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Sumerian Beer May Have Been Alcohol-Free

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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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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.

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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...

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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.

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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.

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

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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

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

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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!

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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.

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

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

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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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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.

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

Very true. It's also like driving a sports car with an automatic transmission or drinking decaffeinated coffee... WHY?

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PLEASE tell me it's a mistake. Mouthy Mormons I can deal with but holier than thou Sumerians?

Too much to be borne.

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I am mystified by the first sentence of the article... would alcohol free beer really be 'enjoyed'?

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I am mystified by the first sentence of the article... would alcohol free beer really be 'enjoyed'?

If fermentation of the sugars from the grains occurred then there would absolutely have been alcohol in it, unless the Sumerians boiled it after fermentation to remove the alcohol, which seems unlikely.

HOWEVER if during the brewing process the grains did not reach the proper temperatures, allowing the starches therein to convert to fermentable sugars, it is possible that the sumerians could have made drinks with no alcohol.

Also the amount of alcohol in the beer would have been dependent on several variables

1)the amount of fermentable sugars extracted during the brewing process

2) The kind of yeasts which were available. some yeasts have very high tolerance for the byproduct of fermentation (alcohol) and some do not, so depending on the yeast strain a brewer is using, you may get more or less complete fermentation of sugars. Most wild yeast strains have relatively low attenuation (ability to survive in alcohol) and so therefore would have less fermentation abilities. It is likely that the Sumerians used spontaneous fermentation with wild yeast strains.

All in all chances are good that the Sumerians enjoyed a beer with much lower alcohol content, and higher sugar content, which would have made it more palatable.

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Posted (edited)

...Sumerian beer, may have been alcohol-free...

Homer Simpson does not approve of your so-called 'civilisation', Sumerians!

Edited by Leonardo

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Ouch! I'm an aussie and I like my beer, especially after a hard night working. Mind you, I never started drinking it for the taste either.

From my knowledge though Randy is right, water sources back in those days weren't all that safe, but that wasn't why sumerians brewed beer. It was done more as a religious thing. And yes, apparently it was alcoholic cos when the babylonians took over they offered guests preparations to ward off hangovers. You'll never guess what these preparations were usually dissolved in though... yep, that's right, beer. Lol

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Ouch! I'm an aussie and I like my beer, especially after a hard night working. Mind you, I never started drinking it for the taste either.

From my knowledge though Randy is right, water sources back in those days weren't all that safe, but that wasn't why sumerians brewed beer. It was done more as a religious thing. And yes, apparently it was alcoholic cos when the babylonians took over they offered guests preparations to ward off hangovers. You'll never guess what these preparations were usually dissolved in though... yep, that's right, beer. Lol

I am a beer lover and a homebrewer - I love beer for its taste. Not your standard goat-p*** swill like Budweiser, Miller, Coors, Heineken, insert name of worthless mass-produced light lager here. I enjoy beers with unique flavors crafted by people who give a rip what it tastes like. Unlike the huge multinationals who produce least common denominator carbonated beer-water out of the least possible amount of beer ingredients possible, bought at the cheapest imaginable price.

The beer that these major companies make today would be unrecognizable next to the products they started making around the turn of the century. Back then, beer was made from malted barley, hops, and water. Now your typical Bud, miller, coors, is over 40% rice and corn with regards to the grain bill.

Anyone who doesn't like beer because they had a bud/miller/coors and thought it was nasty should branch out. Because bud/miller/coors are to beer what a hot dog is to meat. There are simply thousands of options that taste far, far better.

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