Tag Archives: Sumeria

Stupid beer quizzes

If my sense of boiling indignation is ever dying down, I like to hunt out a “beer quiz” on the interweb. Almost inevitably they’re full of shite, looking as if they’ve put together by someone who seems to have read one book on beer and misinterpreted most of that. Now, I realise that the people who arranged this one are sincere, dedicated folk seeking only to educate the world about beer and how good it is, and it would be nice to be able to salute them for the crusading job they’re trying to do. Only I can’t salute them, because their “great beer test” is crap.

Take the question “In what geographic region was beer first produced for large scale commercial trade?” The proper answer is “North Germany”, where the brewers of the Hanseatic League in the early Middle Ages started exporting the new hopped beer to the Baltic, the Low Countries and other areas of Germany. This is not, however, one of the choices offered in the GBT. Instead it claims that

Evidence suggests strongly that the earliest large scale commercial brewing centers for export and otherwise were concentrated in the trading cities of the Nile River Delta in ancient Sumeria (present day Egypt). There were dozens of available beer styles that were exported as far away as Northern Europe and India.

This is so utterly, utterly wrong in every way it makes my head explode. To begin with, it confuses Sumeria, which is in present day Iraq, with Egypt, some 800 miles away. Next I know of no evidence of “large scale commercial brewing centers for export” in Sumeria or Ancient Egypt. Nor am I aware of “dozens of available beer styles” in either place – I mean, “dozens”? Unless you microslice beerstyles, there aren’t “dozens” available in most major brewing nations today. Finally, if either the Sumerians or the Egyptians were exporting beer to Northern Europe, they were travelling to places that the most intrepid Greeks weren’t going to get to for a thousand years, and the Romans regarded as the edge of the world. Evidence for this claim? None. So that’s five claims, not one of which is true, and one of which is a complete geographical howler.

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