Beer through a straw

The earliest beer dates back to at least 3,000 B.C.   That's a minimum, because a pot of that age was found in the Middle East that, on analysis, was found to contain barley beer.

The Greeks were not into beer, not even slightly.  Beer was for barbarians.  The Greeks were however aware of a rather odd custom of early beer swillers.  There’s a fragment of a poem from the archaic poet Archilochos that includes the line:

“…as a Thracian or a Phrygian sucks his barley beer through a tube…”  

Yes, beer was originally drunk through a straw.  To make it more fun it was drunk from pots or, if you went to a party, from a communal vat.

So the process was, you arrived at the party, your host handed you a long straw, and then you all sat or stood around talking while you drank from the same pool of beer.

This image from the British Museum has Mesopotamian beer drinkers hanging out together, in the upper middle:

There's technically no reason why you couldn't try this at your next party!


PT said...

I take up the challenge next time I arrange a non-dinner (=drinks only) party.


Gary Corby said...

Excellent, PT! Please tell me you'll report back.

Gary Corby said...

Aven tried to comment about beer but is having trouble with access at the moment. We ended up talking about it on twitter. Here, for posterity is the gist of the conversation:

Aven: @GaryCorby You know this makes me wonder if early beer was carbonated? It seems, on thinking about it, unlikely; you need a container that…

Gary: @AvenSarah Believe it or not, I've seen an article that suggested the extra oxygen via the straw would have made people drunker, faster.

Gary: @AvenSarah I feel this should call for laboratory testing by highly trained classicists.

Aven: @GaryCorby Yes. With proper controls & repeated experiments. *nods*

Aven: @GaryCorby Right. That makes some sense… and who knows how strong the beer was, too—no reason that it had to be ~5% only.

Gary: @AvenSarah I've been to a winery (not beer) where they use the ancient Roman method. I actually saw wine *bubbling* in buckets. It's weird.

Aven: @GaryCorby Very cool! We make beer at home, but have only made wine at home a couple of times, & never starting with whole grapes.

Gary: @AvenSarah Then you are the perfect people to try the straw experiment! This could make a serious academic paper.

The floor is now open for anyone who can tell us when beer was first carbonated.

PT said...


I don't know when the beer was first carboneted as we know it today.

What I know that today (after my years as bar manager) the beer the bewerieges (spelling?) deliver to bars in 25 - 30kg kegs is almost flat; the carbonation (CO2) is in a separate flask and the beer as the consumer sees it is mixed ca 10 cm before it is poured to the glas.

Same thing with the beer they sell in bottles/cans: the CO2 is added just before the bottling, it's not naturally in there.

Could it be that in some point the process to make beer has changed; originally very bubbly but nowadays flat unless you add CO2?


Gary Corby said...

PT, I didn't realize you're an expert!

There is nothing in ancient texts to suggest beer was bubbly.

I suppose the origin was drinking beer that was still fermenting?

PT said...

I'm far from being expert of beer, just that I've served quite a few pints to my customers and fixed several times the beer taps when they've got broken.

I'm going to ask about this from Carlsberg next time I meet their sales rep. Even if she doesn't know the answer, I'm sure she is able to get info from her employer.


Peter Rozovsky said...

I like that: Everybody topless, wearing skirts, and drinking beer through a straw!

Peter Rozovsky said...

Have you ever seen this old post of mine about Mesopotamia and beer?