Saturday, April 29, 2017

Ancient Mesopotamian beer

THE ASOR BLOG: Potent Potables of the Past: Beer and Brewing in Mesopotamia (Tate Paulette and Michael Fisher).
In ancient Mesopotamia, people knew how to appreciate a good beer. They appreciated their beer often and often in large quantities. They sang songs and wrote poetry about beer. Sometimes they got drunk and threw caution to the wind.

Beer was a gift from the gods, a marker of civilization, a dietary staple, a social lubricant, and a ritual necessity. It was produced on a massive scale and was consumed on a daily basis by people across the socio-economic spectrum. It was indeed “liquid bread,” a fundamental source of sustenance. But what gave beer its distinctive power and appeal was its inebriating effects.

I know what you're wondering. The answer is yes:
There have been a number of efforts to recreate Mesopotamian beer. In the late 1980s, for example, the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute teamed up with Anchor Brewing Company to brew a beer called “Ninkasi,” inspired by the Hymn to Ninkasi but brewed using modern equipment. More recently, the excavators of Tell Bazi have used replica ceramic vessels to recreate the beers once brewed at the site. Since 2012, we have also been involved in a collaborative brewing effort, joining the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago with Great Lakes Brewing Company in Cleveland, Ohio. Drawing on written and archaeological evidence, we have done our best to employ authentic ingredients, equipment, and techniques – resulting in a beer that we call “Enkibru,” always tasted alongside “Gilgamash,” a companion beer brewed with the same ingredients but modern brewing equipment.
Be on the lookout for these at your local craft beer place. Maybe. Who knows?

For other attempts to resurrect ancient Near Eastern and ancient Israelite beers, see here and links. And for similar efforts to reconstruct ancient Israelite wine, see here and links. Cross-file under Technology Watch.