Drinks with Characters: Micah Joel is Drinking With the Sumerians

Today I have the pleasure of hosting the fabulously geeky Micah Joel! He's here to tell us about his experiments with Sumerian beer.


micah-joel-broken-tabletYou know what’s good? Beer. Mmmmm, beer.

I grew up in the midwest, where they proudly served “both kinds” of beer, so I always assumed beer was this terrible fizzy yellow stuff that tasted like watery floor cleaner. I have since learned the error of my ways.

Maybe that’s part of the appeal of the Sumerians to me. There’s a raging debate whether they developed agriculture to support their beer, or beer to support their agriculture. But either way, it definitely wasn’t yellow, nor terribly fizzy.

Sumerian Beer Experiment #2

Beer and bread are closely linked. A twice-baked bread called bappir is a key ingredient in this brew. Take a bunch of barley flour, add in some water and date paste. If you have any edible seeds, go ahead and toss them in. Spices? Go for it. Mix into a thick dough, and bake. Flip ‘em over and bake again. Now you’ve got bappir.

Special note: to be really authentic, be sure to include plenty of barley husks in the mix, and various bits of grit and pebbles that broke away while hand-milling the flour. Really adds to the crunch.

I hypothesize that brewers might have used heated stones to warm up the mash (that is to say, the not-yet-beer) formed by mashing up the bappir with fresh water from the canal.

Leave this rich wort exposed to air and I guarantee something will take root in it. Thanks to Louis Pasteur we now know about yeasts and other microorganisms. Some make better beers than others. But you can be sure that the best brewers had a “magic” stirring paddle that carried along the best strains that only they could impart.

Best drunk through a tall straw to filter out the majority of the gunk and floaters. But hey! It’s still beer. A deserved award for inventing cities, agriculture, and metalworking.

So Sumerian brewing actually provides a significant plot point for the modern-day character stuck in bronze age Sumer in my novel Broken Tablet which is available on Amazon here -> https://www.amazon.com/Broken-Tablet-Bronze-Travel-Revolution-ebook/dp/B01G4YM4RW

You can also join my reading list at http://micahjoel.info/geeks/ for news and updates, and a free story from the Broken Tablet universe featuring, you guessed it, a detailed look into the Sumerian brewing process, plus a gender role reversal for good measure.

Bottoms up!


Micah Joel's books combine geeky characters with cutting-edge technology, whether modern or ancient. Micah works as a professional geek in Silicon Valley. If you use the internet, chances are you've run some of his code.

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