hist-brewing: Kvass

Martyn Cornell atrectus at blueyonder.co.uk
Wed Jul 2 01:59:26 PDT 2003

There has been some fascinating research done by Kirin, the Japanese brewer,
on lactic acid fermentation, sourdough bread and ancient Egyptian beer,
which 1) knocks on the head previous theories about the earliest methods of
brewing beer and 2) suggests a straight line between Egyptian beer and more
recent bread-based brews such as kvass and its Finnish equivalent, taari.

A good explanation of Kirin's findings can be found at


But I'll reproduce here the second and third paragraphs as they seem
relevant to this discussion:

"Beer brewing in ancient Egypt consisted of three processes: yeast
cultivation, sweet wort production and fermentation. Most beers today are
brewed using similar processes. However, one difference in yeast cultivation
is that in the ancient Egyptian beer, the yeast was activated with grapes or
raisins and date juice, and cultivated using bread. Another key point is
that activated yeast was propagated from fruits in liquid, and was
reproduced using bread. Lactic acid fermentation of the dough was done in
the bread-making process, and the lactic acid bacteria and other bacteria
were deactivated through sterilization by baking the bread. These ideas
differ considerably from the conventional theory that mash from the bread
was fermented naturally with the yeast in the air. The new hypothesis shows
that 4,000-5,000 years before the existence of microorganisms and yeast was
confirmed in the 17th century, microorganisms were being elaborately and
systematically controlled.

"The recreated beer has a high alcohol content of about 10 percent, which is
different from the previous assumption of around 3 percent. This is
supported by images of feasts inscribed on the walls of the tombs, and
represents an interesting discovery for research of the eating habits and
culture of ancient Egypt. The beer contained very little carbonation and
thus had no froth, and because it was lactic fermented, it had a much higher
lactic acid content than contemporary beers. The lactic acid gives the beer
a moderately bitter flavor and good body, and it is believed that the beer
of that time, when hops were not used, had a flavor balance resembling that
of white wine."

You will also find links on the page to a suggested ancient Egyptian beer
recipe based on Kirin's findings.

More information about the hist-brewing mailing list