My day with Beer part 3

October 13, 2009

And now for part three of our little exploration of beer.

Today I’ll  transcribe my notes from speaker #2 from the Symposium, Fritz Maytag the President and Brewmaster of Anchor Brewing.  The talk was titled “Primitive Brewing, Ancient and Modern.”

The 1989 Ninkasi Project

To celebrate the 10 year anniversary in their new building, Anchor Brewing created a replica of a Sumerian beer recipe and brewed it to serve to a group of small brewers.

Back in 2000BC they drank beer from big jugs using straws.

beer drinking

They were very serious about their brewing.

Anchor had to make careful decisions about how to interpret the written records found in Ancient Sumerian.

Ninkasi was the Sumerian goddess of brewing.

Sumerian Beer Poem

Learned Sumerian to use Sumerian words to discuss brewing.

Researched breads to determine the best bread to use as the base for the beer… bread was used as the source of yeast in ancient beer.

They decided on twice baked bread because it wouldn’t mold due to the fact that it was so dried out.  Anchor Brewing actually rented a bakery to bake their own bread for the project.

They had someone grow special Emmer Wheat for them.  Had their Malter malt the wheat.  Used barley but not rye.  Roasted the malt and the barley for color and flavor.  That was a decision that wasn’t based off explicate instructions from the text but instead from the fact that they were brewers so they interpreted the text as brewers.  They used honey as the sweetener for the bread and then dates as sweetener in the beer.

Professor Miguel Civil in Chicago is the Sumerian expert who translated the poem.

Raisins are a magic way to store good yeast.  If you rehydrate good raisins you will get yeast.

In 1989 it was illegal to brew beer without hops so Mr. Maytag pretended to add hops.

The beer was not boiled or cooled quickly before fermenting because that would not have been done originally.

The beer wasn’t bad but it wasn’t great.  More like cider than beer.  You could feel the alcohol.

1st rule of drinking through a straw, don’t blow through the straw.  2nd rule of drinking through a straw is remember which straw is yours.

Brewing goes back through civilization.

The Patron Saint of Brewing (possible St. Arnold) holds a sprig of hops and makes the trade sacred and a part of the meaning of life.  Beer is important.

Why is it that when you make your own bread you are a baker but if you make your own beer you are a HOME brewer?

Almost all groups of people (monasteries, schools, colleges, families) made their own beer.

There were a lot of old and odd ways to capture yeast before they understood yeast.

Louis Pasture wrote a brewing guide to help the French brewers compete with the Germans.

Louis Pasture proved where yeast came from and disproved that life comes from sweet liquids and manure.

They could prove their brew was clean before the yeast was added using the Pasture method.

It’s hard / impossible to sell sour beer.

All of a sudden there was all this technology that could be used in the brewing of beer!  Tool to make beer good to sell were quick to be adopted.  Microscope, sacrometer, thermometer… etc.

Science gives brewing controls.

It is easier to clean everything to maintain sterility of equipment… beer sterility {This may be washing things with 180 degree water for a few minutes but don’t quote me on that.}

1810: A Treatise on Brewing – the whole process – The Art and Mystery of Brewing by Alexander Mourrice

Craft brewers go back to the old ways while using all the benefits of modern science.




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