“Come,” each one cries, “let me get wine! Let us drink our fill of beer! And tomorrow will be like today, or even far better.”
Wine is the obvious beverage of choice in the Hebrew and Christian bibles – being the focal point of a few miracles definitely helps – but the prophet Isaiah put some plugs for beer in his book. What was he thinking … and drinking … back in the eighth century BCE? A group of researchers from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem managed to recover some ancient yeast from old clay pottery and used it to brew what the Philistines (Goliath’s people for you non-biblical types), the Egyptians and perhaps even Isaiah may have been drinking. Did Goliath have a drink with a head before losing his to little David?
“Aside from the gimmick of drinking beer from the time of King Pharaoh, this research is extremely important to the field of experimental archaeology--a field that seeks to reconstruct the past. Our research offers new tools to examine ancient methods, and enables us to taste the flavors of the past."
Dr. Ronen Hazan, team member and microbiologist from the Hebrew University-Hadassah School of Dental Medicine, knows what you’re thinking and assures in the press release that this was real scientific research that would tell them much about the ancient culture that used the ancient culture to make beer. The pottery containing the yeast cultures came from four different excavation sites in Israel, with the oldest dating back to 3,000 BCE and the others coming from the reign of Aramean King Hazael (800 BCE) and the Prophet Nehemiah (400 BCE), putting them right in Isaiah’s era. As presented in the study, published in mBio, the open journal of the American Society for Microbiology, the researchers assumed correctly that clay pots used for fermenting the beer would have absorbed some yeast in nano-pores and they were able to extract and then resurrect the yeast to a state where they could ferment beer again, using some ancient recipes.
"I remember that when we first brought out the beer that we sat around the table and drank. And I said either we'll be good or we'll all be dead in five minutes.”
Archaeologist and team member Aren Maeir from Bar-Ilan University in Israel lived (and survived the hangover) to tell this drinking story to Science Alert. Two different versions were brewed by Israeli beer expert Itai Gutman and tested by certified tasters from the International Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP), who also survived and called it “high quality.” The basic ale was said to have “a thick white head, with a caramel color and a distinctly funky nose” (sound like anyone you know?) while the mead was “champagne bubbly and dry, with a hint of green apple.”
That sounds good, but was it ‘Isaiah’ good? Aren Maeir, team member (yes, there WERE a lot of members on this beer-making team – surprised?) from Bar-Ilan University's Department of Land of Israel Studies and Archaeology, gave the answer:
"These findings paint a portrait that supports the biblical image of drunken Philistines."
Here’s to Isaiah, Goliath and well-made long-lasting pottery.