Published On: Thu, Feb 1st, 2018

Beer Over Wine? New Find Indicates Bronze Age Greeks Imbibed Both Beverages!

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Wine wasn’t the only drink popular with ancient Greeks, according to a new report. The discovery of two Bronze Age breweries suggests that beer was a popular choice for alcohol too.

Researcher Tania Valamoti, an associate professor of archaeology at Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, expressed her surprise to Live Science , stating, “It is an unexpected find for Greece, because until now all evidence pointed to wine.” However, according to Greek Reporter , beer making may have reached Greece through their contact with people living in the eastern Mediterranean – where brewing was already widespread.

Wine boy at a Greek symposium. (

Wine boy at a Greek symposium. ( Public Domain )

Archondiko and Agrissa are the two locations were indications of buildings used for ancient beer brewing have been found. Both locations have markings of fire damage, but Valamoti said that this event helped in preservation. Approximately 100 individual sprouted cereal grains were unearthed at Archondiko as well as a two-roomed structure which may have been used to control temperatures in preparing mash and wort during the brewing process. 30 strange cups were also found near the sprouted grains, which may have been used with a straw to sip prepared beer.

About 3,500 sprouted cereal grains were found at Agrissa. These have been dated to the middle Bronze Age, unlike the Archondiko sprouted grains which are from the early Bronze Age. 45 cups, which may have been used to drink the beer, were also found near the sprouted grains at the Agrissa site.

The sprouted grains found at the sites may have been created during the malting process of beer making. The grains would then be roasted, coarsely ground and mixed with water to make wort, and finally fermented. Researchers say that the condition of the grains at Archondiko are also consistent with the effects of malting and charring.

A blend of milled malted barley for beer brewing

A blend of milled malted barley for beer brewing. ( CC BY SA 3.0 )

Valamoti feels confident that the archaeological remains suggest beer brewing was taking place at the Bronze Age sites, she said , “I’m 95 percent sure that they were making some form of beer. Not the beer we know today, but some form of beer.”

However, it is worth noting that beer was not seen on the same level as wine in ancient Greece, as Valamoti also wrote in the study, as published in the journal Vegetation History and Archaeobotany :

“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.”

Egyptian wooden model of beer making in ancient Egypt

Egyptian wooden model of beer making in ancient Egypt. ( CC BY 2.5 )

Although the Bronze Age beer brewing practices in Greece are an interesting prospect, they are certainly not the oldest example of beer making in the world. Ancient Origins has reported on several examples of beer drinking from well before the Bronze Age. Many beer recipes from hundreds or thousands of years ago have even been recreated. For example, recovered Sumerian, Chinese, and French recipes have all been tried by modern palates.

The oldest depiction of beer-drinking shows people sipping from a communal vessel through reed straws

The oldest depiction of beer-drinking shows people sipping from a communal vessel through reed straws ( Brauerstern)

Archaeological evidence of beer drinking has been found in civilizations throughout the ages and all over the world: an analysis of mummy hair shows ancient Peruvians enjoyed the alcoholic beverage with their seafood, Stone Age people seemed to prefer beer over bread , Medieval monks drank more beer than you can imagine, and corn beer was a popular choice in Mexico. Cheers!

Top Image: A glass of beer. Source: Public Domain

By Alicia McDermott

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