When Watered Down Beer Meant Execution

Samuel Reason | July 2nd, 2019

There is a lot to learn from studying the history of one of the world’s most ancient beverages: beer. If you are a beer expert, then you probably know that officially you would be referred to as a cerevisaphile. A Latin word that comes from the Roman goddess of agriculture. Beer is after all one of the oldest prepared beverages dating back as early as Neolithic or 9500 BC.


One of the first cultures to really push the craft of beer brewing was the Ancient Babylonians. Babylon is one of the most famous cities from the ancient Mesopotamia civilization and its ruins lie in what is modern-day Iraq, it is located 59 miles southwest of Baghdad. The name translates roughly into the Gate Of God, from ancient Greek. The city really owns its fame to the multiple references the Bible makes to it.

Now not only were the people themselves very serious about the craft of brewing beer. So much so that historians believe that if a bad batch was brewed, it was punishable by drowning to death, in the bad batch of beer. There were even laws that dictated how beer brewing should be followed. These were part of a group of laws that was known as the Code of Hammurabi.

King Hammurabi was a famous king that lived from 1792 to 1750 BCE, he is known to have transformed the city of Babylon into one of the most powerful and influential cities in the region. His laws are very well known, it was one of his initiatives to maintain peace and encourage the economy to keep turning. In his eyes, prosperity and wealth meant a happy population.

And in his laws you can find some that covered beer, just to reinforce how serious the ancient Babylonians were about their beer brewing craft. The Code of Hammurabi decreed that watering down beer was forbidden. In fact, any bar owner who was found to be watering down their beer would be executed.

The real question would be to see if master brewers from modern times would be able to keep an ancient population of Babylonians happy. The pressure of crafting a good beer must have been immense in ancient times.

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