Who Made the First Beer?

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After thousands of years, it’s pretty hard to pin down one single culture that made the first beer, or even the time period when beer was invented. Still, we do have some idea about when our favorite brew was made. Let’s take a step back few thousand years to the beginning of beer.

The Start of Fermentation & Invention of Beer

Back about 12,000 years ago, hunter-gatherers figured out a much more efficient way to feed themselves. Cereal agriculture was born as hunter-gatherers built agrarian civilizations settled among crops. Common crops included wheat, rice, barley and maize. Everything needed to make the first beer was ready for these first farmers – they just needed to discover the fermentation process. And, lucky for us, experts believe that they did – though they are not sure exactly when.

It is said that an ancient farmer accidentally stumbled across fermentation when they tasted water that bread was sitting in for a few days. Whether this particular story is true or not, the first hard evidence of the making of beer dates back to about 5,000 years ago in Mesopotamia in the Middle East, according to History.com. Archeologists have dug up ceramic vessels that still have beer residue in them, dating back to 3400 B.C. This is where experts believe beer was born.

The Sumerians of ancient Mesopotamia utilized twice-baked barley bread to craft beer, steeping crushed or malted grain in water and slowly heating it. They didn’t just drink beer recreationally or for pleasure. Beers were an important part of these people’s diet. Mesopotamian beers were thick and rich with nutrients, and were probably considered safer than contaminated water from rivers and canals. These porridge-like beers were drunk with straws to help filter out solids.

Beer Conquers the World

Now that Mesopotamians had begun beer production, there was no stopping its spread. This ancient civilization began creating different recipes for beer by 2000 B.C.E., including “strong” and “red-brown” brews. “Hymn to Ninkasi”, an ode to the Sumerian goddess of beer, was inscribed in a tablet in 1800 B.C. and included a beer recipe crafted by a female priestess.

Beer brewing and the love for this delicious drink soon spread to other cultures. As other civilizations began growing grain in Eurasia and North Africa, beer became vital to their survival. The Babylonian Empire commonly imbibed, but it’s the Egyptians who became famous for their love of beer.

From being a major part of their daily diet to its use in religious practices, Egyptians loved to down beer. Workers along the Nile River were awarded with beer, and even young children drank beer on a daily basis instead of water, since water was often contaminated.

Yesterday to Today – Modern Beer

If you couldn’t tell already, ancient beer was a lot different than today’s beer. It was more like a meal than an easy-drinking beverage. The stuff you drink today didn’t get introduced to the world until Christian monks and other beer makers in Europe added hops to their brew. Learn how beer helped to create society as we know it today!

Since the first beer was made in the Middle East, beer has been perfected into the delicious brews we know today.

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Carla Lauter was the founder of The Beer Babe and has been a beer blogger and expert for several decades. She's been interviewed in beer publications and podcasts about her favorite brews and the craft brewing scene. While she's ceased her involvement with The Beer Babe, her legacy remains in the various reviews and articles she has written.