‘History is more or less, bunk,’ claimed Henry Ford. ‘We don’t want tradition. We want to live in the present.’
We all have an agenda, and Henry Ford’s was not to go back to the horse and cart. As brewers, we might want to see things differently. The best beers ever were brewed 200 years ago in places like Edinburgh and Munich, Madrid and Marseille, so for brewers, there is a fascination in looking back.
So, Malt like an Egyptian. Make craftbrew buzz again, as never before.
We should remember that our brewing hobby could go back more than 5000 years. Who can be sure? We do know the ancient Babylonians and Egyptians were great brewers. How did they know how to malt barley? How did they know that mashing malt would lead to fermentable sugars and fermentation gives happy hours?
They found out because someone was careless and allowed grain to become damp. Before they knew it, the wet grain germinated and sprouted. This took just a few hours at Babylonian summer temperatures, but it was a nuisance – valuable food being wasted. So, the command was, ‘Dry it quickly!’ and in the hot Middle Eastern sun, that was equally fast.
The barley seemed to have been saved, but was now a different beast to before. It was rock hard and after the spouts had been cleaned off, had its own typical smell.
‘It’s too hard to comfortably grind so soften it in water!’ was the next bright idea.
Once damp, it took on a life of its own. The water became sweet and while they were trying to figure that one out, bubbles appeared as the wild yeast went to work on the sugar. The taste changed again and the observers kept drinking in an effort to identify the new substance.
They became very happy and they decided to do it again.
‘The rest,’ as they say, ‘is history’.
Or get the ancient unrevised paper copy $30 to $60, suffer soggy pages and feel good, because I haven’t earned a sous.
Clive is a free-lance fiction and beer writer, occasionally taking a tilt at poetry. He believes words must serve a purpose, beyond entertainment. If you have new thoughts after his pages, then the read was worth it.
He self-published the Historical Companion, back in ’89. Was he one of the very first?