Beer in Ancient Greece

Ancient Greeks mostly drank wine, but they may also have brewed beer, according to a study that describes the discovery of two (probable) Bronze Age breweries. The discoveries may be the oldest beer-making facilities in Greece.
'Textual evidence from historic periods in Greece clearly shows that beer was considered an alcoholic drink of foreign people, and barley wine a drink consumed by the Egyptians, Thracians, Phrygians, and Armenians, in most cases drunk with the aid of a straw,' Soultana Maria Valamoti wrote in her study[1].

This suggests that prehistoric Greeks were probably using alcoholic drinks for feasts during the entire year, instead of just on a seasonal basis when grapes were ripe.

Archaeologists found the remains of several buildings that may have been used for beer making: some at Archondiko in northern Greece, and another at Agrissa, a site south of Archondiko on the eastern side of Greece. Both sites had been destroyed by fire, which turned them into veritable time capsules, Valamoti said. After the fire, the prehistoric people appear to have moved out, leaving countless burned artifacts behind, including the remains of sprouted cereal grains.

At Archondiko, archaeologists found about 100 individual sprouted cereal grains that could be dated to the early Bronze Age (circa 2100 to 2000 BC). At Agrissa, they found about 3,500 sprouted cereal grains dating to the middle Bronze Age (circa 2100 to 1700 BC).
The discovery of sprouted cereal grains is significant. To brew beer, a brewer needs to sprout cereals (a process known as malting), which turns the grain's starch into sugars. This sprouting process is then interrupted by roasting the grain. Next, the grains are coarsely ground and mixed with lukewarm water to make wort, which helps convert the remaining starches into sugars. Finally, the sugars in the malt are used by yeast and turned into alcohol. This yeast is potentially present in the air around the brewery, introduced by adding grapes into the liquid, or from other sources, like dates.

In addition, archaeologists found a two-chambered structure at Archondiko that 'seems to have been carefully constructed to maintain low temperatures in the rear chamber, possibly even below 100oC,' Valamoti wrote. Given that a temperature of 70oC is ideal for preparing the mash and wort, it is certainly possible that Ancient Greekse used this structure during the beer-making process, she said.

There were even a number special cups found near the sprouted grains, suggesting they may have been used to serve beer. However, some of these cups were difficult to drink from, so it's possible that people there sipped beer through straws, Valamoti said.

[1] Soultana Maria Valamoti: Brewing beer in wine country? First archaeobotanical indications for beer making in Early and Middle Bronze Age Greece in Vegetation History and Archaeobotany – 2017

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