Le Temps d’une Bière

How the Sumerians Invented Beer

Not your usual IPA!

The beer that the Sumerians made was likely quite different from the beers we drink today. It would have been much more cloudy and had a lower alcohol content. It was also consumed as a daily beverage, rather than a leisurely drink.

Sumer was an ancient civilization located in the Mesopotamia region of the Fertile Crescent. It is widely believed that beer was first developed in Sumer around 4000 BCE.

The Sumerians were a highly advanced civilization, and they made significant contributions to many fields, including agriculture, art, architecture, and technology. They also had a rich cultural life, and beer played an important role in their society.

Oldest know depiction of people drinking beer. Straws were used due to the high sediment content as beer was unfiltered. It more closely resembled a soup than modern beer.

There is evidence that the Sumerians were brewing beer as early as 4000 BCE. They used a variety of grains, including barley, to make beer, and the process involved mashing the grains, boiling the wort, and fermenting the mixture with yeast. The resulting beer was often flavored with various herbs and spices.

The ancient Sumerians are credited with the invention of beer. They brewed beer from barley using a process called fermentation. Here’s a general overview of how they made beer:

  1. The Sumerians first harvested and germinated barley seeds to create malt.
  2. They ground the malt into a fine powder and mixed it with water to create a mixture called “wort.”
  3. The wort was then boiled, often with additional ingredients like dates or other grains, to create a sweet, flavorful liquid called “must.”
  4. The must was then left to ferment, during which time natural yeasts present in the air would convert the sugars in the must into alcohol. This process took several days to a week.
  5. Once the fermentation was complete, the beer was strained to remove any solids and then it was ready to be consumed.

The Sumerians believed that beer had medicinal properties and it was often used as a means of payment. It was also an important part of religious ceremonies and was offered to the gods as a sacrifice.

The Sumerians had a highly organized system for brewing and distributing beer. They had professional brewers, known as “tabarni,” who were responsible for making the beer. The beer was then sold at taverns, which were a common gathering place in Sumerian society.

The Sumerians also developed a system of writing, known as cuneiform, which they used to record various aspects of their society, including the production and consumption of beer. There are many cuneiform tablets that contain records of the production and trade of beer in Sumer.

The Sumerians spread their knowledge of beer making to other civilizations, and it is likely that their techniques influenced the development of beer in other parts of the world.

As the Sumerian civilization declined, the production and consumption of beer also declined. However, the legacy of Sumerian beer making lived on, and it has had a lasting impact on the development of beer as we know it today.

In conclusion, beer was an important part of Sumerian society, and it played a significant role in the development of this ancient civilization. The Sumerians made significant contributions to the art and science of brewing, and their techniques and knowledge have had a lasting impact on the development of beer throughout the world.

Pierre-Olivier Bussières

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