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Was ancient Sumerian beer alcohol free ?

Posted on Sunday, 22 January, 2012 | Comment icon 22 comments | News tip by: BFB

Image credit: sxc.hu

The beer variant enjoyed by the ancient Sumerians may not have contained any alcohol at all.

Details of ancient Mesopotamian brewing practices were researched by the late Peter Damerow who examined ancient texts and 4000-year-old cuneiform writings to learn as much as possible about them. He eventually concluded that the end product, while popular, would have been quite unlike other beverages and would not have contained any alcohol. "Given our limited knowledge about the Sumerian brewing processes, we cannot say for sure whether their end product even contained alcohol," he wrote.

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

  View: Full article |  Source: Live Science

  Discuss: View comments (22)


Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #13 Posted by rashore on 23 January, 2012, 15:30
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.
Comment icon #14 Posted by randym23 on 23 January, 2012, 16:14
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.
Comment icon #15 Posted by BiffSplitkins on 23 January, 2012, 16:34
Very true. It's also like driving a sports car with an automatic transmission or drinking decaffeinated coffee... WHY?
Comment icon #16 Posted by and then on 23 January, 2012, 19:26
PLEASE tell me it's a mistake. Mouthy Mormons I can deal with but holier than thou Sumerians? Too much to be borne.
Comment icon #17 Posted by Conrad Clough on 10 April, 2012, 23:08
I am mystified by the first sentence of the article... would alcohol free beer really be 'enjoyed'?
Comment icon #18 Posted by orangepeaceful79 on 11 April, 2012, 3:44
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... [More]
Comment icon #19 Posted by Leonardo on 11 April, 2012, 7:59
Homer Simpson does not approve of your so-called 'civilisation', Sumerians!
Comment icon #20 Posted by Anne-Marie on 11 April, 2012, 8:17
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
Comment icon #21 Posted by orangepeaceful79 on 11 April, 2012, 13:29
I am a beer lover and a homebrewer - I love beer for its taste. Not your standard goat-piss 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 t... [More]

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