Beer in Ancient Egypt
Beer, a kind of strong or wine-like alcoholic beverage, made, not with fruit, but with starchy grains. The invention of beer is attributed to the Egyptians. It is claimed that these people, deprived of the grapevine, searched for the secret to imitating wine in the preparation of grains, of which they had in abundance, and from which they created beer.
Others trace the origin of beer back as far as the times of fables and say that Ceres or Osiris, while traveling about the earth, Osiris to make men happy by educating them, Ceres to find her lost daughter, taught the art of making beer to peoples to whom, in the absence of vines, they couldn’t teach the art of making wine: but when we leave the fables to stick to history, it is agreed that the usage of beer spread from Egypt to other regions of the world. It was first known as the Pelusian drink, after Pelusium, a city situated near the mouth of the Nile, where the best beer was made.
There were two kinds: one, the people named zythum and the other, carmi. They differed only in some way that made the carmi sweeter and more pleasing than the zythum. They were, to all appearances, one to the other, as our white beer is to our red beer. The use of beer did not take long to be known in Gaul, and it was for a long time the drink of its inhabitants. The emperor Julian, governor of these regions, alluded to beer in a fairly bad epigram. At the time of Strabo,beer was common in the northern provinces, in Flanders, and in England.
It is not surprising that the cold regions, where wine and even cider are missing, have had to resort to a drink made of grain and water; but that this liquor has gone as far as Greece, into these beautiful climates so rich in grapes, is something one would find difficult to believe if famous authors had not vouched for it. Aristotle speaks of beer and its intoxicating effects; Theophrastus called it οῖνος κριθῆς, barley wine; Aeschylus and Sophocles, ζυθὸς βρύτογ. The Spaniards also drank beerat the time of Polybius. The etymologies given to the word beer are too flawed to be reported; we will make do with only pointing out that it was also called cervoise, cervitia; as to its properties, kinds, and the method of making it.
Diderot, Denis. “l’Encyclopedie: Beer”. (University of Michigan translation project)