Cheers to Ninkasi from East Tennessee

The end of this week marks both the beginning of spring and a centuries-old poetic nod to the written origins of beer. Pop open a cold brew and read along as we explain how the two intertwine.

After a somewhat harsh winter, the signs of spring are always welcome in East Tennessee, as flowers reemerge from the ground, birds build nests for new eggs and our thoughts begin to turn to warm weather gatherings. Beer and outdoor outings are a natural combination while we enjoy time with family and friends on picnics, cookouts, hikes, fishing excursions and trips to the lake.

Spring officially began Thursday, and that means we are that much closer to warm days and fun-filled evenings. Spring also seems to stir the poets, as there are thousands of poems devoted to the arrival of this season, and Friday is officially recognized as World Poetry Day.

We need to raise a toast to an ancient Sumerian poem that was etched on a clay tablet 4,000 years ago and included the oldest-known recipe for beer. Historians believe beer existed long before that, but it marks the written record of a recipe, one that people have tried to replicate. The poem and hymn salute Ninkasi, the patron goddess of brewing from the region of Sumer, the earliest-known site of civilization. An English translation of the poem speaks of an oven, dough, hulled grains, malt, mash and vats.

Clearly, humans have always consumed and enjoyed beer, and we consider that a reason to celebrate at Cherokee Distributing Company and offer our thanks to those who paved the way for the modern brewing process. Show your appreciation of history by savoring Stella Artois, a European lager of traditional malted barley that dates to 1366 in Belgium. The fifth-oldest beer in the world is Kronenbourg 1664 Lager, which is brewed in France and features a bubbly mix of delicate bitterness. Its name refers to the year that Brasseries Kronenbourg was founded.

Or you can stay stateside and sample a contemporary classic cider such as Angry Orchard Strawman, which recognizes its pastoral origins and the centuries-old method of making farmhouse cider. The brewing of beers and ciders has become an artistic craft, so pay tribute to the process with a regional selection of St. Terese’s Pale Ale. This medium-bodied ale is made by Highland Brewing Company in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Asheville, N.C.

Enjoy spring, appreciate poetry, drink responsibly and thank whoever carved that recipe in stone 4,000 years ago.

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