From the HBD Archive
Subject: Hops; brewing history
Date: 1990-03-13 19:29:00 GMT

Hi, Everybody!

Robert N. recently wrote:

>I saw a glimpse of the Sacramento BEE newspaper about a week ago. They said
>that a San Fransisco based brewery (I think ANCHOR) was able to decipher
>hieroglyphics from an anchient Syrian writing which had a beer recipe!
>I think United Press did the story. Did anyone else see this?
>Apparently it was a pretty good beer, but had to be used quickly, as there
>were no hops in it as a preservative. Apparently the Syrians hadn't found
>out about hops at that point in time. I've been trying to find the article
>again, but hav'nt been successful.

While I didn't see the specific story Robert did, I have read something about
this. Last year there was a major archeological find of some Syrian cuneiform
tablets. Wonderfully for historians, much of the material on the tablets
related to everyday household life, and commercial trade. Included in the
material was a cookbook.

Such a cookbook would automatically include recipes for such fermented
beverages as ale, as just about any and every household would have to make
ales for every-day drinking purposes. The water wasn't often potable.

The reason for the barley brew being short-lived goes beyond the lack of hops,
to overall lack of quality control, period. Brewing back then was very much a
hit-or-miss thing. However it came out, though, one drank it anyway. Until
the cultivation of specific brewing yeasts began (if I remember correctly) in
the 8th century BC, brewing went hand-in-hand with bread making. The same
yeasts did all the work. Once the ability to maintain a yeast culture was
discovered, brewing took a big leap forward.

To give further background (assuming the lot of you are interested-- which I
hope you are!): extant records document brews back to ancient Sumer.
Apparently, as much as 40% of the Sumerian grain crop-- principally barley--
went into the making of brews. Brews were also big in Egypt, where about 8
styles were commonly available commercially.

Btw-- the reason I'm using the word "brews" is twofold. First, there are the
historical changes in grains used. Second, in an historical context, "beer"
has traditionally referred to an hopped brew, and "ale" to an unhopped brew.
The relationship of these two terms to fermentation styles is extremely

Malting also came along surprisingly early. Unfortunately, I'm writing this
at work, and so don't have my resources to hand. If I remember correctly,
though, malting came along shortly after the turn of the millenium.

Hops's as a medicinal herb may have been behind the original addition of hops
to brews. This led to the discovery of its preservative properties, and in
turn to its widespread cultivation. Use of hops in brewing grew in the 12th
and 13th centuries (again, if I remember correctly). By the 14th century,
beer was popular in Europe, and the Dutch introduced hops into Britain at
about this time. The British, however, viewed hops as possibly poisonous, and
it was several centuries before beer supplanted ale in popularity there.

I can address this topic further, and/or in greater detail, if anyone is
interested. Just ask, and I'll do my best.

>But, can any brewery really say they use NO preservatives. It seems that by
>todays standards, that MAY be possible. But, technically, this is a false

I think it's a false claim any which way you look at it! As we no doubt all
know, truth-in-food-labeling laws leave much to be desired. And, indeed,
bills are currently pending in Congress.

>By the way, Cher, Snow balls??? :-) That was a great one!!! A few people
>around here were rolling on the floor when I told them that!

Glad you enjoyed it! Please see below...

Yours in Carbonation,


Have you heard about the new car on the market? It's called the "Noriega,"
and it comes in 2 styles: Manuel, and Semi-automatic. Also, it runs on
cocaine: when it goes down th road, all the white lines disappear!

Gainesville, FL

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