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Hymn to Ninkasi [Oct. 3rd, 2013|09:02 pm]
pozorvlak
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We've just moved house, which means that we're waiting for a new broadband
connection to be set up. While we're waiting for reliable Internet we've been
making our own entertainment, and by "entertainment" I of course mean "beer".
It's our first attempt at homebrewing, so we decided to walk before we tried
running and bought a [beginner's homebrew
kit](http://www.the-home-brew-shop.co.uk/acatalog/Lager_Starter_kit_COOPERS_5_gallons.html#.UkWsY6wgr3B).
Which made me think, as one does, of
[Ninkasi](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ninkasi), the Sumerian goddess of beer
and brewing, who every day used to brew beer for the rest of the Sumerian
pantheon. Beer was one of the crucial enabling technologies for the early
urban civilisations in Egypt and Mesopotamia: as well as being fun to consume,
it allows you to live in close proximity to other humans without dying of
cholera from contaminated drinking water. Beer brewing tech has [moved on a
bit](http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1708005089/picobrew-zymatic-the-automatic-beer-brewing-applia)
since Ninkasi's day, but the essentials of the process remain the same:
germinate grains to turn the starches into sugars, soak in water to extract the
sugars, drain off the resultant liquid (the "wort"), mix with flavourings, ferment in a large vat, drink, enjoy. And since
today is [National Poetry
Day](http://www.poetrysociety.org.uk/content/info/npd/) (with a theme of
"water", no less), I thought it might be fun to update the Hymn to
Ninkasi. Dating from around 1800BC, it's one of the oldest
known recipes for beer. Here's an [academic translation](http://etcsl.orinst.ox.ac.uk/section4/tr4231.htm), and here's a [discussion, and a looser but more poetic translation](http://beeradvocate.com/articles/304).

> Given birth by the flowing water, tenderly cared for by Ninhursaja! Ninkasi, given birth by the flowing water, tenderly cared for by Ninhursaja!

> Having founded your town upon wax, she completed its great walls for you. Ninkasi, having founded your town upon wax, she completed its great walls for you.

> Your father is Enki, the lord Nudimmud, and your mother is Ninti, the queen of the abzu. Ninkasi, your father is Enki, the lord Nudimmud, and your mother is Ninti, the queen of the [abzu](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abzu).

> It is you who watches the included instructional DVD, and is soothed by the presenter's reassuring Australian accent and self-deprecating humour. Ninkasi, it is you who watches the included instructional DVD, and is soothed by the presenter's reassuring Australian accent and self-deprecating humour.

> It is you who puts a cupful of bleach in the plastic bucket, and fills it up with hot water. Ninkasi, it is you who puts a cupful of bleach in the plastic bucket, and fills it up with hot water.

> It is you who leaves the bucket to sterilise for half an hour, and then rinses it down carefully in the shower. Ninkasi, it is you who leaves the bucket to sterilise for half an hour, and then rinses it down carefully in the shower.

> It is you who carries the bucket through to the kitchen, and places it on the counter. Ninkasi, it is you who carries the bucket through to the kitchen, and places it on the counter.

> It is you who peels the backing from the thermometer strip, and sticks it to
> the outside of the bucket. Ninkasi, it is you who peels the backing from the
> thermometer strip, and sticks it to the outside of the bucket.

> It is you who upends the wort can into a saucepan of hot water so that it may flow more easily. Ninkasi, it is you who upends the wort can into a saucepan of hot water so that it may flow more easily.

> It is you who opens the can of hopped wort, and guards it even from the noble cats. Ninkasi, it is you who opens the can of hopped wort, and guards it even from the noble cats.

> It is you who dissolves the wort in two litres of boiling water, then adds the 1kg packet of fermentable and non-fermentable sugars and stirs vigorously. Ninkasi, it is you who dissolves the wort in two litres of boiling water, then adds the 1kg packet of fermentable and non-fermentable sugars and stirs vigorously.

> It is you who wonders what the hell the non-fermentable sugars are there for anyway, and tries to tell your girlfriend about [that Holsten Pils advert with Dennis Leary](http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vmtxc-XGMSE), and remembers that she's too young to remember it. Ninkasi, it is you who wonders what the hell the non-fermentable sugars are there for anyway, and tries to tell your girlfriend about [that Holsten Pils advert with Dennis Leary](http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vmtxc-XGMSE), and remembers that she's too young to remember it.

> It is you who tops up the bucket to twenty litres with cold water, stirs and checks the temperature. Ninkasi, it is you who tops up the bucket to twenty litres with cold water, stirs and checks the temperature.

> It is you who adds another couple of litres of cold water to ensure the temperature is within the range 21C-27C. Ninkasi, it is you who adds another couple of litres of cold water to ensure the temperature is within the range 21C-27C.

> It is you who takes the packet of yeast, tries to tear it open, realises there is no slit in the packet, and looks frantically for a pair of scissors. Ninkasi, it is you who takes the packet of yeast, tries to tear it open, realises there is no slit in the packet, and looks frantically for a pair of scissors.

> It is you who cuts open the packet of yeast with a Swiss Army knife and pours it into the bucket. Ninkasi, it is you who cuts open the packet of yeast with a Swiss Army knife and pours it into the bucket.

> It is you who curses when your girlfriend reminds you that you were meant to sprinkle the yeast evenly over the surface of the liquid. Ninkasi, it is you who curses when your girlfriend reminds you that you were meant to sprinkle the yeast evenly over the surface of the liquid.

> It is you who accepts all the blame if this whole thing goes wrong. Ninkasi, it is you who accepts all the blame if this whole thing goes wrong.

> It is you who slots the stupidly-named Krausen Kollar onto the bucket, and then fits the lid. Ninkasi, it is you who slots the stupidly-named Krausen Kollar onto the bucket, and then fits the lid.

> It is you who wonders why this system doesn't use an airlock, Googles to find out, and emerges no wiser. Ninkasi, it is you who wonders why this system doesn't use an airlock, Googles to find out, and emerges no wiser.

> It is you who hopes that you won't end up with partially-fermented beer all over your new kitchen floor. Ninkasi, it is you who hopes that you won't end up with partially-fermented beer all over your new kitchen floor.

> It is you who half-fills the hydrometer tube with the diluted wort and drops in the weighted bulb, to determine the beer's original gravity. Ninkasi, it is you who half-fills the hydrometer tube with the diluted wort and drops in the weighted bulb, to determine the beer's original gravity.

> It is you who attempts to read the specific gravity at the meniscus, but can't actually see the meniscus because beer is fizzy. Ninkasi, it is you who attempts to read the specific gravity at the meniscus, but can't actually see the meniscus because beer is fizzy.

> It is you who decides that accuracy to +/- 0.001 is probably good enough, and writes down your best guess in the Brewer's Log. Ninkasi, it is you who decides that accuracy to +/- 0.001 is probably good enough, and writes down your best guess in the Brewer's Log.

> [It is you who has only proceeded up to this point so far, and is copying the remaining steps out of the instruction booklet. Ninkasi, it is you who has only proceeded up to this point so far, and is copying the remaining steps out of the instruction booklet.]

> It is you who waits for four days, periodically checking that the temperature is within the range 21-27C, and then draws off another tubeful of liquid and measures the specific gravity with the hydrometer. Ninkasi, it is you who waits for four days, periodically checking that the temperature is within the range 21-27C, and then draws off another tubeful of liquid and measures the specific gravity with the hydrometer.

> It is you who checks the specific gravity daily until it has remained the same for 24 hours. Ninkasi, it is you who checks the specific gravity daily until it has remained the same for 24 hours.

> It is you who nervously taste-tests the beer, hoping that it has avoided infection or other problems. Ninkasi, it is you who nervously taste-tests the beer, hoping that it has avoided infection or other problems.

> It is you who sterilises the supplied heavy PET bottles, ready to receive the beer. Ninkasi, it is you who sterilises the supplied heavy PET bottles, ready to receive the beer.

> It is you who fits the bottling valve to the tube, and opens the tap. Ninkasi, it is you who fits the bottling valve to the tube, and opens the tap.

> It is you who fills the bottles with the beer. Ninkasi, it is you who fills the bottles with the beer.

> It is you who puts one sugar tablet into each 500mL bottle so that the beer may undergo a second fermentation, then caps them and inverts each one several times. Ninkasi, it is you who puts one sugar tablet into each 500mL bottle so that the beer may undergo a second fermentation, then caps them and inverts each one several times.

> It is you who wonders what was going on in that bit in *1984* where the old guy complained that half a litre of beer wasn't enough, seriously, you can barely tell the difference between half a litre and a pint. Ninkasi, it is you who wonders what was going on in that bit in *1984* where the old guy complained that half a litre of beer wasn't enough, seriously, you can barely tell the difference between half a litre and a pint.

> It is you who stores the bottles upright at a temperature above 18C (in Scotland, in October) for two weeks while the beer undergoes carbonation. Ninkasi, it is you who stores the bottles upright at a temperature above 18C (in Scotland, in October) for two weeks while the beer undergoes carbonation.

> It is you who invites your friends round to try the finished beer; it is like the onrush of the Tigris and the Euphrates. Ninkasi, it is you who invites your friends round to try the finished beer; it is like the onrush of the Tigris and the Euphrates.

Cheers!

This entry was originally posted at http://pozorvlak.dreamwidth.org/177124.html. Please comment wherever and however is most convenient for you!
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