Edit ModuleShow Tags

8 Things I Learned About Ancient Beer

It’s more than just jugs and jars at the Museum of Man


Published:

 

Even non-drinkers of beer will be blown away by the new exhibit BEERology at the San Diego Museum of Man (open now through next summer). Beer, like money, has played a critical role in many societies throughout history (and in ancient Egypt, beer was money). Did you know that the oldest known recipe is actually a recipe for beer? Yup. A brewer from Mesopotamia put it down on rock.

BEERology was a major passion project for curator Rex Garniewicz, an archeologist and COO of the Museum, who showed me around on a recent visit. Garniewicz, incidentally, has been home-brewing for 20 years, and on this tour, it was clear how much he really walked the walk. For example, while putting together BEERology, he actually tried to make the Amazonian’s spit beer, which involved chewing up a raw cassava root laced with cyanide, spitting it out, then boiling it, adding yeast, and brewing. He and a friend chewed about 8 lbs. of the root; it only made 2-3 gallons of beer.

The exhibit itself displays tons of artifacts, and the plaques are written in a fun, magaziney, non-scholarly way. Popular and local companies got in on the action, too. A modern home-brewing kit was provided by Home Brew Mart. Lost Abbey donated barrels to be used as belly bars at regularly-scheduled tastings.

Some of the artifacts in the exhibit include ancient growlers (jugs from Peru, 100-800 AD) and a 500-year-old wooden beer cup (rare because wood doesn’t preserve well).

But the exhibit isn’t just old jugs and jars!

Because I love lists and listicles, here are 8 fun factoids you can drop at your next beery happy hour—then go see the exhibit for a refill:

 

1. Ancient brewers were mostly women. The men were out hunting.

2. The oldest beer that we have scientific evidence for dates back 9,000 years to China. Archeologists believe grains were first domesticated for beer, not bread.

3. People in the Amazon drank a beer that was 3-4% ABV. The men drank 4 gallons per day; the women, 1 gallon, and the kids, a half-gallon.

4. While building the Pyramid of Giza in Ancient Egypt, the laborers (that’s right! Not slaves!) were paid one gallon of beer per day.

5. An ancient human tibia demonstrates a high concentration of tetracycline—more tetracycline than a modern doc would prescribe. That tetracycline came from beer. Beer was medicine.

6. Ancient beer was not carbonated, but it was a little bubbly if you drank it fresh while it was fermenting. These days, carbonation has increased thanks to pressurizing in metal kegs and glass bottles.

7. In China, they used both millet and rice. Sake (“rice wine”) is actually rice beer, because it comes from a grain. We say “wine” because it can be up to 20 percent alcohol.

8. Beer is a great source of calories for agricultural societies. (People working and moving all day need the energy!)

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

More »Related Stories

Behind the Scenes Video: Making the May issue

Go behind the scenes of our beer issue to see how we get that perfectly frothy cover shot.

Palm Springs or Bust

The desert is calling with the upcoming Indian Wells Arts Festival and more

This Just In: Summer Pops Season Announced

The San Diego Symphony promises to delight with a lineup starring LeAnn Rimes, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, and… Pokémon?
Edit Module

Subscribe to the Blog

 
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags


Cityfiles

Local News Updates And Things To Do In San Diego

About This Blog

San Diego Magazine's editorial staff (Erin Chambers Smith + Erin Meanley + Kimberly Cunningham + a handful of smart, thoughtful contributors)  and web designer (Sanna Coates) blog everything from restaurants and bars to behind the scenes gossip to the best events happening this weekend. Looking for foodie and restaurant guru Troy Johnson? He's got his own blog here.

Recent Posts

Archives

Feed

Atom Feed Subscribe to the Cityfiles Feed »

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Sponsored

'Tis The Season

Winter in the desert cities

100 Works of Art to See Before You Die in San Diego

Local art critics, museum directors, and the big kahunas of the art world picked their must-see paintings, sculptures, and buildings with a special checklist just for you
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Most Popular

  1. Vote now: Best Restaurants 2015
    From best chefs to top tacos, you choose San Diego's best eats and drinks in 63 categories
  2. 27 Reasons to Love San Diego
    Our annual list of all things San Diego and rad—from kiteboarding to urban farming to a city-wide book club
  3. San Diego's Top 50 Trails
    From hiking the foothills to biking the beach, this is a city made for exploring outdoors. Here’s our latest, greatest checklist of trails we love—some in your own backyard
  4. 2015 Best of North County Party
    Sample, sip and party along with the best that North County has to offer at this signature event.
  5. I Tried It: The New Jazzercise
    When I hear the word “Jazzercise,” neon leotards, leg warmers, headbands, and old ladies come to mind
  6. Get Fit & Have Fun in San Diego
    From doggie bootcamps to intense bodybuilding programs, it’s an exciting time to get in shape. What are you waiting for?
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module