Beer: A contemporary legal buzz or a testament to human ingenuity?

  • 2007-06-20
  • By Holly Morrison

A WAY OF LIFE: Brewing traditions were brought to Northern Europe by the Romans more than two thousand years ago. Today a Baltic summer spent without sipping beer in an outdoor cafe would be unthinkable.

RIGA - Humankind has been enjoying beer for the past 10,000 years.
The first beer was created, discovered, produced or received from aliens (depending on who's telling the story and their level of sobriety) by Sumerians. Whether this was an accidental discovery by a careless housekeeper who allowed a piece of soggy bread to sit around long enough to ferment, or one that came about through a more intentional act, will forever be fodder for speculation. Which came first, beer or bread, is an equally hot debate. What is not in question, however, is the fact that beer is the earliest known beverage to remain in existence 's possibly enjoying even greater popularity at present than in ancient times.

Some historians believe that even if bread preceded beer, bread may have originally been derived from wild plants and grains, allowing our wandering ancestors to continue their itinerant lifestyle while also enjoying bread. But with the discovery of beer 's and the subsequent thirst caused by this discovery 's tribes opted to hang up their tents, park their goats and end their rambling ways. Then quickly settling into small communities, these former nomads began cultivating barley and other grains, unwilling to rely on unpredictable wild barley for such an important food source as beer.
As time progressed, the human love for beer deepened, ultimately inspiring poets to abandon composing love sonnets for (I swear to you) writing beer recipes.

"The Hymn To Ninkasi," a poem written in 1800 B.C., is actually a recipe for beer; rather romantically expressed, but a beer recipe nonetheless. Hearts were touched by the deep lyrics of this hymn: "When you pour out the filtered beer of the collector vat, it is [like] the onrush of Tigris and Euphrates. Ninkasi, you are the one who pours out the filtered beer of the collector vat, it is [like] the onrush of Tigris and Euphrates." This causes one to ponder: Was this ancient sonnet perhaps the forerunner of such classics as the 20th century '99 bottles of beer on the wall?' And if so, isn't it amazing how a few hundred years and several million bottles of beer transformed the art of songwriting?

Foul tasting grain hulls floating around in unfiltered beer were a drawback until, in the mid-third millennium B.C., the drinking straw was invented. The fact that drinking beer through a straw (which was continuously getting clogged with nasty bits of glop) was considered, by our ancestors, preferable to straining solid particles out of the beer, supports my theory that we're lucky to even have the wheel.
As time moved on beer found its niche in cultures all over the world.
In Egypt, 1600 B.C., there were 100 documented medical prescriptions calling for beer as one of their ingredients. The data is inconclusive as to whether these prescriptions actually cured illnesses, simply made the patients more fun to be around or contributed to the growing popularity of the medical profession. Another morsel of ancient Egyptian beer trivia: if a gentleman offered a lady a sip of his beer, they were betrothed. The outcome of men sharing a beer is not documented.
Fast-forward, if you will, to 55 B.C., when the Romans first introduced beer to Northern Europe. One can only imagine the excitement experienced by Northern Europeans with this most auspicious introduction. Quick studies that they are, Nordic folks latched onto beer 's and beer making 's like frost to a mug.
The rest, as they say, is history…

With the current production of local beers that rival the best in the world, the Baltic countries pride themselves in offering high quality 'live' beers, which 's unlike many of their western counterparts 's have a shelf life of weeks rather than months and fullness and body that shame most of their rivals.
But perhaps more importantly: Baltic beers come with a guarantee that customers need neither a straw nor a prescription to enjoy their products. However, whether a gentleman offering a lady a sip of his beer implies the desire for a life commitment is considered a personal matter. No guarantees are offered.