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The Archaeology of Beer

timothy posted about 7 months ago | from the glog-glog-glog dept.

Beer 89

cold fjord writes with an excerpt from The Atlantic's profile of Dr. Pat McGovern, a biomolecular archaeologist at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, who has what sounds like a fascinating job: decoding ancient clues about what (and how) humans in the distant past were brewing and drinking. "'We always start with infrared spectrometry,' he says. 'That gives us an idea of what organic materials are preserved.' From there, it's on to tandem liquid chromatography–mass spectrometry, sometimes coupled with ion cyclotron resonance, and solid-phase micro-extraction gas chromatography–mass spectrometry. The end result? A beer recipe. Starting with a few porous clay shards or tiny bits of resin-like residue from a bronze cup, McGovern is able to determine what some ancient Norseman or Etruscan or Shang dynast was drinking." The article points out that McGovern has collaborated with the Dogfish Head brewery to reproduce in modern form six of these ancient recipes.

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89 comments

But ... (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45788903)

But will these 6 rediscovered recipes be "free as in beer"?

Re:But ... (-1, Troll)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | about 7 months ago | (#45789021)

Ancient beers. I'm afraid to ask what the recipes are. I've heard of (but not verified) fermented milk from various animals. People ferment anything from potatoes, to wheat, to barley, to rice. I'll wager that if a group of people couldn't find anything else to ferment, they'd ferment their own urine.

I'm sure as hell not paying for some untested recipe that some egghead has extrapolated from a bunch of broken pottery dug up at an ancient dig site. Let those eggheads drink their own brew.

Re:But ... (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45789133)

Ancient beers. I'm afraid to ask what the recipes are. I've heard of (but not verified) fermented milk from various animals. People ferment anything from potatoes, to wheat, to barley, to rice. I'll wager that if a group of people couldn't find anything else to ferment, they'd ferment their own urine.

I'm sure as hell not paying for some untested recipe that some egghead has extrapolated from a bunch of broken pottery dug up at an ancient dig site. Let those eggheads drink their own brew.

Fermented mare's milk is a national drink in Kazakhstan.

Re:But ... (4, Informative)

cold fjord (826450) | about 7 months ago | (#45789661)

Fermented mare's milk is a national drink in Kazakhstan.

That is Kazakhstan [wikipedia.org] , the real country [youtube.com] that is tormented [youtube.com] by Sasha Baron Cohen's [youtube.com] fictional character, the "journalist," Borat [youtube.com] .

Kazakh national cuisine [iaea2012.com]

Kazakh documentary film "Kieli Meken" - Discover Real Kazakhstan [youtube.com]
MEET THE STANS [youtube.com]

The actual Kazakhstan national anthem [youtube.com] , the "Borat" parody [youtube.com] , and an unfortunate incident [youtube.com] .

Re:But ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45793749)

Very... informative, but I don't understand why you posted this. The GP only mentioned fermented mare's milk, which is not something cooked up by Sasha Baron Cohen. At least according to that tantalizing food site you posted.

Re:But ... (1)

RockDoctor (15477) | about 7 months ago | (#45812555)

Fermented mare's milk is a national drink in Kazakhstan.

... and partly fermented milk of any other sort - including cows - is a very popular drink across the whole of Russia and the Former Soviet Union states - under the name of kephir (ÐÐÑÐÑ ; as if Slashdot will be able to handle non-Latin characters). As long as you're not expecting what looks like milk to taste like milk, it's entirely drinkable and quite nice if you like sour/ bitter drinks.

There's an old joke that "one man's cheese is another man's rotten milk" ; that's doubly true for kephir.

And I'm off to have some Camembert, with it's rind of moulds. Or some Stilton.

Re:But ... (3, Funny)

pr0fessor (1940368) | about 7 months ago | (#45789203)

I kept thinking Ancient Alien Theorists every time the word "ancient" was used in tfa so H2 may have ruined that word for me, but the ingredients listed where not uncommon and did not include fermented badger milk or urine. I would try it.

 

It’s a hybrid of beer, fruit wine, and mead, flavored with (among other ingredients) yarrow, lingonberries, cranberries, bog myrtle, and birch syrup.

Re:But ... (1)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | about 7 months ago | (#45789223)

Let those eggheads drink their own brew.

You can be pretty sure they're going to be the first to do exactly that.

Also ... "eggheads"? Really?

Re:But ... (4, Interesting)

jellomizer (103300) | about 7 months ago | (#45789381)

Ahh First World Food squeemishment.
Fermentation was one of the first way you could preserve your food. As well as making more healthier to eat.
What we call Fresh Milk, has been Homogenized and Pasteurized, so we don't get sick from drinking it. fermented milk was probably healthier overall than fresh milk at the time. The same with other sources of food. Having a way to dehydrate and keep your food clean was very difficult too.

Fermentation was the key to early civilization, it allowed them to store enough food for the hard times, and have some in excess... Allowing them to worry about other issues at hand.

Re:But ... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45789637)

Also, brewing beer, mead, wine, etc...introduces a high enough of an alcohol content to kill off many nasty microbes that would frequently be found in 'fresh' water supplies around settlements (cholera etc)

Re:But ... (1)

Zumbs (1241138) | about 7 months ago | (#45790933)

Almost, but not quite: The key step was not the alcohol,but the boiling while brewing the alcohol.

Re:But ... (1)

khallow (566160) | about 7 months ago | (#45792653)

The key step was not the alcohol,but the boiling while brewing the alcohol.

The alcohol content will help keep undesirable microbes from recolonizing the beer after it's no longer being boiled.

Re:But ... (1)

sjames (1099) | about 7 months ago | (#45793219)

Not just for the sake of liquid. At that time, the high calorie content of beer was a feature.

Re:But ... (1)

vac65 (2032474) | about 7 months ago | (#45798175)

Fermentation is the first step to happiness. The fist effect, probably was euphoria. Nobody give'd a fuck about "beneficial effects"or food preservation. That was probably an effect noticed by the women who cleaned after the drinking parties of idiot men.

Re: But ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45798991)

Wrong! Learn the origin of "India Pale Ale" and you'll catch a clue...at least about beer history, if not colonialism!

Good, more for me.... (4, Interesting)

Ellis D. Tripp (755736) | about 7 months ago | (#45789469)

Have tried all of DFH's "Ancient Ales" (except the Kvasir which hasn't showed up locally yet), and they were all interesting and surprisingly drinkable. Their "Theobroma", a cacao-based beer based on a Honduran recipe is one of their best products.

Dogfish beers aren't for everyone. But their slogan "Off-Centered Ales for Off-Centered people" should explain that...

Re:Good, more for me.... (1)

wcrowe (94389) | about 7 months ago | (#45789871)

Hmmm. It might be worth the 200-mile trip I would have to make to get some.

Re:Good, more for me.... (1)

TripleE78 (883800) | about 7 months ago | (#45790635)

For the most part I'd agree, although I personally thought Ta Henket tasted horrible. Not sure if Sah'Tea counts as one of the ancient ales, but that really wasn't for me either.

Otherwise, yes, Theobroma is very good and coveted even around here where we get all the Dogfish stuff, and Midas Touch is also amazingly good.

BTW, Kvasir is pretty good, although very sweet.

Re:Good, more for me.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45791187)

Except that it wasn't really based on the ancient Honduran recipe. Remember that cacao beans (from which you get chocolate) have no sugars to ferment. What they were drinking in Honduras in 1100 BC was a beer made from the white pulp around the cacao beans, which contains all the sugars and is used to ferment cacao beans which makes them taste like chocolate. Dogfish added cocoa powder to their beer recipe; and used barley malt, not the white pulp from a cacao pod, as a source of fermentable sugars. Hardly the Honduran recipe.

Re:But ... (2)

Antipater (2053064) | about 7 months ago | (#45789629)

Untested? It's Dogfish Head. It's on sale at your local supermarket. This isn't some hipster brewing in his basement - it's a respected, nationally-known brand. I've tried some of their ancient brews myself, and they're quite good.

Re:But ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45792723)

You can find Dogfish Head at your supermarket? Lucky you. My supermarkets don't carry much good beer. I have to go to a liquor store or a specialty beer store to find Dogfish Head.

Re:But ... (1)

pezpunk (205653) | about 7 months ago | (#45793945)

the wegmans, the giant, and the safeway near me all have dogfish head, and i'm out in the boonies (prince william county, va). it's a wonderful time to be a beer lover.

Re:But ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45791591)

Ancient beers. I'm afraid to ask what the recipes are. I've heard of (but not verified) fermented milk from various animals. People ferment anything from potatoes, to wheat, to barley, to rice. I'll wager that if a group of people couldn't find anything else to ferment, they'd ferment their own urine.

I'm sure as hell not paying for some untested recipe that some egghead has extrapolated from a bunch of broken pottery dug up at an ancient dig site. Let those eggheads drink their own brew.

To whomever ranked this guy as -1 Troll, you need to educate yourself:

wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_alcoholic_beverages
wikipedia.org/wiki/Pruno
wikipedia.org/wiki/Kumis

Re:But ... (1)

Just Brew It! (636086) | about 7 months ago | (#45793613)

Beer is, by definition, based on fermented grain. Sure, there are other (at times odd) ingredients involved in these ancient recipes, but at the end of the day Dogfish Head is a commercial craft brewery, and a very successful one at that. They didn't get where they are by making beers that suck. I've had quite a few of their beers, and while some definitely qualify as strange, most of them are quite good, and all of them are at least interesting.

Re:But ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45789033)

Brewing beer causes Global Warming!

Re: But ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45799161)

Yes. They are available on the AHA and Dogfish Head web pages.

Did Civilization Create Beer? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45788915)

...or did Beer help to create Civilization?

Re:Did Civilization Create Beer? (4, Funny)

KingOfBLASH (620432) | about 7 months ago | (#45789023)

...or did Beer help to create Civilization?

Obligatory futurama quote: "Civilization is just an attempt to impress the opposite sex."

Re:Did Civilization Create Beer? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45789099)

tfa claims that ancient beer used a wide variety of base ingredients. All that ended about 500 years ago when the German beer purity law came in and the ingredients were limited. pre-Godwin??

Re:Did Civilization Create Beer? (1)

hoboroadie (1726896) | about 7 months ago | (#45789363)

Seems reasonably near a viable pretext for social order; Warriors defend local farmers who produce their favorite life-giving brew.
I'm in.

Re:Did Civilization Create Beer? (3, Informative)

jellomizer (103300) | about 7 months ago | (#45789459)

I would say Beer did help create Civilization.
Fermentation was one of the earliest ways to preserve food.
Many locations were too wet to dehydrate your food. Grains would rot and get moldy and fill up with stuff that isn't good for human consumption.
Fermentation is a good way to preserve the calories so you can hold on to your food in times of famine. Allowing people to gather more than they need. Allowing for sharing, trading, creating rules to insure fair trading, having a large stock of food that can last seasons means people can stay in one location, build better stronger buildings, which then can give people time to figure out how to grow their own food, manage livestock. When then keep on adding up.

Re:Did Civilization Create Beer? (1)

nospam007 (722110) | about 7 months ago | (#45790173)

"I would say Beer did help create Civilization. ...Allowing people to gather more than they need. Allowing for sharing, trading, creating rules to insure fair trading, having a large stock of food that can last seasons means people can stay in one location, build better stronger buildings, which then can give people time to figure out how to grow their own food, manage livestock."

Just say it right away. People wanted to get drunk from time to time, so they had to stay on a spot to grow some stuff to turn into beer, so they built cities.

Re:Did Civilization Create Beer? (2)

Ungrounded Lightning (62228) | about 7 months ago | (#45790585)

Anthropologists are currently documenting another way it may have led to civilization: Tribes brewing batches of beer and, when it's ready, throwing beer parties and inviting the neighboring tribes (who reciprocate when THEIR beer is ready - or do some other valuable thing for the partygivers). This leads to alliances and good relations between polities.

...that and boiling water. (1)

DrYak (748999) | about 7 months ago | (#45791491)

Basically the world has been divided between two camps:

- Those who keep their beverages by fermenting them.
- Those who keep them by boiling them.

As you said, the main problem before the invention of more modern food industry, is trying to find way to preserve your food / drinks.

Regarding drinks:
Some tribes solved the problem by boiling the water (which kills potential germs), and throwing in some herbs to improve the taste. And thus they more or less invented tea.

Other tribes let the drinks ferment (which puts alcohol in the drink, and thus kill potential germs. This also puts bio-ferments in the drink which are competing with potential germs. Last-but-not least some fermented beverages also involve boiling at some step, which also helps killing germs). And they more or less invented boose.

Interesting fact: gene to process alcohol are more prevalent in regions (like Europe) were tribe choose the booze route (they could probably start easier with this route by already having some alcohol-resistance. and by having alcohol consumption, the genes for it were probably positively selected and spread more through the population), whereas in regions where the tribes choose the tea-route, genes for alcohol are less frequent (see the well know problems for lots of Asian and alcohol).

To go back on "fermenting has helped civilisation":

Fermentation is also a way to preserve food: it can be used in milk to turn the lactose into acid and thus turn the fesh milk into yogurt and cheese. It has 2 advantages: it also helps killing potential germs (acid can kill some germs, other germs are out-competed by the milk-ferments. Also the molds aded in some cheese are natural antibiotics), and also it lowers the lactose content (useful for those tribes where the genes to digest it yourself are scarce. The normal routefor all mamals is to loose the ability to digest milk once the individual grows adult. Only some of us humans have a mutation that causes us to retain the capability into adulthood. Cheese and yogurt are more edible for those who don't have an efficient enough mutation and don't retain the capability to drink the milk) which also helps commerce (The tribe milking mamals is very likely to have the necessary gene to drink it too - same mecanism as alcool genes and tribes brewing booze. But by fermenting the milk, not only the milk can by kept for much longer, it can now be made edible and thus traded with other tribes that can't drink milk as easily).

Also, fermenting plays a role in producing bread (producing alcohol in dough, which subsequently evaporate during baking. These alcohol vapours and the gazes produced by the previous fermenting step is what gives bread its texture, and makes it easier to eat).

So yeah, when you have invented booze, not only have you found a way that keeps your water drinkable, but you've also invented a methods that paves the way for other techniques in food preservation.

Black market Alchemist "Heady Topper" (1)

retroworks (652802) | about 7 months ago | (#45788985)

Vermont black market microbrews are currently selling for about $28 per can, and the market has been infiltrated by modern day Elliot Ness's. So this is worth serious study. http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2013-12-06/vermont-tries-to-squelch-a-black-market-for-craft-beer [businessweek.com]

Re:Black market Alchemist "Heady Topper" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45789031)

I have to say I'm curious and would definitely like to try it. The article you linked shows it as a black market price $27.50 for a 4 pack of 16 oz cans. Still pricey, though.

Re:Black market Alchemist "Heady Topper" (2)

mythosaz (572040) | about 7 months ago | (#45789225)

More like,

"Popular limited-supply microbrews are being re-sold by enterprising hoarders for as much as $7 a can instead of the $4.50 a can they sell for retail."

The woman in the article tried to resell 10 cases of a popular microbrew, so she ran afoul of local liquor laws. [She likely ran afoul of them when reselling ONE of them, but 120 of them put her on the VDLC's radar.]

Re:Black market Alchemist "Heady Topper" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45789327)

She was ratted out by the brewery. Fuck those guys.

Figures. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45789011)

cold fjord getting drunk while he gets other people to do the work.

That's Internet Libertarianism!

Re:Figures. (1)

cold fjord (826450) | about 7 months ago | (#45789539)

Don't knock it, it's great work if you can get it.

Beer shaped history (4, Informative)

onyxruby (118189) | about 7 months ago | (#45789127)

Don't knock this as Homer Simpson level work, beer has shaped history for thousands of years. From the Pilgrims landing at Plymouth Rock [straightdope.com] to the establishment of trade routes beer has always had it's place.

The idea of beer as somehow being sinful is a bit like the diamond ring, it's essentially a modern invention. Monks in Europe brewed beer for centuries as a bonafide way to make money for the monastery to live on. Any number of religions have brewed and used beer for their religious purposes all over the world, it is literally a mark of civilization. When water was historically often filthy and unfit to drink, it's use as a stock drink for the masses wasn't anything to mess about with. When the colonies were established beer was one of the first priorities for the colonists.

Re:Beer shaped history (4, Interesting)

mlts (1038732) | about 7 months ago | (#45789173)

Ancient Egypt used "small beer", which had a low ABV, as a daily drink because the water up and down the Nile was not drinkable. Beer wasn't just something to get sloshed on, but something to actually imbibe to survive, day by day.

Of course, ships needed something, be it beer (as in the above mentioned link) or grog to keep the bugs out of the drinking water supply.

This gets me curious about homebrewing a batch of something as I can get accurately towards an Egyptian small beer. It might be a decent Gatorade replacement.

Re:Beer shaped history (4, Informative)

fldsofglry (2754803) | about 7 months ago | (#45789237)

Gatorade replacement? You might want to look at the Tarahumara people. They are known for running long distances and were featured in the book "Born to Run". They drink a corn beer that helps give them the energy and electrolytes to run such long distances.

Re:Beer shaped history (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45789331)

More than just survival, Egyptian beer turned out to have immune boosting properties which were only discovered, afaik, in the past several years. Large amounts of this molecule (protein?) weren't explainable in the bones of those who had presumably worked on the pyramids. Until the only explanation came from beer.

PBS, I think, had a special on it.

Re:Beer shaped history (0)

Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) | about 7 months ago | (#45789565)

You cannot rehydrate using alcohol [abc.net.au] , and you'll probably kill yourself if you try.

This whole people using beer to replace water en masse is a bit fishy anyway. I mean why not just boil it rather than going through the elaborate, expensive and time consuming process of making beer. Not to mention that early waterways were almost certainly far less polluted than some would believe.

Re:Beer shaped history (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45789681)

They did not boil water to make it safe because they did not understand the influence of microbes and that they were killed by heat until the late 1600's (at least in western civilization)
Brewing tea. coffee etc produces a safe drink, but they were probably doing it for the effect of he caffeine more than safety

Re:Beer shaped history (3, Informative)

onyxruby (118189) | about 7 months ago | (#45789745)

Early beer wasn't intended for getting drunk and wasn't as strong as the beer of today is. It was intended as a day in, day out workaday drink for the masses.

You've also got to remember that people back then didn't understand basic hygiene (Queen Elizabeth likely only bathed a couple times in her life) or why things like boiling water would be beneficial. Principals that today are widely understood simply weren't known back then. Even things as simple as washing your hands before surgery are very recent developments (more soldiers died from infections from wounds in the Civil war than were killed on the field).

What people did know was that people that drank beer didn't get sick like the people that drank water. They also knew that it tasted better than water and they were raised up on it as generations prior had been. It was likely cheaper to buy beer than the firewood to boil your own water if you lived in a city, it was also certainly less hassle when you consider that many households didn't have kitchens. In short there was simply no reason to go through the effort of boiling water.

Re:Beer shaped history (1)

Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) | about 7 months ago | (#45789959)

Early beer wasn't intended for getting drunk and wasn't as strong as the beer of today is. It was intended as a day in, day out workaday drink for the masses.

I don't think that especially matters, even if it was the case that beer was weaker. As far as I'm aware any amount of alcohol beyond miniscule causes a net loss of water, going by that article I linked to.

You've also got to remember that people back then didn't understand basic hygiene (Queen Elizabeth likely only bathed a couple times in her life) or why things like boiling water would be beneficial. Principals that today are widely understood simply weren't known back then. Even things as simple as washing your hands before surgery are very recent developments (more soldiers died from infections from wounds in the Civil war than were killed on the field).

What people did know was that people that drank beer didn't get sick like the people that drank water. They also knew that it tasted better than water and they were raised up on it as generations prior had been. It was likely cheaper to buy beer than the firewood to boil your own water if you lived in a city, it was also certainly less hassle when you consider that many households didn't have kitchens. In short there was simply no reason to go through the effort of boiling water.

I'd need to see some evidence that a) beer drinking reduced sickness instead of increasing things like sclerosis, b) the facilities and logistics networks actually existed to produce and distribute the near endless quantities of beer you'd need to replace drinking water for a city, and c) that beer was cheaper than firewood which you'd have to get your hands on anyway. It just seems inconsistent with what I know of history.

Re:Beer shaped history (1)

redlemming (2676941) | about 7 months ago | (#45800647)

I'd need to see some evidence that a) beer drinking reduced sickness instead of increasing things like sclerosis

This one, at least, is easy: look up the work by biochemist George Armelagos on the tetracycline (antibiotic) found in mummies. Now we know why beer was found in all those ancient Egyptian medical texts ...

Not quite the result you were looking for, and it may only have applied to beer found in part of the world ...

There is some reason to suppose that workers in ancient Egypt may have been paid, at least some of the time, in beer and bread ...

As far as the beer vs dirty water question goes, it's probably fair to suppose that many people drank water.

However, consider the following: the locals for a particular area would have some immunity to the diseases caused by micro-organisms found in their local water. We see the same phenomenon today (aka "Montezuma's Revenge"). Traders travelling from other places would not have this immunity, and would likely prefer beer to unfamiliar local water, presumably supplemented by water taken directly from rocky springs whenever possible. Thus, as trade became more important, beer would have become more important as well.

It's also worth considering that many foods contain water, and thus any small amount of dehydration caused by beer would not necessarily be significant in the overall diet. Also, between the time the beer is drunk, and the kidneys secrete urine, presumably much of the water from the beer is available for the body to use. It's not as if the beer instantaneously caused dehydration everywhere in the body.

Re:Beer shaped history (4, Informative)

Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) | about 7 months ago | (#45790007)

A quick bit of Googling brings up this:

http://www.slate.com/blogs/quora/2013/05/21/medieval_europe_why_was_water_the_most_popular_drink.html [slate.com]

Contrary to what is found all over the Internet on the subject, the most common drink was water, for the obvious reason: It's free. Medieval villages and towns were built around sources of fresh water. This could be fresh running water, a spring or, in many cases, wells. All of these could easily provide fresh, disease- and impurity-free water; the idea that water from these sources would be the causes of disease and so had to be made into ale or beer is fanciful.

Where water was more likely to be contaminated, largely by tanning, slaughtering, or dying facilities, was in larger towns. But since medieval people were not idiots, they dealt with this in several ways. There were ordinances on where tanners and dyers could operate so that water for domestic use could be drawn from rivers and streams in the town to ensure the water was clean. And there were fines for contaminating areas of streams used for household consumption.

In larger cities, water-supply infrastructure was built to ensure public access to clean water. In medieval London, for example, the City Council began construction on what was called "the Great Conduit" in 1236. This was a complex of pipes that brought water from a large fresh spring at Tyburn to a pumping house with cisterns at Cheapside. This fed local cisterns all over London.

Wealthy Londoners could apply to have a private pipe or "quill" run from the conduit system to their house, giving them running water. This was expensive, and citizens who illegally tapped into the conduits were severely punished. Most people either drew their water from the nearest conduit cistern or paid a "cob" or water-carrier to bring them their day's water supply in three-gallon tubs, which they carried through the streets on a yoke. Public celebrations, such as the return of Edward I from Palestine or the coronation of Richard II, saw the city stop the water flow and fill the conduits with wine for the day, with people able to drink as much as they wanted.

People did drink a lot of ale and beer, but not because their water was so bad. The brews in question were much weaker than their modern equivalents but had the effect of providing much-needed calories to laborers and farmers, as well as being thirst-quenching and re-hydrating in hot weather or when working hard and losing sweat. Given the long days medieval workers put in, ale and beer were a major and necessary part of a laborer's daily energy intake. This should be seen as something like the medieval equivalent of drinking Gatorade.

Wine was the drink of choice for the upper classes and anyone who could afford it. It was produced all over medieval Europe and, due to the Medieval Warm Period that prevailed over western Europe until the 14th century, the climate meant it could be produced as far north as northern England. Wine was expensive and buying a small barrel was beyond the means of most people. But taverners bought it in bulk and sold it by the cup, so for a penny or even a halfpenny, an English peasant could enjoy a Bordeaux red.

In medieval England, the wine drunk most was red wine from Bordeaux and Gascony. Rhenish white from the Rhineland was twice as expensive and favored by the upper classes. Spanish white wines such as Lepe and Osey were cheaper and sweet wines from Greece, Crete, and Cyprus such as Romonye and Malmsey were popular after dinner.

Re:Beer shaped history (1)

sjames (1099) | about 7 months ago | (#45794135)

Actually, you can if the alcohol concentration is low.

As for boiling it, that seems ever so easy when you have a nice stove and a teakettle. But they didn't.

Re:Beer shaped history (1)

Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) | about 7 months ago | (#45794197)

Actually, you can if the alcohol concentration is low.

Facts, links, support, etc. The closest thing I could find was a dubious Spanish study saying that if you drank lots of water as well as a small amount of beer it could help rehydration. And that was pretty hard to find amid the avalanche of studies about alcohol as a diuretic.

As for boiling it, that seems ever so easy when you have a nice stove and a teakettle. But they didn't.

Luckily according to the article I linked below apparently they didn't need to, without even addressing the dubious claim that people in medieval times routinely hadn't the means to boil water.

Re:Beer shaped history (1)

sjames (1099) | about 7 months ago | (#45794321)

Here's one [nih.gov]

It seems that if you are somewhat dehydrated already (such as from sweating while doing field work), alcohol loses it's diuretic effect.

Meanwhile, I didn't say medieval people didn't have the means to boil water, I said it was a pain in the ass compared to drinking a small beer.

Mostly, the small beer was valued for it's refreshment and nutritional value. They weren't chugging till they got the spins (which might be hard to do on a 3% ABV beer).

Re:Beer shaped history (1)

Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) | about 7 months ago | (#45796511)

So, when you don't have any water to pee, you pee less.

Interesting conclusion.

Re:Beer shaped history (1)

sjames (1099) | about 7 months ago | (#45797793)

What is your big hate for beer? You asked for a reference and you got actual research (instead of a news report). If you actually read even the summary to see that control and beer group were producing urine (after all, severe dehydration for an experiment would be unethical). In fact, they were producing the same amount of urine.

Re:Beer shaped history (1)

Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) | about 7 months ago | (#45798049)

Why do people always take beer related criticism personally. I mean seriously, it's like a religion. I love beer, in fact I'm about to tuck into a few cans of Guinness right now and watch The Name of the Rose, but that doesn't mean I'm going to buy into bullshit in support of the beverage.

I accept that medieval farmers had a beer in the afternoon to make the time pass more quickly and dull the physical stress of their work. I also accept this was fairly widespread, even in towns and cities. What I don't accept is that beer was in any way a replacement for water, that you can rehydrate using beer (and 3% is plenty strong in that regard), and I find it hard to believe that a significant portion of the nutrients medieval persons received were derived from beer.

Now, you've gone ahead and ignored the link I originally provided showing step by step in clear scientific terms exactly what effect alcohol has on the human body when it comes to hydration. Why are you shilling for beer? Do you have investments in beer companies? Own a microbrewery? What?

Re:Beer shaped history (1)

sjames (1099) | about 7 months ago | (#45798577)

I read the news article you posted. It parroted the usual advice given to keep the rednecks from staying drunk all the time. It offered no citations of any kind.

I replied with an actual research paper containing actual numbers showing that a liter of 4% beer had no difference in effect on hydration to 1 liter of water. If you''re going to refuse to believe any proper citation given, you shouldn't ask for one, it's rude.

I don't know what you imagine a medieval small beer to be like, but in fact many still had a significant amount of the mash in it. No commercial brewer produces anything like that these days, so there's nobody to shill for. I've never had anything like it, so for all I know it's terrible.

Re:Beer shaped history (1)

Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) | about 7 months ago | (#45798901)

You shouldn't reply with research papers until you comprehend what they're saying.

Abstract
AIM:

This study was conducted to examine the effect of consuming a dilute alcohol solution (weak beer) on urine production in euhydrated and hypohydrated individuals.
METHODS:

Twelve males completed an intermittent cycle protocol in hot (35.1 +/- 0.3 degrees C), humid (68 +/- 2%) conditions to dehydrate by 1.9 +/- 0.3% body mass in the evening. Twice they were then fed and rehydrated, while on two other occasions they were fed the same meal but remained hypohydrated. The following morning they were given 1 l of beer to drink. On two occasions the beer was alcohol-free, while on the other two occasions the same beer contained 4% ethanol. Participants remained in the laboratory for monitoring over the subsequent 4 h. Blood and urine samples were taken prior to dehydration, prior to drink administration and once every hour of the monitoring period.
RESULTS:

No difference existed in the volume of urine produced between the alcohol (261 +/- 138 ml; mean +/- SD) and non-alcohol (174 +/- 61 ml) beer when hypohydrated (P = 0.057), but there was a difference when euhydrated (1279 +/- 256 vs 1121 +/- 148 ml alcohol and non-alcohol, respectively; P
CONCLUSION:

These results suggest that the diuretic action of alcohol is blunted when the body is hypohydrated.

When the body doesn't have enough water to pee, alcohol doesn't make you pee more. When the body does have normal hydration, alcohol makes you pee more.

You're an idiot, and I'm through with this discussion.

Re:Beer shaped history (1)

sjames (1099) | about 7 months ago | (#45799701)

Hypohydrated is NOT the same as dehydrated:

No difference existed in the volume of urine produced between the alcohol (261 +/- 138 ml; mean +/- SD) and non-alcohol (174 +/- 61 ml) beer when hypohydrated

If they didn't "have enough water to pee" then how did they pee?

Hypohydrated means thirsty. Euhydrated means not thirsty. DEhydrated means sufficiently short of water that it's a medical problem.

Re:Beer shaped history (5, Funny)

Bob the Super Hamste (1152367) | about 7 months ago | (#45789217)

I had a teacher in high school who held the belief that alcohol was something that initially all ancient civilizations had to develop. The reason being is that having the ability to produce alcohol meant that there were excesses in both production and labor. The allowed civilization to develop instead of just being a bunch of hunter gatherers scratching out subsistence lives. As an added benefit alcohol provided a nice way to preserve grain and fruits for consumption later.

As far as monastery beers go there were also the meal replacement beers (looking at you doppelbocks) during times of fasts when only liquids were allowed to be consumed.

Re:Beer shaped history (1)

operagost (62405) | about 7 months ago | (#45790391)

Fasting rules! Glug glug glug

Re:Beer shaped history (1)

KingOfBLASH (620432) | about 7 months ago | (#45795175)

I know, if I had known I would have done ramadan this year

Re:Beer shaped history (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45808487)

Ramadan is tougher. No eating or drinking while the sun's up. Don't try it if you live near the Arctic circle.

Re:Beer shaped history (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45791183)

[...] having the ability to produce alcohol meant that there were excesses<b>.</b>

FTFY.

Re:Beer shaped history (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45808359)

Some of these monks are still brewing and some of their beers are most definitely not low alcohol. a Trappist ale is 7% ABV.

Just because it's ancient doesn't mean it's worth (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45789135)

drinking.

Re:Just because it's ancient doesn't mean it's wor (2)

jellomizer (103300) | about 7 months ago | (#45789505)

Quite true,
However there is some thing to say, about giving it a try to understand how your ancestors lived.
Finding something that was lost over time, a combination of ingredients we wouldn't think about trying.
But for the most part, I think we still have some early renaissance in us, where we fell the ancients had a better grasp on the world then what we do today.

Re: Just because it's ancient doesn't mean it's wo (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45792777)

Of course not. But the fact that the Dogfish Head guys think it's worth shipping means it's going to be interesting beer. It might or might not be something you like well enough to drink again, but it'll be interesting.

Don't forget.. (1)

Nov8tr (2007392) | about 7 months ago | (#45789153)

It's always beer-thrity somewhere in the world!!

Re:Don't forget.. (1)

mcneely.mike (927221) | about 7 months ago | (#45789349)

Hey! You are correct, sir! Just looked at the time, and here in Canada, it is indeed beer:30!

Time for an Elsinore, eh? :)

Re:Don't forget.. (1)

cold fjord (826450) | about 7 months ago | (#45789391)

Beauty, eh!

Re:Don't forget.. (1)

cold fjord (826450) | about 7 months ago | (#45789711)

Don't forget to order some poutine.

Re:Don't forget.. (1)

drwho (4190) | about 7 months ago | (#45790041)

I'd prefer poitín.

Sorry but American beers are shite (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45789227)

and the so called craft beers are only a bit better.

If you want proper beer you have to brew it with BOTTOM FERMENTING YEAST not effing lager yeast.
How did beer get brewed before the days of refrigeration then?

Thirsty Troll is Thirsty! (1)

mekkab (133181) | about 7 months ago | (#45789259)

bringing it back to TFA, given that these beers are ancient, they're not American. YHBCT*. YHL. HAND.

/*You Have Been Counter-Trolled.

Re:Thirsty Troll is Thirsty! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45789553)

Did you actually read the last line of the POST? I thought not.

Until you Americans start to understand that not everything in this world was invented by Americans you will keep adding more and more bricks to the wall you are building to cut yourself off from the rest of the world.

Beer in oldent times was brewed without refrigeration and also stored without it. So, by that very fact unless those researchers brew beer in a way that is totally alien to those who brew beer in the USA.

Re:Sorry but American beers are shite (4, Informative)

odysseus_complex (79966) | about 7 months ago | (#45789667)

Saccromyces pastorianus (aka "effing lager yeast") IS a bottom-fermenting yeast. It was discovered by brewers who put their casks of beer in cold mountain caves, in the days before refrigeration.

Learn something on the subject, beer-snob wannabe.

Re:Sorry but American beers are shite (2)

Altus (1034) | about 7 months ago | (#45790267)

lager yeast is "bottom fermenting"

Ale yeast is "Top fermenting"

and if you really believe that you can't make a good beer with lager yeast you are an idiot. But then you are on slashdot ranting about something you obviously know nothing about so idiot is a pretty likely diagnosis.

Let's Just Establish Something (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45789253)

Life is far too short to purchase and enjoy anything but the best beers. Even when I was younger, I never understood why others bought cheap swill, despite the low price. I'm not a snob, but there is a definate, discernable difference to beer brands and quality. People claim they are purchasing beer suitable for parties. Shouldn't that be the best you can afford? Really. I look on in abject horror whilst in the supermarket and see people walking out with horrid brands that are nothing but fermented urine. Please. You owe it to yourself to spend the little bit extra for something decent. No one is saying you must always buy Jupiler or Pilsner Urquell, but at least spring from something that pairs well with real food. Impress your date. Isn't s/he worth it?

Re:Let's Just Establish Something (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45789353)

I'm not a snob, but
 
Actually, yes, you are. I totally agree with what you've said, but you are still a snob, and that's ok.

Re:Let's Just Establish Something (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45792395)

Ask yourself this, did you ever end up buying something cheap? Maybe some fast food, or some cheaply made clothing? If yes, then you know why people buy the cheap beer. Quality isn't always important. Sometimes you just need something to fulfill a function.

No (1)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about 7 months ago | (#45789463)

I invented beer.

Look it up.

So, were you an Admiral, a Sultan, or a King? (1)

Chibi Merrow (226057) | about 7 months ago | (#45789593)

Inquiring minds want to know...

Re:So, were you an Admiral, a Sultan, or a King? (1)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about 7 months ago | (#45789797)

I should have been all three but I never was. I invented Beer. Somethings you do in life and once you've done them you say to yourself "Well, alright then... no topping that. Best not try to."

Beaaarr!!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45799821)

They need to look look in Australia for beaar!!!

They don't need that crap in Belgium (1)

Optali (809880) | about 7 months ago | (#45801217)

From there, it's on to tandem liquid chromatography–mass spectrometry, sometimes coupled with ion cyclotron resonance, and solid-phase micro-extraction gas chromatography–mass spectrometry.

Bah, a couple of Belgian guys in a shed where enough.
http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/La_Chouffe [wikipedia.org]

Want them (1)

jbee02 (1690612) | about 7 months ago | (#45805655)

Id love to try those brews

Midas Touch (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45822917)

Midas Touch is a beer recipe recovered from remains found in King Midas' tomb. I'm a brewer and an afficionado of almost anything Dogfish Head brews. Far from being weird, that beer is delicious!

Since 1999 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45824705)

Apparently Dogfish Head has been brewing these ancient ales since 1999. Talk about late to the party!

Anyway, beers are listed here:

http://www.dogfish.com/ancientales

The Kvasir is currently stocked in stores near my house, I may make a trip tonight to pick some up!

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