Monday, December 14, 2020

BIAB in PN (John Palmer)

I was brewing last night using the Brew in a Bag (BIAB) method, which is something I've never really tried.

Anyhow, I found this by John Palmer, who if you don't know is like the Elvis of brewing.  Here's a quote from an article in BYO entitled "BIAB: Tips from the Pros" :

Brew in a bag (or basket) might actually be the original home brewing method from thousands of years ago, and traditional mash and lauter tuns may actually be new-fangled contraptions to enable large scale brewing in the relatively recent past centuries. Therefore, embrace this new-old method and don’t be afraid to adapt it to modern brewing.


He's probably right. 

Obviously brewing was a process that developed over a long period of time with unique methods prevailing regionally.  This method, or straining with baskets and linens, is just one possibility.

Sunday, December 13, 2020

A Pattern of Behavior?

Let's go now to the rumor mill.  Eurogenes says there is an ancient man analyzed from Belgium that may be older than Aesch25 from Switzerland (c. 2500-2800 B.C.)  Again, we don't know how old or the cultural affiliation, but if he is L51 and has Steppe admixture, then this could a be very significant in the developments of the early Beaker phenomenon.  

For the sake of discussion, let's go with this ancient possibility and continue walking out on the ice. Anyone want to take a gamble at where in Belgium this ancient L51 is located?  Let me make a suggestion.

The Island Robinson near a something-border between Belgium and Netherlands

So let us remember a recent grave from Twello in the Netherlands.  The Twello Fellow had an axe and a flint that could be provenanced within a day's walking distance of either side of the Meuse, at or around Liege in Belgium.  In fact, you can nearly draw a line between Twello and Liege along the Meuse.

Although the Twello grave is later, the significance of an ancient R1b-L51 man in Belgium (and we will pretend that his grave is from Wallonia), means that people like that of Twello may not have been trading with their neighbors, they might have been trading with themselves!

In other words, it was immigration that facilitated this trade.  This is part of a "pattern of behavior" we see in the later Bell Beaker phenomenon.  In sourcing raw materials, they are not simply meeting strangers for honest trade.  They are immigrating to the sources of raw materials, taking control of them by marriage or force and then peddling commodities out in their long-range networks.  I think we see this from Southern Spain, to the Irish Sea, to the Northeast.  Purpose driven immigration and prospecting, marriage when it makes sense.

Steppe admixture in Belgium this early needs to come from the Netherlands because of Belgium's geography and surrounds.  The obvious conduit is the Meuse.  But why stop with Belgian flints and dolorite? 

Might we find that even more southerly trade and contact are not the product of mutual interests between cultures, but expressly intrusive behavior early on.  It would be interesting if the GP flint trade into the Netherlands wasn't the expansion of existing trade, but a change in management.

Fichera, Alessandro (2020) Archaeogenetics of Western Europe: the transition from the Mesolithic to the Neolithic. Doctoral thesis, University of Huddersfield.


The transition from hunting to farming started in the Fertile Crescent of the Near East, about 12 thousand years ago (kya). During the following millennia, farming spread across Europe largely due to migrations of people from a source in western Anatolia. The aim of this thesis is to investigate and assess the relative contribution of local hunter-gatherers and dispersing farming groups in a region of Western Europe where the archaeological evidence suggests potential complexity. In order to do so, two parallel approaches were carried out: i) the study of human remains from three archaeological sites in Belgium; and ii) a broader phylogeographic analysis of modern mitochondrial DNA sequences belonging to haplogroup HV.

Here I report the first genome-wide analysis of one Mesolithic and 32 Middle to Late Neolithic Belgian individuals. The Mesolithic individual was largely similar to other Western European Mesolithic and Late Palaeolithic samples. However, within the Neolithic group I observed two genetic clusters. The first cluster appears to be the result of an admixture between local Mesolithic hunter-gatherers and Neolithic farmers of Anatolian descent. However, the Mesolithic component was much larger than seen to date in other west European Neolithic samples, with a possible sex bias towards local males carrying Y-chromosome haplogroup I and dispersing females. The second, less numerous genome-wide cluster revealed admixture from a Pontic-Caspian Steppe related population, further indicated by the presence of Y-chromosome R1b-M269.

The phylogeographic analysis of modern mitochondrial haplogroup HV confirmed an Upper Palaeolithic Near Eastern origin. The new findings suggest an early introduction of several HV lineages into the north coast of the Mediterranean from the Late Glacial onwards, which increased during the Neolithic. In particular, the Mediterranean area appears to have served as a reservoir of HV lineages and as a source of later migrations in both the Neolithic and the Bronze Age.

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Drinking with Straw (Turek, 2020) pt. 2

And then there's this... (cont. from pt. 1)

Bell beakers, as well as for example earlier Michelsberg Culture tulip beakers (see Figure 4), have sometimes extremely everted rims, that make direct drinking almost impossible. Such pots may have been used as containers or vessels for manipulation of liquids prior to their consumption, or they were designed for drinking using a straw, such as it is known from beer drinking scenes of ancient Mesopotamia or Egypt.


The beaker below gives you an idea of what an everted rim looks like, but suffice to say that it does not pour well and you can't drink without half of the beverage running down your beard.  I doubt Bronze Age women would appreciate that.  

Another point he makes is that some beakers are obscenely big to the point of being impractical.  Bell beaker beer steins aren't little 12 oz mugs.  They are often huge.

Another point about beards and mustaches (I can tell you from personal experience), they are difficult to eat and drink with.  If you're going on a date, no hot wings, spaghetti, ice cream, or basically anything.  In fact, in the 19th century the popularity of big mustaches caused a resurgence of the rye straw and the beverage guard.  

So how beverages were consumed might tell us a little about their grooming habits or the style of beer that was consumed.

Turek then discusses the Central European Corded Ware graves of men, women and children that often contained what appears to have been a beer-containing amphora, often without any accompanying cup to drink.  With this, he suggests that these beers could have been sipped much as we see in the Near East, and again it may reflect a certain 'style' of beer.

It's important to note that even up until the Iron Age, Thracians and Dacians consumed beer with straws, much to the disgust of their more civilized Greek neighbors.  Of course, drinking beer this way doesn't reflect some primitive way of brewing (as some retarded people suggests), rather it reflects a particular style of beer (bread beer), and one that seems to have been a favorite in Mesopotamia.

To give an example of this "ethnic style of beer" we see a Semitic man named Trr, drinking beer with his probably Egyptian wife, Irbr.  Rachel Sparks (2014) suggests that drinking beer from straws was limited to Asiatics in Egypt, as Egyptians never really adopted the use of straws.  In other words, Egyptians drank beer like you and me.

The Hubbard Amphora 800BC (Cyprus Museum in Nicosia (1938-XI/2/3))

Another example is the Hubbard Amphora which Diakaios suggests is not actually representative of how Cypriots drank their beer, but as in the previous example represents a foreign type.  See Brewing Classical Styles for commentary on Dikaios, P. 1936/1937. “An Iron Age Painted Amphora in the Cyprus Museum.” BSA 37: 56-72.

Using rye grass straws seems to have come in and out of vogue in Europe through the centuries, and surprise, rye straws are coming back as a more ecologically-friendly alternative to plastic straws or the worthless, recycled paper straws.

See also, "The Barbarian's Beverage:"  Max Nelson

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Beer, Pottery, Society and Early European Identity (Turek, 2020) pt. 1

Was alcohol the primary catalyst for to the adoption of ceramics in the Near East Pottery Neolithic?

Turek asks this question.  Could the data could soon point this direction?  Hayden, Canuel and Shanse tell us in their 2012 Natufian paper, that the subject matter of brewing shouldn't be taken as 'mirthful', especially if beer was the gas that fueled the entire cereal-farming Neolithic!

Snip from "Bell Beaker beer drinkers (photograph by J. Turek, courtesy of Museo Arqueologico Madrid)"

Of course grain or any one 'thing' doesn't define the Neolithic.  I like to think of it as a synthesis of specialized economies that all previously existed in the Paleolithic, albeit, independently.  When enough of these Paleolithic specializations began converging the general farm economy was born.  

There's no question as to the centrality of cereal farming to the Neolithic identity.  This is probably because cereal farming is an activity that requires the labor of the whole community.  Cereal farming symbolizes the idea of the Neolithic 'collective' over the rugged independence of the hunter-gatherer.

I'll jump around Turek's paper to highlight a few key points that stood out.  Let's go back to exterior day one.  What was the whole reason Near Easterners began using ceramics in the first place?

With the discovery of pottery and the beginnings of brewing beer, it’s a bit like a question of what occurred first, whether eggs or hen? It is generally believed that the invention of ceramics in the Near East enabled the common brewing of beer (Turek 2005). However, we have to bear in mind that evidence of malting and the oldest brewing dates back to the late Palaeolithic...

...Perhaps it was the production of beer that could have been the impetus for the beginning of Neolithic ceramic production

This makes a lot of sense (especially as a beer drinker).  Essentially Turek builds off an idea by Hayden et al, 2012 that cereal domestication and its dissemination was, in large part, about beer production and social cohesion.  What Turek suggests is that ceramic pottery could have been adopted precisely to make brewing more efficient, more abundant, and brewed with greater precision. 

As is discussed in the Hayden paper, the native geography of cereals are in the northern foothills of the Zargos, not spread across the Levant or wherever.  It also appears they were domesticated where they originated.  So what was the point of domestication?  The Hayden authors believe that mashing grain yields higher caloric returns on labor than threshing and milling.  In other words, the earliest Mesolithic farmers began to scale up production of grains, not to make more baby mush and bread cakes, but because they had the capacity to convert larger and larger volumes of cereal (barley especially) into something immediately useful as sustenance and as a social commodity.

Where do the first ceramics appear in the Near East?  In the foothills of the Northern Zargos.  It is some of those specific sites that have yielded archaeologist, Patrick McGovern, the oldest evidence of alcohol production west of Asia.  Again, it's important to point out a temporal connection between this ancient grain belt and the earliest adoption of pottery in the region.

So what does beer buy you?  

Turek remarks on a theory by (Neustupny, 1998) that beer can buy you the time of fighting men or working men.  Beer is a wage.  It is bait to amass a workforce for field improvements or community projects.  Workers in Uruk and Egypt were paid in beer rations.  This is an important concept because the Neolithic is really about an economy of back-breaking labor.  Digging wells, improving fields, reaping, sowing, building, cutting trees, defending.  It's a time of collective projects that transform landscapes.

If you can imagine a team of guys dragging a limestone block across the desert, what is their daily caloric requirement?  Or digging a well?  Seems a lot of mega-sites of Europe could well have been built with beer-power.

The paper then moves to the beer drinking cultures of Central Europe with specialized drinking sets.  

I'll save that for part 2...

Turek, Jan (2020). Beer, Pottery, Society and Early European Identity. Archaeologies, (), –. doi:10.1007/s11759-020-09406-7

Beer is not only a favourite drink for many archaeologists, but is increasingly the subject of their research. Brewing and beer consumption have played a significant role in prehistoric human cultures around the world. Beer was a tasty, nutritious food, a substance affecting the mind, medicine, a religious symbol, as well as a social medium and an accelerator. Alcohol relieved the pain and prevented the spread of infection. Beer was a safe and healthy drink compared to contaminated water. At the time when our ancestors began to domesticate agricultural crops, they commonly produced not only bread but also beer. It is probable that the first ceramic vessels in the Near East were created precisely out of the need to more effectively control the technological process of beer production. Similarly, in the Central European Copper Age, beer production and its growing social significance influenced the emergence of the set Ceramic complex that lasted continuously for more than three millennia. Beer has entered almost all aspects of social life, from everyday consumption and social interactions to initiation ceremonies and major religious celebrations. The study of beer and other fermented beverages sheds light on many aspects of the biocultural development of humans on this planet.