A Syrian mercenary drinking beer in the company of his Egyptian wife and child, c. 1350 BC
Excerpt from The beer of yesteryear by Mark Drede, wordofmouth blog, guardian.co.uk, October 27, 2010
The Chateau Jiahu by Dogfish Head is based on evidence from a 9,000-year-old tomb in China, one of the earliest recorded finds of "beer". The Dogfish recreation contains sake rice, wildflower honey, Muscat grapes, hawthorn fruit and chrysanthemum flowers. Midas Touch contains honey, Muscat grapes and saffron and is based on "an ancient Turkish recipe using the original ingredients from the 2,700 year old drinking vessels discovered in the tomb of King Midas." Theobroma is based on "chemical analysis of pottery fragments found in Honduras which revealed the earliest known alcoholic chocolate drink used by early civilizations to toast special occasions." It contains Aztec cocoa powder and cocoa nibs, honey, chillies and annatto.
Our ancestors would quickly have discovered that you can't consume a sweet drink in any real quantity, and as their taste for the intoxicating effects of alcohol grew, the hunt for bittering ingredients to make beer a thirst-quenching experience began. Before hops, brewers would add a wide variety of locally available herbs and plants to their beers, the most common ingredients were bog myrtle and yarrow but others included:
"sage, wormwood, rosemary, broom (very popular), dandelions, nettles … alehoof ... wood avens or Herb Bennet," explains brewing historian Martyn Cornell. "Beyond these, heather, ground ivy, juniper, wild carrot seed, poppy, various spices and pepper were all used."
Gruit is a style which pre-dates the use of hops, the name referring to the mixture of herbs used. Stuart Howe at Sharp's Brewery brewed a gruit earlier this year containing yarrow, turmeric, bay and lemon balm. Moonlight Brewing in California brewed Artemis, a gruit containing mugwort and wild bergamot.
Photo credit: Bettmann/Corbis
Link to the image source and the full article: http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/wordofmouth/2010/oct/27/old-ale-beer-history