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GLBC Brews Ancient Sumerian Beer

Posted July 13, 2012

Great Lakes Brewing Company Brews Sumerian Beer
Brewers attempt to re-create an ancient brew

July 13,2012—CLEVELAND, OH—Great Lakes Brewing Company (GLBC) has enlisted the help of historians, scientists, and archaeologists in order to brew a historically accurate version of what is believed to be the first recorded beer recipe from ancient Sumeria. The project is spearheaded by co-owner Pat Conway, who was inspired by a visit to the University of Chicago, his alma mater.

The project is unique in that GLBC brewers have chosen to forgo modern conveniences like steel tanks and automated brewing systems in favor of historically sound implements. Large porcelain vessels were created by pottery students at the University of Chicago, and the brewers have opted to use sunlight and wooden tools for the malting and mashing of the brew.

Tate Paulette, a PhD Candidate studying Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at the University of Chicago, has been an invaluable resource, providing refined research that has informed the process. Conway and his team of brewers have used Paulette’s research in order to avoid anachronisms, which has presented many unique challenges.

GLBC Field Quality Specialist Bridget Gauntner describes one such roadblock she encountered during this project, “Obtaining a yeast sample from the Middle East has been difficult.” The brewers originally enlisted an archaeologist to collect yeast samples during his travels, but he was unable to get the sample past customs. “We decided to instead experiment with initiating fermentation using the bappir (barley bread) as our yeast source,” Gauntner said. Trial and error were important elements of the initial brewing experiment. Portions of the finished beer were examined by GLBC brewers and lab technicians who hope to use what they’ve learned to inform and improve their second attempt in the fall.

Innovative consumer education is one of Great Lakes Brewing Company’s basic tenets, and Conway’s goal for this project is to educate the public and GLBC’s employees on the origins of beer. A second batch of Sumerian beer will be brewed in September, and will be used in conjunction with educational engagements only; it will not be bottled or distributed. Opportunities to learn more about the Sumerian Beer experiment will be shared by Great Lakes Brewing Company at as they develop.

Great Lakes Brewing Company, which is comprised of a brewery and brewpub, was founded in 1988 by brothers Pat and Dan Conway as the first microbrewery in the state of Ohio and today remains Ohio’s most celebrated and award-winning brewer of lagers and ales. Great Lakes Brewing Company’s distribution area extends throughout the Great Lakes region and surrounding areas.