NEWS RELEASE, 05/12/98

Beer symposium at UC Berkeley to trace beer consumption and brewing from antiquity to present

By Jacquie Frost, Public Affairs

Berkeley - What did the Gold Rush bring to California besides hordes of people? How did the Incas nourish the laborers they conquered? What beverage sets ancient - and modern - Northern Europeans apart from their southern European neighbors?

Beer, archaeologists say.

Scholars trace beer brewing and consumption to civilization's earliest beginnings. Archaeologists have studied cuneiform tablets that record the work of ancient Sumerian brewers and actually have brewed both ancient Sumerian and Egyptian beers following original recipes.

On Sunday, May 17, from 1 to 5 p.m. at the University of California, Berkeley's Phoebe Apperson Hearst Museum of Anthropology, a group of scholars, brewers and "brewer-scholars" will discuss the role beer has played in the march of human history at a symposium called "Beer and Culture."

In addition, members of the Berkeley Brewers Guild, including Triple Rock Brewery and Alehouse; Jupiter; Pyramid Brewery & Alehouse; Golden Pacific Brewing Co. and Bison Brewing Co. will discuss their ideas about modern brewing and share their concoctions at a beer tasting and reception following the talk.

"There is a lot more to beer than a bunch of men sitting in front of a television set watching a football game," said Rosemary Joyce, director of the Hearst Museum.

Joyce said the growing popularity of micro breweries and the increasing number of home brewers demonstrates a renewed interest in the thousands-year old tradition of beer brewing and imbibing.

Joyce also noted the little known role women have played in beer brewing. "When beer was produced at home in the United States for home consumption, women were the brewers," she said. "When it was produced centrally, women were not the brewers, and the possibility was created for separate socialization by men."

At the symposium, University of Wisconsin Professor Bettina Arnold, who specializes in European archaeology, will outline the drinking tastes and habits of ancient Northern and Southern Europeans and discuss how the beverages helped shape modern traditions and attitudes regarding alcoholic drinks.

"There is a significant difference between the northern and southern parts of western Europe with regards to alcoholic beverages and attitudes towards drinking," said Arnold, "and these differences date back to antiquity.''

Mary Weismantel, a professor at Occidental College and a specialist in the cuisine in Zumbagua, Ecuador, will discuss the use of chicha, a mildly alcoholic beer made from corn. Chicha's long history in the Andes includes use by Inca administrators who used it to pay off labor gangs from local ommunities they had conquered and drafted to build their road systems and public works.

Kathleen Butler, an art historian and American studies specialist who works at the Hearst museum, will look at women, men and beer in mid-19th century California.

"There was very little beer in California before the gold miners came," she said.

Butler said these gold miners brought both their thirst for beer and later, the seeds to plant the hops necessary for brewing. New Hampshire native Wilson Flint planted the first crop of California hops in 1956 in the fertile Sacramento Valley. Others quickly followed his example, and California hops later was in great demand.

Admission is $5 for museum members and $15 for the general public.



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