Oldest Beer Recipe

Beer is a great past time and his been around for almost as long as humans. It’s older than all other alcohol types such as whiskey and wine. As humans have been farming and cultivating grains for over 10 000 years, the possibility of fermentation  has always been there. But it wasn’t until about 5ooo years ago that we find the oldest beer recipe, in Sumeria 1800 BC.

It comes in the form of an ancient poem dedicated to the goddess of beer and brewing, Ninkasi. And yes, beer was so popular that the Sumerians had a goddess dedicated to this ancient past time.

Ninkasi

It said that Ninkasi provided the world with the secret to making beer. In Sumerian culture, she is also known for her power to satisfy human desire. Her father was Enki, the lord Nudimmud, and her mother was Ninti, the queen of the Abzu. She was also one of the eight children created in order to heal one of the eight wounds that Enki received. She was also borne of “sparkling fresh water.” She is the goddess made to “satisfy the desire” and “sate the heart.” She would prepare the beverage daily.

Ninkasi – Sumerian Goddess of Beer and Brewing

At first the recipe looks like no more than an ode to the Sumerians go to drink. But a closer look reveals an actual recipe to an ancient beer.

Translation

Translated in the 60’s from two clay tablets by Miguel Civil, Professor of Sumerology at the University of Chicago.  The poem remained mostly unknown until it attracted the attention of Fritz Maytag, founder of the Anchor Brewing Company in San Francisco. He decided to experiment with Sumerian brewing and present it at an annual meeting of the American Association of Micro Brewers in 1991. The brewers, writes Civil, “were able to taste ‘Ninkasi Beer,’ sipping it from large jugs with drinking straws as they did four millennia ago. The beer had an alcohol concentration of 3.5%, very similar to modern beers, and had a ‘dry taste lacking in bitterness,’ ‘similar to hard apple cider.’”

Mesopotamian Beer Rations Tablet – Ancient.eu

Poem/Recipe

Hymn to Ninkasi
Borne of the flowing water,
Tenderly cared for by the Ninhursag,
Borne of the flowing water,
Tenderly cared for by the Ninhursag,

Having founded your town by the sacred lake,
She finished its great walls for you,
Ninkasi, having founded your town by the sacred lake,
She finished it’s walls for you,

Your father is Enki, Lord Nidimmud,
Your mother is Ninti, the queen of the sacred lake.
Ninkasi, your father is Enki, Lord Nidimmud,
Your mother is Ninti, the queen of the sacred lake.

You are the one who handles the dough [and] with a big shovel,
Mixing in a pit, the bappir with sweet aromatics,
Ninkasi, you are the one who handles the dough [and] with a big shovel,
Mixing in a pit, the bappir with [date] – honey,

You are the one who bakes the bappir in the big oven,
Puts in order the piles of hulled grains,
Ninkasi, you are the one who bakes the bappir in the big oven,
Puts in order the piles of hulled grains,

You are the one who waters the malt set on the ground,
The noble dogs keep away even the potentates,
Ninkasi, you are the one who waters the malt set on the ground,
The noble dogs keep away even the potentates,

You are the one who soaks the malt in a jar,
The waves rise, the waves fall.
Ninkasi, you are the one who soaks the malt in a jar,
The waves rise, the waves fall.

You are the one who spreads the cooked mash on large reed mats,
Coolness overcomes,
Ninkasi, you are the one who spreads the cooked mash on large reed mats,
Coolness overcomes,

You are the one who holds with both hands the great sweet wort,
Brewing [it] with honey [and] wine
(You the sweet wort to the vessel)
Ninkasi, (…)(You the sweet wort to the vessel)

The filtering vat, which makes a pleasant sound,
You place appropriately on a large collector vat.
Ninkasi, the filtering vat, which makes a pleasant sound,
You place appropriately on a large collector vat.

When you pour out the filtered beer of the collector vat,
It is [like] the onrush of Tigris and Euphrates.
Ninkasi, you are the one who pours out the filtered beer of the collector vat,
It is [like] the onrush of Tigris and Euphrates.

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