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Topic: poem to Sumerian beer goddess and a recipe!

After Wednesdays post on Sumerian beer I looked up the poem to Ninaski, I thought you might enjoy it and the recipe included.

As to whether the Sumerians discovered beer well my vote is for the Egyptians but who ever it was we owe them a great deal!

Ninkasi, the Sumerian Goddess of Brewing and Beer

The Sumerians were big-time beer drinkers. In fact, by accident, they discovered beer. Yes, not created, but rather discovered, or so it’s been postulated. Sources indicate that the old school nomadic hunter-gatherers, of some 13,000 years ago, finally realized that they could settle – that it was more beneficial to life and yielded stability. One of their first harvested products was grain. To keep this grain, it was often baked and stored. Some 6,000 years ago, ancient text reveals that eventually it was formulated that the sweetest grain, if baked, left out, moistened, forgotten, then eaten, would produce an uplifting, cheerful feeling. Intoxication at the primal level! The first beer!

After this blissful discovery, baked grains were broken into pieces and stuffed into a pot. Water, and sometimes aromatics, fruit or honey, were added (creating a basic mash and wort) and left to ferment. Years later, the Babylonians fashioned what we now know as a straw, to extract the juice from the grain pulp in the pot. A not-so-distant Russian recipe is still produced today, called “kvass.” The only real difference being that the fermented liquid is poured into a cask, bottle or jug.

The following text from 1800 BC is the Hymn to Ninkasi, translated by Miguel Civil. It was written by a Sumerian poet and found on clay tablet. It actually includes one of the most ancient recipes for brewing beer.

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.

Ninkasi is the Sumerian goddess of brewing and beer and head brewer to the gods themselves. Her name means “the lady who fills the mouth” and her birth was formed of sparkling-fresh water. She who bakes with lofty shovel the sprouted barley, she who mixes the bappir-malt with sweet aromatics, she who pours the fragrant beer in the lahtan-vessel that is like the Tigris and Euphrates joined! Yes, she. Early brewers were primarily women, mostly because it was deemed a woman’s job. Mesopotamian men, of some 3,800 years ago, were obviously complete assclowns and had yet to realize the pleasure of brewing beer.

Using the above text, one could literally recreate the ancient recipe embedded within the poem. In fact, back in the early 1990s, Fritz Maytag of Anchor Brewing and Dr. Solomon Katz of the University of Pennsylvania set out to reproduce this brew by deciphering the ancient clay tablet. Thick loaves of bread called bappir were baked from several grains. Mixed with honey, the loaves were then twice baked until a granolalike consistency was achieved, believing that the Sumerians stored this brew for later use. These loaves were added to a mash with a large addition of malt to ensure a proper conversion of starches. The mixture was then cooled naturally, not by modern techniques. The sweet liquid was strained away from the grains and transferred to the fermenter. Yeast was added and yielded a 3.5 percent alcohol by volume. After the fermentation, the beer was served in proper Sumerian style – sipped from bulky clay jugs using lengthy drinking straws, produced to bear a resemblance to the gold and lapis-lazuli straws unearthed in the mid-third millennium tomb of Lady Pu-abi at Ur.

Let’s give thanks to our one true god – Beer and its messenger Ninkasi! Blessed be Beer!

Original article:
beer advocate

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Topic: Sumerian Beer

(Great Lakes Brewing Co.)CLEVELAND, OHIO—Brewers at the craft beer maker Great Lakes Brewing Company are working with archaeologists at the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute to demystify and recreate the recipe behind a 5,000-year-old Sumerian beer. The best clues for how the brew’s ingredients and cooking method, which was performed using just clay pots and a wooden spoon, come from a poem written to the Sumerian goddess of beer titled the Hymn to Ninkasi. In addition to deciphering the methodology from cuneiform, the University of Chicago team has given the Great Lakes brewers ceramics modeled on ones taken from a 1930s excavation of a site in Iraq. The brew, when finished, won’t be for public consumption.

Original article:
archaeology.org
June 21, 2013

The above was a synopsis of an article published by the New York Times. Below is the full article:

For Its Latest Beer, a Craft Brewer Chooses an Unlikely Pairing: Archaeology

By contemporary standards, it would have been a spoiled batch here at Great Lakes Brewing Company, a craft beer maker based in Ohio, where machinery churns out bottle after bottle of dark porters and pale ales.

But lately, Great Lakes has been trying to imitate a bygone era. Enlisting the help of archaeologists at the University of Chicago, the company has been trying for more than year to replicate a 5,000-year-old Sumerian beer using only clay vessels and a wooden spoon.

“How can you be in this business and not want to know from where your forefathers came with their formulas and their technology?” said Pat Conway, a co-owner of the company.

As interest in artisan beer has expanded across the country, so have collaborations between scholars of ancient drink and independent brewers willing to help them resurrect lost recipes for some of the oldest ales ever made.

“It involves a huge amount of detective work and inference and pulling in information from other sources to try and figure it out,” said Gil Stein, the director of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, which is ensuring the historical accuracy of the project. “We recognize that to get at really understanding these different aspects of the past, you have to work with people who know things that we don’t.”

There is an unresolved argument in academic circles about whether the invention of beer was the primary reason that people in Mesopotamia, considered the birthplace of Western civilization about 10,000 years ago, first became agriculturalists.

By about 3200 B.C., around the time the Sumerians invented the written word, beer had already held a significant role in the region’s customs and myths. Sipped through a straw by all classes of society, it is also believed to have been a source of drinkable water and essential nutrients, brewed in both palaces and in average homes. During the rule of King Hammurabi, tavern owners were threatened with drowning if they dared to overcharge.

But for all the notes that Sumerians took about the ingredients and the distribution of their libations, no precise recipes have ever been found. Left behind were only cuneiform texts that vaguely hint at the brewing process, perhaps none more poetically than the Hymn to Ninkasi, the Sumerian goddess of beer.

The song, dated around 1800 B.C., had entranced modern brewers before. A brew based on the hymn was made as part of a partnership in the early 1990s between Anchor Brewing Company in San Francisco and the University of Chicago, where a well-known interpretation of the text was translated in 1964.

Reproductions of ancient alcohols have since grown in popularity, largely through a partnership between the Dogfish Head Craft Brewery in Delaware and Patrick E. McGovern, an archaeological chemist at the University of Pennsylvania Museum. Together, they have recreated beers from prehistoric China, from ancient Egypt and from evidence found in what is believed to be the tomb of King Midas.

“Of different people who do fermented beverages, microbrewers are the most willing to experiment,” Dr. McGovern said. “They’re ready to try anything.”

Great Lakes has no plan to sell its brew, also based on the Hymn to Ninkasi, to the public. The project, unlike others that recreate old recipes on modern equipment, is an educational exercise more than anything else. It has been shaped by a volley of e-mails with Sumerian experts in Chicago as both sides try to better understand an “off the grid” approach that has proved more difficult than first thought.

In place of stainless steel tanks, the Oriental Institute gave the brewery ceramic vessels modeled after artifacts excavated in Iraq during the 1930s. In keeping with the archaeological evidence, the team successfully malted its own barley on the roof of the brew house. It also asked a Cleveland baker to help make a bricklike “beer bread” for use as a source of active yeast — by far the most difficult step in the process.

The archaeologists, who have committed their careers to studying Sumerian culture, said having professional brewers involved in the effort had helped them ask questions they had not considered.

“We keep going back to the evidence and finding new hints that can help us choose between different interpretations,” said Tate Paulette, a doctoral student and a lead researcher on the project. “We are immersed in studying Mesopotamia, and this is a fundamental thing that we don’t understand well enough.”

While the project continues, Great Lakes’ brewing vessels are already a popular addition to guided tours of the brewery. The company is making plans to showcase its Sumerian beer at events in Cleveland and Chicago by the end of this summer, offering a public tasting of the final brew alongside an identical recipe made with more current brewing techniques.

In the meantime, there is still some tweaking to do.

After months of experiments in the brewery’s laboratory, Nate Gibbon, a brewer at Great Lakes, said he had stood over a ceramic vat on a recent Wednesday, cooking outside on a patch of grass. The fire that heated the vat was fueled by manure.

The batch, spiced with cardamom and coriander, fermented for two days, but it was ultimately too sour for the modern tongue, Mr. Gibbon said. Next time, he will sweeten it with honey or dates.

Without sophisticated cleaning systems to rid the vessels of natural bacteria, Mesopotamian imbibers might have been more familiar with the brew’s unwanted vinegar flavor, archaeologists said. Yet even with the most educated guesswork, they said, the Sumerian palate might never be fully uncovered.“We’re working with questions that are not going to have a final answer,” Mr. Paulette said. “It’s just back and forth, trying to move toward a better understanding. We’re pretty comfortable with that.”
New York Times
By STEVEN YACCINO
Published: June 17, 2013

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