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Beer Week: Praise for Ninkasi. No, seriously.

God is to beer like peanut butter is to chocolate, a very tasty age-old combination.  Beer dates as far back as 6 b.c. to Sumerian writings that contain prayers about beer like the ‘Hym to Ninkasi’ , not only a devotion to the goddess, it also contains the recipe on how to make beer .  Now why wasn’t this at the church I went to?  In all seriousness though, writer and craft beer enthusiast, Andy Sparhawk points out ancient cultures all over the world make reference to the gift of beer, or the process of making beer, coming from a maker, God or Godess. recently released an article about craft breweries that pay homage to their ancient god or goddess’ roots and yes the name of Ninkasi Brewing made this holy list.

Ninkasi, the Sumerian goddess of intoxicating drinks, is said to brew beer everyday for other gods. The Hymn to Ninkasi was found on an ancient clay tablet in what is now Iraq. It attributes the founding of a town near a sacred lake to Ninkasi (another nod to beer helping to create civilization) and provides instructions for brewing.

Why pick one beer when Ninkasi Brewing Company named their whole brewery after this beer goddess. Have a look at this video, created by the brewery, which is a modern day interpretation of Ninkasi.

Some other notable deities mentioned in the article: Kautantouwits, who was said to have brought corn to some Native American tribes via a crow that came from the god’s garden (beer made with corn). Egyptian god Osiris is known for barley beer and drinking everyday– hey-o!– in addition to being  the god of dead and agriculture (there’s a life and death metaphor here but I’m coming up short at the moment). The creator, Onyame, hails from African belief, providing his people palm sap to brew beer and drink at their elder tribal meetings .  Not only did these people claim that beer came from gods, they believed beer to be the gateway for spiritual meditation, prayer and the facilitator for communication.  Beer was spiritual.

Reverence to this beloved drink is much different from how many in our culture view today’s beer; however, it is easy to see where our ancestors were coming from when enjoying beer brewed by today’s small and independent craft brewers. Despite our current understanding of the brewing process, a glass of beer still produces the same wonder, mystery, and enjoyment as it did thousands of years ago. Beer can, and I believe, should be celebrated in the same manner; as a gift from the gods [or God], sacred and, for some, even deeply spiritual.

Sparhawk illuminates stark differences from how beer culture was once revered in ancient times to its lesser holy reputation now,  but even with his seriousness about beer business, he still reminds consumers that they should drink merrily.

As we approach a time of year where many of today’s major religions recognize some of their most holy of times, it is important to recognize that beer has brought people together since mankind first discovered it. We can reflect on the idea that the power of beer has little to do with how much you consume, rather how it is enjoyed. Beer IS proof that some divine entity loved humankind and wants us all to be happy.

With that sort of send off, it just makes you all warm and fuzzy inside doesn’t it (wait that might be the beer talking)?  I raise my glass to you fellow beer drinkers: whether you consume or savor your craft beer, do so with a smile and friends nearby. Cheers (indeed)!

  1. Bobkat says:

    Thanks for the info. I always wondered where the name came from. Video was pretty lame though.

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