By Templars Founder JP Perkins
I would like to start with the earliest known beer recipes found in ancient history; think cuneiform, ancient Egypt, and Mesopotamia.
The Earliest Known Beer Recipes Found in Ancient History
Beer is one of those universal drinks that breaks down barriers. There are no words needed when two friends or a group of friends sit down for a beer. It is a universal sign of bonding, celebration, or just relaxing. We know beer comes in many shapes, sizes, tastes, and forms. Beer has a rich and distinct modern history. From the late 1500’s when Queen Elizabeth I of England drank beer with breakfast, according to Beer History, to Sam Adams founding a brewery around the time of the American Revolution, to the craft beers and micro-brews of today, beer is a part of our global culture. But what about beer in the ancient world?
Beer History states, “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.” History goes on to mention that the earliest known alcoholic beverage was 9,000 years old, and it came from China. The beer was made of rice, honey, and fruit. Yet solid evidence of beer production dates back 5,000 years ago. Archaeologist even found ceramic vessels with still sticky beer residue around 1800 B.C.
But the ancient culture that really enjoyed beer was the ancient Egyptians. Workers on the Nile were often paid in the brew, according to History. It is mentioned that Pharaohs to Peasants would drink beer. Mandrake, dates and olive oils were often additives to these early beers. History has a timeline of the history of beer where they note that in 1600 B.C., Egyptian texts contained 100 medical prescriptions that use beer. But, the Egyptians were much more knowledgeable in beer than one might imagine.
According to The American Homebrewers’ Association, “Based on current scholarly writings, the ancient Egyptians appear to have distinguished between different beers by their alcoholic strength, color, and dominant flavor. We would probably call these beer categories ‘styles’ nowadays. The most favored beer styles in ancient Egypt apparently were blood red in color.” The Egyptians had a knack for beer making. They loved it so much that the symbol for beer was found in much of the writing of their everyday words. So what went in their beer?
No known recipes for beer have been preserved. However, scientists and brew makers have reverse engineered the beer making process the ancient Egyptians most likely would have used. It is a long process, and you can view it in its entirety here. But, it was very different to what we are familiar with due to ingredients used. Egyptians did not use hops because hops were not known to them. They used sugar from grain and wild yeast instead. They would strengthen their beer with dates and honey and used manual processing because they did not have the technology we have. Thus, man power and patience were involved in the process. For a much longer explanation of the process of ancient beer making in Egypt, you can go here.
Beer indeed has a much richer history than we may think about when we are enjoying a drink with our buddies for celebrations, relaxation, or just conversation after a hard day of work. In that sense, we are not unlike the ancient Egyptians. What sets their beer apart is the fact they had access to different ingredients used in different ways with different methods, some of which are still used today, like fermentation. Either way, ancient Egyptian beer sheds light on a fascinating time in history, society, and would help you experience the same joy modern beer does. We are sure you appreciate drinking your beer in cool bars with TV and music rather than in the hot desert heat.