet, mugwort, carrot, not to mention hallucinogens like hemp and poppy. But Calagione and McGovern based their Egyptian selections on the archaeologist’s work with the tomb of the Pharaoh Scorpion I, where a curious combination of savory, thyme and coriander showed up in the residues of libations interred with the monarch in 3150 B.C. (They decided the za’atar spice medley, which frequently includes all those herbs, plus oregano and several others, was a current-day substitute.) Other guidelines came from the even more ancient Wadi Kubbaniya, an 18,000-year-old site in Upper Egypt where starch-dusted stones, probably used for grinding sorghum or bulrush, were found with the remains of doum-palm fruit and chamomile. It’s difficult to confirm, but “it’s very likely they were making beer there,” McGovern says.
The brewers also went so far as to harvest a local yeast, which might be descended from ancient varieties (many commercial beers are made with manufactured cultures). They left sugar-filled petri dishes out overnight at a remote Egyptian date farm, to capture wild airborne yeast cells, then mailed the samples to a Belgian lab, where the organisms were isolated and grown in large quantities.
Back at Dogfish Head, the tea of ingredients now inexplicably smacks of pineapple. McGovern advises the brewers to use less za’atar; they comply. The spices are dumped into a stainless steel kettle to stew with barley sugars and hops. McGovern acknowledges that the heat source should technically be wood or dried dung, not gas, but he notes approvingly that the kettle’s base is insulated with bricks, a suitably ancient technique.
As the beer boils during lunch break, McGovern sidles up to the brewery’s well-appointed bar and pours a tall, frosty Midas Touch for himself, spurning the Cokes nursed by the other brewers. He’s fond of citing the role of beer in ancient workplaces. “For the pyramids, each worker got a daily ration of four to five liters,” he says loudly, perhaps for Calagione’s benefit. “It was a source of nutrition, refreshment and reward for all the hard work. It was beer for pay. You would have had a rebellion on your hands if they’d run out. The pyramids might not have been built if there hadn’t been enough beer.”
Soon the little brew room is filled with fragrant roiling steam, with hints of toast and molasses—an aroma that can only be described as intoxicating. The wort, or unfermented beer, emerges a pretty palomino color; the brewers add flasks of the yellowish, murky-looking Egyptian yeast and fermentation begins.
They plan on making just seven kegs of the experimental beverage, to be unveiled in New York City two weeks later. The brewers are concerned because the beer will need that much time to age and nobody will be able to taste it in advance.
McGovern, though, is thinking on another time scale entirely. “This probably hasn’t been smelled for 18,000 years,” he sighs, inhaling the delicious air.
The shelves of McGovern’s office in the University of Pennsylvania Museum are packed with sober-sounding volumes—Structural Inorganic Chemistry, Cattle-Keepers of the Eastern Sahara—along with bits of bacchanalia. There are replicas of ancient bronze drinking vessels, stoppered flasks of Chinese rice wine and an old empty Midas Touch bottle with a bit of amber goo in the bottom that might intrigue archaeologists thousands of years hence. There’s also a wreath that his wife, Doris, a retired university administrator, wove from wild Pennsylvania grape vines and the corks of favorite bottles. But while McGovern will occasionally toast a promising excavation with a splash of white wine sipped from a lab beaker, the only suggestion of personal vice is a stack of chocolate Jell-O pudding cups.
The scientific director of the university’s Biomolecular Archaeology Laboratory for Cuisine, Fermented Beverages, and Health, McGovern had had an eventful fall. Along with touring Egypt with Calagione, he traveled to Austria for a conference on Iranian wine and also to France, where he attended a wine conference in Burgundy, toured a trio of Champagne houses, drank Chablis in Chablis and stopped by a critical excavation near the southern coast.
Yet even strolling the halls with McGovern can be an education. Another professor stops him to discuss, at length, the folly of extracting woolly mammoth fats from permafrost. Then we run into Alexei Vranich, an expert on pre-Columbian Peru, who complains that the last time he drank chicha (a traditional Peruvian beer made with corn that has been chewed and spit out), the accompanying meal of roast guinea pigs was egregiously undercooked. “You want guinea pigs crunchy, like bacon,” Vranich says. He and McGovern talk chicha for a while. “Thank you so much for your research,” Vranich says as he departs. “I keep telling people that beer is more important than armies when it comes to understanding people.”
We are making our way down to the human ecology lab, where McGovern’s technicians are borrowing some equipment. McGovern has innumerable collaborators, partly because his work is so engaging, and partly because he is able to repay kindnesses with bottles of Midas Touch, whose Iron Age-era recipe of muscat grapes, saffron, barley and honey is said to be reminiscent of Sauternes, the glorious French dessert wine.
In the lab, a flask of coffee-colored liquid bubbles on a hot plate. It contains tiny fragments from an ancient Etruscan amphora found at the French dig McGovern had just visited. The ceramic powder, which had been painstakingly extracted from the amphora’s base with a diamond drill, is boiling in a chloroform and methanol solvent meant to pull out ancient organic compounds that might have soaked into the pottery. McGovern is hoping to determine whether the amphora once contained wine, which would point to how the beverage arrived in France in the first place—a rather ticklish topic.
“We think of France as sort of synonymous with wine,” McGovern says. “The French spent so much time developing all these different varietals, and those plants were taken all over the world and became the basis of the Australian industry, the Californian industry and so forth. France is a key to the whole worldwide culture of wine, but how did wine get to France? That’s the question.”
Francophiles might not like the answer. Today wine is so integral to French culture that French archaeologists include the cost of cases in their excavation budgets. McGovern, however, suspects that wine was being produced in Etruria—present-day central Italy—well before the first French vineyards were planted on the Mediterranean coast. Until Etruscan merchants began exporting wine to what is now France around 600 B.C., the Gauls were likely guzzling what their epicurean descendants would consider a barbaric blend of honey or wheat, filtered through reeds or mustaches.
McGovern’s Etruscan amphora was excavated from a house in Lattes, France, which was built around 525 B.C. and destroyed in 475 B.C. If the French were still drinking Etruscan vintages at that point, it would suggest they had not established their own wineries yet. The trick is proving that the amphora contained wine.
McGovern can’t simply look for the presence of alcohol, which survives barely a few months, let alone millennia, before evaporating or turning to vinegar. Instead, he pursues what are known as fingerprint compounds. For instance, traces of beeswax hydrocarbons indicate honeyed drinks; calcium oxalate, a bitter, whitish byproduct of brewed barley also known as beer stone, means barley beer.
Tree resin is a strong but not surefire indicator of wine, because vintners of old often added resin as a preservative, lending the beverage a pleasing lemony flavor. (McGovern would like to test the Lattes samples for resin from a cypress-like tree; its presence would suggest the Etruscans were in contact with Phoenician colonies in Northern Africa, where that species grows.) The only foolproof way to identify ancient wine from this region is the presence of tartaric acid, a compound in grapes.
Once the boiling brown pottery mixture cooks down to a powder, says Gretchen Hall, a researcher collaborating with McGovern, they’ll run the sample through an infrared spectrometer. That will produce a distinctive visual pattern based on how its multiple chemical constituents absorb and reflect light. They’ll compare the results against the profile for tartaric acid. If there’s a match or a near-match, they may do other preliminary checks, like the Feigl spot test, in which the sample is mixed with sulfuric acid and a phenol derivative: if the resulting compound glows green under ultraviolet light, it most likely contains tartaric acid. So far, the French samples look promising.
McGovern already sent some material to Armen Mirzoian, a scientist at the federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, whose primary job is verifying the contents of alcoholic beverages—that, say, the gold flakes in the Italian-made Goldschlager schnapps are really gold. (They are.) His Beltsville, Maryland, lab is crowded with oddities such as a confiscated bottle of a distilled South Asian rice drink full of preserved cobras and vodka packaged in a container that looks like a set of Russian nesting dolls. He treats McGovern’s samples with reverence, handling the dusty box like a prized Bordeaux. “It’s almost eerie,” he whispers, fingering the bagged sherds inside. “Some of these are 5,000, 6,000 years old.”
Months later, McGovern e-mails me with good news: Mirzoian has detected tartaric acid in the Lattes samples from France, making it all but certain they contained imported Etruscan wine. Also, the project’s archaeologists have unearthed a limestone treading vat from 400 B.C.—what would seem to be the earliest French wine press, just about 100 years younger than the Etruscan amphora. Between the two sets of artifacts, McGovern hopes to pinpoint the advent of French wine.
“We still need to know more about the other additives,” he says, “but so far we have excellent evidence.”
McGovern’s Irish ancestors opened the first bar in Mitchell, South Dakota, in the late 1800s. His Norwegian predecessors were teetotalers. McGovern credits his relationship with alcohol to this mixed lineage—his interest is avid, not obsessive. In his student days at Cornell University and elsewhere, when McGovern dabbled in everything from neurochemistry to ancient literature, he knew little about alcohol. It was the late 1960s and early 1970s; other mind-altering substances were in vogue; the California wine revolution had barely begun and Americans were still knocking back all manner of swill.
One summer, during which McGovern was “partly in grad school,” he says with the vagueness frequently reserved for the ’70s, he and Doris toured the Middle East and Europe, living on a few dollars a day. En route to Jerusalem, they found themselves wandering Germany’s Mosel wine region, asking small-town mayors if local vintners needed seasonal pickers. One winemaker, whose arbors dotted the steep slate slopes above the Moselle River, took them on, letting them board in his house.
The first night there, the man of the house kept returning from his cellar with bottle after bottle, McGovern recalls, “but he wouldn’t ever show us what year it was. Of course, we didn’t know anything about vintage, because we had never really drunk that much wine, and we were from the United States. But he kept bringing up bottle after bottle without telling us, and by the end of the evening, when we were totally drunk—the worst I’ve ever been, my head going around in circles, lying on the bed feeling like I’m in a vortex—I knew that 1969 was terrible, ’67 was good, ’59 was superb.”
McGovern arose the next morning with a seething hangover and an enduring fascination with wine.
Earning his PhD in Near Eastern archaeology and history from the University of Pennsylvania, he ended up directing a dig in Jordan’s Baq’ah Valley for more than 20 years, and became an expert on Bronze and Iron Age pendants and pottery. (He admits he was once guilty of scrubbing ancient vessels clean of all their gunk.) By the 1980s, he had developed an interest in the study of organic materials—his undergraduate degree was in chemistry—including jars containing royal purple, a once-priceless ancient dye the Phoenicians extracted from sea snail glands. The tools of molecular archaeology were swiftly developing, and a smidgen of sample could yield surprising insights about foods, medicines and even perfumes. Perhaps ancient containers were less important than the residues inside them, McGovern and other scholars began to think.
A chemical study in the late 1970s revealed that a 100 B.C. Roman ship wrecked at sea had likely carried wine, but that was about the extent of ancient beverage science until 1988, when a colleague of McGovern’s who’d been studying Iran’s Godin Tepe site showed him a narrow-necked pottery jar from 3100 B.C. with red stains.
“She thought maybe they were a wine deposit,” McGovern remembers. “We were kind of skeptical about that.” He was even more dubious “that we’d be able to pick up fingerprint compounds that were preserved enough from 5,000 years ago.”
But he figured they should try. He decided tartaric acid was the right marker to look for, “and we started figuring out different tests we could do. Infrared spectrometry. Liquid chromatography. The Feigl spot test….They all showed us that tartaric acid was present,” McGovern says.
He published quietly, in an in-house volume, hardly suspecting that he had discovered a new angle on the ancient world. But the 1990 article came to the attention of Robert Mondavi, the California wine tycoon who had stirred some controversy by promoting wine as part of a healthy lifestyle, calling it “the temperate, civilized, sacred, romantic mealtime beverage recommended in the Bible.” With McGovern’s help, Mondavi organized a lavishly catered academic conference the next year in Napa Valley. Historians, geneticists, linguists, oenologists, archaeologists and viticulture experts from several countries conferred over elaborate dinners, the conversations buoyed by copious drafts of wine. “We were interested in winemaking from all different perspectives,” McGovern says. “We wanted to understand the whole process—to figure out how they domesticated the grape, and where did that happen, how do you tend grapes and the horticulture that goes into it.” A new discipline was born, which scholars jokingly refer to as drinkology, or dipsology, the study of thirst.
Back at Penn, McGovern soon began rifling through the museum’s storage-room catacombs for promising bits of pottery. Forgotten kitchen jars from a Neolithic Iranian village called Hajji Firuz revealed strange yellow stains. McGovern subjected them to his tartaric acid tests; they were positive. He’d happened upon the world’s oldest-known grape wine.
Many of McGovern’s most startling finds stem from other archaeologists’ spadework; he brings a fresh perspective to forgotten digs, and his “excavations” are sometimes no more taxing than walking up or down a flight of stairs in his own museum to retrieve a sherd or two. Residues extracted from the drinking set of King Midas—who ruled over Phrygia, an ancient district of Turkey—had languished in storage for 40 years before McGovern found them and went to work. The artifacts contained more than four pounds of organic materials, a treasure—to a biomolecular archaeologist—far more precious than the king’s fabled gold. But he’s also adamant about travel and has done research on every continent except Australia (though he has lately been intrigued by Aborigine concoctions) and Antarctica (where there are no sources of fermentable sugar, anyway). McGovern is intrigued by traditional African honey beverages in Ethiopia and Uganda, which might illuminate humanity’s first efforts to imbibe, and Peruvian spirits brewed from such diverse sources as quinoa, peanuts and pepper-tree berries. He has downed drinks of all descriptions, including Chinese baijiu, a distilled alcohol that tastes like bananas (but contains no banana) and is approximately 120 proof, and the freshly masticated Peruvian chicha, which he is too polite to admit he despises. (“It’s better when they flavor it with wild strawberries,” he says firmly.)
Partaking is important, he says, because drinking in modern societies offers insight into dead ones.
“I don’t know if fermented beverages explain everything, but they help explain a lot about how cultures have developed,” he says. “You could say that kind of single-mindedness can lead you to over-interpret, but it also helps you make sense of a universal phenomenon.”
McGovern, in fact, believes that booze helped make us human. Yes, plenty of other creatures get drunk. Bingeing on fermented fruits, inebriated elephants go on trampling sprees and wasted birds plummet from their perches. Unlike distillation, which human beings actually invented (in China, around the first century A.D., McGovern suspects), fermentation is a natural process that occurs serendipitously: yeast cells consume sugar and create alcohol. Ripe figs laced with yeast drop from trees and ferment; honey sitting in a tree hollow packs quite a punch if mixed with the right proportion of rainwater and yeast and allowed to stand. Almost certainly, humanity’s first nip was a stumbled-upon, short-lived elixir of this sort, which McGovern likes to call a “Stone Age Beaujolais nouveau.”
But at some point the hunter-gatherers learned to maintain the buzz, a major breakthrough. “By the time we became distinctly human 100,000 years ago, we would have known where there were certain fruits we could collect to make fermented beverages,” McGovern says. “We would have been very deliberate about going at the right time of the year to collect grains, fruits and tubers and making them into beverages at the beginning of the human race.” (Alas, archaeologists are unlikely to find evidence of these preliminary hooches, fermented from things such as figs or baobab fruit, because their creators, in Africa, would have stored them in dried gourds and other containers that did not stand the test of time.)
With a supply of mind-blowing beverages on hand, human civilization was off and running. In what might be called the “beer before bread” hypothesis, the desire for drink may have prompted the domestication of key crops, which led to permanent human settlements. Scientists, for instance, have measured atomic variations within the skeletal remains of New World humans; the technique, known as isotope analysis, allows researchers to determine the diets of the long-deceased. When early Americans first tamed maize around 6000 B.C., they were probably drinking the corn in the form of wine rather than eating it, analysis has shown.
Maybe even more important than their impact on early agriculture and settlement patterns, though, is how prehistoric potions “opened our minds to other possibilities” and helped foster new symbolic ways of thinking that helped make humankind unique, McGovern says. “Fermented beverages are at the center of religions all around the world. [Alcohol] makes us who we are in a lot of ways.” He contends that the altered state of mind that comes with intoxication could have helped fuel cave drawings, shamanistic medicine, dance rituals and other advancements.
When McGovern traveled to China and discovered the oldest known alcohol—a heady blend of wild grapes, hawthorn, rice and honey that is now the basis for Dogfish Head’s Chateau Jiahu—he was touched but not entirely surprised to learn of another “first” unearthed at Jiahu, an ancient Yellow River Valley settlement: delicate flutes, made from the bones of the red-crowned crane, that are the world’s earliest-known, still playable musical instruments.
Alcohol may be at the heart of human life, but the bulk of McGovern’s most significant samples come from tombs. Many bygone cultures seem to have viewed death as a last call of sorts, and mourners provisioned the dead with beverages and receptacles—agate drinking horns, straws of lapis lazuli and, in the case of a Celtic woman buried in Burgundy around the sixth century B.C., a 1,200-liter caldron—so they could continue to drink their fill in eternity. King Scorpion I’s tomb was flush with once-full wine jars. Later Egyptians simply diagramed beer recipes on the walls so the pharaoh’s servants in the afterlife could brew more (presumably freeing up existing beverages for the living).
Some of the departed had festive plans for the afterlife. In 1957, when University of Pennsylvania archaeologists first tunneled into the nearly airtight tomb of King Midas, encased in an earthen mound near Ankara, Turkey, they discovered the body of a 60- to 65-year-old man fabulously arrayed on a bed of purple and blue cloth beside the largest cache of Iron Age drinking paraphernalia ever found: 157 bronze buckets, vats and bowls. And as soon as the archaeologists let fresh air into the vault, the tapestries’ vivid colors began fading before their eyes.
Archaeology is, at heart, a destructive science, McGovern recently told an audience at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian: “Every time you excavate, you destroy.”
That may be why he likes dreaming up new beers so much.
Dogfish Head’s Ta Henket (ancient Egyptian for “bread beer”) was unveiled last November in New York, in the midst of a glittering King Tut exhibit at Discovery Times Square. Euphoric (or maybe just tipsy) beer nerds and a few members of the press file into an auditorium adorned with faux obelisks and bistro tables, each with a bowl of nuts in the center. The words dog, fish and head in hieroglyphics are projected on the walls.
Onstage beside McGovern, Calagione, swigging an auburn-colored ale, tells the flushed crowd about how he and the archaeologist joined forces. In 2000, at a Penn Museum dinner hosted by a British beer and whiskey guidebook writer, Michael Jackson, McGovern announced his intention to recreate King Midas’ last libations from the excavated residue that had moldered in museum storage for 40 years. All interested brewers should meet in his lab at 9 the next morning, he said. Even after the night’s revelry, several dozen showed up. Calagione wooed McGovern with a plum-laced medieval braggot (a type of malt and honey mead) that he had been toying with; McGovern, already a fan of the brewery’s Shelter Pale Ale, soon paid a visit to the Delaware facility.
When he first met Dr. Pat, Calagione tells the audience, “the first thing I was struck by was, ‘Oh my God, this guy looks nothing like a professor.’” The crowd roars with laughter. McGovern, buttoned into a cardigan sweater, is practically the hieroglyphic for professor. But he won over the brewer when, a few minutes into that first morning meeting, he filled his coffee mug with Chicory Stout. “He’s one of us,” Calagione says. “He’s a beer guy.”
Ta Henket is their fifth collaboration—along with Midas Touch and Chateau Jiahu, they’ve made Theobroma, based on an archaic Honduran chocolate drink, and chicha. (All are commercially available, though only five barrels of the chicha are made per year.) McGovern is paid for his consulting services.
Now the inaugural pitchers of Ta Henket are being poured from kegs at the back of the room. Neither Calagione nor McGovern has yet tasted the stuff. It emerges peach-colored and opaque, the foam as thick as whipped cream.
The brew, which will be available for sale this fall, later receives mixed reviews online. “Think citrus, herbs, bubblegum,” one reviewer writes. “Rosemary? Honey? Sesame? I can’t identify all the spices.”
“Nose is old vegetables and yeast,” says another.
As soon as he has sampled a mouthful, McGovern seizes a pitcher and begins pouring pints for the audience, giving off a shy glow. He enjoys the showmanship. When Midas Touch debuted in 2000, he helped recreate the ruler’s funerary feast in a gallery of the Penn Museum. The main course was a traditional lentil and barbecued lamb stew, followed by fennel tarts in pomegranate jus. Midas’ eternal beverage of choice was served with dessert, in wine glasses that showed off its bewitching color—a warm caramel with glimmers of gold.
In his laboratory, McGovern keeps an envelope containing Neolithic grape seeds, which he wheedled out of a viticulture professor in Georgia (the country, not the state) years ago. The man had six desiccated pips in good condition, ideal for DNA analysis.
“I said, ‘Maybe we could take some of those back and analyze them,’” McGovern recalls. “He said, ‘No, no, they’re too important.’” “This would be for the cause of science,” McGovern persisted.
The Georgian left the room for a moment to agonize, and returned to say that McGovern and science could have two of the ancient seeds. Parting with them, he said, was like “parting with his soul.” The scholars raised a glass of white Muscat Alexandrueli to mark the occasion.
But McGovern has still not tested the seeds, because he’s not yet confident in the available DNA extraction methods. He has just one chance at analysis, and then the 6,000-year-old samples will be reduced to dust.
One day I ask McGovern what sort of libation he’d like in his own tomb. “Chateau Jiahu,” he says, ever the Dogfish Head loyalist. But after a moment he changes his mind. The grapes he and his wife helped pick in the summer of 1971 turned out to yield perhaps the best Mosel Riesling of the last century. “We had bottles of that wine that we let sit in the cellar for a while, and when we opened them up it was like some sort of ambrosia,” he says. “It was an elixir, something out of this world. If you were going to drink something for eternity you might drink that.”
In general, though, the couple enjoys whatever bottles they have on hand. These days McGovern barely bothers with his cellar: “My wife says I tend to age things too long.”
Staff writer Abigail Tucker last wrote about Blackbeard’s treasure. Photographer Landon Nordeman is based in New York.
Editor’s note: An earlier version of this article mentioned an Egyptian ale recipe that dates back hundreds of centuries. The article now says the recipe dates back thousands of years.A brief history of happy hour: a 19th-century Japanese geisha holds sake. Keisai Eisen, Victoria and Albert Museum, London / Art Resource, NY A Dutch tapestry depicts a wine harvest c. A.D. 1500. Musee National du Moyen Age – Thermes de Cluny, Paris / Réunion de Musées Nationaux / Art Resource, NY In a first-century fresco, Romans enjoy libations, presumably wine. Iberfoto / The Image Works In ancient Egypt, pyramid workers received a daily ration of beer. AKG-Images Ancient cultures used an array of ingredients to make their alcoholic beverages, including emmer wheat, wild yeast, chamomile, thyme and oregano. Landon Nordeman Archaeologist Patrick McGovern—better known to his brewery buddies as “Dr. Pat”—scours fragments of old vessels for residues that allow him to reverse-engineer ancient beverages. He discovered the world’s oldest-known booze, a Neolithic grog brewed in China some 9,000 years ago. Landon Nordeman Sam Calagione, the founder of the Dogfish Head brewpub in Delaware, uses McGovern’s recipes to recreate and market beverages once enjoyed by kings and pharaohs. Part alchemist, part brewmaster, Calagione travels the world searching for rare ingredients, such as yeast gathered from an Egyptian date farm. Landon Nordeman Vintage science: Bowls recovered from King Midas’ 700 B.C. tomb. University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, Gordion Archive The discovery of the King Midas bowls led to the creation of Midas Touch beer. Landon Nordeman Vessels like those found near the head of a skeleton buried 9,000 years ago in China inspired Chateau Jiahu. Juzhong Zhang and Zhiqing Zhang / Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology of Henan Province, Zhengzhou, China Chateau Jiahu is a blend of wild grapes, hawthorn, rice and honey. Landon Nordeman A King Tut exhibit in New York City was the venue for unveiling Dogfish Head’s latest brew, Ta Henket, ancient Egyptian for “bread beer.” It was the fifth collaboration between Calagione and McGovern. “He’s one of us,” Calagione says of the archaeologist. “He’s a beer guy.” Landon Nordeman Alcohol Ancient Civilizations Beer Plants Thought Innovation
A Brief History of Beer
In 1814, Meux’s Horse Shoe Brewery was the victim of some very bad luck—or maybe just poor engineering. At the time, massive storage vats were en vogue in London’s breweries, and when one of these large vats burst at The Horse Shoe Brewery, it led to over a hundred thousand gallons of beer flooding the surrounding area in a veritable brew-nami. The surge led to the collapse of two nearby buildings and the loss of eight lives. Over the years, rumors even popped up that unconscientious ale-lovers had flocked to the scene of the accident to consume the runaway beverage.
Contemporary accounts suggest there’s not much substance to those rumors, but it’s easy enough to see why people would believe them. People really like beer. Behind water and tea, it’s thought to be the third most widely consumed drink on Earth. It helped shape civilization as we know it, and we’re not just talking about those commercials where the guys say “whasssup?!”
Perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising that the story of the world’s most-widely consumed intoxicating beverage is shrouded in legend and half-truths. Was beer brewed to make water potable? When did hops enter the picture? And what do the Budweiser Frogs have in common with Captain Jack Sparrow? The short answers, respectively, are “no,” “the 9th century, at the latest,” and “Gore Verbinski.” But the long version is more fun.
The Ancient Origins of Beer
Ancient Sumerians were cultivating grains thousands of years ago, and there’s some debate about what they were doing with the grains they grew. According to one theory, the grains were used to make beer before bread ever entered the picture. The discovery of ancient tools potentially designed for beer brewing supports this. That would mean beer was part of the origin of agriculture, which is arguably what allowed humans to build civilizations, which led to the development of new technologies, which made it possible to brew even more beer.
In 2018, archaeologists from Stanford announced they had evidence that people in what is now Israel were brewing something like beer around 12,000 years ago, which they noted predates “the appearance of domesticated cereals by several millennia in the Near East.” The archaeologists speculated that it was likely a thin gruel possibly consumed for religious purposes.
Beer, by the way, is any fermented, alcoholic beverage made with cereal grains such as wheat or barley. There was a time when beer and ale were considered two different beverages, with beer defined by the presence of hops, but we’re going to proceed with more modern usage, where the two words are basically interchangeable. We’ll get to hops soon enough (about 11,000 years).
Early beer was likely made by crushing up grains, heating them gradually in water, then possibly baking them, and steeping them again. This process encourages fermentation. Grains contain starches, and heating up grains helps break these starches down into their simple sugar components. Fermentation happens when yeast microbes consume these sugars and convert them into alcohol, flavor compounds, and carbon dioxide. It’s sometimes said that Louis Pasteur discovered yeast in the mid-1800s, but that’s a little misleading. Sure, single-celled organisms like yeast are invisible to the naked eye, but when millions or billions congregate in the beer-making process they can be seen and manipulated.
In Richard Unger’s Beer in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, he points to several indications that brewers began to intuit the vital role of yeast hundreds of years before Pasteur’s time. Rather than relying on wild yeast in the air, a 15th-century brewer in Munich received permission to use a specific source of yeast from the bottom of his brew. In 16th century Norwich, England, brewers recognized the value of skimming off excess yeast for use in bread-making and further brewing. They actually donated some of that yeast to charities. Even without Pasteur’s experiments defining the biological processes that result in living yeast turning glucose into ethanol—what he dubbed alcoholic fermentation—people evidently knew that fermentation made beer bubbly, flavorful, alcoholic, and generally much more fun to drink than plain barley water.
Beer: The Beverage of the Gods
Beer was among the Sumerians’ most influential contributions to the world, right behind written language and a formal number system. And the Sumerians knew they had come up with something big. They even had a goddess of beer and brewing named Ninkasi. In the year 1800 BCE, a hymn was written for Ninkasi that doubled as a beer recipe. Because it was written in song, 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’s an excerpt:
“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, coolness overcomes.”
If the Sumerians penned a similarly poetic cure for hangovers, it hasn’t been discovered.
The Ancient Egyptians were also fanatical about their beer. They believed that beer brewing knowledge was a gift from the god Osiris, and they incorporated the drink into their religious ceremonies. It infiltrated other parts of Egyptian culture as well. Beer was so common that the laborers who built the pyramids of Giza were given daily rations amounting to about 10 pints of the stuff. It was also served at celebrations, where over-imbibing was not only accepted, but encouraged. As far as etiquette was concerned, leaving a party when you could still walk straight was the Egyptian equivalent of not finishing your meal.
Hops To It
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’s found in virtually all 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.
During the Middle Ages, Catholic monks supported themselves by selling homemade goods like cheese, mustard, and in some cases, beer. These monks were likely the first people to make beer with hops. In the mid-800s, Adalard of Corbie, a German Abbot from the monastery of Corvey in Germany (and a cousin of Charlemagne’s), referred to the use of hops in brewing. A few hundred years after that first written reference, German abbess and eventual Catholic saint Hildegard of Bingen wrote, in her book Physica Sacra, that hops “make the soul of a man sad and weigh down his inner organs.”
According to beer scholar William Bostwick, her description was actually so scathing that it helped launch a beer war between Catholics and Protestants. Partly inspired by Hildegard, Catholics ditched hops and fully embraced gruit, which was the mixture of herbs and aromatics used to flavor most early beers. This made hoppy beer anti-Catholic, so naturally Protestants claimed it as their own. Martin Luther himself was even a proponent of the beverage. During the Reformation in the 16th century, the rise of Protestantism helped boost hops’ profile in Europe. And hops had another advantage in the beer wars: The ingredient contains beta acids that delay spoilage and act as a natural preservative. Monks weren’t aware of this property when they first added hops to beer, and it when it did become clear centuries later, that was the final nail in gruit’s coffin.
The Beer Vs. Water Myth
Beer was a popular drink of the lower classes from ancient times through the Middle Ages, but there’s some confusion as to why. You may have heard that peasants drank beer every day because it was more sanitary than the water they had access to, and it makes a certain amount of sense. Brewing generally involves boiling the unfermented beer, or wort; this would theoretically kill off pathogens. Once fermentation takes place, the alcohol itself would presumably provide further disinfection.
While it’s hard to say that beer was never looked at as a healthier alternative to water, the theory doesn’t stand up to much scrutiny as it relates to the Middle Ages. The truth is that clean water wasn’t that hard to come by, even in poorer communities. People could get free water from wells and streams, and some places like London even had cisterns by the 13th century. A more likely explanation for beer’s popularity with poor and working class people is that, beyond its intoxicating effects, it was viewed as a cheap source of nutrition. If you were a worker in the Middle Ages, an afternoon pint provided a measure of hydration and quick calories at the same time.
The Witchy History of Women in Beer Brewing
Today the craft brewing industry skews heavily male, but women have likely been making beer for thousands of years. Female brewers during the 16th and 17th century may even have given rise to some of the iconic imagery around witches. From the cauldrons they brewed in to the pointy hats they wore (perhaps to attract customers) to the cats they kept to deal with grain-loving rodents, some writers have drawn a line connecting alewife entrepreneurs and what would eventually become witchy iconography.
While it’s difficult to source accusations of witchcraft levied at brewsters, there does seem to be overlap in assertions of duplicitousness, for example—perhaps as a method to drive women out of a field that was quickly becoming dominated by men.
Beer in the Industrial Age
For good and ill, beer-making took some big steps forward during the Industrial Revolution. Emerging technologies like steam power and refrigeration led to a tastier, more consistent, and easier-to-brew beverage.
Industrialization and globalization also paved the way for the widespread consolidation of the modern beer industry. When Anheuser-Busch InBev acquired SABMiller for more than $100 billion in 2016, the resulting conglomerate contained over 500 beverage brands [PDF] and accounted for over a quarter of global beer market sales, according to market research firm Euromonitor International.
Many of the “craft beers” you know may very well belong to a conglomerate like this. Because these giant beer-makers are also giant beer-distributors, with a big say in what brands up on store shelves, critics accuse them of reducing competition from independent producers and potentially stifling consumer choice. InBev would presumably argue that their scale and history in the industry allows them to operate more efficiently [PDF]. It’s interesting to note that you could buy a bottle of Budweiser or a bottle of Goose Island Bourbon County Stout and be supporting the same bottom line. Speaking of Budweiser …
The Budweiser Frogs And A Return to the Past
During 1995’s Super Bowl, a commercial featuring the three talking amphibians—Bud, Weis, and Er—aired, and for some reason, America fell in love. That spot was directed by Gore Verbinski, who would go on to direct the American remake of The Ring and the first three Pirates of the Caribbean films. The frogs were brought to life by artists at Stan Winston’s studio, the same legendary company that helped create the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park and The Terminator’s titular cyborg. That’s five combined Academy Awards and billions in box office success, all in the service of selling beer.
Mass-produced beer made from hops, grains, and yeast is standard today, but the brews of the past haven’t disappeared completely. Resurrecting ancient beer recipes has become a popular pastime among home brewers. Even some commercial breweries have joined the trend. New Belgium makes gruit ale, and Dogfish Head collaborated with a molecular archeologist to recreate a beer based on residue collected from what may have been King Midas’s tomb. But the truth is, no matter what beer you reach for, you’ll be drinking something that connects you to the very beginnings of civilization.
A Brief History Of Beer
Like wine, beer has a long history, one that’s longer than we’ll ever be able to trace. Residue of the first known barley beer was found in a jar at the Godin Tepe excavation site in modern day Iran, presumably sitting there since someone took his or her last sip around 3400 B.C. But chances are, the first beer had been “cracked” millennia before that.
So while an exact date or time for the first chug, or keg stand, or even hiccup, is not known, what is known is that beer, like bread, developed best in farm-based, agrarian societies where there was an enough grain and time for fermentation. One thing we definitely know is that ancient man loved beer as much as—if not more—than we do: the Babylonians had about 20 recipes for beer, Egyptian Pharaohs were buried with vats of the stuff, even the workers who built the pyramids were essentially paid in beer. One of the first written recipes for beer actually comes from a poem, a 3800 year-old ode to brewing that was etched into clay tablets. Found in ancient Sumer (modern day Iraq), the “Hymn to Ninkasi” celebrates the Sumerian goddess of beer and also conveniently outlines steps for brewing (lines like “The filtering vat, which makes a pleasant sound,/ You place appropriately on a large collector vat” could give Shakespeare a run for his money).
However it began, beer rapidly took hold as one of civilization’s favorite—and safest—ways to drink. Historically speaking, water wasn’t always reliably potable for most cultures, and alcoholic drinks like beer (also sanitized by the application of heat) would have been safer. Of course, the appearance of beer was changing as brewing methods evolved. Babylonians drank their beer with a straw—it was thicker, full of grain. But by the 16th Century, Germany’s “Reinheitsgebot” beer purity law had essentially removed everything but water, hops, and barley from acceptable brewing ingredients (yeast, a slight oversight, was added back to the list a few centuries later).
Even hops weren’t always as ubiquitous. Ancient Egyptians would have had a beer stabilized and flavored with things like wild herbs, dates, olive oil, and meadowsweet. And for centuries, beer cultivation in Europe relied on a mixture of herbs and spices called gruit. Only around the turn of the first millennium A.D. were hops regularly finding their way to beer, with Germany exporting hops for brewing around the 13th century.
Over the centuries, beer’s popularity has risen and fallen and risen again. In America, Prohibition introduced our palates to watered-down beer, a lighter flavor profile that lingers to this day, especially among mass-marketed beers. But craft beer has made serious gains in the market, yielding a historically unprecedented diversity of styles. Craft brewers are even reviving ancient recipes: in 1990, Anchor Steam’s Fritz Maytag brewed a beer using the Ninkasi poem’s recipe, and Dogfish Head’s Ancient Ales line includes beers like the “Ta Henket,” or Egyptian bread beer, which you can simply purchase and imbibe, no pyramid experience required.
The Story of Gose, Germany’s Salty Coriander Beer
One may never find a beer more intrinsically linked to the history of its hometown than Leipziger Gose. This spontaneously top-fermented German wheat beer is an uncommon brew soured via lactic fermentation and flavored with coriander and salt. Gose was a staple drink in much of Lower Saxony for centuries—that is, until the beer became extinct in 1966 after a long, drawn-out demise. It’s only now, 30 years after German reunification, that two small brewers in the east have decided to do something about it. Hobby brewer-turned-professional Tilo Jänichen and Bavarian brewer Andreas Schneider—who, in the 1990s converted Leipzig’s Bayerischer Bahnhof train station into the Bayerischer Bahnhof Brewery—are both major players in Gose’s revival today.
Gose was first produced in Goslar, a small town in Lower Saxony and home to the Gose River, in the year 1000. However, the beer’s popularity didn’t take off until 1738, when Goslar’s small-town brewers found a larger market for the beer in the nearby cities of Leipzig and Halle. Soon, Goslar production couldn’t quench the thirst of Leipzigers, and Leipziger Gose was born. Its popularity exploded, with over 80 gosenschenkes or Gose taverns operating in Leipzig by the 1800s. “Leipzig was called the Gose city,” says Jänichen of this period.
Gose was a staple drink in much of Lower Saxony for centuries—that is, until the beer became extinct in 1966 after a long, drawn-out demise.
In 1824, Johann Gottleib Goedecke began brewing Gose at a manor house or rittergut (the German word for “manor house”) in nearby Döllnitz, and the small town on the outskirts of Leipzig soon became Gose’s brewing epicenter. “In Döllnitz, there were three Gose breweries in a village with only 2000 inhabitants,” says Jänichen who, in 1999, teamed up with the son of the last owner of Döllnitz Manor, Adolf Goedecke, in order to restore the family name to the once-famous beer.
To choose the Goedeckes was no accident—during the 1800s, their beer was the market leader, supplying many taverns in both Leipzig and Halle. The brew’s popularity was so great that new taverns had to join a waiting list before being able to serve the beer, and even established pubs only got an allocated amount with each delivery.
Interestingly, as Szymczak explains, Gose was not fermented at the brewery, as most beers are today, but rather open-fermented at taverns themselves, in glass bottles with a large bulb at the bottom and a long neck at the top made expressly for this purpose. The yeast from the top-fermented beer would travel the neck of the specialty bottle, forming a cap, a sort of yeast cork, that would keep the beer inside until it was removed. “It was relatively unsafe, of course,” says Szymczak. “If you shook the bottle too much, sometimes the little cork jumped out, and the beer was everywhere.”
A glass of Ritterguts Goes by Emily Monaco.
By the 19th century, Goedecke was producing about a million bottles of Gose a year. While quite a feat for a local beer, this amounted to less than half of what the smallest Munich breweries were putting out. It seemed that no matter how popular Gose was amongst Leipzigers, it remained a mere regional specialty.
At the onset of World War II, the production of Gose, as with other German beers, ceased. Known producers began shutting their doors, and in 1945 the East German government closed the Ritterguts Döllnitz brewery. But when other breweries reopened after the war, Gose production facilities remained under lock and key and another type of beer had begun taking its place in the hearts of East Germans.
Back in the late 19th century, Bohemians and Bavarians discovered the wonders of bottom-fermented beers, a new method of fermentation where strains of yeast that settled to the bottom of fermentors and thrived in cooler temperatures made year-round production and storage of beers a reality. Lagers, like Pilsner—which could be stored and transported much more easily—started taking the place of local top-fermenting wheat beers, including Gose. “All these old beers died out,” says Szymczak. When Germany began producing beer again after the war, bottom-fermented brews were favored over the top-fermented regional specialties of the past.
Gose could have disappeared into oblivion, but the recipe survived. In 1949, a former Ritterguts employee, Friedrich Wurzler, began brewing very small quantities of Gose at a brewery in Leipzig based on his own handwritten notes, which he passed on to his stepson before his death. Despite the family’s efforts, Gose’s popularity had waned too much; in 1966, the brewery closed, the last in a long line that had either shut or integrated a VEB (or communist beer conglomerate) under East German nationalization.
It seemed that no matter how popular Gose was amongst Leipzigers, it remained a mere regional specialty.
The fall of the Berlin Wall could have been Gose’s saving grace; it saw the abolition of VEB breweries and the rebuilding of East Germany. But, two problems arose. The first was the neglect of Leipzig itself; East Germany’s second city, which had been crumbling away for decades, continued to disintegrate as money was injected into East Berlin. The second issue was that with unification, Munich’s strict 16th century beer purity laws that forbade the use of any ingredient aside from barley, water and hops, suddenly applied to everyone. Gose’s staple ingredient, coriander, couldn’t be included in a Germany-brewed beer.
“You could argue the salt because you’re allowed to use ocean water for brewing beer,” says Szymczak. “But the coriander is the reason for Gose not following the purity law.” It wasn’t until local pride began pushing western products out of local industry that local beers started to flow back out of the woodwork.
First, Lothar Goldhahn discovered one of the old gosenschenkes in 1986. He decided to restore and reopen the pub, which had fallen into disuse in 1943 after damage from a bombing raid on the city. He was determined to resurrect the beer style as well, bringing on a former employee of the Wurzler brewery with some of the original recipe notes in his possession. Dr. Hartmut Hennebach, a former microbiologist who had lost his job during the Communist period and had then worked at the pub as a bartender, joined the team as well, and together, they began producing Gose.
At this point in Leipzig’s history, many native Leipzigers had never tasted the specialty brew. Some were be put off by its funky aroma and the sour lactic acid tang. “Is this stuff drinkable?” they would ask.
“Ohne bedenken,” Hennebach would answer. “Without a doubt.” The name of the pub was born, and with it, a renewed interest in the beer. According to Szymczak, the team also coined the word “goseanna,” a “cheers” to be said only with Gose.
Above, L to R: Bottling in the cellar of “Ohne Bedenken” and Gose delivery via an old Gose carriage to the “Gosen-Schänke” in Leipzig-Eutritzsch, established in 1738. Below: A modern Ritterguts Gose advertisement, based on 19th century ads.
“Officially, I have to say during brewery tours that the students 200 years ago said this word when they drank Gose in Leipzig, but that’s not true,” he says. “It was invented in the 80s, just as a little joke.”
But be it a little joke or a marketing ploy, the word started to revive local interest in the beer, though not enough for any of the local breweries to want to brew it.
The gosenschenke team outsourced to a few different breweries before settling on the Bavarian Andreas Schneider brewery in 1995. Although the beer still didn’t follow the purity laws, it intrigued Schneider, who decided to convert the derelict former Bavarian train station in Leipzig into a Gose brewery in 2000.
Today, Szymczak brews Gose for Schneider’s brewery right in Leipzig city center, based on a traditional local recipe. “Of course we adapted it a little bit because you can’t brew a Gose today that tastes like a Gose 50 years ago,” he says. “You don’t have the same water quality, you don’t have the same malts, and it’s always some kind of interpretation.”
But once they found the magic formula, they stuck with it. As a small brewer, Szymczak has a good deal of freedom to play with many of the beer recipes, but the Gose is a mainstay: a basic wheat beer with half Pilsner malt and half wheat malt, plus coriander, salt and lactic acid added at the wort step. When he can, Szymczak produces the lactic acid on site by soaking malt with naturally present lactic acid bacteria in a water and sugar solution until it reaches the correct pH, before adding it to the fresh Gose brew. Now, modern convenience comes into play. Because the beer is no longer open-fermented, as it was through the beginning of the 20th century, the beer has to be boiled to kill off any residual bacteria.
“We brew a lot of other beers without any lactic fermentation, so it would be too dangerous to have these lactic bacteria in the fermentation tank,” he explains.
This isn’t the only modern modification that has been made to the classic beer. While the Bayerischer Bahnhof brewery has brought back the traditional wide bottle with a long, narrow neck formerly used by pubs to ferment the beer, they’ve replaced the yeast cork with a swing top, meaning that the beer can be shipped and exported, thus increasing interest in it abroad.
While Schneider was building his pub, in 1999, Jänichen was finishing an accounting degree and was an avid hobby brewer. He became particularly interested in this former local specialty after having tasted a version brewed in Berlin at the Ohne Bedenken Gosenschenke, and he decided to see what he could do to revive it. It was then that he partnered with Goedecke. Their brewery, complete with the original Ritterguts recipe and name, took off.
While Jänichen concedes that Pilsner remains the most popular beer today, even in Leipzig, he’s proud of how much Gose has developed in just a few short years.
“I was crazy,” he says, laughing. “I had too much time. Today it’s different.” In order to boost interest in the flourishing industry, Goedecke had the idea to start a Gose biking tour—a Gose-Wanderweg—that is still popular today, consisting of three tours of different pubs in and around Leipzig and Halle. Users can bike to the different pubs and sample Gose along the way. “It’s combining beer and the outdoors,” Jänichen says, referencing the German penchant for being in nature. “We come from the woods.”
While Jänichen concedes that Pilsner remains the most popular beer today, even in Leipzig, he’s proud of how much Gose has developed in just a few short years. “When we started in 1999, there was only one pub with Gose, the Gosenschenke, and now we have over 120 in and around Leipzig.” It’s a big change from what most Germans are used to seeing. “Most pubs have beer from one brewery or one group. Everywhere the same combination. This Pilsner, this schwarzbier, this weisen,” he says. “Not so nice.”
The interior of the old Ritterguts Gose Brewery in Döllnitz.
In Germany, the true market for Gose remains Leipzig, but abroad, it’s piquing some interest. Today, Jänichen sells over 30 percent of his beer to 10 countries, including the USA, Scandinavian countries and Japan. And this international interest means that some brewers are trying out their own recipes; the former local specialty is being brewed abroad.
“There are over 400 makers of Gose, most of whom are in the U.S.,” says Jänichen, including August Schell from Minnesota, Almanac Beer Co.’s Golden Gates Gose and even a hibiscus Gose from Boulevard Brewing Co. in Kansas City. “It’s the wave after IPA, I think! And a few months ago, there was an article in the paper with the headline, Craft Beer’s Dead: Gose Killed It.” That being said, the Gose currently brewed in the States is not the same as the traditional version. “Gose in America is more sour I think,” says Jänichen. “Americans tend to take a beer style to extremes.”
In Leipzig, the modern version of the style has settled into a very distinct flavor profile—a green apple aroma, a ripe plum fruitiness, an herbal coriander finish, and a refreshing hit of salt that makes it very moreish and easy to drink.
“There are over 400 makers of Gose, most of whom are in the U.S. …”
“It’s not so strong as compared to the Berliner Weisse or any of these specialty Belgian beers,” says Szymczak. “It’s a relatively medium sourness, and it has a little bit of a fruity flavor. It goes very well together with the coriander, which produces citrus flavors in the beer. It’s a nice combination.”
But this sojourn abroad has had another strange side effect on Gose. Recently the beer has also begun to be brewed in its true hometown of Goslar, riding on the coattails of its Leipzig renaissance. “They stopped brewing Gose in 1869 and started only I think 10 years ago,” says Jänichen. “It was a long time.”
The beer brewed in Goslar today has an even more distinct flavor profile than that brewed in the States. “Gose in Goslar is not sour,” says Jänichen. “And I think no coriander. Maybe, I’m not sure.”
While Goslar brewers claim they do use the herb, brewer Szymczak is of the same opinion. “It tastes completely different. It’s not sour usually, and if they use spices for the beer, you don’t really taste them,” he says. “They tell the people they use coriander and salt, but you don’t taste it.”
Today, the style continues to grow and develop—even though it still doesn’t pass the Munich purity laws. Perhaps it’s because brewers have finally found a loophole that they can get behind. “The beer type is older than the purity laws,” Szymczak laughs. Indeed, the 1015-year-old beer far outdates the 1516 law. It seems as good a reason as any to let this local classic slide back into the public eye.90,000 why does it appear and how to get rid of it
Not so long ago, the head of Rospotrebnadzor Anna Popova said that the department is closely studying the experience of Japan in limiting the waist circumference to 90 cm for men and up to 80 cm for women. Those Japanese who have an oversized waistline during the annual examination are referred for additional research and treatment.
The Russians are worried – are we really forbidden to get fat? Not yet (as our regular readers know, the words of deputies and officials should not be interpreted as “banned in Russia”).However, in the presence of a beer belly, not only the state, but also diabetes, heart attack and impotence can grab hold of the barrel.
Not all beer lovers have big bellies – but not everyone who has such a belly loves beer. Why, then, do many men (and some women) grow belly? And how to deal with it?
Why does the “beer belly” appear?
It’s not so much about beer (or other alcoholic beverages) as about excess calories. Any excess calories (from beer, sugary soda, or double servings of mashed potatoes) can end up on your stomach.However, there is evidence that alcohol does its part: the liver is involved in the breakdown of ethanol, not lipid metabolism, which interferes with the burning of fat. On the other hand, although the calorie content of alcohol is high, those who abuse it for a long time are usually thin. The point is the neglect of nutrition, concomitant diseases, and the fact that alcoholic calories are “empty”. Although ethanol can be used as a source of energy, the liver is only able to process it at a certain rate. It turns out that when consuming a large amount at a time, all the calories from alcohol cannot be assimilated and are simply removed from the body (but this is by no means an indulgence!).
However, an alcoholic drink is not only ethanol (if we are not talking about vodka). Beer, wine, cocktails contain carbohydrates, which may well become surplus and deposited in fat. Where exactly it is located on the body depends on many factors: age, gender, hormonal status, body type. Women have more subcutaneous fat, but it is usually deposited evenly throughout the body – on the shoulders, hips, buttocks. In men, there is less subcutaneous fat, and when you gain weight, excess is deposited on the stomach – more precisely, inside it.
There is evidence that the concentration of fat on the belly is increased by smoking. In addition, the stomach sticks out more with age: this is due to a change in hormonal status. This is especially noticeable in women: at a young and middle age, estrogen protects them from the abdomen, the production of which decreases with the onset of menopause.
What is its danger
The danger of the “beer belly” is that it is not subcutaneous fat, but the so-called visceral fat. A soft, shaking, saggy tummy is formed by subcutaneous fat, but a round and hard, protruding belly is precisely visceral fat.By itself, this fat, of course, is not solid – to the touch, the “beer belly” seems elastic because it is located behind the peritoneum.
It spoils not only the appearance. Abdominal obesity – in which adipose tissue is concentrated primarily in the abdomen – is associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease and, in general, a greater likelihood of early death. Sometimes visceral fat is spoken of as a separate organ: it has a high metabolic activity – that is, it participates in the metabolism, and does not change it for the better.In addition to the release of hormones, fat envelops the internal organs, squeezes them and disrupts normal functioning, constricts the blood vessels. For men, among other things, it is dangerous for erectile dysfunction: disruption of vascular function prevents normal erection.
That is why in many countries the ministries of health establish “norms” of the waist, which doctors are guided by during dispensary examinations. Not everywhere these norms are as strict as in Japan – there people are simply “smaller”: on average, a 30-year-old Japanese man weighs 68 kg with a height of 172 cm, and his peer – 52 kg with a height of 159 cm.In other countries, waist measurements of about 90 cm for women and about 100 cm for men are accepted. If they are exceeded, the patient is recommended to lose weight in order to reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, etc.
How to get rid of a beer belly
There are no special diets or exercises against the “beer belly”: as with any other type of obesity, only a general increase in activity and a decrease in caloric intake will help here. But since there is a connection between heavy drinking and belly, you should start by reducing alcohol consumption to a relatively safe dose: one serving a day for women and one or two servings for men.(Recall that one serving is about 350 ml of regular lager or 200-250 ml of stronger beer.) This amount of drinks will fit into the diet and in calories.
When you drink beer, it’s easy to go overboard with calories. Firstly, 0.5 liters of a standard lager contains about 250 calories, and in the same amount of some kind of milkshake DIPA or dessert stout – and all 350-400 due to the higher alcohol content and additional ingredients. Secondly, beer snacks are usually not oat bran, but something fatty and fried.Alcohol consumption stimulates appetite and suppresses self-control. It is unlikely that, leaving the bar, you go to the 24-hour vegetable shop for the ingredients for the salad – rather, in the arms of shawarma.
So beer lovers should consider avoiding snacks (after all, do you want to have a beer or something to eat?) Or lower-calorie beer (it’s better to skip potatoes than drink a light lager instead of an imperial IPA). Liquid calories do not feed, and in the case of beer, they even increase hunger, so it is easy to overlook the excess of the daily allowance.
A man weighing 100 kg with 35% fat while sedentary work requires about 2,100 calories per day to maintain weight, and in order to gradually lose weight, you need to create a stable deficit of about 300-400 calories by increasing activity and reducing the calorie intake of the diet. It turns out that a glass of beer with a snack can easily negate all efforts. Therefore, those who want to get rid of their beer belly without giving up on tasty beer need to plan everything carefully and agree with themselves about certain compromises.
Finally – the good news: due to the high metabolic activity of visceral fat, the “beer belly” is the first to leave when losing weight. It is easier to get rid of it than from subcutaneous fat.
Alcohol in beer: where does it come from and what does “turnover” have to do with it | [18+] Just About Beer
What do we look for when we study a beer label? I am sure that many people first look at the strength of the drink. But not everyone knows how this fortress, in fact, was formed, by whom and how it was calculated and what it depended on.In fact, everything is very simple.
Where does alcohol come from in beer
Ironically, it is actually a waste product of yeast: once in the wort, they begin to process the simple sugars contained in it (thanks to malt) and multiply. The result of their labor is carbon dioxide and – ta-dam! – ethanol as alcohol. The more sugars the yeast processes, the more alcohol will be produced, which means that the final product will be stronger. It happens that there is still sugar, but the yeast has already run out.In this case, the brewer adds another batch of yeast. But in the case when you want to make the beer noticeably stronger, there may not be enough processed sugars in the wort, and this is already a problem. What if the sugar has already run out, but the required strength has not yet been reached?
There are two popular methods. The first and most used: just give the yeast what they will produce this alcohol – sugar. It can be malt extract in various forms, maltose, honey, or something else that contains sugar. Even regular sugar can be added (it is often used, in particular, in the production of inexpensive strong beers), but it can give the drink an inappropriate excess sweetness.
In order not to sweeten the beer too much, the brewer can use some form of corn syrup or dextrose, because their addition has little effect on the final flavor and aroma properties. In general, we added simple sugars – we got more alcohol. But there is another problem here.
When a certain concentration of alcohol is reached, the yeast does not withstand and drink too much, stop working, or even die altogether. To prevent this from happening, strong beer producers use special yeast colonies: these seasoned guys feel great and continue to work properly at an increased alcohol concentration.Often, by the way, in such cases, brewers use wine / champagne yeast, but this is a story for a separate post.
The second way to increase the degree is to increase the alcohol concentration by freezing some of the water. For example, the German Icebock beer is produced. But this method is used very rarely, so if you see eisbock on the bottle – grab and try, it’s worth it.Icebock is a very strong beer, the increased concentration of alcohol in which is achieved by freezing part of the water
Icebock is a very strong beer, the increased concentration of alcohol in which is achieved by freezing part of the water
Important point: no one will mix alcohol into the beer.In any case, in his right mind. It’s too expensive and generally pointless: why do something overhead yourself when yeast can do it for almost free? Yes, it happens that the beer clearly smells of alcohol, but this is not a consequence of the intentional addition of ethanol, but only the presence of specific esters in the beer.
How the strength of beer is considered and how it is measured
Today, when it comes to the strength of certain alcoholic beverages, including beer, you can hear and see different terms: degrees, “turnovers”, percentages, as well as abbreviations like “% ABV”, “% vol.”And”% vol. ” All these designations indicate the same thing: the volume fraction of alcohol in percent, in English – Alcohol By Volume (ABV). Thus, the marking is 4.3% vol. or 4.3% ABV or 4.3% vol. means that 4.3 percent of the volume of the liquid is alcohol. That is, in a half-liter bottle of beer with a strength of 4.3%, there is 18.9 ml of alcohol. That, in fact, is all.
And what about the degrees? It would be worthwhile to tell about the degrees of fortress according to Hess, according to Tralles and according to Mendeleev, about buckets of alcohol, half-grains and annealing … but this would greatly burden the post, therefore I will say the main thing: the textbook “vodka” degrees for measuring and designating the strength of beer have never been used and not used now.In the modern sense, “degree” is, let’s say, a slang term for the percentage of volume, nothing more.
By the way, the indicated figure is not an exact value. Moreover, depending on the country of origin, the beer can be either a little stronger or barely lighter than indicated on the package.
According to Russian GOST, the manufacturer is obliged to indicate on the beer the minimum value of the volume fraction of alcohol, while an error of 0.5% is permissible. European brewers have the right to be mistaken by 0.5% -1% in either direction from the figure indicated on the package.
In other words, Russian beer may be slightly stronger than indicated on the label, and has no right to be lighter. The European one can “deceive” in both directions, but also insignificantly.
And yes, the main thing you need to know: this is the “ob.” in inscriptions in the spirit of “alc. not less than 4.3% vol. ” – this, of course, is not an abbreviation of “turnover”, but from the much more banal word “volume”.
The doctor told where the “beer belly” comes from and how dangerous it is
Many people know firsthand what a beer belly is.It is believed that lovers of this drink are more likely to face the problem of obesity, especially in the abdomen. But does such a term really exist? And what is the reason for the appearance of the so-called “beer belly”? These and other questions of MIR 24 were answered by endocrinologist, nutritionist Ekaterina Krivtsova.
“First, beer belly is a terminology that is not applicable in medical practice. All that this term describes is the different forms of fat distribution that are associated with insulin resistance.This is a condition that is determined by an increase in the level of insulin, which is in greater quantities in the body than necessary, but is not required in functional processes, ”the expert says.
All this leads to the development of adipose tissue on the anterior abdominal wall and threatens, first of all, type II diabetes mellitus. There are other changes: microadenoma of the pituitary gland, dysfunction of the thyroid gland, which can also secondarily lead to a local increase in adipose tissue on the anterior abdominal wall.
“According to statistics, as a rule, such a redistribution of fat is accompanied by primary or secondary androgen deficiency in men. Unfortunately, the frequent use of beer leads to a “beer belly” and a drop in testosterone. It contains substances that directly affect androgen deficiency. All the more harmful is surrogate beer, there are very few expensive varieties, in the preparation of which hops and the right technologies are used, ”notes Ekaterina Krivtsova.
Diabetes mellitus and obesity, which leads to uncontrolled drinking of beer, are especially dangerous today – with coronavirus infection, the presence of these diseases leads to a more severe course of covid.
“In order to get rid of the” beer belly “, you need to see a doctor and, of course, stop drinking beer, especially bad,” – the doctor concludes.90,000 10 myths and nonsenses about beer
… or “The Truth About Beer from a Home Brewer’s Perspective.”Is alcohol added to beer, what should be the shelf life of beer, how is beer produced on an industrial scale and other burning questions are heard on the Internet and in real life so often that I decided to write this post so that I could answer with a link to it.
People tend to believe in all sorts of fables, not supported by facts – this is our nature. And in the modern world, sated with information, we often do not even understand where we got this or that knowledge. “Yes, I just know, that’s all.Look, everyone around says so. ” This is a fertile ground for the spread of all sorts of myths and fables, completely divorced from reality.
After a bit of my home brewing experience, I wanted to share my thoughts on the most popular nonsense about beer that we regularly hear. I would like to hope that this will help someone break out of the captivity of stereotypes.
Shown here is light barley malt.
So, myths and reality:
1.The beer should be composed of water, malt and hops. Any deviation from this composition suggests that we have the wrong beer.
This is the only myth out of ten that I will not describe in this article, since I spoke in great detail on this topic quite recently in the post “Water, malt hops?”, Which I advise you to read as a refutation of this myth.
2. Beer cannot be stored for more than a few days.
Almost all people who think so do not have the slightest idea about the beer production process.They compare beer to fresh juices, milk, chicken, meat and other fresh foods. The problem is that beer is not fresh, beer is fermented (fermented) .
Let’s first understand what “product spoilage” means? Any product, not necessarily beer. It is known that the deterioration of the product occurs due to the life of microorganisms in it, gradually eating the substances of which this very product consists. See what happens to bread (it grows moldy), milk (it turns sour), fruits / vegetables / meat (it all starts to rot), etc.This is the result of the work of microorganisms: bacteria and yeast, which are always in the atmosphere and immediately get down to business as soon as their food is available. But beer is also the result of the work of yeast, not wild (living around us), but specially bred for a particular style of beer. By processing the sugars in the initial wort, yeast forms alcohol, carbon dioxide and certain esters.
Saccharomyces cerevisiae yeast. Image from the site en.wikipedia.org
If someone else is introduced into the beer besides cultural yeast, this someone will multiply and very quickly make the beer unusable. This is why sanitation is so important in brewing (including home brewing).
Thus, beer can only deteriorate after the ingress of microorganisms from the environment. How can this happen? There are many options: an insufficiently disinfected bottle, poorly rinsed bottling equipment, excessive contact with air, etc.I know for sure that if my home-brewed beer turns sour in a short time, it means that I made an unforgivable mistake in sanitization (fortunately, this has never happened so far). There are whole breweries that cannot solve the sanitation problem due to old equipment. But many of them do not seek to correct this, on the contrary, they have turned their disadvantage into a virtue! “Our beer is better because it only lasts 10 days! It’s alive!”. Profit! Brilliant, isn’t it? And people naively believe them, because they know that, indeed, a fresh product cannot be stored for a long time.But – let me remind you – the beer has already passed fermentation, it cannot be compared with fresh products. Then it makes more sense to compare beer with wine, cheeses or homemade preparations for the winter. For some reason, no one is surprised that cheeses can ripen for several months, wines mature for years in barrels and bottles, and salted tomatoes sit quietly in a closet all winter (or even more than one).
Home-made beer, by the way, is also characterized by the fact that the technology of its production involves bottling with yeast (this is still done by many beer producers in Belgium).This means that the maturation stage of beer only begins after bottling, and the beer can simply stand for years. Only such beer can be called “live” (because it is with live yeast, lives and matures over time), and not one that quickly sours. When bottled in factories, beer is usually filtered from yeast, but even in this case, it is possible to achieve stability in several months – here pasteurization comes to the rescue, i.e. brief heating to kill wild yeast. And in good sanitary conditions, you can go even further: I know brands of filtered and unpasteurized beer, which can also be stored for a very long time, i.e.because foreign microorganisms were not allowed into it during filling.
An ordinary gullible consumer does not know all this, but he regularly hears statements about the fact that a short shelf life is a blessing, and at the same time he observes many brands of beer with a shelf life of 9-12 months. From this, the following myth simply could not fail:
3. Preservatives and all kinds of chemicals are added to modern beer.
Oddly enough, there are indeed preservatives in beer. In any! These are E1510 and E290.Sounds scary? That’s the same 🙂 But they are in your homemade kvass, albeit in lower concentrations. If you haven’t guessed yet, then we are talking about ethyl alcohol (index E1510) and carbon dioxide (E290). As befits any preservative, these substances inhibit the development of microorganisms in the product. In the case of beer, it is especially convenient that they do not need to be added on purpose, because they are formed there by themselves, as a result of the work of brewer’s yeast.
Still rare producers add ascorbic acid to beer as a preservative – it does not affect the taste in microscopic amounts, but it probably really increases the persistence.But this is more the exception than the rule. And in general, I don’t find anything wrong with that.
4. Bulk beer is made using accelerated technology. Some kind of powder is diluted with water, and the beer is ready!
I have visited large breweries, as well as read Wolfgang Kunze’s fundamental work on industrial brewing. I can say with confidence that the process of brewing at home and in a huge factory is basically the same. Sweet wort is obtained from cereals, boiled with hops, then fermented for several days and sent to ripen for several more days.This is how I brew beer, some small brewery restaurant brews it, and Baltika or Heineken brew it in the same way. Moreover, unlike home brewing, the expensive equipment of large breweries allows you to ferment the wort so that there is almost no taste in the finished beer (see my review on the same Heineken). For me personally, this is a minus – I love brightly flavored beer (and therefore I brew it myself), but the target audience of large brewing companies wants “just beer” to drink with a fish (by the way, see.myth No. 9), these large breweries are such “just beer” and brew as their main product.
And you won’t believe about beer powder … but it exists! Only now it is not used on an industrial scale, but by microbreweries and home brewers. This powder is called dry malt extract, here it is, in the center:
Only there are exactly two similarities with the mythical miracle powder from which beer is made: 1. it is powdery; 2. It is used in brewing.
When diluted with water, no beer will work, alas. Malt extract is a substitute for malt, in fact it is a sweet grain wort from which the water has been completely removed. Therefore, when diluted with water, we again get a sweet wort, which must be boiled with hops, and then fermented with yeast for several days (for more details, see the article on the basics of home brewing). This is convenient for home brewers who do not have the equipment to mash and filter their wort.
Why don’t large breweries use such an extract? The answer is simple: from greed :)) Malt extract costs an average of , 5 times more expensive than malt, and the yield in terms of the amount of wort is about the same.The time savings in the production process will be approximately one hour (out of several days). The struggle for the cost price is “our everything”, and nothing has been invented for cheaper grain so far, so beer is brewed from it.
5. Alcohol is added to the beer.
In my opinion, this is the most stupid myth of the ten. People who believe in the story about alcohol in beer look at the world from a “consumer perspective”. And what, here it is, alcohol, you just need to take it – and add it. Only they forget that ethyl alcohol is not oil, it is not formed naturally in nature, but is obtained through the process of rectification of fermented raw materials.
At the same time, we already know the reason why no brewery will add alcohol to its beer.
Greed Savings. Barley malt is very cheap, and alcohol is formed by itself during the fermentation process. If you ferment the wort, then sublimate the alcohol from there and add it to the beer, it will be banally more expensive than just fermenting the wort.
By the way, one of the variations of this myth says that alcohol is added to strong beers, because such a strength cannot be achieved naturally.I would like to ask why no one then tells tales that all wine is made with the addition of alcohol, because there is also 13-14% alcohol? In reality, wine and brewer’s yeast are not so different from each other, and the tolerance of medium brewer’s yeast to alcohol is quite high. The alcohol content depends primarily on the gravity of the starting wort: the more sugars to ferment, the more alcohol there will be. Beer wort with a density of 12% will ferment about 5% alcohol, 16-17% – up to 7%, etc.I can cite as an example the Austrian beer Samichlaus, which has 14% alcohol, and no alcohol was added there.
6. Draft beer is better than canned and bottled beer.
The same beer is poured into kegs and cans / bottles, and again for reasons of economy. Nobody will invest in building a new production line just to make beer in new packaging. The exception is some British producers, who brew a slightly lighter beer for bars than they themselves bottle with the same name.It is not customary to do this in Russia.
Therefore, the taste of the same brand of beer, served in a bar from a keg and poured from a bottle at home, will not differ. But! The so-called “mouthfeel” or “beer body” may differ. Draft beer can be more or less carbonated than bottled beer – the degree of carbonation here is determined by the bartender. Or it can be poured altogether with a nitrogen mixture rather than carbon dioxide. And this greatly affects the perception of the drink, so I perfectly understand where the legs of this myth grow from.
And more. If by “draft beer” we mean that which is sold for bottling in plastic bottles in bottling shops, then my choice is definitely for cans / bottled ones. I prefer beer bottled at the factory in sanitary conditions in a clean container, and not by an incomprehensible seller in a dirty “polishka” (after all, no one disinfects them) through an unknown when the last time the keg feed system was washed. In addition, such shops, parasitizing on this very myth (“draft is better”), expose an inadequately high price tag for the same beer, which is sold in a factory container a couple of times cheaper.
7. All beer is divided into two types: light and dark.
In fact, there are dozens of beer styles in the world that differ quite significantly from each other. According to the most common classification, there are slightly more than 60 of them (by the way, I attribute every beer I tasted to a particular style according to this classification). But the division is not based on the color of the beer (it says little), but on the way of fermentation. So, all beer is divided into ale and lager. Ale is fermented with “top” yeast at basement temperatures (around 18ºC), lager fermented with “bottom” yeast at temperatures around 10ºC.Also, the lager then undergoes a lager procedure – maturing at a temperature of about 0ºC. There are a few other hybrid styles, like the Steam Beer, a beer fermented with lager yeast at ale temperatures.
Thus, there are many styles of beer in the world, and they all have their own characteristic features. Why is so little known about them in our country? The fact is that only a limited number of types of beer are produced in Russia on an industrial scale, and the average consumer is not even aware of the existence of other styles.The main part of the beer market is light Euro lagers (see entries with the Euro Pale Lager tag), and many people think of them when they say “beer”.
Soon I plan to tell you more about beer variety in more detail, because this topic deserves a separate post.
8. Beer contains hops, and it is very dangerous: it contains female hormones, and indeed it is a relative of marijuana.
Female hormones and male boobs from beer are a favorite topic of domestic anti-beer propaganda.As with other myths, it is based on a total ignorance of the brewing process. Plus, there is a hackneyed propaganda technique, when “fact + fact = false”. To illustrate:
Fact 1. There are phytoestrogens in hops – a plant analogue of female sex hormones (this is true, 8-PN, to be exact)
Fact 2. Hops are used in the production of beer (this is also true, I personally add it to each of my brews :))
Conclusion. Beer turns a man into a woman.
Nice reception? Quite.It works especially well if the output is read out with the pumping intonation characteristic of NTV. The only problem is that the conclusion is false, although at first glance it seems slender and logical. Just ask any person who believes in this myth how much hops are used on average in brewing, say, 100 liters of beer. I give a guarantee that he will not be able to answer, and it is because of his ignorance that he believes in the story told on TV. So, usually this amount, depending on the variety, ranges from 100-300 grams.Gram! For 100 liters! In heavily hopped varieties (such as American ales), it can reach a kilogram, or even two. But, firstly, this is still not much, and secondly, such varieties are not brewed on an industrial scale in Russia.
At the same time, it is well known that most of the phytoestrogens are found in soybeans and other legumes – much more than in hops. For some reason, no one is afraid to eat them, although eating 100 g of beans is easier than drinking 100 liters of beer. To achieve at least some effect from phytoestrogens, you need to drink five liters of beer a day.Even a healthy strong man gets drunk before he turns into a woman.
Still often, opponents of beer make round eyes and ask: “Do you know that hops are a relative of marijuana?” Well, we know, so what? And birds are relatives of dinosaurs (at least that’s the most common hypothesis). This relationship does not mean that you should be afraid of that sparrow over there, because he can bite your head off.
The active substances for which the “herb” is smoked – cannabinoids – are not contained in hops in any quantities.Therefore, the relationship of hops with marijuana may be of interest only from the point of view of finding any similarities in the appearance of these plants.
9. Beer goes best with very salty snacks: chips, nuts and (of course!) Dried salted fish.
To begin with, there are some beer styles that can actually be paired with these appetizers – usually light lagers that don’t have any significant flavor. Among them there are those whose aromatic bouquet is characterized by the words “outsider”, “swamp”, “footcloths” – it is best to seize them with a vobloi: at least it will clog their disgusting taste.
All other styles of beer are best drunk without any snack at all, or served with neutral snacks that do not clog the receptors: pretzels, crackers (ordinary homemade, without spices and flavor enhancers), mozzarella – these are universal snacks and will go with most types of beer.
But in general, there is a good rule: you shouldn’t eat beer, you should serve beer with your meal. Recommendations have long been developed for combining certain styles of beer with different dishes. For example, pilsners are paired with fried chicken and sausages, Belgian wheat blanches with lemon-sprinkled salads, German wheat weissbiers with Bavarian white sausages “Weisswurst”, English pale ales with spicy and smoked dishes, etc.There are recommendations that are completely unusual for “our man”: for example, serve a stout with a chocolate dessert, which will help to reveal the coffee-chocolate component of this beer.
Of course, for some people there is also a “swamp-tailor” beer from a bottling bottle, but with a roach – happiness. All this comes from low beer culture and misunderstanding of the diversity of the world of beer. Most beer styles are paired with dried fish in much the same way that dry red wine is paired with it. No way.
10. The best beer in the world is brewed in Germany / Czech Republic / (substitute any country)
Unfortunately, there is still no country in the world where all beer is perfect.And it won’t, because taste is an individual matter for everyone. What we can agree with is that if you put 50 random brands from the same Germany, the Czech Republic and Russia each, then the ratio of tasty and non-tasty of these 50 will clearly not be in favor of Russia. But that doesn’t mean that all German beer is wonderful. I can name examples of very mediocre beers from Germany. Nor does it mean that Russian beer is terrible. We brew many decent varieties, only their percentage in the total mass of beer is much lower than in more beer countries.In general, Russia, Germany, and the Czech Republic are “lager” countries (what an ambiguous phrase it turned out to be), and all the beer in them is generally similar to each other. Personally, I like Belgium and the UK more with their varied and vibrant ales.
And the United States is now clearly holding the palm among beer countries: there has been a boom in mini-brewing in recent years, and now the country has ALL the styles of beer in the world (look what a beer shelf looks like in an ordinary California store).And at the same time, they sell tasteless soda like Bud, Coors or Miller. So I say – there is no country in the world with the best beer.
In general, you have to choose beer not by the country of production – it can be produced anywhere – but by style and brand.
UPD. I want to share one interesting observation. People who blindly believe in beer myths usually have nothing concrete to say. If a “connoisseur” begins to convince you that he, they say, knows for sure that (for example) mass beer is made from powder, then just ask him: what is the name of the powder? where can I buy? what technology? In response, you will most likely hear a muffled moo.And this is logical, because those who believe in such a heresy clearly have very little idea of the brewing process.
The basis of education is facts and specifics. If your interlocutor does not own the facts and cannot say anything concrete, but stubbornly continues to defend his point of view simply because he piously believes in it – it’s okay, it’s just a lack of education and a lack of critical thinking. Leave him alone 🙂
Beer production process
Did you know that there are a number of basic stages in a brewing scheme?
The goddess of love and beauty Aphrodite, as you know, was born from sea foam by the will of the gods.And what kind of magic turns water, grain, hops and yeast into our favorite amber drink? There are three key stages here: wort preparation, fermentation and stabilization. Each of these steps is essential to brewing quality beer. So, let’s start in stages.
- Wort preparation takes about eight hours.
- Wort fermentation lasts from one to three weeks. It depends on the gravity of the wort and on the temperature at which fermentation takes place.For each grade, it has its own: from + 8 to + 20. C.
Did you know that different temperature conditions are used for the preparation of malt?
The maximum drying temperature for light malt is 85 ° C. Caramel is heated to 150 ° C, and burnt – up to 225 ° C. At these temperatures, the malt takes on a darker color and different flavor characteristics.
- Light – used for all types of Baltika beer.
- Caramel – used for Baltika 4 Original, Old Bobby Ale.
- Burnt – used for Baltika 6 Porter and Žatecky Gus Černy.
Until the 1840s, there were no light beers in Europe, since wood, coal, peat were used to dry malt, which contributed to a strong darkening of malt, and subsequently beer.
In order to brew beer, you first need to prepare the wort.In brewing, wort is made from a mixture of crushed malt (usually flavored with unmalted grain) and purified water. Experts call this mixture mash. The mash is then heated by increasing the temperature in several stages. The multi-stage heating process is called mash .
There are four main mashing stages:
1. Protein pause. Temperature +50 ° C
The protein contained in the grains is broken down into amino acids.These amino acids are needed by the yeast for growth. In addition, during the protein break, substances are formed that are necessary in the future for beer foam.
2. Maltose pause. Temperature +62 … 64 ° C
Now starch begins to break down, forming different types of sugars (maltose, glucose, etc.). This sugar is later converted to alcohol and carbon dioxide by the yeast.
3. Pause for saccharification. Temperature +70…72 ° C
This phase is needed so that all the starch dissolved in water is finally broken down. Otherwise, the beer can become cloudy, like paste.
4. End of mashing. Temperature up to +80 ° C
The mixture heats up even more, malt enzymes stop working from the high temperature. This is necessary so that unnecessary splitting of substances does not occur.
Then the mash is separated from solid residues – grain casings and undissolved proteins.Solid residues, the so-called “brewer grains”, are sent to feed pets. The remaining liquid part of the mash – in fact, this is the wort – is mixed with hop products (granulated hops or hop extract) and boiled for an hour and a half. During this time, the wort acquires a rich aroma thanks to the hop oils. Bitter alpha acids give beer a pleasant bitterness and also act as a natural preservative. At the same time, unnecessary microorganisms die in the wort during boiling.After boiling, the wort is cooled, cleaned of protein and hop residues, saturated with sterile air and sent to the fermentation shop.
During the fermentation process, yeast converts sugars into alcohol, carbon dioxide and valuable organic compounds. At this stage, the aroma and taste characteristic of each variety is formed. Historically, fermentation took place in two stages – the main fermentation in open vats and post-fermentation – in closed barrels.
If at the end of fermentation the yeast settled to the bottom of the vat, then the fermentation was called grassroots ( takes place at temperatures from +8 to +14 ° C ). This is how the lager was made. And if the yeast rose to the top of the vat, then on horseback ( passes at temperatures from +15 to +20 ° C ). So the ale was made. Yeast was also called “top” and “grass-roots”, although the names now more commonly used are “ale” and “lager” – after the names of the two main styles of beer obtained with their help.
At modern enterprises, all stages of the production process with the participation of yeast are carried out in one container – cylindrical-conical fermentation tank ( CCT ). In the CCT, the fermentation stage first takes place (about eight days), and then cold stabilization, when the CCT with beer is gradually cooled and kept at low temperatures – about –1 ° C.
Yeast and protein particles settle to the bottom and then are removed. So the beer becomes stable and does not cloud during storage.At the end of fermentation, expert brewers collect the yeast from the fermentation tank and examine it for compliance with brewing regulations. If the microorganisms “behave with dignity”, they are prepared for the production of the following batches of foamy drink.
Filtration and pasteurization
In order for a crystal clear, with a “shine” drink to appear in a beer glass, it must be filtered. Filtration removes the last remaining yeast in the fermented beer and the smallest particles.Unfiltered beer, as you might guess, does not go through this stage and contains a small amount of yeast, which gives the characteristic flavor to the drink.
Modern production technologies and compliance with strict sanitary standards allow us to guarantee the shelf life of beer for several months without pasteurization.
To preserve beer for a longer period, it is pasteurized, that is, it is heated for a short time. We talked about the importance of this process in the first chapter.
Well, at the end of the day, the beer goes to the bottling shop, where it takes its shape: glass or PET bottle, aluminum can or keg.
Non-alcoholic beer production
Did you know that making non-alcoholic beer is more difficult than usual, but the beer itself is just as tasty?
Have you ever wondered where non-alcoholic beer comes from? There are three main technologies for its production: suppression of fermentation, evaporation and removal of alcohol (dialysis) . In the first case, special yeast is used that does not fully ferment malt sugar into alcohol.This beer is sweeter than usual, and its taste is very different from the classic one. The second method removes alcohol from beer by evaporating it. But this beer is also much inferior in taste to the real one. Removing alcohol from ready-made beer (dialysis) is a more advanced method that takes place without compromising the taste of the drink. Thus, for example, beer “Baltika 0” is produced.
Non-alcoholic beer has a strength of 0.5%. This is less than in ordinary kvass and in most varieties of kefir.However, we do not recommend consuming non-alcoholic beer before driving.90,000 Use of carbon dioxide in brewing
Why is carbon dioxide in beer
An integral part of beer is carbon dioxide (carbon dioxide). It is he who makes the drink, beloved by many, frothy. Bubbles of carbon dioxide not only create a spectacular cap over the beer mug, but also help to reveal the taste of beer, “correctly” set off the bitterness of hops. Carbon dioxide is also used when bottling beer: it displaces liquid from the keg and fills the released volume.
Natural and forced carbonation
The saturation of beer with carbon dioxide is called carbonation.
Forced carbonization is carried out at the final stage of industrial production. Carbon dioxide is passed through the containers with the finished beer several times under pressure. Artificial carbonation allows you to achieve the desired degree of gas saturation and, moreover, the same throughout the entire batch of the drink.
Natural carbonation occurs during the main fermentation and post-fermentation of the beer.To start the fermentation process, brewers add yeast and a so-called “primer” – sugar or glucose to the drink. But this method cannot always provide the desired level of carbon dioxide saturation, and sediment will become an unpleasant side effect. In addition, it will take at least two weeks to wait for the result. Therefore, even in home brewing, forced carbonation of beer in kegs is often used.
Artificial carbonation of beer in a keg
To carbonize beer in a keg, it is necessary to connect a CO₂ bottle to it and set the required pressure using the low pressure regulator knob on the reducer.The optimum carbon dioxide saturation of beer is 2.2 – 2.6 volumes. That’s about 5 grams of carbon dioxide per liter of beer. That is, it takes about 100 grams of CO₂ to carbonize a 20-liter keg of beer. How many kegs a cylinder of carbon dioxide will last depends on the mass of the gas in the cylinder.
To achieve the desired level of carbonation, you need to use a special table, which indicates the required beer temperature and the corresponding tank pressure indicators. The higher the pressure and colder the beer, the better the carbon dioxide dissolves in it.
At rest, the beer must be saturated with carbon dioxide for at least 48 hours. But if necessary, the process can be accelerated by setting the pressure several times higher than what is indicated in the table, and periodically shaking the keg so that the carbon dioxide is intensively dissolved in the beer. The exact degree of carbonation as a result of such actions, of course, cannot be determined.
Gift certificate for a tour of the brewery
Number of participants – 2
Duration – 30 minutes
- arrival at the brewery;
- tour of the brewery;
- receiving a gift: 2 liters of beer;
- a tour of the brewery, accompanied by a production technologist, who will tell you about the process of making live beer;
- beer 2 liters;
Need to know
- The minimum age of the participant is 18 years;
- pre-registration is required;
- photography is allowed during excursions;
- excursions are held on Saturdays;
- You can use the certificate after its activation;
- Select the desired date and time for receiving the Gift;
- Inform about your choice 7 days in advance;
- Apply on the website in the section online activation or call by phone 8 (423) 20 53 555, specify individual certificate number and your contact details;
- Receive confirmation of certificate activation;
- Attention! The gift certificate is valid for 1 year from the date buying it.