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Home Brew Forums > Home Brewing Beer > Beginners Beer Brewing Forum > Want to brew an ancient Mesopotamian ale
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Old 09-25-2013, 03:35 PM   #1
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Default Want to brew an ancient Mesopotamian ale

Hi everyone, I'm beginning to write/research an article on homebrewing an ancient Mesopotamian ale (that I have affectionately called "Siduri's Advice"; based on the advice the Babylonian ale-wife Siduri gives to Gilgamesh in the Epic of Gilgamesh to "Fill your belly <with beer>. Day and night make merry"). I will be malting, crushing and using a large amount of my own 2-row barley (the same type as used in ancient Mesopotamia) to make a brewing bread (Bappir) that I will add to the brew (as discussed in the Hymn to Ninsaki) and will be using date syrup rather than sugar for bottling (again the same as the Mesopotamians). I plan, at least initially to make some compromises for practical reasons: 1) using Mr. Beer fermenter rather than a clay fermenter, 2) using Mr. Beer's yeast rather than adding wild yeast found on grapes (although I will crush and add some sterilized grapes to make a more authentic ancient ale) and 3) using the lowest hop HME extract. Number 3 is a big sacrifice on the authenticity front, as the Mesopotamians did not use hops, but without the antimicrobial hops, at least in this first experiment, I am worried the beer will spoil, and I don't know which "aromatic herbs" are being refered to in the Hymn to Ninsaki, so I am fine to start this experiment with hops, but plan to research Gruit ale based spices/herbs that were present in Mesopotamia 5000 years ago in the next batch.

My questions for all you experienced brewers are:

Has anyone here previously tried to re-create an ancient Mesopotamian ale, and if so what was their experience? And does anyone have any other suggestions as to how to make this a more authentic Mesopotamian ale?

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Old 09-25-2013, 07:02 PM   #2
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This article from the Smithsonian Magazine about Dogfish Head's Midas Touch might provide some insight. This is the only thing close to what you're talking about I've run across.
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Old 09-25-2013, 08:11 PM   #3
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It sounds like A LOT of work to go through (malting your own grain, make a brewing bread) only to turn around and use a hopped malt extract and Mr. Beer yeast. I would think the yeast would be one of the most important parts to claiming authenticity.

Wouldn't you rather do a small all-grain batch (if using the Mr. Beer fermenter plus you can leave out the hops) and see what kind of wilder or weirder yeasts you can get from the yeast producers?

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Old 09-25-2013, 08:11 PM   #4
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Just re-read my post. Thought it seemed a little negative. I do think this is a really cool idea!

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Old 09-25-2013, 09:37 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by thesemicullen View Post
This article from the Smithsonian Magazine about Dogfish Head's Midas Touch might provide some insight. This is the only thing close to what you're talking about I've run across.
Great, thanks for the link!
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Old 09-25-2013, 09:44 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ImNoExpert View Post
It sounds like A LOT of work to go through (malting your own grain, make a brewing bread) only to turn around and use a hopped malt extract and Mr. Beer yeast. I would think the yeast would be one of the most important parts to claiming authenticity.

Wouldn't you rather do a small all-grain batch (if using the Mr. Beer fermenter plus you can leave out the hops) and see what kind of wilder or weirder yeasts you can get from the yeast producers?
You're right, the use of HME in particular didn't feel right. You're not being negative you are just highlighting a weak point (use of hops) from the authenticity front. The reason I wanted to use at least some hops was because I could not understand how a beer with no bittering agent at all could be in any way drinkable. I have been thinking about this a lot yesterday and finally realized that the Hymn to Ninkasi held the clue to how the Mesopotamians made their beer balanced, they used burnt bappir bread. I tested this hypothesis out last night, the experiment is here:
http://sidurisadvice.com/bappir.html
Long story short, it basically works and burnt bread is a great bittering agent! So I will ditch the HME after all and use burnt bappir instead. Regarding the yeast, I was planning on upgrading that to a more authentic yeast in a future brew, and probably starting to include lacto-bacteria too (almost certainly would have played a role in the Mesopotamian's semi-natural fermentations) which all together will hopefully result in an anicent ale that balances sweet, sour and bitter to equal delicious
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Old 09-25-2013, 09:49 PM   #7
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Keep in mind that the grain used then would likely me malted spelt.

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Old 09-25-2013, 09:58 PM   #8
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Here is the recipe for "Gilgamash Sumerian Beer" from Drew Beechum's Everything Homebrewing

http://www.netplaces.com/home-brewin...erian-beer.htm

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Old 09-25-2013, 10:03 PM   #9
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Quote:
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Keep in mind that the grain used then would likely me malted spelt.
I think malted spelt may have come a bit later, although I could be wrong on this one. Most of the research I have done on the analysis of the Hymn to Ninkasi suggests a recipe for an all barley beer. Unmalted barley for the bappir (burnt or not) and malted barley and date syrup(which they called "honey") as a source of fermeantable sugars.
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Old 09-25-2013, 10:04 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by roastquake View Post
Here is the recipe for "Gilgamash Sumerian Beer" from Drew Beechum's Everything Homebrewing

http://www.netplaces.com/home-brewin...erian-beer.htm
Awesome! Thank you, I appreciate the link.
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