Reading a book, I came across a very old recipe of beer soup that was used in medieval Germanic territories. It was recorded at the end of eighteen century but it is regarded as much older. Countries that have a long beer tradition, like England and Germany are probably familiar with beer soup recipes, but other population, like maybe eastern or southern Europeans may not even know that such thing exists.
Today, beer is known as an alcoholic drink but back in the days beer was used as food too. And it wasn't an exception or a delicatessen or an exotic dish that you make once in a while for entertainment or other uncommon purposes. It was a breakfast recipe!
Beer has a long history and I won't be surprised to find out that once it had a god of its own, as wine has Bacchus in Roman mythology. As a clue stand a prayer recorded on a Sumerian tablet and dedicated to the Goddess Ninkasi, , prayer that's nothing else then a recipe for making beer. On another text, called Kalewala, this time coming from Finland, there's 400 verses speaking about beer. Also, Gilgamesh, the 2700 BC Sumerian ruler, tricked Enkidu, a nonhuman creature, to eat bread and drink beer to become human with the purpose of defeating him. The Celtic tribes recognized beer as being for humans too, as opposed to wine that was for gods.
It is said that beer, under different names and using a varieties of ingredients, was once world wide spread. Archaeologists found evidence of brewing or drinking beer from China to Italy and Germany. But not all populations ended up with such strong beer culture as the Germans (Celtic and Germanic tribes that took over Northern Europe starting in 12Th century BC). Mediterranean civilizations took on wine and dismissed beer as barbarian.
In the long century they used beer, people must found out that this drink was also an important source of energy. For example, my husband's regular can of beer has 153 calories, along with other minerals and vitamins. That time, beer was not filtered and clear as today so there was more to it then we know about our present day beer.
Frederick The Great
It isn't clear if the beer was first a drink and then became soup or was always used as a cooking ingredient. Practices older then the beer soup I found are recorded on medieval chronicles. It is said that beer was second in importance after bread. In 1551, Johann Placotomus, a German doctor and teacher wrote: "Some subsist more upon this drink then they do on food....People of both sexes and every age, the hale and the infirm alike require it." For 18Th century, in England, beer soup became so popular that it was prepared for breakfast and shared with all family members, children or adults. The modern writers say that the consumption of beer in a family was estimated at 3 quarts (almost 3 liters) per person.
At that time beer was brewed at home, being part of housewives choruses. It was consumed by poor and rich and liked by everybody, from sailors to royalty. Elizabeth Charlotte, a German princess living in Paris in the second half of 18Th century complains in her letters about french habits:
"Tea makes me think of hey and dung, coffee of soot and lupine-seed, and chocolate is too sweet for me - it gives me a stomachache - I can't stand any of them. How much I would prefer [...] a good beer soup, that wouldn't give me a stomachache".
Frederick the great, the German emperor that ruled Prussia between 1740 and 1786, was a big fun and promoter of beer. In a 1777 proclamation defending beer against coffee he wrote:
"It is disgusting to notice the increase in the quantity of coffee used by my subjects, and the amount of money that goes out of the country in consequence. Everybody is using coffee. My people must drink beer. His Majesty was brought up on beer and so were his ancestors, and his officers. Many battles have been fought and won by soldiers nourished on beer, and the King does not believe that coffee-drinking soldiers can be dependent upon to endure hardship or to beat his enemies in case of the occurrence of another war".
Eventually, by making coffee trade a state monopoly, the Germans were forced to stick with beer and beer soup, or find other substitutes for coffee, continuing the tradition of well-rounded human shape. For a while, they praised the beer belly that was associated with a high social status and wealth.
Cheese Beer Soup
This very simple beer soup that survived from that time is based on beer, eggs and bread, common ingredients found in a kitchen. Here is how it goes:
"Heat the beer in a saucepane; in a separate small pot beat a couple of eggs. Add a chunk of butter to the hot beer. Stir in some cold beer to cool it, then poor over the eggs. Add a bit of salt, and finally mix all the ingredients together, whisking it well to keep it from curdling. Finally, cut up a roll, white bread, and pour the soup over it. You may also sweeten to taste with sugar".
Today, beer soup may be a matter of sophistication or culinary knowledge. People I asked about this kind of dish seems to know at lest one: beer cheese soup. Also, the recipes I found online have more ingredients, they add spices,herbs, and garnishes. Sometimes the authors of these recipes regard beer soup as a treat, "hearty, warming and delicious".
Beer soup being such an old tradition, I relay think we should continue it, as a respect for our ancestors that may have been brought up on beer. I never had it but I'm thinking to give it a try.
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If you want to find out more about beer, as a drink in the Middle Age and other food stories from the past, go to howdidtheylive.blogspot.com.
cameciob (author) on March 13, 2013:
dudess, If it happens that you stop by another time, please let us know if your bear soup turned out to be yummy. Thank you.
Hey dudess on March 07, 2013:
This is awesome, I did not think that you could make soup from beer, I'm always looking for new recipes to serve my wife like BBQ sauce from jack Daniels but never heard of beer soup, thanks
cameciob (author) on July 27, 2011:
HI Princessa, I'm very happy you found my hub useful. Thanks for including it in your article.
Wendy Iturrizaga from France on July 25, 2011:
I like the idea and the history behind your recipe. I am going to try this soon, in the meantime I hope that you don't mind that I have included your recipe in one of my latest hubs. Thanks for sharing!
cameciob (author) on April 04, 2011:
Hi BeerNewb...very smart, those monks. I hope your beer soup will turn out good. Thanks for stopping.
BeerNewb on April 02, 2011:
Awesome back story, I think I might actually try to cook this up sometime. I recall reading things about how in the middle ages, Monks would "fast" for a month at a time, but they survived because they drank much calorie rich beer!
cameciob (author) on January 31, 2011:
PaperNotes, thank you for stopping. Let me know how it turns out, I'm curious. I've never had one myself. Good luck to you.
PaperNotes on January 31, 2011:
I have to try that simple recipe you shared. I wonder if my husband will like it. Thanks.
cameciob (author) on July 29, 2010:
Thank you for visiting Tony, My husband loves beer. I was too thinking to make the soup one day and servit for dinner without telling him what it was.
Tony McGregor from South Africa on July 29, 2010:
This looks so intersting and tasty! Will have to give it a try sometime. Bookmarked!
Love and peace
cameciob (author) on July 28, 2010:
Hi Nell, you may be right about beer and war...and then they make it into soup so they can have the wives support while the husband was drinking and fighting. You know, I heard that the alcohol does not evaporate in the cooking process.
Thanks for stopping.
Nell Rose from England on July 28, 2010:
Hi, cameciob this is really interesting, I had never heard of it as a soup, or any food dish, I can understand why they drank it before a war! it took away the fear! lol I may just give this a go, great read, cheers nell
cameciob (author) on July 28, 2010:
Hi BkCreative, thank you for visiting and commenting.
I never heard of beer hair rins but hey there are many things I don't know yet.
I think you're right about beer having a healhy component. At least looking at our ancestors...Maybe someoane shoud make a hub on this subject :)
BkCreative from Brooklyn, New York City on July 28, 2010:
Great hub! Love that information about the beer belly.
I've read so often about the many health benefits of beer. Of course with massive processing like here in the US, corners are cut and the quality is lost. But the barley and hops and fermentation - all that used to be healthy - and the idea of housewives making it - of course. That is where all nutritional knowledge began.
The only other use for beer here other than drinking too much and getting drunk was as a hair rinse - that was back in the 60's.
I'd certainly like to try beer soup and other beer recipes. Sounds great to me.
Rated up of course!