Beer

“The brewing of beer may well have occurred soon after the production of cereal crops, and no doubt for a long time beer was home-produced and in the hands of the housewives responsible for preparing the ‘gruel’ or bread. Malting the grain is the first step in beer-brewing, but malting–that is, allowing the grains to germinate –was initially carried out to make the grains more palatable. After malting, besides being mixed into a nourishing gruel, the grains could also be dried, milled and baked into a more easily preserved kind of bread. Thus, the first production of beer may be reasonably considered as an accidental discovery resulting from the malting of grain for other purposes. When cereals came to be more often baked into bread and less often turned into gruel, malting was not so necessary and became part of the brewer’s trade only. By the third millennium BC, Mesopotamia was already well versed in beer-brewing and old Sumerian texts mention eight barley beers, eight emmer beers and three mixed beers. Aromatic plants were added to the beer to improve the flavour and to assist in its preservation, and extra honey, cereals and malt gave varying added strengths. Up to the millennium, the grains were de-husked, but husked grains then began to be brewed and beer was drunk through the drinking-tubes to be seen in several relief carvings…Brewing followed much the same pattern in Egypt, where too it originally went hand in hand with baking…As early as the Pyramid Age five kinds of beer were noted…Indeed, it is considered that the ancient brewers probably made stronger beer than we now know, owing to the wild yeast which caused the fermentation that produced a greater alcohol content…Beer, to the Greeks and Romans, was a barbarian drink…The North European peoples of those days such as the Celts and the Germans did not yet know the wine-grape and the art of viticulture, so after the introduction of cereal agriculture their drink remained beer for a very long time.”

Food in Antiquity: A Survey of the Diet of Early Peoples, Don Brothwell and Patricia Brothwell, expanded edition [Johns Hopkins University Press:Baltimore MD] 1998 (pp. 166-7)