Metalheads and beer go together like two things that go together. Beer and sausages, beer and festivals, beer and sex. Beer and more beer. As Kat from Hell Bent for Wacken so eloquently expresses it:
“I would crawl through the mud, broken glass and possibly the piss ditches to see these bands. As long as I didn’t spill my beer.”
Yes, metalheads can – and have – endured the infamous piss ditches with a smile, as long as they have a pint in hand and something to headbang to. But when we adopted beer as the metalhead drink of choice, did we realise we joined a long and noble lineage of beer-drinkers?
Any substance containing carbohydrates has the potential to ferment and become beer – so variations of beer would have been invented independently throughout the ancient world. 10 000 years ago humans stopped wandering the forest and started thinking “You know what? Here’s a nice field. I could totally live here for a few years. I could even build a little hut. With a roof. And maybe a room for all my women. What luxury! All the other ape-humans sure will be jealous.”
They started planting crops and baking bread. Some archaeologists believe bread was originally baked not as a food product, but a convenient way to carry around the means of brewing beer.
No one people can claim the invention of beer. A caveman on a pub crawl would taste a different beer in every region. From the Sumarians (who occupied the land between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers including the cities of Babylon and Ur) we get the first ever recorded recipe for beer.
“You are the one who soaks the malt in a jar
The waves rise, the waves fall…
Ninkasi, you are the one
You are the one who holds with both hands the great sweet wort…
Ninkasi, you are the one who pours out the filtered beer of the collector vat,
It is [like] the onrush of Tigris and Euphrates”
Other texts describe the effect of the drink as making people feel “exhilerated, wonderful and blissful!”
Here’s a sampling of ancient beer:
- 5000 years ago, Chinese civilisations brewed a beer known as kui.
- Egyptian Pharoahs downed mugs of beer made from barley bread. Egyptian beer – like everything else in Egypt – played an important part in religious ceremonies. Egyptian Doctors prescribed beer as a cure for many common ailments. A medical document of the 1600 BC lists the prescriptions for 700 ailments, over 100 of which include the word “beer”.
- The Egyptians were the first known culture to begin recording dates for batches of brew to judge fermentation time, as well as devising a rating system for beer.
- A Victorian scholar with the metal name of James Death postulated an unpopular but not discreditable theory that the “manna” God sent from heaven for the Israelites was actually a bread-based, porridgey beer called wusa.
- The Kalevala – the Finnish Epic poem collected in written form in the 1800 but comprising an ancient oral tradition – devotes more lines to the origin and brewing of beer than to the origin of humanity.
- In many ancient societies, brewing was a task for women, usually priestesses.
- Pacific and South American brewing practises include chewing the grains and spitting them into the fermentation vessel, where the human saliva produces converts starch into fermentable sugar.
Ancient beers were normally made from fermented bread, and had the consistancy of porridge. The Sumarians used drinking straws to slurp up the beer so they wouldn’t accidentally eat the bitter hops. I know – that sounds like just what you need after a hard day of cultivating – a bowl of fermented bread pulp. Yum.
Although beer was brewed in Greece and Rome, both preferred wine, and writers like Tacitus wrote about the disagreeable taste of the beer brewed by the Germanic tribes. It was during the Classical period that wine gained its reputation as a refined, upper class drink, and beer because associated with the lower classes and hoi barbaroi.
Incidentally, with Christianity came more beer. As part of their mission to provide food, drink and shelter, Monks set up breweries in the monastries and were the first to turn brewing into a recognisable trade. St. Augustine of Hippo, St. Nicholas and St. Luke the Evangelist were all patron saints of brewing.
A 13th century Dominican priest, Jofroi of Waterford, wrote an elaborate catalogue of all the beers and wines of Europe, which he apparently described “with great relish” and gave recommendations for scholars and counsellers.
Because the purity of water could not be guaranteed, most people drank some form of alcohol (which had been boiled at some point of the brewing process) with every meal. Beer was the most popular drink in Europe throughout the Middle Ages, but because the doctors and physicians had been trained in Classical thought – they considered beer extremely unhealthy:
“But from whichever it is made, whether from oats, barley or wheat, it harms the head and the stomach, it causes bad breath and ruins the teeth, it fills the stomach with bad fumes, and as a result anyone who drinks it along with wine becomes drunk quickly; but it does have the property of facilitating urination and makes one’s flesh white and smooth” The Aldobrandino of Siena – 1256
Along Came Hops
Beer made with hops was perfected in Germany in the 13th century, and the Germans started a medium scale export of this longer-lasting beer to the rest of Europe. Making beer with hops became popular in Holland in the 14th century and England in the 15th century. The English government declared laws to enforce the use of hops in beer. The English peasants – convinced adding hops destroyed the taste of beer – rose up and rebelled against this law, but were brutally put down.
And you can probably guess the story from here: industrial revolution = large-scale brewing apparatus = increase in beer production = more drunk Englishmen = football hooligans and chavs.
And metalheads. Who drink more beer per capita than chavs. And have more fun. And listen to better music. And we aren’t sleeping with our sisters.
Steff Metal’s Favorite Beers
Please beer (haha) in mind I am a wussy girl and much prefer met and cider to beer.
Pirate Ale (tastes like shite but it has a picture of a pirate on it)
Best Beer-Drinking Folk Metal Songs (and a couple of non-folk metal drinking songs, for good measure):
Korpiklaani – Beer Beer
Skyclad – Another Drinking Song
Korpiklaani – Happy Little Boozer
Alestorm – Wenches and Mead
Ensiferum – One More Magic Potion
Korpiklaani – Wooden Pints (are you noticing a trend here?)
Tankard – The Beauty and the Beer
Korpiklaani – Let’s Drink!
Finntroll – Trollhammaren
Turisas – One More!
Tankard – The Empty Tankard
George Thorogood – One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer
Scurvy – The Grog Song
Metallica – So What? (cover)
Dropkick Murphys – Kiss Me I’m Shitfaced
And Manowar – Brothers of Metal.
Deities of Beer:
We should pour libations in their honour, you know.
Osiris – inventer of beer in Ancient Egypt.
Dionysos and Sinenus – Greek gods of beer and wine and drunken debauchery.
Bacchus – Roman god of beer and wine and drunken debauchery.
Siris and Ninkasi – Babylonian goddesses of beer.
Gambrinus – the mythical Flemish king who supposedly invented beer.
Tezcatzontecatl – Aztec god of inebriation. One drink for everyone who incorrectly pronounces his name.
Radegast – the God of hospitality and beer in the Czech Republic.
In Norse legend, Ægir (sea god), Ran (his wife) and their nine daughters brewed beer for the Gods. And we’re talking Norse gods here, so they must have brewed a LOT of beer. The cups in Ægir’s hall were always full, magically refilling themselves when emptied.
Raugupatis and Ragutiene – the God of fermentation and his consort in Baltic mythology.
St. Augustine of Hippo, St. Nicholas and St. Luke the Evangelist – the patron saints of brewing.
Delwen Samual, 1996.
More beer enthusiasts attempt to create beer using the Hymm to Ninkasi recipe.
Miguel Civil, Hymm to Ninkasi (full text).
So metalheads, I want to see comments! I want to know beer recommendations! I want to read your best stories about being pissed and metal! Who’s up for a round of the “Manowar Drinking Game?”
Raise Your Horns! \m/