How The French Brewed Some Of The First Beer In History

According to a quote by beer writer and historian William Bostwick found on the Brewseum, "Humankind was built on beer. From the world's first writing to its first laws, in rituals social, religious, and political, civilization is soaked in beer." If you look back through the annals of history that seems very apparent. 

The History Channel explains that the first fermented beverage we know of appeared around 12,000 years ago and evidence of the first brewed libation has been found in pottery from 7,000 BCE China. But beer, as we know it, dates back about 5,000 years to the Sumerians of Mesopotamia, who cultivated modern barley.

It seems as though France, albeit in the Iron Age, has a fine output of early beer as well, reports Serious Eats. Despite being better known for wine, the residents of at least one Celtic village in the south of France were brewing beer for hundreds of years before wine became the intoxicant of choice.

Mastering malt

Not far from the modern village of Velaux in Provence sits the remains of the Celtic village and sanctuary of La Roquepertuse. The site dates back to the early Iron Age and possibly even the Bronze Age (via "Celtic Culture"). La Roquepertuse is most notable for the statuary and other historical items found during excavations in the early part of the 20th century, such as a partial statue in a Buddha-esque seated position and pillars fitted with human skulls.

But as Serious Eats points out, we know that those who inhabited La Roquepertuse grew both barley and emmer, an early form of wheat. Now, there is also evidence that they were not just consuming the grains or milling them, but malting them, an essential part of the brewing process. This involved steeping the grains to coax them into germinating, then drying them in an oven, much the same as how malted barley is produced today, though likely smokier.

Though wine, today, reigns supreme among French alcoholic beverages, beer has its place in French history. In fact, notes Beer Studies, it was the progenitor of France, Emperor Charlemagne, who handed down some of the first regulations governing the production of beer and how it was to be taxed.