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Archive for January, 2012

Topic:Ancient Beer?

This is an archaic writing tablet from Mesopotamia (approx. 3000 B.C.): The tablet which contains proto-cuneiform writing, belongs to the most ancient group of written records on earth. It contains calculations of basic ingredients required for the production of cereal products, for example, different types of beer. Credit: M. Nissen, 1990

Archaeological finds from cuneiform tablets and remnants of different vessels from over 4,000 years ago show that even around the dawn of civilisation, fermented cereal juice was highly enjoyed by Mesopotamia’s inhabitants. However, besides the two basic ingredients, barley and emmer (a species of wheat) the brew produced in the clay jars of the Sumerians is shrouded in mystery. Despite an abundance of finds and scribal traditions which point to an early love of fermented cereal beverages, reconstructing ancient brewing methods is very difficult, according to the historian of science and cuneiform writing scholar Peter Damerow of the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin. A scholarly paper by Damerow, who passed away at the end of November 2011 in Berlin, carefully examines the beer brewing technologies of the Sumerians. However, the author also expresses great doubts as to whether the popular brew in ancient times was even beer.

Note:

I noticed an error in the paragraph below: malt is not an ingredient it is a process. The text should say malted barly( or emmer) not emmer, barly, and malt!

Although many of the more than 4,000 years old cuneiform texts contain records of deliveries of emmer, barley and malt to , as well as documentation of the activities, there is hardly any information on the details of the production processes, and no recipes to follow. According to Damerow, the administrative texts were most likely written for an audience that was already familiar with the details of brewing. They were not intended for informing the modern-day reader about the processes.

Moreover, the methods used for recording this information differ between locations and time periods. Also, the records and calculations are not based on any consistent number system. Instead, the Sumerian bureaucrats used different number systems depending on the nature of the objects to be counted or measured to count or measure.

This has cast doubt on the popular theory that Mesopotamian brewers used to crumble flat bread made from barley or emmer into their mash. The so-called “bappir” (Sumerian for “beer bread”) is never counted as bread in the administrative texts, but in measuring units, like coarsely ground barley. Damerow also points out that the high degree of standardisation, which meant that the quantities of raw materials allocated to the brewers by the central administration remained exactly the same over long periods, sometimes even decades, makes it difficult to base any recipes on them.

According to Damerow, even the “Hymn of Ninkasi”, one of the most significant sources on the ancient art of brewing, does not provide any reliable information about the constituents and steps of the brewing process. This lyric text from the Old Babylonian period around 1800 B.C. is a mythological poem or song that glorifies the brewing of beer. Despite the elaborate versification, Damerow states that the procedure of brewing is not conclusively described. It merely offers an incomplete record of the individual steps. For instance, there is no clue as to how the germination of the grain was interrupted at the right time. It can only be speculated that the barley was layered and that the germination was stopped by heating and drying the grain as soon as the root embryo had the right size.

Furthermore, the content of the hymn does not quite fit the results of the Tall Bazi Experiment. This was a brewing experiment carried out by archaeologists from the Ludwig Maximilian Universität in Munich together with brewing experts from the Center of Life and Food Sciences Weihenstephan at the Technische Universität München, with the intention of reconstructing the ancient brewing processes. Using cold mashing, the archaeologists managed to produce a brew of and emmer and adjust the alcohol level by changing the percentage of water; however, in Damerow’s opinion, this result must also be treated with scepticism.

Nothing suggests that a production process that worked under the special conditions of Tall Bazi must have worked in the same way at other places in Mesopotamia, since the local conditions varied greatly. In fact, the experiment only demonstrates how modern methods can be used to produce a beer under the same conditions that were prevalent in Tall Bazi.

These uncertainties lead to a question, which the author considers “much more fundamental”: to which extent is it at all possible to compare ancient products with modern ones? “Given our limited knowledge about the Sumerian brewing processes, we cannot say for sure whether their end product even contained alcohol”, writes Damerow. There is no way of ascertaining whether the brew was not more similar to the bread drink kvass from Eastern Europe than to German Pilsner, Altbier or wheat beer.

Nevertheless, Damerow considers the approach of the scientists in the Tall Bazi Experiment to be a good way of finding the answers to questions about the early history of the art of brewing. “Such interdisciplinary research efforts might well lead to better interpretations of the ‘Hymn of Ninkasi’ than those currently accepted among specialists working on cuneiform literature”, writes Damerow.

Original Article:

physorg.com

Jan 17, 2012

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Single-sided ploughing in a ploughing match.

Image via Wikipedia

Topic: Ancient Furrows

Prague, Jan 16 (CTK) – Archaeologists in Prague-Bubenec have uncovered a site with the oldest traces of ploughing and a field in the Czech Lands, that date back to the mid-4th millennium B.C., Archaeological Institute spokeswoman Jana Marikova has told CTK.

The research in two streets, completed late last year, also uncovered a rich evidence on the area’s population in later periods, from the Celtic people and German tribes to the early medieval inhabitants, Marikova said.

Probably the most important find is the system of four approximately parallel lines that are nine metres long, ten metres wide and eight centimeters deep, which archeologists say, are furrows.

Experts believe the furrows date back to the earlier phase of Copper Age, i.e. between 3800 and 3500 B.C.

The oldest evidence on the use of primitive ploughs in Europe also coincide with this period.

“The Bubenec finds are exceptional in that the furrows probably cannot be considered ritual ploughing. If so, it would be the oldest trace of a field in the Czech Republic,” Marikova said,

Archaeologists have taken 200 boxes with uncovered ancient artifacts away from the Bubenec site, not far from the Prague Castle, and also soil samples for natural scientists to further examine.

Original Article:

praguemonitor.com

Jan 17, 2012

 

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English: A sketch of two prehistoric fish hook...

Image via Wikipedia

Topic: Ancient fishing Gear

HONG KONG (Reuters) – Fish hooks and fishbones dating back 42,000 years found in a cave in East Timor suggest that humans were capable of skilled, deep-sea fishing 30,000 years earlier than previously thought, researchers in Australia and Japan said on Friday.

              The artefacts — nearly 39,000 fishbones and three fish hooks — were found in a limestone cave in Jerimalai in East Timor, 50 metres (165 feet) above sea level, said Sue O’Connor from the Australian National University‘s department of archaeology and natural history.

              “There was never any hint of (what) maritime technology people might have had in terms of fishing gear 40,000 years ago,” O’Connor, the study’s lead author, told Reuters by telephone from Canberra.

“(This study showed) you got ability to make hooks, you are using lines on those hooks. If you can make fibre lines, you can make nets, you are probably using those fibres on your boats.”

              “It gives us a lot of information on how people subsisted on these very small islands on their way to Australia,” she said.

              Modern humans were capable of long-distance sea travel 50,000 years ago as they colonised Australia, but evidence of advanced maritime fishing has been rare.

              Researchers until now have only been able to find evidence of open-ocean fishing up to 12,000 years ago.

              HOOKS MADE FROM SHELL

              O’Connor and her colleagues, who published their findings in the journal Science, found the bones and hooks in a 1 sq metre “test pit” in the cave, 300 metres (985 feet) from the coast.

              “All the bones we got inside were just the result of human meals, 40,000 years ago,” said O’Connor.

              “They were living in that shelter and we are fortunate that all the materials are preserved so well in that limestone cave, which preserves bone and shell really well,” she said.

              The fish hooks were apparently made from the shells of the Trochus, a large sea snail.

              “They are very strong shell … we think they just put bait on and dropped the hook in the water from a boat (at the) edge of a reef,” O’Connor said.

              The fish bones were traced to 23 species of fish, including tuna, unicornfish, parrotfish, trevallies, triggerfish, snappers, emperors and groupers.

              “Parrotfish and unicorn were probably caught on baited hooks … but tuna are deepwater, fast-moving fish. Tuna and trevallies were probably caught by lure fishing,” O’Connor said.

Original Article:

news.yahoo.com

By Tan Ee Lyn | Reuters – Sat, Jan 14, 2012

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Topic Ancient popcorn

 

Popcorn

 

A new study suggests that people living along the coast of northern Peru were eating popcorn 1,000 years earlier than previously thought.

Researchers say corncobs found at an ancient site in Peru suggest that the inhabitants used them for making flour and popcorn.

Scientists from Washington’s Natural History Museum say the oldest corncobs they found dated from 4700BC.

They are the earliest ever discovered in South America.

Ancient food

The curator of New World archaeology at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in Washington DC, Dolores Piperno, says maize was first domesticated in Mexico nearly 9,000 years ago from a wild grass.

Ms Piperno says that her team’s research, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, shows that only a few thousand years later maize arrived in South America, where it evolved into different varieties now common in the Andean regions.

Her team discovered the maize in the archaeological sites of Paredones and Huaca Prieta.

“This evidence further indicated that in many areas corn arrived before pots did, and that early experimentation with corn as a food was not dependent on the presence of pottery,” Ms Piperno explained.

She says that at the time, though, maize was not yet an important part of their diet.

Original Article:

bbc.co.uk

Jan 18, 2012

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Beer Brewing Supplies and Ingredients

Image by billread via Flickr

Topic: Home brewing ancient beer

Fast upon Mondays high response to my post( 589 hits my highest one day total so far), my husband ( the archaeologist) found the following article on BrewingTechniques.com.

I thought you might find it of interest.

My only objection lies in the postscript where the author describes setting out the sprouted barley gruel out in the open air-that might have worked just fine in ancient times but with the environment we have today it’s no wonder he found mold, weevils in his mash. If you try this use cheese cloth over your mix and it should elevate much of your problems. Also you can leave you mixture indoors wild yeast are everywhere. While leaving your mixture indoors probably isn’t what the ancients did, we will never know, they also didn’t have out pollution. I have had excellent results capturing wild yeasts with this method both for my sourdough bread and my wild yeast mead.

Intrigued by Anchor Brewing’s reproduction of an ancient beer according to the Sumarian Hymn to Ninkasi, one home brewer set out to reproduce his own interpretation of an even earlier beer.

As both a paleontologist and home brewer, I could not help but be attracted by the media coverage of the reproduction of an ancient Sumarian beer. The beer, called Ninkasi after the Sumarian goddess of beer, was produced by the Anchor Brewing Company (San Francisco, California), based on a hymn inscribed on a clay tablet (1). Dr. Solomon Katz of the University of Pennsylvania and Fritz Maytag of Anchor Brewing worked to decipher the brewing clues contained within the hymn to reproduce the beverage so revered by the ancient Sumarians.

Apart from the sense of accomplishment in reproducing a piece of the ancient past, Katz and Maytag’s work also added new information to an old debate. Anthropologists have long argued over whether beer or bread was the primary reason for the origins of agriculture (2,3). Katz and Maytag proceeded on the premise that an understanding of beer production methods of 4000 years ago could be used as a stepping stone from which to view the origins and evolution of beer. This, in turn, would provide a glimpse into the lives and cultures of the first nomadic tribes to settle into agrarian civilizations.

I decided to borrow their stepping stone and have a look into the past for myself. We know barley has been cultivated for at least 9000 years (4). I wondered what a beer of that era would have been like, a beer that is more than twice as old as the recipe reproduced from the Sumarian hymn. I decided to try some simple qualitative experiments in my kitchen. I managed not only to produce a beer that could have been made over 9000 years ago, but also to explore the intimate link between beer and bread. These experiments led me to the conclusion that the argument over the primacy of bread vs. beer is as academic as that of the chicken vs. egg.
THE DEVELOPMENT OF A PRIMARY INGREDIENT

To set the stage for the origins of beer, consider the other uses of grain. Undoubtedly the first use of grain, before either bread or beer, was to make gruel (2). Bread is effectively a cooked dense gruel and comes in three basic types. Unleavened bread, such as the tortilla, is the simplest form. It requires pulverized grain (flour) and water and is baked on a hot stone. It has a small volume and requires little in terms of ingredients. Leavened bread, with which we are most familiar, requires a large volume of flour, water, a source of sugars, and yeast. A third and less well known, bread is made from sprouted grains. The grains are sprouted, ground to paste, and baked in a loaf. The resultant loaf is very dense, sweet and cakelike, and is in effect a kilned malt.
One could argue endlessly on the basis of parsimony, culture, and archaeological evidence over the order of appearance of breads and beer. Whether sprouted bread was a derivative of sprouted gruel or unleavened bread may never be known. What we can be certain of is that people 10,000 years ago experimented with ways to consume grain. Somewhere in these experiments they discovered beer.

The question of how beer was discovered becomes academic. Beer may have been discovered through stewing sprouted bread, heating sprouted gruel, or unintentionally cooking grains that were stored in a damp place. Fermentation was most likely due to airborne microorganisms but may have been aided by the addition of fruit, raw grains, or other ingredients bearing surface yeast and bacteria. The serendipitous “accident” of making beer probably happened not once, but several times before the right blend of microorganisms produced a palatable beverage. I have no doubt, however, that once a pleasant tasting broth with euphoric effects was produced, word traveled fast.

ANCIENT BREWING TECHNIQUES

How was the beer made and what was it like? This question can be broken down into an examination of technology, ingredients, and procedures. The technology at the time of the origin of beer was not well developed but sufficient to make fire, tools of wood and stone, and a container of some sort. These are all it takes to make beer.
The main ingredient in beer is malt, which is a sprouted grain. Many grains can be and are used, including millet, corn, rice, wheat, spelt, and barley. We know from archaeological records that barley and wheat have been cultivated for at least 9000 years (4). Barley makes a poor bread because of its low gluten content, so we may safely assume that if people were brewing, they likely used barley and may have used wheat and other grains as well. The malt may have taken any of a number of forms. Dry malt may have been made for storage by either drying the sprouted grains in the sun, or baking sprouted loaves until hard. The very earliest beers may well have been made from raw sprouted grains that had undergone no drying or kilning.

The process for making the original beers was undoubtedly abbreviated compared with modern beers, which undergo separate mashing, boiling, and fermentation steps. The first beers likely underwent a continuous mash and fermentation. Sprouted grains were ground and mixed with water in a vessel of wood or even in skin bags. This vessel was heated either by fire, by dropping in heated rocks, or by setting it out in the hot sun. Fermenting flora would have been introduced from both the grains and the air. The fermented gruel could then be consumed, or the liquid could be drawn off as beer and the remaining grains and yeast mixed with wheat flour to make a leavened bread.

The fermentation of ancient beers would have involved many different yeasts and bacteria. The trick would have been to keep the pH down low enough to inhibit noxious bacteria. A “sour mash” process, in which the warm mash is inoculated with Lactobacillus from the grain husks, can grow some truly foul aerobic organisms if exposed to air. Presumably the “sour mash” portion of the fermentation was brief, or some acidity was built up during the sprouting process.

With the invention of ceramics, the process could be much more refined. The mash could be cooked over a fire, and the liquid could be drawn off and fermented separately. Eventually, techniques would have evolved to preferentially select certain strains of microflora by the addition of fruit, which bear yeast on the surface, or by using a “magic stick” to stir the wort and transmit yeasts between batches.

ANCIENT BEER, HOME BREWED IN MY KITCHEN

To experience part of the ancient past, I wanted to reproduce an early beer. I decided to start with beer that could have been made with a mash cooked in clay pots. The idea was to sprout grains of barley and wheat, use some of the sprouted grains to make sprouted loaves, cook up a mash of sprouted grains and sprouted bread, and transfer the liquid and ferment it. To round out the experiment, I decided to collect the yeast sediment and any grains from the bottom of the fermentor and mix these with stone-ground whole wheat flour to make leavened bread.
Ingredients: I picked up the grains from a health food store. In addition to barley, I decided to include wheat and spelt for variety. Unfortunately, the barley was hulled. I knew the hulled barley could lead to problems but decided to take my chances for this first attempt.

To make the malt, I sprouted the grains in mason jars with perforated lids (these can be purchased at a health food store or made at home). I placed 200-250 g of grain in each 1-L jar and filled the jars with cold water, rotating them to ensure even wetting. I left the grains to soak in water for 24 h; I then inverted the jars and left them on a dish rack to drain. I rinsed the grains every 12 h and again left them to drain. After every rinsing I examined the grains for signs of germination. Germination was uneven, so the termination point was somewhat arbitrary; I stopped the sprouting when many of the acrospires had reached grain length and not too many had grown much longer. The wheat and spelt grains were ready in two to three days, whereas the barley took seven or more days to sprout sufficiently. By the time the barley was ready for use, the moist grains emitted a vinegary aroma, perhaps from the activity of bacteria in the grain bed.

I gave the grains a final rinse, drained them, and dumped those destined to become sprouted bread into a food processor for grinding (I could not find a mortar and pestle large enough). I emptied the resulting thick starchy paste of whole and partial grains onto a flat ceramic baking pan and formed it into “biscuits,” 15-18 cm in diameter and 2-3 cm thick. These biscuits were then baked at various temperatures and times to observe the different results. I opted for flat biscuits rather than domed loaves because the flat shape would dry more thoroughly for better storage; the dome-shaped store-bought sprouted bread must be kept frozen to prevent mold from growing on the moist, sweet loaf.

I baked the biscuits at 120-175 °F (50-80 °C) for 8-18 h. Those baked at 150 °F (65 °C) for about 10 h seemed to be the most pleasant tasting. Those baked at lower temperatures (120 °F [50 °C]) remained sticky and pasty even after 12 h and required flipping and a further 6 h of baking. Those baked in a stepwise manner (130 °F [55 °C] for 1 h, 150-160 °F [65-70 °C] for 2 h, and 175 °F [80 °C] for 8 h) came out darkened to the color of dark Munich malt or British brown (porter) malt, depending on the original moisture content. The flavor of the wheat and spelt biscuits was better than that of the barley biscuits, though they all tasted of malt.

Recipe design: With biscuits and sprouting barleycorns, I set about trying to design a recipe that could be produced by people of 10,000 years ago and that could be reproduced easily and reliably. Ancient cultures undoubtedly experimented until they achieved desirable results. I chose not to reproduce all of these experiments, but rather to shortcut that process by calling on more modern knowledge of brewing science. I had to remind myself, though, that the experiment was to reproduce a fermented beverage of the ancients, and not to brew a competition beer from which I expected perfect extraction or crystal clarity.

Mashing: The mashing technique I finally settled on was a sort of decoction. The technique has the advantage of producing the desired temperatures without actually having to measure those temperatures with a thermometer. A half and half mixture of boiling mash and room temperature mash would give a temperature of approximately 140 °F (60 °C). If this resulting mash were slowly heated, it would pass through the starch conversion temperature range, through mash-out temperatures, and on to boiling. The extracted wort would be boiled, cooled slowly, and fermented.

Fermentation: Fermentation was another dilemma. I was not about to expose this wort to the microorganisms in my kitchen, which have been responsible for more than one spoiled batch of beer. And I did not wish to use commercially available lambic cultures, because I was not producing a lambic-style beer. Some have suggested that ancient beers were fermented with a combination of Saccharomyces and Schizosaccharomyces (5), but I had no local source of the latter. Instead, I recalled a portion of Katz and Maytag’s interpretation of the Hymn to Ninkasi wherein they supposed that fruits, such as grapes (or raisins) or dates, may have been added, not as a flavoring but as a source of wild yeasts which normally live on the skins of these fruits (1).

I decided against using grapes to supply the yeast because fresh fruit is not readily available in Halifax in late fall. What is available has been shipped long distances and likely contains both pesticides and fruit fly eggs. I could have used a mix of pure wine and beer cultures to simulate wild yeasts, but instead I chose to culture the yeast from a batch of fresh unpasteurized sweet apple cider. This technique provided an inoculation with microorganisms known to produce fermentation without actually controlling the numbers or strains of those organisms. The beer was intended to be consumed young, so I was not overly concerned about spoilage or long-term storage. The recipe and procedure I settled on is shown in the accompanying box.

For those interested in specific numbers, the original gravity was 1.071 (much of it from dissolved starches). The final gravity was quite high as well – 1.033. As it fermented, the starch in suspension formed a pellicle on top of the kraeusen. As the foam fell, the starchy skin remained; its integrity was such that bubbles would collect underneath it, bursting only when they had grown to several centimeters in width. Much of the brown color of the liquid settled with the yeast as a starchy sediment as fermentation slowed, leaving a surprisingly pale liquor.

FINISHED BEER AND LEAVENED BREAD

After racking the beer into bottles, I performed the other half of the experiment. I removed a quantity (roughly 500 mL) of the yeast-starch-grain slurry from the bottom of the primary, warmed it slightly to rouse the yeast, and added stone-ground whole wheat flour to make a dough (about 1.5 L [6 cups]). After the dough was thoroughly mixed to a dense elastic texture, I left it to rise for 1 h in a warm place over the oven. I kneaded it, rolled it into a ball, placed it on a ceramic baking pan, and baked it at 350 °F (175 °C) for 55 min. The resulting loaf was dark and heavy and initially had a strong aroma of alcohol. The bread was hearty, though slightly bland from lack of sugar, oil, and salt. It was not unpleasant, and though not the best choice for a peanut butter sandwich, it would make an excellent vehicle for a ripe brie.
The beer was more of a surprise. My expectation was of a sour, yeasty, starchy brew, drinkable but not particularly enjoyable. Not so. The beer was quite pale and contained suspended starch, giving it the appearance of a Belgian White beer, though a degree or two darker. The level of carbonation was almost nil, though when poured with vigor a slight sparkling could be produced. Without carbonation it produced no head, so head retention was not an issue. The aroma was bready, yeasty, and cidery, with a hint of wheat. The cidery component was not like that of a beer made with too much sucrose, nor was it the acetaldehyde tang of a certain commercial American pilsner. The perception of yeastiness in the aroma faded after the first few sips. The flavor was soft and had a dry finish. No strong estery or phenolic notes were present, but a slight spiciness was detectable in the background. The high wheat content provided a bready character and may have contributed to the spicy note. The alcohol was noticeable, but not foremost. Despite the high original gravity, the beer was remarkably clean tasting. One taster compared it to Jade, a pale Flanders-style ale from the north of France, though I have never sampled this particular beer. It was good enough to warrant a second glass.

From this simple experiment we get a glimpse into the origins of beer and leavened bread. What was wholly unexpected in my results was that ancient beers may have been quite good, even by modern standards. The vagaries of wild fermentation would have precluded any form of quality control, and yet spontaneous fermentation with wild yeasts likely produced a pleasant end product often enough to keep the ancient brewers at their craft.

POSTSCRIPT

As a postscript to this experiment, buoyed by the success of my first attempt I decided to take one step further back: I wanted to reproduce the oldest beer. For this I would sprout barley in water, pound it into gruel, set it in the sun to mash, leave it open to the night air for inoculation, and see what happened. With any luck the sprouting grain and mash would be acidic enough to keep some of the bacteria at bay, and with even more luck I might pick up some interesting and inoffensive wild yeasts.
This idea, however, was misguided. I soaked whole feed barley in water, hoping that mold could be kept away by keeping the water level above the level of the grain. Within 36 h the concoction was churning and bubbling and dead weevils floated on the surface. After another 24 h, white mold was growing on the surface, and bacterial and yeast activity in the grain continued at a furious pace. I decided to discontinue the experiment. Between the putrid aroma and the fear of toxic molds, I decided perhaps I didn’t want to taste this beer after all.

This test was not a complete waste, however. Though it should perhaps be repeated in a warmer climate, it indicated that the earliest beer was not likely produced by the simple accident of grain being soaked by rainwater. The earliest beers likely did not appear until some process for mashing or malting was developed, either in the form of a gruel or a sprouted bread.
Kitchen Anthropology:
Home Brewing an Ancient Beer
By Ed Hitchcock
Republished from BrewingTechniques’ September/October 1994.
Intrigued by Anchor Brewing’s reproduction of an ancient beer according to the Sumarian Hymn to Ninkasi, one home brewer set out to reproduce his own interpretation of an even earlier beer.

As both a paleontologist and home brewer, I could not help but be attracted by the media coverage of the reproduction of an ancient Sumarian beer. The beer, called Ninkasi after the Sumarian goddess of beer, was produced by the Anchor Brewing Company (San Francisco, California), based on a hymn inscribed on a clay tablet (1). Dr. Solomon Katz of the University of Pennsylvania and Fritz Maytag of Anchor Brewing worked to decipher the brewing clues contained within the hymn to reproduce the beverage so revered by the ancient Sumarians.

Apart from the sense of accomplishment in reproducing a piece of the ancient past, Katz and Maytag’s work also added new information to an old debate. Anthropologists have long argued over whether beer or bread was the primary reason for the origins of agriculture (2,3). Katz and Maytag proceeded on the premise that an understanding of beer production methods of 4000 years ago could be used as a stepping stone from which to view the origins and evolution of beer. This, in turn, would provide a glimpse into the lives and cultures of the first nomadic tribes to settle into agrarian civilizations.

I decided to borrow their stepping stone and have a look into the past for myself. We know barley has been cultivated for at least 9000 years (4). I wondered what a beer of that era would have been like, a beer that is more than twice as old as the recipe reproduced from the Sumarian hymn. I decided to try some simple qualitative experiments in my kitchen. I managed not only to produce a beer that could have been made over 9000 years ago, but also to explore the intimate link between beer and bread. These experiments led me to the conclusion that the argument over the primacy of bread vs. beer is as academic as that of the chicken vs. egg.

THE DEVELOPMENT OF A PRIMARY INGREDIENT

To set the stage for the origins of beer, consider the other uses of grain. Undoubtedly the first use of grain, before either bread or beer, was to make gruel (2). Bread is effectively a cooked dense gruel and comes in three basic types. Unleavened bread, such as the tortilla, is the simplest form. It requires pulverized grain (flour) and water and is baked on a hot stone. It has a small volume and requires little in terms of ingredients. Leavened bread, with which we are most familiar, requires a large volume of flour, water, a source of sugars, and yeast. A third and less well known, bread is made from sprouted grains. The grains are sprouted, ground to paste, and baked in a loaf. The resultant loaf is very dense, sweet and cakelike, and is in effect a kilned malt.
One could argue endlessly on the basis of parsimony, culture, and archaeological evidence over the order of appearance of breads and beer. Whether sprouted bread was a derivative of sprouted gruel or unleavened bread may never be known. What we can be certain of is that people 10,000 years ago experimented with ways to consume grain. Somewhere in these experiments they discovered beer.

The question of how beer was discovered becomes academic. Beer may have been discovered through stewing sprouted bread, heating sprouted gruel, or unintentionally cooking grains that were stored in a damp place. Fermentation was most likely due to airborne microorganisms but may have been aided by the addition of fruit, raw grains, or other ingredients bearing surface yeast and bacteria. The serendipitous “accident” of making beer probably happened not once, but several times before the right blend of microorganisms produced a palatable beverage. I have no doubt, however, that once a pleasant tasting broth with euphoric effects was produced, word traveled fast.

ANCIENT BREWING TECHNIQUES

How was the beer made and what was it like? This question can be broken down into an examination of technology, ingredients, and procedures. The technology at the time of the origin of beer was not well developed but sufficient to make fire, tools of wood and stone, and a container of some sort. These are all it takes to make beer.
The main ingredient in beer is malt, which is a sprouted grain. Many grains can be and are used, including millet, corn, rice, wheat, spelt, and barley. We know from archaeological records that barley and wheat have been cultivated for at least 9000 years (4). Barley makes a poor bread because of its low gluten content, so we may safely assume that if people were brewing, they likely used barley and may have used wheat and other grains as well. The malt may have taken any of a number of forms. Dry malt may have been made for storage by either drying the sprouted grains in the sun, or baking sprouted loaves until hard. The very earliest beers may well have been made from raw sprouted grains that had undergone no drying or kilning.

The process for making the original beers was undoubtedly abbreviated compared with modern beers, which undergo separate mashing, boiling, and fermentation steps. The first beers likely underwent a continuous mash and fermentation. Sprouted grains were ground and mixed with water in a vessel of wood or even in skin bags. This vessel was heated either by fire, by dropping in heated rocks, or by setting it out in the hot sun. Fermenting flora would have been introduced from both the grains and the air. The fermented gruel could then be consumed, or the liquid could be drawn off as beer and the remaining grains and yeast mixed with wheat flour to make a leavened bread.

The fermentation of ancient beers would have involved many different yeasts and bacteria. The trick would have been to keep the pH down low enough to inhibit noxious bacteria. A “sour mash” process, in which the warm mash is inoculated with Lactobacillus from the grain husks, can grow some truly foul aerobic organisms if exposed to air. Presumably the “sour mash” portion of the fermentation was brief, or some acidity was built up during the sprouting process.

With the invention of ceramics, the process could be much more refined. The mash could be cooked over a fire, and the liquid could be drawn off and fermented separately. Eventually, techniques would have evolved to preferentially select certain strains of microflora by the addition of fruit, which bear yeast on the surface, or by using a “magic stick” to stir the wort and transmit yeasts between batches.

ANCIENT BEER, HOME BREWED IN MY KITCHEN

To experience part of the ancient past, I wanted to reproduce an early beer. I decided to start with beer that could have been made with a mash cooked in clay pots. The idea was to sprout grains of barley and wheat, use some of the sprouted grains to make sprouted loaves, cook up a mash of sprouted grains and sprouted bread, and transfer the liquid and ferment it. To round out the experiment, I decided to collect the yeast sediment and any grains from the bottom of the fermentor and mix these with stone-ground whole wheat flour to make leavened bread.
Ingredients: I picked up the grains from a health food store. In addition to barley, I decided to include wheat and spelt for variety. Unfortunately, the barley was hulled. I knew the hulled barley could lead to problems but decided to take my chances for this first attempt.

To make the malt, I sprouted the grains in mason jars with perforated lids (these can be purchased at a health food store or made at home). I placed 200-250 g of grain in each 1-L jar and filled the jars with cold water, rotating them to ensure even wetting. I left the grains to soak in water for 24 h; I then inverted the jars and left them on a dish rack to drain. I rinsed the grains every 12 h and again left them to drain. After every rinsing I examined the grains for signs of germination. Germination was uneven, so the termination point was somewhat arbitrary; I stopped the sprouting when many of the acrospires had reached grain length and not too many had grown much longer. The wheat and spelt grains were ready in two to three days, whereas the barley took seven or more days to sprout sufficiently. By the time the barley was ready for use, the moist grains emitted a vinegary aroma, perhaps from the activity of bacteria in the grain bed.

I gave the grains a final rinse, drained them, and dumped those destined to become sprouted bread into a food processor for grinding (I could not find a mortar and pestle large enough). I emptied the resulting thick starchy paste of whole and partial grains onto a flat ceramic baking pan and formed it into “biscuits,” 15-18 cm in diameter and 2-3 cm thick. These biscuits were then baked at various temperatures and times to observe the different results. I opted for flat biscuits rather than domed loaves because the flat shape would dry more thoroughly for better storage; the dome-shaped store-bought sprouted bread must be kept frozen to prevent mold from growing on the moist, sweet loaf.

I baked the biscuits at 120-175 °F (50-80 °C) for 8-18 h. Those baked at 150 °F (65 °C) for about 10 h seemed to be the most pleasant tasting. Those baked at lower temperatures (120 °F [50 °C]) remained sticky and pasty even after 12 h and required flipping and a further 6 h of baking. Those baked in a stepwise manner (130 °F [55 °C] for 1 h, 150-160 °F [65-70 °C] for 2 h, and 175 °F [80 °C] for 8 h) came out darkened to the color of dark Munich malt or British brown (porter) malt, depending on the original moisture content. The flavor of the wheat and spelt biscuits was better than that of the barley biscuits, though they all tasted of malt.

Recipe design: With biscuits and sprouting barleycorns, I set about trying to design a recipe that could be produced by people of 10,000 years ago and that could be reproduced easily and reliably. Ancient cultures undoubtedly experimented until they achieved desirable results. I chose not to reproduce all of these experiments, but rather to shortcut that process by calling on more modern knowledge of brewing science. I had to remind myself, though, that the experiment was to reproduce a fermented beverage of the ancients, and not to brew a competition beer from which I expected perfect extraction or crystal clarity.

Mashing: The mashing technique I finally settled on was a sort of decoction. The technique has the advantage of producing the desired temperatures without actually having to measure those temperatures with a thermometer. A half and half mixture of boiling mash and room temperature mash would give a temperature of approximately 140 °F (60 °C). If this resulting mash were slowly heated, it would pass through the starch conversion temperature range, through mash-out temperatures, and on to boiling. The extracted wort would be boiled, cooled slowly, and fermented.

Fermentation: Fermentation was another dilemma. I was not about to expose this wort to the microorganisms in my kitchen, which have been responsible for more than one spoiled batch of beer. And I did not wish to use commercially available lambic cultures, because I was not producing a lambic-style beer. Some have suggested that ancient beers were fermented with a combination of Saccharomyces and Schizosaccharomyces (5), but I had no local source of the latter. Instead, I recalled a portion of Katz and Maytag’s interpretation of the Hymn to Ninkasi wherein they supposed that fruits, such as grapes (or raisins) or dates, may have been added, not as a flavoring but as a source of wild yeasts which normally live on the skins of these fruits (1).

I decided against using grapes to supply the yeast because fresh fruit is not readily available in Halifax in late fall. What is available has been shipped long distances and likely contains both pesticides and fruit fly eggs. I could have used a mix of pure wine and beer cultures to simulate wild yeasts, but instead I chose to culture the yeast from a batch of fresh unpasteurized sweet apple cider. This technique provided an inoculation with microorganisms known to produce fermentation without actually controlling the numbers or strains of those organisms. The beer was intended to be consumed young, so I was not overly concerned about spoilage or long-term storage. The recipe and procedure I settled on is shown in the accompanying box.

For those interested in specific numbers, the original gravity was 1.071 (much of it from dissolved starches). The final gravity was quite high as well – 1.033. As it fermented, the starch in suspension formed a pellicle on top of the kraeusen. As the foam fell, the starchy skin remained; its integrity was such that bubbles would collect underneath it, bursting only when they had grown to several centimeters in width. Much of the brown color of the liquid settled with the yeast as a starchy sediment as fermentation slowed, leaving a surprisingly pale liquor.

FINISHED BEER AND LEAVENED BREAD

After racking the beer into bottles, I performed the other half of the experiment. I removed a quantity (roughly 500 mL) of the yeast-starch-grain slurry from the bottom of the primary, warmed it slightly to rouse the yeast, and added stone-ground whole wheat flour to make a dough (about 1.5 L [6 cups]). After the dough was thoroughly mixed to a dense elastic texture, I left it to rise for 1 h in a warm place over the oven. I kneaded it, rolled it into a ball, placed it on a ceramic baking pan, and baked it at 350 °F (175 °C) for 55 min. The resulting loaf was dark and heavy and initially had a strong aroma of alcohol. The bread was hearty, though slightly bland from lack of sugar, oil, and salt. It was not unpleasant, and though not the best choice for a peanut butter sandwich, it would make an excellent vehicle for a ripe brie.
The beer was more of a surprise. My expectation was of a sour, yeasty, starchy brew, drinkable but not particularly enjoyable. Not so. The beer was quite pale and contained suspended starch, giving it the appearance of a Belgian White beer, though a degree or two darker. The level of carbonation was almost nil, though when poured with vigor a slight sparkling could be produced. Without carbonation it produced no head, so head retention was not an issue. The aroma was bready, yeasty, and cidery, with a hint of wheat. The cidery component was not like that of a beer made with too much sucrose, nor was it the acetaldehyde tang of a certain commercial American pilsner. The perception of yeastiness in the aroma faded after the first few sips. The flavor was soft and had a dry finish. No strong estery or phenolic notes were present, but a slight spiciness was detectable in the background. The high wheat content provided a bready character and may have contributed to the spicy note. The alcohol was noticeable, but not foremost. Despite the high original gravity, the beer was remarkably clean tasting. One taster compared it to Jade, a pale Flanders-style ale from the north of France, though I have never sampled this particular beer. It was good enough to warrant a second glass.

From this simple experiment we get a glimpse into the origins of beer and leavened bread. What was wholly unexpected in my results was that ancient beers may have been quite good, even by modern standards. The vagaries of wild fermentation would have precluded any form of quality control, and yet spontaneous fermentation with wild yeasts likely produced a pleasant end product often enough to keep the ancient brewers at their craft.

POSTSCRIPT

As a postscript to this experiment, buoyed by the success of my first attempt I decided to take one step further back: I wanted to reproduce the oldest beer. For this I would sprout barley in water, pound it into gruel, set it in the sun to mash, leave it open to the night air for inoculation, and see what happened. With any luck the sprouting grain and mash would be acidic enough to keep some of the bacteria at bay, and with even more luck I might pick up some interesting and inoffensive wild yeasts.
This idea, however, was misguided. I soaked whole feed barley in water, hoping that mold could be kept away by keeping the water level above the level of the grain. Within 36 h the concoction was churning and bubbling and dead weevils floated on the surface. After another 24 h, white mold was growing on the surface, and bacterial and yeast activity in the grain continued at a furious pace. I decided to discontinue the experiment. Between the putrid aroma and the fear of toxic molds, I decided perhaps I didn’t want to taste this beer after all.

This test was not a complete waste, however. Though it should perhaps be repeated in a warmer climate, it indicated that the earliest beer was not likely produced by the simple accident of grain being soaked by rainwater. The earliest beers likely did not appear until some process for mashing or malting was developed, either in the form of a gruel or a sprouted bread.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

I would like to thank M. Snow and J. Pinhey for their comments on the ancient beer and T. Kavanagh for discussion and information.
REFERENCES

(1) S.H. Katz and F. Maytag, “Brewing an Ancient Beer,” Archaeology 44 (4), 24-27 (1991).
(2) R.J. Braidwood et al., “Symposium: Did Man Once Live by Beer Alone?” American Anthropologist 55, 515-526 (1953).

(3) S.H. Katz and M. Voigt, “Beer and Bread: The Early Use of Cereals in the Human Diet,” Expeditions 28, 23-34 (1986).

(4) R.J. Braidwood, “The Agricultural Revolution,” Scientific American, September 1960, 130-148

(5) J.X. Guinard, Lambic, Classic Beer Style Series 3 (Brewers Publications, Boulder, Colorado, 1990), p. 9.

Recipe for an Ancient Beer

In one pot mix:
500 g (dry weight) pulverized sprouted barley gruel
1 biscuit (~200 g dry weight) sprouted wheat or spelt bread
2 L of the last barley rinse water
200 g cracked winter wheat
In a second pot, mix:
2 biscuits (~250 g dry weight) sprouted barley bread
100 g unsprouted barley, crushed
200 g unsprouted spelt, crushed
2.5 L cold water

Thoroughly break up the biscuits and allow them to soak. While the first pot soaks at room temperature, slowly heat the second pot to boiling. Once it has reached boiling, mix the contents of the two pots, and slowly bring the temperature back to boiling. With a wooden spoon, push the mash to one side of the pot and collect the liquid (plus any grain that happens to be floating around) with a cup and transfer it to another pot. Add 1 L of boiling water to the mash, stir, and repeat the pressing procedure. Repeat this until you have collected several liters of brown, gravy-like liquid, along with some grains. Bring the wort to a boil to sterilize it, cool, and pitch with your favorite wild yeast.
I confess that in the mash I did resort to a small addition of commercial malted barley to compensate for the lack of husks on the barley I had used.

Original article:
Home Brewing an Ancient Beer
By Ed Hitchcock
Republished from BrewingTechniques’ September/October 1994.
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EMS-89615 Egyptian wooden model of beer making...

Image via Wikipedia

Topic: Making beer like they did in Ancient Egypt

I forgot I even had this article. It was originally published in 2009

The picture to the left is of a model showing beer making in Ancient Egypt

If  you’re trying to be thrifty in the midst of this recession, try brewing your own beer in the style of the ancient Egyptians. Their yeast cells have been preserved for thousands of years.
While looking for recession-proof recipes to save money at the supermarket, I found a great resource for brewing your own recession-proof beer at home to save some money, it’s the article in Natural History magazine, the May 1996 issue, page 24, that describes how archaeologists brewed beer in the style of the ancient Egyptians, and in the 1990s even had it on sale at Harrod’s in London.
When archaeologists dug up King Tut’s and other ancients’ tombs in the 1920s and more recently, in the 1990s, they found starch granules in the ancient bread crumbs and beer dregs that revealed all the processes to which the bread was exposed during baking and brewing into beer.
All you have to do is back-engineer and reconstruct everything from scratch. So how do you brew your own beer the ancient Egyptian and Levantine way?
Instead of using your modern, cultured yeast, brew like an Egyptian and keep some yeasty residue from one brew to the next. The yeast sticks to the fabric of the brewing pots. Fermentation happens naturally from micro-flora.
All the former research showed barley and emmer wheat were grown in ancient Egypt. It was emmer wheat that the ancient Egyptians used to make beer at Tell el Amarna. Archaeologists saved the preserved emmer wheat on the temple kitchen floors. Here’ are the steps you can imitate the process at home to make ancient-style beer.
1. To make beer you buy some organic unhulled barley in a health food store. Moisten barley. Keep it moist until it germinates, then heat the barley to stop the germination (the result is called malt).
2. Add water and yeast so the malt sugars ferment.
3. Blend cooked and uncooked malt with water and produce a refined liquid free of husk by straining and mashing. For more information, go to my resource which is Natural History magazine, the May 1996 issue, page 24.
Here’s another ancient Egyptian way to brew beer. It’s going to taste like raspberries.

Boil barley and emmer wheat in a pot of water until it’s cooked and water is absorbed. Add cold water to make a brew. Fill the pot just before the rim.
Heat the mixture, adding more water and cooked malt. Add natural wild yeast and uncooked malt to the cooked malt. Health food stores have different types of natural yeast.
After adding the second batch of malt, cover, and allow the mixture to ferment.  Without adding any flavoring, the beer should be fruity and sweet and taste like raspberries. Try brewing your beer using the methods of a brewery so you don’t get a batch of bacteria in the brew to make you sick.
In fact, you can take your method to a brewery and ask whether you can brew your first batch at a brewery so you don’t make the mistake of letting it ferment at the wrong temperature and get yourself sick with a bunch of bacteria in the brew. Ancient Egyptian beer didn’t have the bitter hops flavor.
Here are the steps the archaeologists used to make ancient Egyptian beer. This information is in the article on making beer the ancient Egyptian way, published in Natural History magazine in the May 1996 issue, page 24. The article focused on the year 2050 BCE, the time of the XI Dynasty. So here are the steps the archaeologists used to make the ancient beer in the way the ancients would have brewed it.
First you have to grow the emmer wheat. But today emmer wheat is cultivated in Turkey. So if you live in England where the archaeologists were located, first you go to a health food store that imports Turkish emmer wheat. What the archaeologists actually did was to bring emmer wheat to England, about 850 pounds of it. And they grew that wheat at the at the National Institute of Agricultural Botany in Cambridge.
That’s all you need as far as raw material to brew beer the way the ancients made it, unless, of course, you must have water from ancient Egyptian wells. So that’s what the scientists did.
They analyzed old Egyptian desert wells to get the correct type of liquor. They had to do it because the old Egyptian well water is free from phospates and modern agricultural chemicals. So they had to add some gypsum to harden the water.
You at home can simply used distilled water.  Gypsum is calcium carbonate. Add a calcium carbonate tablet found in any health food store. Then flavor your ancient Egyptian beer brew with tiny amounts of juniper and coriander spices, obtainable in many herbal or health food stores. Or grow your own herbs from seeds in little pots or in your garden.
A modern yeast strain was used. It would have taken years of DNA research to reveal the exact nature of the yeast used in Ancient Egypt.  The experts chose a fast-fermenting strain from the National Yeast Collection in Norwich, also in eastern England, that works at a high temperature, as temperatures would have been hot in ancient Egypt, but not as hot as today.
No ancient Egyptian ever made beer with hops. They used malt. They never sweetened their beer with fruit or honey. If you want to make ancient Egyptian beer, you put coriander into the brew because it grew wild in the Nile Valley. Coriander in ancient Egypt was put into bread and other baked products. You can add juniper. That also was used in bread and beer. So put a pinch of juniper and coriander into your beer kettle.
Now comes mashing time.  Emmer wheat, unlike modern cereals, has a thick hull or husk. Emmer wheat can take up to 14 hours to grind into a grist suitable for mashing. The grinding was done with a pestle and mortar using dampened grain. This was the method used in Ancient Egypt and is still in use currently in Turkey. Emmer wheat is close to modern brewing grain.
If you want to find out what ancient Egyptian wheat used in brewing beer was like, look at how emmer wheat is ground into bread flower in Turkey today. This could be a great project for someone studying nutritional anthropology.
When you mash the emmer wheat, it produces a sugary solution. The archaeologists trying to make Egyptian beer did conventional mashing and boiling in modern pans, and the three-day fermentation took place in a gallon jar. Ancient peoples baked bread after they learned to brew beer.
First Neolithic peoples let raw mixed flour stand out in the air where the dough reacted with wild yeast and pollen blowing in the wind. As the dough dropped into water and fermented, it turned to a type of beer.
Then when people added more raw mixed flour to the beer and baked it, they produced a light, leavened bread. Since Nile water was muddy, beer was used instead of water in ceremonies and as the meal-time beverage of choice for ancient Egyptian workers.
In 1996, archaeologists from the University of Cambridge found no flavorings in the beer, only spices. The ancient Egyptians seemed to have used barley to make malt. Egyptians of four thousand years ago used emmer wheat instead of hops. They heated the mixture, and then added yeast and uncooked malt to the cooked malt. After adding the second batch of malt, the brew was allowed to ferment.
Drink the new beer a few days after fermentation. Ancient pharaohs got to wait a few more days for the beer to get stronger. Tutankhamun Ale was brewed at 6 per cent alcohol by volume/4.8 per cent by weight. One thousand bottles were once produced and sold only in London’s top department store, Harrods, which is owned by an Egyptian, Mohamad Al Fayed.
The ancient-style beer was opaque and gold-colored. It tasted like spiced, mulled fruit. Different strains of yeast give off a variety of tastes and aromas. “Brewing blended cooked and uncooked malt with water; the mixture was strained free of husk before inoculation with yeast,” according to Investigation of Ancient Egyptian Baking and Brewing Methods by Correlative Microscopy” Science July 1996, v273, n5274, p488, by Samuel, Delwen.
My references for this recipe were the articles titled, King Tut’s Tipple” Discover Jan.1997, v18, n1, p13, by Shanti Menon, and Investigation of Ancient Egyptian Baking and Brewing Methods by Correlative Microscopy” Science July 1996, v273, n5274, p488, by Samuel, Delwen. For more information, see the publications of the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, University of Cambridge, Downing Street, Cambridge CB2 3ER, UK.
article from Examiner.com

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Topic: Ancient Bread Stamp

Bread Stamp

Israeli archaeologists find 1,500-year-old kosher ‘bread stamp’ near Acre – Haaretz Daily Newspaper | Israel News.

Bread Stamp

Original Article:

haaretz.com

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