Welcome to the Brewing Classical Styles beer blog! This blog is dedicated to everything associated with beer in ancient Greece and Rome. A primary goal of this site is to catalog all Greek and Roman literary references to beer and beer-related things (barley, yeast, hops, barrels, drinking, etc.). I also provide a general commentary and historic background to each text in order to make this literature accessible and useful to a general audience. This whirlwind, literary tour is augmented with descriptions of archaeological evidence and modern homebrew/craft beer bric-a-brac that are obliquely related to ancient Greece and Rome.
The inspiration for the name of this blog is obvious to the beer-geeks out there: Brewing Classic Styles by J. Zaninasheff and J. Palmer. The famous tome documents recipes for the fundamental beer styles that dominate the modern beer-world. The name of this blog is both a playful allusion to the book’s title and an homage to the influential work. By starting this blog, I hope to bring to life the long-forgotten beer styles that existed before the introduction of hops.
The “Classical” of this blog’s title refers to a commonly-used descriptor for the study of ancient Greece and Rome. Thus, this blog incorporates evidence from ca. 3000 BCE-500 CE. On occasion, I also incorporate translated Medieval and Renaissance texts from after the Classical period – so long as they are written in Latin and Ancient Greek!
The geographic scope of this blog is also quite broad. At any time, the Classical world influenced regions as far away as Afghanistan, Portugal, the British Isles, and north Africa. During the Roman period, Egypt and the Near East, ancient cultures with well-known beer cultures, were directly under administered by Rome. The essential texts for these periods and cultures are well-trod material that can be easily found with a quick internet search. Although I occasionally refer to the texts and archaeological evidence of these regions from before the Classical period, they are not a primary focus of the blog.
The lack of beer-tention to the Greeks and the Romans is largely due to their unabashed emphasis on wine-culture. Many ancient Greeks and Romans considered beer to be a barbarian’s beverage that is inappropriate for a respectable citizen to imbibe. As a result, most of the descriptions from this period rarely discuss Romans and Greeks who drink or make beer. Instead, the literature documents the beer cultures of other people, many of whom did not leave texts to attest to their love of beer and homebrewing. Such an outsiders’ view is liable to be shrouded in stereotypes, propaganda, and false impressions. Still, grains (awesome pun, Kyle) of truth are certainly to be found in these texts.
I will strive to post a minimum of two entries each week. The tentative schedule includes the translation of a Greek or Roman text and accompanying commentary or archaeological discussion every Monday. On Thursday, the topic is open and can include Classics-inspired beer (or beer title/label) reviews, general thoughts and working theories about ancient beer, etc. Occasional “Homebrew Wednesday” entries will also appear. These relate modern homebrewing to ancient beer and beer-making techniques. I hope that this blog will appeal to homebrewers, Classicists, and beer drinkers (all not mutually exclusive), alike!
*All translations are the author’s. They are not literal reproductions of the original language into English – this would not make for a pleasant reading experience. I apologize for any (inevitable) mistakes.
Kyle is a Ph.D. in Classical Archaeology who teaches archaeology at a small college in Illinois and regularly excavates in Greece, Italy, and the USA. Kyle is also an unaccomplished homebrewer with a financially-inconvenient obsession for craft beer.
Beer Augustus. Source: own work, with remixing of Augustus of Prima Porta, Vatican Museums.