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October 18, 2010 10:18 AM   Subscribe

Did the ancient Israelites drink beer? Although at the time beer was consumed by “men, women and even children of all social classes,” references to it in the Bible are scant. Beer production at the time was similar to bread, where wheat and barley cakes were baked then rehydrated to ferment -- a process much like the ancient Egyptian method of fermentation, as found in the Hymn of Ninkasi, which was recreated by Fritz Maytag of Anchor Brewing. You too can be a part of beer history by brewing your own Archeobeer.
posted by slogger (27 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
For those in San Francisco, there is a free tour of the anchor brewery. Make sure you stick your head in the hop room, and stick around for the free samples at the end.
posted by poe at 10:27 AM on October 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Of course the Israelites drank beer.

In fact, one of America's best known breweries is named after a the story of Moses on Mount Horeb.

Moses was having a cold brew with Seamus O'Riordan, a little known religious guru who had worn through several pairs of sandals travelling across Europe from Northern Ireland to the Holy Land. Seamus's thick accent had prevented much in the way of meaningful conversation but Moses thought he looked like a good sort and was prepared to share his bevvies.

Suddenly, the shrub next to them burst into flames, also catching Moses' tunic. Being a quick witted fellow, Seamus poured most of his beer on Moses' clothes and the flaming brambles next to him, extinguishing the fire.

Moses, of course, was devasted and apologised profusely, ruing out the loss of such a rare commodity - a cold beer in pre-Industrial Israel. Seamus felt acutely embarassed about Moses' contrition and sought to change the subject.

Pointing to the half-charred shrub, he enquired jokingly, "Anheuser Busch?"
posted by MuffinMan at 10:33 AM on October 18, 2010 [11 favorites]


I think we're done here.
posted by felix betachat at 10:36 AM on October 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Ouch.

Also, no self-respecting Irishman would ever pour out his beer.

Also, also, mmm... beer.
posted by fartknocker at 10:38 AM on October 18, 2010


Let's face it, the only way to interpret the Song of Solomon is that its author had on beer goggles and was coming up with drunken pick-up lines.

"Thy teeth are like a flock of sheep that are even shorn, which came up from the washing; whereof every one bear twins, and none is barren among them." SoS 4:1
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 10:45 AM on October 18, 2010


The workers who built the pyramids got beer as part of their rations.
posted by Danf at 10:47 AM on October 18, 2010


It has to taste better than Manischewitz
posted by rosswald at 10:56 AM on October 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Check out "Wild Fermentations" for a barley-beer recipe. I've yet to try it myself, but it is on my list of things to ferment.
posted by clvrmnky at 10:59 AM on October 18, 2010


I don't even have a list of things to ferment! I must be doin' it wrong.
posted by Mister_A at 11:05 AM on October 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


There was a neat exhibit on prehistoric brewing in NYC long ago at the Jewish Museum along with some interesting artifacts. Apparently people would ferment the entire grain, husks and all, and then drink through a straw to filter out the husks, kind of like drinking yerba mate.
posted by exogenous at 11:17 AM on October 18, 2010


List of things to ferment:

1. Anything the yeast will eat.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 11:23 AM on October 18, 2010 [3 favorites]


In those days it was probably safer to drink the beer than to drink the "fresh" water.
posted by orange swan at 11:53 AM on October 18, 2010


Who knows, maybe they did. But Nubians were smarter than the Israelites. They combined beer brewing with antibiotics production.

posted by yoyo_nyc at 11:53 AM on October 18, 2010 [3 favorites]


Beer production at the time was similar to bread, where wheat and barley cakes were baked then rehydrated to ferment

But when you bake bread, don't you kill the enzymes which are needed later to convert the starches in grain into sugear?
posted by goethean at 12:03 PM on October 18, 2010


Goethean, there's always plenty of microbes floating around that will happily tackle the job. The bread was sterilized during baking but it doesn't stay sterile for long.
posted by Quietgal at 12:15 PM on October 18, 2010


Possibly Apergillus would colonize the bread/water mixture, similar to how it helps rice (which lacks the amylase enzymes found in malted barley) fermentation into sake.
I made beer this weekend in my kitchen.
posted by exogenous at 12:23 PM on October 18, 2010


Yes, and you can get a sourdough culture just by leaving wet dough out on the counter. You might be playing the lottery as to whether the result is tasty but...
posted by KirkJobSluder at 12:34 PM on October 18, 2010


I couldn't find a copy of the Katz and Maytag article "Brewing an Ancient Beer" online, but this is another interesting account of someone trying to recreate such a brew.

I should have read all of the linked articles earlier: it turns out that the Hymn describes mashing the bread with malted grains that could supply the enzymes for starch conversion. I wonder why the ancients even bothered with the bread making step and didn't just mash directly - perhaps they thought it was essential and/or it helped the flavor.
posted by exogenous at 12:48 PM on October 18, 2010


I'm surprised that none of these links touched on Dr. Patrick McGovern of the Penn Museum and the work he's done to help create the Ancient Ales series of Dogfish Head beers. These are recreated from residues found in brewing vessels in the Americas, Anatolia, and China.
posted by snottydick at 1:12 PM on October 18, 2010


Metafilter doesn't do I/PA well.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 1:59 PM on October 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


And God said, "Let there be (Natty) Light."
posted by Saxon Kane at 2:07 PM on October 18, 2010


He'Brew Bittersweet Lenny's R.I.P.A.

posted by rosswald at 2:20 PM on October 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Also, no self-respecting Irishman would ever pour out his beer.

At least not without drinking it first. Moses was just being kind to Seamus and himself with his version of the story.
posted by three blind mice at 2:29 PM on October 18, 2010


Dogfish Head has some great ancient recipe beer too.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 2:35 PM on October 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Fritz Maytag once gave a talk to the Commonwealth Club about his ancient beer making adventures. (Unfortunately, their online archives don't go that far back). He mentioned that his brewers corrected several archaeological researchers who had misinterpreted some of the beer making steps.

At the end of his talk, for the last question someone asked how the beer tasted. He said something like "Well, we had a lot of fun making the beer."
posted by eye of newt at 11:27 PM on October 18, 2010


personal tidbit: Fritz Maytag proposed to my Dad's eldest sister, but she said no.
posted by MNDZ at 4:08 AM on October 19, 2010


I wonder why the ancients even bothered with the bread making step and didn't just mash directly

My guess (and this is purely a WAG) would be to preserve the grain for longer periods of time. It probably kept longer than raw grain (think hardtack), and beer at the time was meant for near-immediate consumption.
posted by slogger at 7:57 AM on October 19, 2010


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