So where exactly did beer originate? I have always wanted to learn where brewing beer came from, and we are going to explore that together. After researching, I found some great information that I want to share with you today.
Before we get started, we need to know what we need to brew beer. “You need suitable grains – such as wheat and barley, an energy source such as a fireplace, a brewing vessel of some sort, and of course someone that knew how to handle and process grain” (Meussdoerffer).
In my research, I found a writer named Franz G. Meussdoerffer, who had all of the info I needed on Mesopotamian history about beer. These are his facts.
We are now going to travel back to the end of the ice age, around 12500 BC. There were many small groups of people scattered around the Babylonian area during this time. So, they began to build up supplies once the ice age was over. Once there were enough people in society to build permanent settlements, they started to develop around modern-day Iraq and Turkey – also known as the Fertile Crescent, as well as China, Africa, the Andes, and the Americas. In the Fertile Crescent, while these settlements were starting to begin, these hunters and gatherers needed to provide themselves with the best crops they could adapt to. Could you guess which ones? That’s right – wheat and barley! As Meussdoerffer said, during the Babylonian period, 70 different types of beer were made from wheat and barley.
Now, this was a huge step in brewing the beer we know today! Before this, as Meussdoerffer states, China did create a fermented beer-like drink out of rice, honey, and fruit. But this was not exactly beer.
While indulging in Meussdoerffer’s work, I had stumbled upon a podcast called “The History of Beer Part 1” by the Brew News Podcast, which had some great facts. They started off by summarizing that brewing beer had started around 10,000 years ago (around 8,000 BC) in the Sumeria and Babylon area, which in the modern era would be around the modern day Iraq and Baghdad area. This process began by using bread as the sugar source for the beer. So, they would take bread, honey, and sweet substances or plants emitting a pleasant and distinctive smell, and they would blend and boil those together in a big pit. What’s next? They ferment it by leaving it in a pit or tub. The wort is the sugary water that turns into beer while fermenting, then the yeast from flies would inoculate the wort. According to Barb Ogg of the Nebraska Extension in Lancaster County, Fruit flies are attracted to the fermentation process not because of the alcohol, but because of the carbon dioxide that is released during the fermentation process. The yeast on the flies’ legs gets onto the wort to create beer. Since beer was usually made in such a large tub, the finished product would be bready, low alcohol, low carbonated beer.
Something else that I found in an article by Joshua J. Mark in “Beer in Ancient Egypt” these ales were to be consumed in a short period of time after it was brewed. This event brings me to what I thought was most curious in the article. The community would come together and drink the unfiltered beer with straws! In fact, Sumerians created straws just for drinking beer, since the consistency was so thick. The thought of drinking unfiltered beer by itself without any additional flavors might sound gross. So, they would put bread, different plants and fruits in the tub to bring a better taste to the unfiltered beer. To think that communities thousands of years ago were also sharing beer together is insane. We are still using the same tradition as they were back then!
As history shows, beer is used as a community tribute for community purposes. We cherish times with our friends, family and colleagues. Beer is an excuse to bring everyone together. Sure, it did not taste the best when they first started drinking it. However, innovation occurs in things we cherish and enjoy. The different types of craft beers we have now are only the latest innovation of what flavors we can create. The science of brewing beer is just oh so satisfying.
“A Comprehensive History of Beer Brewing .” Handbook of Brewing: Processes, Technology, Markets, by Hans Michael. Esslinger, Wiley-VCH, 2009.
Mark, Joshua J. “Beer in Ancient Egypt.” Ancient History Encyclopedia. Ancient History Encyclopedia, 16 Mar 2017. Web. 23 Jul 2020.
Ogg, Barb. “Fruit Fly Trap Instructions.” Fruit Fly Trap Instructions | Nebraska Extension in Lancaster County, lancaster.unl.edu/pest/resources/fruitflytrap.shtml.
Andrew, and Laura. “The History of Beer Part 1 by Brew News Podcast • A Podcast on Anchor.” Anchor, 13 Jan. 2019, anchor.fm/brewnewspod/episodes/The-History-of-Beer-Part-1-e2ub58.
2 thoughts on “The History of Beer – Mesopotamia”
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I’m not much of a beer drinker: all I can taste is yeast. Sorry.
However, the history and science behind the beverage is quite fascinating.
The communal aspect of family and friends coming together is definitely appealing: I think it’s more prevalent in Europe than in the U.S.
Even though I’m not the biggest fan of beer, I’m intrigued by your research. Looking forward to reading more about the ancient “Mesopotamian” drink.
Thank you for your comment! I totally understand. If you are not a fan of yeast, the taste can definitely overtake the pleasure of having a beer. A lot of my friends say the exact same thing. The science around beer is very fascinating. I am in the process of brewing my own beer for the first time at home. It’s fascinating to see how malt, hops, and yeast react to each other. I will be journaling down my experience and sharing it on my blog. Thanks for reading so far 🙂