As I mentioned in my previous post, I was asked to give a talk at a local, women only craft beer club. Since it is on the history of brewing and some people weren't able to attend, I thought I would post it below, with my talking points typed out.
To begin, it is necessary to define beer. Although this may seem trivial, given the many ways humans have caused alcoholic fermentation, it is easier for research purposes to have set definitions. Therefore, beer as I see it is defined as a beverage derived from converting starch to simple sugars followed by fermentation.
With that set, there is now a range of different types of beers besides barley and includes other cultures in the mix (particularly Africa, Asia, and the Americas).
Types of beer: barley, rice, agave, corn, oat, millet
Process: take malted grain - mash - sparge - boil - ferment - drink - Hops are only introduced around the 800s, and spread from there - Before that it was gruit (a mixture of herbs)
Only when semi sedentary complex hunter/gatherers does evidence for alcohol appear
General Consensus: Late Epipaleolithic or Pre-Pottery Neolithic cultures provided staging ground for which cereal domestication took place
It is theoretically possible that beer was the driving force behind cereal domestication, but highly unlikely
The Necessary Technology: Tools for harvesting and processing cereal grains en masse Long term grain storage Surplus population as workforce Reports of storage pits at Ain Mallaha, Wadi Hammeh 27, Rakafet
Technologies as indirect evidence Watertight containers like ground stone or hollowed wood have been discovered Animal bones were processed for grease through boiling Container used for mashing could be used for boiling (if boiling was even necessary) Mortars resemble brewing pots
Would be ideal for crushing cereal
Already were used for the processing of nuts
Had to boil nut oil in order to remove toxins
Sumer is the oldest recorded brewing society, thanks to tax forms ranged from fourth millennium bc to the fifth century bc
Reports of which show that the government supplied a man with grain for nine years for the purpose of brewing
Attitude towards beer: Epic of Gilgamesh talks about Enkidu, a savage man, becoming civilized through the drinking of beer, which shows beer as a cornerstone of civilizations
In the beginning there were around nine different beer types produced from barley and barley malt, where in the end with Babylon, there were around 70 different types:
Black beer, red beer, barley beer, spelt beer, fine white beer, fine black beer, prima beer, 20 qa beer, 30 qa beer Sweet mixed beer, common mixed beer, mixed beer flavoured with spices, One year old beer
Hymn To ninkasi represents the general process for brewing at this time, although this came along much later
Borne of flowing water, your town by the sacred lake with great walls You are the one who bakes the bappir in the big oven…puts in order the piles of hulled grain…waters the malt set on the ground…soaks the malt in a jar…the waves rise, the waves fall You are the one who spreads the cooked mash on large reed mats…coolness overcomes The filtering vat, which makes a pleasant sound
Earliest evidence for beer in Egypt is around 3500 BC
Much of which is artistic: egyptians displayed the brewing process on the walls of their tombs
Beer was used for payment to workers, and was used in cult and medicinal purposes
Two pre-dynastic sites at Abydos and Hierakonpolis uncovered large vats, which suggest breweries
Examples of Egyptian beers:
Dark Beer, Iron Beer, Garnished Beer, Friend’s Beer, Beer of the Protector, Beer of Truth: Drunk by the 12 gods who guarded the shrine of Osiris, Beer which does not sour, Beer of Eternity, Sweet Beer, Thick Beer
Issues with artistic interpretations: Function of funerary illustrations was not for beer recipes, but to aid the deceased in the afterlife (most information derived is major generalizations). It doesnt tell you which grains were used nor any precise definition of how beer was made
End of brewing culture most likely the result of Greek invasion and conversion to Islam
Alexander the Great introduced wine, which soon became the favorite drink of the upper class. Beer production and sale was tightly regulated and ultimately beer making became a state monopoly. Greeks (Then Romans) were determined to make wine the drink for civilized people. This is most likely due to them being surrounded by beer drinkers who obstructed their expansion
For Romans however, they had to accommodate their legions, and we have a grocery list for soldiers along Hadrian’s wall which includes beer
Spread of agriculture started in Mesopotamia, and followed two main routes: following the Danube and Rhine river valleys, the other along the Mediterranean coast
Photoresponsive gene had to evolve and adapt through the northern Europe, thus slowing the progression
Wheat had an easier time spreading along the Mediterranean coast
General consensus is that with the spread of agriculture so spread brewing technology
Since wheat had an easier time to spread throughout the Mediterranean, then it is no surprise that Spain developed a brewing culture around using wheat
For northern Europe - air drying of soaked cereals would not make malt (which is what Near eastern brewers did), so a different technology had to be developed (evidence for which found in Germany)
Other than that we know little about European brewing, save the mentions of brewing by Romans
Through the end of Roman rule, monasteries preserved brewing techniques
How It's Done
Artistic Interpretations: as mentioned above, archaeologists can derive information from paintings and other imagery on the brewing process
Literary Records: Either tax records or stories
Residue Analysis: Liquid chromatographical analysis of residues found from artefacts. Briefly, chromatography works by separating individual particles within a sample via solid and liquid stages.
I always like to end this lecture with the following quote, mainly because it is so relatable to modern day students. It comes from a 19th Dynasty papyrus in Egypt, from a teacher to his pupil:
I am told that thou forsakest books and dost abandon thyself to pleasure. Thou dost wander from tavern to tavern Every evening the smell of beer, the smell of beer frightens men away from thee It corrups thy soul, and thou art like a broken oar Thou canst guide to neither side Thou art like a temple without a god like a house without bread The people flee from thee and thou dost strike and wound them O, that thou wouldst comprehend that beer is an abomination and that wouldst abjure the pomegranate drink that thou would not set thy heart on fig wine and that thou wouldst forget the carob wine
The human penchant for the consumption of psychoactive substances is a part of ourselves like our thirst for water. Even modern day society is structured around drinking events, each differing with levels of scale and which beverage is deemed appropriate. Whether it is tea time or a glass of wine, neither is a necessity for overall health and is only seen as a means for hospitality. For better or for worse, the benefits and allure for mind-altering effects play a role in our feasting habits, rituals, code of conduct, work, taxation and our basic dietary requirements. Yet it was not until the early 19th century when the cynicism towards alcohol developed, and so to the association of intoxication with adolescent behavior. The result of which has shifted the attention of consumption from its cultural importance to its ill effects on society. This does not imply humans have not been wary of alcohol’s harmful effects on the body. Indeed, an ancient Egyptian letter revealed a teacher pleading with their pupil to return to their studies and refrain from over-consumption:
I am told that thou forsakest books (and) dost abandon thyself to pleasure. Thou dost wander from tavern to tavern. Every evening the smell of beer, The smell of beer frightens men away (from thee). It corrupts they soul, (and) thou art like a broken oar. Thou canst guide to neither side. Thou art like a temple without a god, (like) a house without bread. Thou art detected as thou climbest up the walls, And breakest the plank. The people flee from thee, And thou dost strike and wound them. O, that thou wouldst comprehend that wine is an abomination And that thou wouldst abjure the pomegranate-drink; That thou wouldst not set they heart on fig-wine, And that thou woulds forget the carob-wine
Despite the clear distaste for consumption this teacher has, a great deal of Egyptian medicine involved alcohol. There was even beer reserved for priests during times of worship. If beer was simply a beverage to satisfy hunger and thirst, would we see such fervent dedication to its crafting? This, then, signifies the cultural role drink plays with Egyptian society.
Thus to gain a better understanding of alcohol and its role in society, it is necessary to study alcohol with a focus on cultural importance, rather than addiction and abuse.
Alcohol’s primary purpose is to be consumed so it must constantly be produced. This introduces a need for production, technological development, a workforce, and a generation of wealth and income. As such, beer brewing plays a critical role in past economies. One example comes from the inhabitants at Hrísbrú, Iceland. Evidence from the pollen record, faunal remains, a large longhouse, and soil fertilization strongly suggests this area was subject to chiefly rule. There was an overabundance of barley grain, most likely for beer production (it would not make sense to produce beer in times of starvation), and plenty of cattle for human consumption, so it can be concluded that large feasts were held here. Over time, barley cultivation was abandoned and replaced by grazing land, correlating with the time chiefs surrendered political power in the 12th century. In any case, prior to the downfall of chieftains in Scandinavian society, they were using the consumption of alcohol to garner political power. The longhouse at Hrísbrú would require plenty of men to work the fields, and what better way to convince others to work than by offering beer. Beer’s production, then, was involved in all levels of this Icelandic economy. Thus, through the consumption of alcohol, hospitality, social networks and political bonds in human society were strengthened.
As described previously, alcohol has its own particular artifacts and rituals associated with it, due to its role in human material culture. Different cultures have their own drinking vessels as exemplified by the drinking horns of Nordic fame, puzzle jugs, Bell Beaker and Grooved Ware pottery, which is often assumed to have contained alcoholic beverages. With these, rituals develop. As described by Willis (2002), in 1873 Joseph Thomson came across a village in Tanzania performing a ritual:
“In the square of the village, propped against a tree, sat a poor woman, apparently half dead with illness of some sort, and looking very much as if she was in the stocks. Roundabout were some huge pots of native beer...In front of the woman the men danced in succession, with movements and gestures the most extraordinary… I learnt that they were employed in casting out devils from the woman in front of them, and to do this they required to use the most powerful charms they could think of, namely beer, dancing, and music.“ Simply put: If there’s no beer, it’s not a ritual [Willis 2002, pg 61]. Thus, alcohol consumption and production, and the associated material culture and rituals are intimately tied to human’s past. Furthermore, alcoholic drinks have substantial nutritional value and have formed a staple component of the diet in past societies. Cereal grains can become a porridge, bread or beer depending on which culinary practice is applied to it. Put in another way: alcohol represents value to a culture, and once it is consumed, that same value is absorbed into the body. It is of little surprise then, that fermented beverages have more cultural rituals associated with them when compared to other foods. Past and present societies use alcohol to define and reinforce cultural relations and identity. In previous anthropological studies, most of these societies promoted the drinking of alcoholic beverages as a means to provide refreshment and nutrition while strengthening family and community identity. Furthermore, each cultural identity developed as a response to the environment constructed by their ancestry (i.e. parents). In Europe, for example, the Roman historian Tacitus recorded the existence of a law amongst the Alemanii Germanic tribe, requiring the donation of beer to be made annually to the temple. How this tradition developed I am not sure, but it highlights beer’s role as a sacrificial item. With the production of fermented beverages humans have created a cultural variation in their diet, causing evolutionary change amongst the associated species and cultural change among different populations. Each successive population is subjected to more efficient brewing techniques, cultural variation in flavor, ritualistic and consumption practices, and more. This environmental inheritance has lead to certain populations to develop higher allele frequencies for more efficient ethanol metabolization. Hopefully, through research focused on the cultural context rather than abuse, a better understanding of humans relationship with alcohol will develop.
Alcohol deserves to be subjected to academic research as it can provide insight into human social behaviours, culture, and a better understanding of alcohol’s dangers and benefits.
Dietler, M. (2006). Alcohol: anthropological/archaeological perspectives.Annu. Rev. Anthropol., 35, 229-249.
Guerra-Doce, E. (2014). The Origins of Inebriation: Archaeological Evidence of the Consumption of Fermented Beverages and Drugs in Prehistoric Eurasia. Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory, 1-32.
Hayashida, F. M. (2008). Ancient beer and modern brewers: Ethnoarchaeological observations of chicha production in two regions of the North Coast of Peru. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology,27(2), 161-174.
Hornsey, I. S. (2003). A history of beer and brewing (Vol. 34). Royal Society of Chemistry.
Nelson, M. (2005). The barbarian's beverage: A history of beer in ancient Europe. Routledge.
Pearson, M. P. (2003). Food, culture and identity: an introduction and overview Part 1: Cultural approaches to food Part 2: Neolithic and Early Bronze Age Britain-the culinary basis. BAR INTERNATIONAL SERIES,1117, 1-30.
Pérez-Ortı́n,J. E., Querol, A., Puig, S., & Barrio, E. (2002). Molecular characterization of a chromosomal rearrangement involved in the adaptive evolution of yeast strains. Genome research, 12(10), 1533-1539.
Rojo-Guerra, M. Á., Garrido-Pena, R., García-Martínez-de-Lagrán, Í., Juan-Treserras, J., & Matamala, J. C. (2006, January). Beer and bell beakers: drinking rituals in copper age Inner Iberia. In Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society (Vol. 72, pp. 243-265). Cambridge University Press.
Sherrat, A. (1987). Cups that cheered. Bell Beakers of the Western Mediterranean. Bar International Series, 331, 81-103.
Sherratt, A. (1995). Alcohol and its alternatives: symbol and substance in preindustrial cultures. Consuming habits: Drugs in history and anthropology, 11-46.
Unger, R. W. (2004). Beer in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. University of Pennsylvania Press.
Willis, J. (2002). Potent brews: a social history of alcohol in East Africa 1850-1999. James Currey.
Zori, D., Byock, J., Erlendsson, E., Martin, S., Wake, T., & Edwards, K. J. (2013). Feasting in Viking Age Iceland: sustaining a chiefly political economy in a marginal environment. Antiquity, 87(335), 150-165.
The article The scholars who look at American History through Beer-Tinted Glasses claimed that an interest in beer history was on the rise. It certainly seems to be happening, what with the amount of talks, conferences, and blogs on the matter. This claim isn't necessarily unique either. Even in his 2006 paper, Alcohol: Anthropological/Archaeological Perspectives, Dr. Michael Dietler states that a scholarly interest in the history of alcohol was on the rise. It is easy for me to assume this is true. I have payed more attention to the topic now than I did five years ago, which gives my assumptions bias.
So to see whether research into alcohol within archaeology is increasing, I’ll be having a look through academic journals to track brewing archaeological articles.
There does seem to be a bit of difference between Antiquity and the Journal of Archaeological Science, which was reviewed last time. Before, there seemed to be an overall increase in the frequency of articles written. For Antiquity, there were a few publications around the 60's, which staggered off until the late 90's. After which, there has been a steady production of one article regarding brewing archaeology - most of it about wine (which I will get back to later).
This paints a different picture than before; this suggests that brewing archaeology is not on the rise. Rather, there is consistent work on the topic in low numbers. Do note, however, this is a limited search. There are plenty of articles on food processing, vessel ceramics, pottery production, and residue analysis. Out of necessity, I only take articles directly relating to alcohol.
The structure of this journal should be taken into account before any conclusions can be made. Since its start in 1927, Antiquity has published four issues every year, with each issue having a range of research articles, method descriptions, debates, and book reviews. Currently, this journal is on Volume 90, issue 354. In 2015, they decided to switch to produce six volumes instead of four.
This structure, then, could be a factor as to why we see this pattern of one article a year. When you have limited production, the editor has to decide on articles with greater impact. With such a limited space, it is easy to imagine that some brewing articles were overlooked.
Other corroborating factors could include:
An increase in archaeological researchers overall
With an increase in scientists, so too would follow a general increase in article publishing. As a result of this, brewing archaeology could be drowned out by more popular (i.e. safe) research themes
Antiquity does not focus on food production
This would explain why we see so few articles released
One researcher's career was focused on food production at one period of time
Which could explain why there is a gap between the 60's and late 90's
Yet, however with all things in science, this requires further research. At least, though, there is a clear trend starting to form that suggests brewing archaeology is indeed on the rise:
Total amount of publications from both journals.
2016 Luley, B.P. and Piquès, G. (2016) ‘Communal eating and drinking in early Roman Mediterranean France: a possible tavern at Lattara, c. 125–75 BC’, Antiquity, 90(349), pp. 126–142. doi: 10.15184/aqy.2015.184.
2015 Bruhn, J. (2015) ‘Dominic Ingemark . Glass, alcohol and power in Roman Iron Age Scotland. 300 pages, 153 b&w illustrations, 17 colour photographs. 2014. Edinburgh: National Museums Scotland; 978-1-905267-81-1 paperback £35.’, Antiquity, 89(343), pp. 242–243. doi: 10.15184/aqy.2014.20.
2014 Pollard, A.M., Bray, P.J. and Gosden, C. (2014) ‘Is there something missing in scientific provenance studies of prehistoric artefacts?’, Antiquity, 88(340), pp. 625–631. doi: 10.1017/S0003598X00101255.
2013 Zori, D., Byock, J., Erlendsson, E., Martin, S., Wake, T. and Edwards, K.J. (2013) ‘Feasting in Viking Age Iceland: sustaining a chiefly political economy in a marginal environment’, Antiquity, 87(335), pp. 150–165. doi: 10.1017/S0003598X00048687.
2012 Areshian, G.E., Gasparyan, B., Avetisyan, P.S., Pinhasi, R., Wilkinson, K., Smith, A., Hovsepyan, R. and Zardaryan, D. (2012) ‘The chalcolithic of the Near East and south-eastern Europe: discoveries and new perspectives from the cave complex Areni-1, Armenia’, Antiquity, 86(331), pp. 115–130. doi: 10.1017/S0003598X00062499.
Dietrich, O., Heun, M., Notroff, J., Schmidt, K. and Zarnkow, M. (2012) ‘The role of cult and feasting in the emergence of Neolithic communities. New evidence from Göbekli Tepe, south-eastern Turkey’, Antiquity, 86(333), pp. 674–695. doi: 10.1017/S0003598X00047840.
2011 Jané, M.R.G. (2011) ‘The meaning of wine in Egyptian tombs: the three amphorae from Tutankhamun’s burial chamber’, Antiquity, 85(329), pp. 851–858. doi: 10.1017/S0003598X00068356.
2008 Iriarte, J., Gillam, J.C. and Marozzi, O. (2008) ‘Monumental burials and memorial feasting: an example from the southern Brazilian highlands’, Antiquity, 82(318), pp. 947–961. doi: 10.1017/S0003598X00097702.
Miller, N.F. (2008) ‘Sweeter than wine? The use of the grape in early western Asia’, Antiquity, 82(318), pp. 937–946. doi: 10.1017/S0003598X00097696.
2007 Valamoti, S.M., Mangafa, M., Koukouli-Chrysanthaki, C. and Malamidou, D. (2007) ‘Grape-pressings from northern Greece: the earliest wine in the Aegean?’, Antiquity, 81(311), pp. 54–61. doi: 10.1017/S0003598X00094837.
2006 Renfrew, J. (2006) ‘Food and feasting in antiquity’, Antiquity, 80(310), pp. 1000–1003. doi: 10.1017/S0003598X0009459X.
2001 Brown, A.G., Meadows, I., Turner, S.D. and Mattingly, D.J. (2001) ‘Roman vineyards in Britain: stratigraphic and palynological data from Wollaston in the Nene Valley, England’, Antiquity, 75(290), pp. 745–757. doi: 10.1017/S0003598X00089250.
1998 Day, P.M. and Wilson, D.E. (1998) ‘Consuming power: Kamares Ware in Protopalatial Knossos’, Antiquity, 72(276), pp. 350–358. doi: 10.1017/S0003598X00086622.
1997 Rausing, G. (1997) ‘The wheeled cauldrons and the wine’, Antiquity, 71(274), pp. 994–999. doi: 10.1017/S0003598X00085884.
Samuel, D. (1997) ‘McGOVERN PATRICK E. , FLEMING STUART J. & KATZ SOLOMON H. . The origins and ancient history of wine. xxiv+409 pages, 132 illustrations, 13 tables. 1995. Langhorne (PA): Gordon & Breach Publishers: 2-88124-577-3 hardback £55 & $85.’, Antiquity, 71(271), pp. 236–237. doi: 10.1017/S0003598X00084799.
1996 Rice, P.M. (1996) ‘Peru’s colonial wine industry and its European background’, Antiquity, 70(270), pp. 785–800. doi: 10.1017/S0003598X00084064.
1995 Dronfield, J. (1995) ‘Subjective vision and the source of Irish megalithic art’, Antiquity, 69(264), pp. 539–549. doi: 10.1017/S0003598X00081928.
1978 Dickson, J.H. (1978) ‘Bronze age mead’, Antiquity, 52(205), pp. 108–113. doi: 10.1017/S0003598X00071921.
1966 Stubbings, F.H. (1966) ‘Zafiropoulo Jean : Mead and Wine: A History of the Bronze Age in Greece (translated from the French by Peter Green). London: Sidgwick and Jackson, 1966. 156 pp., 22 pls., 19 figs. 30s.’, Antiquity, 40(159), pp. 240–241. doi: 10.1017/S0003598X00032622.
1959 Piggott, S. (1959) ‘A LATE BRONZE AGE WINE TRADE?’, Antiquity, 33(130), pp. 122–123. doi: 10.1017/S0003598X00118368.
1956 Food Production in N. Africa (1956) Antiquity, 30(120), pp. 223–224. doi: 10.1017/S0003598X00118113.
Around 450 BC in Southern Germany, someone (probably an intern) burnt a special structure. Some thousand years later, a team of archaeologists uncovered this ditch, revealing a well-preserved Iron Age malting facility and a mass amount of germinated barley grain.
To figure out just how Iron Age man was malting, Dr. Hans-Peter Stika set up a few experiments to see if he could replicate these grains found at this archaeological site.
Photo of the ditch excavation, with barley at the bottom 
This malting facility is located in Eberdingen-Hochdorf, next to Stuttgart. The area was identified as a farm within the rural residence of a nearby fortified hill top, known as ‘Hohen Asperg.’ There was also a rich grave mound found located just half a kilometer to the east of the site. Given the other finds at the site (such as some fine ceramics and bronze material), it is assumed this farm belonged to a Celtic Prince, probably living at the Hohen Asperg hilltop fort.
Six ditches were found, each approximately 5 - 6 m long, 0.6 m wide and up to 1.1 m deep in a U-shaped profile. Since there was no evidence for erosion, Dr. Stika assumed the walls were supported with wooden boards, despite no such boards being excavated.
The site turned up three different groups of grains (assemblages). Two contained mostly hulled barley. Although the exact amount of barley isnt specified, it is said to be within the thousands of ‘multirowed barley’, which I'm assuming is six-row. The remaining assemblage had only around 266 individual grains and contained a few other species (wheat varieties and wild plants).
Recovered barley from Hochdorf trenches 
So to start the experiment, hulled and naked barley grains were germinated. This was done by soaking both grain types overnight, and then divided into three different groups. These were then exposed to different temperatures, light, and climate:
Dark environment with humidity control around 10 °C
Dark plus damp cellar around 14 °C
Daylight at room temperature
After the germination process, these subgroups were then compared to modern malts. The best results were under dark and cool conditions with constantly high humidity. Signs of germination began after five days.
These experimental grains were then exposed to charring, to make them suitable for comparison to the Hochdorf trench grains. Charring was done at two different temperatures: 250 °C and 350 °C. Grains which were still moist puffed up, whereas dry grains remained morphologically intact. As expected, sprouts from the germination process did not survive, and no sprouts were recovered at the archaeological site. Interestingly, grains which were left to germinate for seven days or longer did not preserve well.
So, in order to replicate the grains found at the Hochdorf site, barley grain had to dry, be evenly sprouted, and only in a slightly sprouted state. Thus, the authors conclude, that this was most likely a malting facility on a large scale. It is tough to say exactly how malting would have been carried out, but at least we can say that Iron Age man was able to produce a consistent and successful malt. Even when compared to modern standards.
To explain how this structure was destroyed (and thus ‘placed into’ the archaeological record), the following was proposed: a wooden support holding the dry malt accidently caught on fire, eventually collapsed thus scattering the grains over the bottom of the ditch where they were then covered by said wooden frame.
In theory, the ditches could have also been used to dry green malt as well as for germination. Soaked barley grains could easily be spread onto mats (made out of a woven material), and laid on the ditch floor. Then simply cover the top and a damp, cool environment would be created, providing optimal conditions to produce quality malt.
These could also be also used for drying the barley, if a small fire at one end of the ditch were started, and other infrastructure installed to create the necessary airflow to successfully dry the grain. But such objects were not found.
So what does this all mean? It seems to suggest that Iron Age maltsters knew what they were doing in order to create evenly germinated grain (presumably) for brewing. All there is to do now is to replicate these ditch frames and make some malt.
Stika, Hans-Peter. "Early Iron Age and Late Mediaeval malt finds from Germany—attempts at reconstruction of early Celtic brewing and the taste of Celtic beer." Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences 3.1 (2011): 41-48.