The Genesis of Brewing
Modern brewers replicate Sumerian beer
June 21, 2013
This Babylonian cylinder seal from Ur (c. 2600 B.C.E.) shows two people drinking beer out of a jar using straws. A Cleveland-based brewing company, with the help of University of Chicago archaeologists, has recently crafted their own version of Sumerian beer.
Great Lakes Brewing Company, based in Cleveland, Ohio, is going back to its roots—way, way back, some 5,000 years to the earliest recordings of brewing
from Sumer, the first civilization in Mesopotamia. With the help of archaeologists from the University of Chicago, the company has replicated a Sumerian recipe using only tools that would have been available in the fourth millennium B.C.E.—ceramic vessels and wooden spoons. While beer is mentioned in Sumerian texts from 3200 B.C.E., the recipe and instructions used by Great Lakes Brewing are based on the Hymn to Ninkasi
(c. 1800 B.C.E.), a song dedicated to Ninkasi, the Sumerian patron goddess of beer.
Despite being flavored with spices, the Sumerian brew created by Great Lakes is very sour. While the company plans to sweeten future batches with honey or dates, it still might be too acidic for the modern palate. Interested in trying it? Although Great Lakes does not intend to sell the Sumerian beer, they are planning to feature it at events this summer in Cleveland and Chicago.
BAS Library Members: Read more about ancient brews in “Did the Ancient Israelites Drink Beer?” by Michael Homan as it appeared in the September/October 2010 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review.
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