Brewing history - the Sumerians

We’re all about change.

By brewing planet-saving beer with surplus fresh bread and donating all of our profits to charity, we’re here to fix the food system and create a global community of change-makers.

But are we actually doing anything new?

I’ve gone back to my ancient roots to rediscover the origins of brewing with the Sumerians – an ancient people who show brewing with bread is a practice which goes back 5,000 years.

The Sumerians loved beer as much as we do – they drank beer instead of water (in their defence, often the water wasn’t safe to drink) together from a big vat using straws. They were all regular homebrewers. They wrote songs and myths about Ninkasi the goddess of beer and gave beer to their gods as offerings.

In fact, their contribution to beer culture is so pronounced the word Šikarology (named after one of their words for beer) was coined to describe the study of Sumerian beer culture.

They brewed using something called Bappir – a dried, crumbly bread ingredient which could be stored and added to beer (among other recipes like soups and stews), just like malt is used today. By drying the bread it could be kept for longer, preserving the nutritional content in bread to sustain the Sumerians in difficult times.

The idea of extracting as much use from the sustainable resources already available to you is central to the ideas which Toast was built on.

Really, we are reviving an age-old tradition to solve a modern day problem, taking an everyday food that is usually discarded in huge quantities and turning it into delicious beer. We’re looking to the traditions of the past to find solutions for a more sustainable future.

But you don’t need to go back 5,000 years to to find clues for a more sustainable way of living.

It wasn’t too long ago that we lived in a world where plastic didn’t proliferate everywhere – when a milkman would drop of, collect and refill glass bottles rather us relying on single use supermarket cartons.

For thousands of years, industrially produced ready-meals and takeaways didn’t exist and every corner shop didn’t have produce from every corner of the earth. Instead we lived off the land, or at least shopped local in a time when food miles hadn’t been thought of yet.

Best-before-dates have only been with us since the 50’s. Humans have lived by the smell test for millenia and survived just fine.

But perhaps the most important lesson is one the Sumerians can teach us: food should never be wasted so save what you can. Whether that be using stale breadcrumbs in soups or scraping the first sight of mould from cheese – explore ideas to get as much value as you can from what you already have.

And if you’re feeling especially inspired, why not try our bread beer homebrew recipe – just the way the Sumerians liked it.