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

Health Food Concept Flower Child Opens in Del Mar This Week

The restaurant group behind True Food Kitchen debuts its new San Diego location on December 6

Where to Shop for Unique, Local Gifts This Weekend

Here are three markets and one website that celebrate San Diego craftsmanship

San Diego Happy Half Hour Podcast: Episode 22

A Taiwanese trend debuts on Convoy, holiday gifts for foodies, and the future of fine dining in San Diego
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 + Archana Ram + Sanna Boman Coates + a handful of smart, thoughtful contributors) blog about 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

CraftHounds - Craft Beer Delivery in San Diego

Craft Beer Delivery - The Best Gift Ever?

Go Ahead... Ask McMillin!

At McMillin Realty, we are encouraging you to bring us your real estate questions. We will answer these questions….. for free.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Most Popular

  1. Best of Baja 2016
    46 ways to relax, dine, drink, and play the Mexico way
  2. Stop Killing Restaurants, California
    Raising minimum wage without a tip credit is dumb, dumb, dumb.
  3. Vintage San Diego: How Our City Has Changed Since 1876
    Before bottleneck traffic and the modern housing crisis, San Diego was a swath of undeveloped land, horse-drawn carriages, and dairy farms
  4. FIRST LOOK: Campfire
    Carlsbad gets one hell of a new concept in Campfire from Craft & Commerce vet John Resnick
  5. Why Our Veterans Keep Quiet About Their Service
    From misconceptions about the military to reticent heroism, San Diego veterans share the many reasons they often keep mum about their service
  6. San Diego Magazine's Travel Awards
    Cast your vote now for your favorite hotels, travel companies and attractions
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module