The Great Lakes Brewing Company is trying to recreate a 5,000-year-old Sumerian brew using only clay pots and wood spoons. They are working with researchers at the University of Chicago, according to the New York Times.
The process involves a lot of guessing, they report:
But for all the notes that Sumerians took about the ingredients and the distribution of their libations, no precise recipes have ever been found. Left behind were only cuneiform texts that vaguely hint at the brewing process, perhaps none more poetically than the Hymn to Ninkasi, the Sumerian goddess of beer.
The researchers and brewers are using recreations of ancient ceramic vessels, excavated in Iraq. They malt their own barley, add cardamom and coriander, and teamed with a baker to create a brick-like “beer bread” that contains the yeast used to ferment the sugars in the beer.
The beer is fermented outside, on a patch of grass, and heated by a manure-fed fire. They are still working out how to make the brew palatable to modern drinkers.
Sadly, they aren’t planning to sell the product commercially, though The New York Times says they are planning limited tasting events in Cleveland and Chicago by the end of the summer.
The clay brewing vessels, which you can see in the image above, are a big hit on tours of their Cleveland, Ohio facility.
They aren’t the only ones who have taken to recreate ancient beers. A few weeks ago we got to taste four recreated brews created by Dogfish Head brewers at a World Science Festival event. Three of the beers are available now in select areas (see the Dogfish Head Website for details) and the last will be available in the fall.
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