The Origin of Beer

by ANDRÉAS FRITZI  – Translated from (Revue des Industries Chimiques)  –  1883

It has not yet been discovered where the cradle of humanity really was, divided into different tribes, who dispersed themselves all over the universe in order to find new and independent abodes. Their division into three branches or ethnographical unities, the Arians, the Semites, and the Touranians, is an hypothesis which in itself proves that the origin of humanity has not yet been discovered. Thus the common descent of man from one race only still continues to be considered a myth. One thing is certain, that is, that the first seeds of civilisation were sown before these tribes dispersed themselves over the earth, for they kept large herds of cattle, and knew how to cultivate the ground.

Agriculture developed itself gradually everywhere, but especially in Egypt, where the different products were utilised to a great extent in several ways. With this development of civilisation there appeared also a general knowledge of the preparation of artificial beverages made from different agricultural products. The hieroglyphics, the papyrus, and the pyramids of the Egyptians prove that the manufacture of beer can be traced back to this period, and that they made beer from barley, and were acquainted with the process of fermentation, and the preparation of malt. We can also admit that the cradle of the manufacture of beer was in Asia, from whence the knowledge spread first into Egypt and then amongst all the agricultural tribes known to antiquity. It is not impossible either that the preparation of beer from barley had been imparted by the Egyptians to their neighbours, such as the Ethiopians, for instance, or the Hebrews, to whom they taught the art of brewing and the manufacture of beer, which the Hebrews called sechar. Thus the knowledge of the preparation of this beverage spread from the banks of the Nile to the farthermost part of Africa, where some tribes can still be found who know how to make it.

In the course of centuries these wandering tribes carried the art of brewing into the North and East. Their knowledge was naturally very limited at first, but by degrees the art was brought to perfection by new discoveries. The great migration of different tribes into Europe, which commenced at the death of Valentine I, was particularly favourable to the propagation of beer. The tribes who abandoned their native country, with the exception of some nomads, like the Huns, &c, carried with them on their rude chariots their utensils and necessaries, and could thus manufacture even in their new abodes the beverage they were accustomed to drink in their native country.

These wandering tribes found nearly all over Europe a kind of beer which the Europeans knew already how to make, so that if they had not taken the precaution to import their own utensils they would not have been deprived of their accustomed beverage. The Spaniards had their celia or cenia, and the Gauls their corma. In spite of the important cultivation of the vine in Spain and Gaul, beer had remained the favourite beverage of the Celts; and Cæsar’s saying, “Nihil pati vini”, had already lost its signification. This also proves the migration of our ancestors, and a still earlier propagation of beer, which commenced in Asia or Africa, and also that the Celts caused the knowledge of beer-making to spread all over the North of France, in Belgium, and in England.

According to Tacitus, the Germans at this period knew how to prepare a kind of beer from barley or wheat, and the northern tribes knew and honoured beer, which played an important part in the myths and religion of the north. For them the vault of the heaven of their gods was a well, for they poured out large quantities of beer on the table of Odin in the Walhalla, and offered copious libations of beer to Wadar in large caldrons, &c. It is impossible to find the origin of beer in those remote times when the migration of these tribes caused Europe to be over-run, but its antiquity is proved by the fact that the Egyptians drank it, and if any further proof were needed we know that the Panonians’ and the Illyrians had their beer, which they called sabaia, the Polonians called it parubia, and it was known to the Thracians and the Phrygians under the name of keiton. Beer was also known in Armenia, where they sucked it from a bottle by means of a reed, and Scythia did not disdain a beverage made from the fermented sap of young vines. The Thracians obtained their knowledge of beer from Asia (Phrygia), which proves that it was imported into Thrace by another way than the Delta or the Mediterranean.

Neither the Romans nor the Greeks drank beer; they had remained faithful to Bacchus, and although they knew that the Gauls and Spaniards drank it, they held it in profound contempt.

The knowledge of the manufacture of beer was first introduced into Italy by the northern tribes who settled there. In fact, it can be said with certainty that beer was brought into general use by the Celts who established themselves at an early period in Spain and Gaul, and took with them the means of preparing their favourite beverage. They themselves had learnt how to make it either Asia or from the Armenians, or perhaps from the Scythians, who had gained their knowledge from the Egyptians. We can only distinguish two great migrations of the different tribes, the first of which took place at a very early period in history. Before this , however, great masses of people, violently agitated, rushed towards the West like an immense avalanche, and settled on the western frontiers of Europe, and as the vine could not be cultivated there, these people naturally kept to their accustomed beverage, the beer they had drank in Asia.

During the centuries which followed the movement took enormous proportions; these hordes of people gradually drove their predecessors towards the West as far as the ocean, until they had for their natural frontiers the mouths of the Tagus and the Anas in Spain. With this migration the use of beer became naturally more general and developed itself to an enormous extent.

These wandering tribes exported from the interior of Asia their national drink cenia or celia (a word meaning beer, and which was called corma in Gaul). This, then, was the first great migration which consequently led to the propagation of beer in Europe. Later on it was followed up by the Germans, who, coming also from Asia, directed their course to the north, peopling thus Scandinavia and Holstein, and over-running the forests of Central Europe, where they prepared lecrl in brewing tubs, which they carried with them. Their camping places were marked by heaps of ashes, leſt after they had made their beer in the open air, and indicating that they had made fires under their beer caldrons. Thus the manufacture of beer was introduced by the Germans into central Europe, while the Celts had already imported it into Spain and Gaul, from whence it gradually spread to the north of France, Belgium, and eventually to England.

About this time a second migration of some Asiatic tribes took place, but they proceeded towards the West, through Phrygia, and thus introduced the manufacture of beer into the Hellespont. If the beer thus generally introduced by these wandering tribes was not despised even by the Greeks and the soi-disant barbarians in the Hellade, the second general migration at the commencement of the middle ages did much more to bring it into general use.

The savage tribes who left Egypt about this time in order to seek new conquests, were used to drinking nothing but beer. At this period also the addition of hops to the preparation of beer became generally known in Europe, and the Thracians, the Egyptians, the Scythians, &c, used different ingredients in the manufacture of beer, one of which was certainly hops. After the confusion resulting from these migrations the Francs succeeded in forming a large empire, where brewing flourished to a great extent, for the people considered beer almost as necessary as flour or meat. Both in England and in Flanders the manufacture of beer became gradually more developed, while in France, as in Spain, Italy, and Hungary it fell into disuse, owing to the cultivation of the vine, but in Germany, Poland, and the North Europe generally, its adoption became very general. The African and Asiatic tribes preserved their accustomed beverage, and even the Arabs drank Coptish beer with pleasure.

Thus beer became the favourite drink in England, Germany, and Belgium, and was as common in the poor man’s hut as in the rich man’s palace, until the seventeenth century, when brandy and coffee were introduced, and put at end to the taste for beer. Today we can celebrate the second triumph of beer, the taste for which has spread considerably since it was exported from Europe to America, where the taste for it has developed to an extraordinary degree. Besides this, it has found its way into the Colonies of India, Australia, &c, and is in general use in Italy, France, Spain, and Turkey, and even in North Africa, from whence it has been expelled by the Mohammetans.

At the present time beer is known all over the world, for there is scarcely a country where it is not in general use. Modern times with its great inventions, has caused rapid strides in all branches of industry, but especially brewing, which has assumed colossal proportions.

Our rapid means of communication has offered new opportunities for the propagation of beer, and everywhere we find new temples of Gambrinus opened, where suffering humanity may quench its thirst.

Thus beer was brought from Asia and Africa by tribes migrating from those countries into the North and West, and has served as a beverage during thousands of centuries. It has accomplished its mission of civilisation, and been brought to the highest degree of perfection possible. It is exported from the West to all parts of the world, even to the East.

It may be said with truth that beer has exerted a great and noble influence on the world in general, for in order to produce it, it was necessary to exercise a civilising industry, that of agriculture. In those countries where beer is the popular beverage, industry, commerce, and the arts and sciences are in a flourishing state. Now that beer returns to the East and South from whence it first sprang, it does not carry with it any of the barbarism of olden times, but is the angel of peace, the genius of industry, which ennobles mankind, and is the source of civilisation in the West.

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