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Sumerian Beer May Have Been Alcohol-Free


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#1    BFB

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Posted 19 January 2012 - 09:38 AM

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The fermented cereal beverage enjoyed by Sumerians, so-called Sumerian beer, may have been alcohol-free, suggests a recent review of ancient Sumerian practices.

While ancient writings and vessel remnants show that Mesopotamia's inhabitants were fond of fermented cereal juice, how the brew was actually made is still a mystery.

To investigate the brewing technologies of Mesopotamia, the late Peter Damerow, a historian of science and cuneiform-writing scholar at the Max Planck Institute in Germany, reviewed archaeological finds of ancient beer production and consumption, as well as 4000-year-old cuneiform writings, which included Sumerian administrative documents and literary texts dealing with myths and legislation.


Sumerian Beer May Have Been Alcohol-Free

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#2    Mr_Snstr

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Posted 19 January 2012 - 04:19 PM

I bet a lot of "beers" of old were highly sour or tart and would be unrecognizable as beer; as well as less alcoholic than we'd be expecting. If anyone has tried to wild ferment a beer it pretty much always gets taken over by lactic bacterias and ends up tasting like an accidental lambic. Add some fruit juice and it starts getting palatable though(matter of opinion); even kind of tasty(def matter of opinion); though tastes nothing like what most would consider beer. That and hops has only been used widely for several hundred years; which is pretty much in every modern brew.


#3    Taun

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Posted 19 January 2012 - 05:12 PM

View PostMr_Snstr, on 19 January 2012 - 04:19 PM, said:

I bet a lot of "beers" of old were highly sour or tart and would be unrecognizable as beer; as well as less alcoholic than we'd be expecting. If anyone has tried to wild ferment a beer it pretty much always gets taken over by lactic bacterias and ends up tasting like an accidental lambic. Add some fruit juice and it starts getting palatable though(matter of opinion); even kind of tasty(def matter of opinion); though tastes nothing like what most would consider beer. That and hops has only been used widely for several hundred years; which is pretty much in every modern brew.


Plus it would have been flat... I don't think modern beer drinkers would like ancient 'beer' at all...


#4    Mr_Snstr

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Posted 19 January 2012 - 05:31 PM

View PostTaun, on 19 January 2012 - 05:12 PM, said:

Plus it would have been flat... I don't think modern beer drinkers would like ancient 'beer' at all...

Ah yes; that too. I think if you took ancient beer out of the context of modern beer it could be appreciated for what it is. But it's like calling all fruits apples; than giving someone a durian when they're expecting an apple.


#5    jules99

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Posted 19 January 2012 - 09:40 PM

View PostBFB, on 19 January 2012 - 09:38 AM, said:

Alcohol free be blowed, if they knew how to ferment, they would have learned how to preserve the most important part; the alcohol content. Crikey; why bother fermenting it otherwise? Also a flat beer is OK. Today we only add the CO2 because it zests the taste up a bit and because we can. Ive tried room temporature flat australian beer and it tastes like stale cat urine.If you were trying to make a flat beer that tasted OK aussie beer wouldnt be hard to beat. I mean we only drink it ice cold to numb the taste buds..
To make fermentation less hit and miss you would think they would have learned to just reuse the wort recycling the old yeast...If a batch were to get infected this wouldnt be possible. Youd have to assume that if it was a favourite drink among the people, then they had production techniques down pat, following strict recipes etc.


#6    Lostpet

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Posted 20 January 2012 - 12:53 PM

I honestly read that as Sumerian BEAR may have been alcohol free... was rather confused


#7    Taun

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Posted 20 January 2012 - 03:43 PM

View PostLostpet, on 20 January 2012 - 12:53 PM, said:

I honestly read that as Sumerian BEAR may have been alcohol free... was rather confused


That is probably why Ancient Sumeria fell... darned drunken bears!   :)



Another thing to consider is how they brewed it... Today we (mostly) use large copper 'kettles' or similar containers to ferment it in... back then they most likely used pottery jars... and I wonder how 'air tight' and contaminent free they could have made it...

And how pure was the water they used... :blink:

Edited by Taun, 20 January 2012 - 03:44 PM.


#8    ealdwita

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Posted 20 January 2012 - 04:48 PM

Alcohol-free beer is akin to God-free religion!

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#9    voidla

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Posted 22 January 2012 - 03:01 PM

Buddhism seems to do alright as a god-free religion :P
I'm sure if Sumerians knew language and writing and building they knew how to make alcoholic and non-alcoholic beer!


#10    spud the mackem

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Posted 22 January 2012 - 04:27 PM

I like JULES99's comments,but what does cat urine taste like ?,mentioning Aussie beer,of which one is called four x,ie:- xxxx,thats because they couldn't spell "s..t" on a can.Maybe Sumerian "beer" was like goats wee,but I havnt tried that either.


#11    AliveInDeath7

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Posted 22 January 2012 - 05:41 PM

Alcohol free beer is like a book without words.  :rofl:


#12    ancient astronaut

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Posted 23 January 2012 - 02:41 AM

alcohol free flat beer, wouldn't that just be water???


#13    Imaginarynumber1

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Posted 23 January 2012 - 09:46 AM

View PostNikkiAidyn, on 22 January 2012 - 05:41 PM, said:

Alcohol free beer is like a book without words.  :rofl:

Couldn't have said it better myself.
I never started drinking beer for the taste....

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#14    rashore

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Posted 23 January 2012 - 03:30 PM

I could see the stuff being non-alcoholic. After all, we ferment up sourkraut and kimchee and those aren't alcoholic. Fermenting is just as much a non-alcoholic preservation process as it is an alcohol producing one.
I think it's probably more likely that it did have alcohol in it though.


#15    randym23

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Posted 23 January 2012 - 04:14 PM

a lot of beers were low-alcohol. The fermentation process was to make a safe liquid to drink, not to create something to get drunk. Wine was generally used for that. Water wasn't very safe back in those days. To many sources of water were also used as bathing areas and sewers, so you didn't really drink it from the source.You either boiled it or made it into beer.

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