How beer was produced in Georgia

For the mountain people in Georgia, beer is a national drink. It is an integral  part of their every day life and plays an essential role in civil ceremonies as well as in cult –ritual services. All economic activities are connected with beer brewing and as if beer opens the divine gateway, beyond which the Gods live. Perhaps this is the reason that Georgian beer making traditions in the mountains are so refined, production process so rich, beer drinking vessels so diverse and the ways of consumption so original.

Generally, the people of mountains brew beer for ritual purposes as well as for home consumption. They brew it mainly from barley, as it gives beer its best qualities.
The grain crop for beer making is stored in the granary of the house of worship and is under direct supervision of the chieftain, the head of clan. On his approval, the sorted grain is placed in the sack knitted from the goat's hair and is taken to the river to soak. The mass covered with water stays in the water for a couple of days. On the third day, the soaked sacks with barley are loaded ashore and are placed on big flat stones to strain off. After that, the sacks are taken to the attic of a well- aired house to allow it to become puffy. There the sacks are emptied and the barley is spread on an inch thick. Then it is covered with a dry cloth to be warmed. In three or four days, the barley becomes fleecy and puffy. 

Generally, the preparation of the beer brewing starts 7-8 days before the festivity which, in Khevsureti is called "scattering pans", and in Tusheti – "hanging pans". People in charge, bring the puffed mass of grain and add as much water as there is the flour in the tun. This is the best proportion.

The mixture of barley and water needs to be constantly stirred. The heat is also very important. As a rule, during the boiling process the mass increases at first and it needs to be moved to another pan where, more of the mass can be added.  When the mass reaches the desirable level, the boiling process has to end. After that, the mass has to be cooled and tasted and if it has a sweetish taste and is thick and sticky, it means that the boiling cycle is over.

 The tun is left to be cooled, so that the residues could go to the bottom. After a while, the mass on the surface of the pan clears up, it needs no straining and can be moved to another container.
Hop is the best dressing for beer, which refines its quality. Hop has been growing in Georgia since oldest times, but not in large amounts and its quality is rather low in the mountains. This is why, the Khevsuris either bought it (mainly bartered for cheese, wool, cattle) or they would bring it from places where they knew it was of good quality.

The beer will acquire the best quality if the hop is taken in good proportion with the mass it is added to; this way it gets some bitterness and strength. The process of puffing the hop is supervised by the chief of clan, who is the most experienced in this business. At the same time, the process acquires a mysterious spirit because of the participation of such a holy and righteous man who is the go-between the people and the God. This is where beer acquires the function of a ritual drink and its notion becomes much broader than just that of a drink. As for the chief of clan, he is once again being recognized as the most authoritative person in the community –a mediator between people and God.

Every time the chieftain prepares the beer for brewing, he performs the ritual of its consecration, which once again proves that the beer is a ritual drink, and the process of its puffing up is a symbol of enlivening and is directly connected with the will of God. This is why the person performing this ritual has to have an immaculate body and soul.
Further, some brewed beer is drawn with the silver chalice, which is placed next to the cask, and some candles are stuck to it. They also stick smaller candles to the chalice filled with beer and the chieftain starts offering prayers to the glory of God. After the prayers, he sips the beer, then gives it to everyone in turn to take a gulp and lastly drinks the rest of it.
According to the people of mountains, the beer has to be thick, with sweetish-bitter taste and its color – as black as a raven. The mountain man knows the price of beer very well as his joyful days are connected with it. After a hard day's work, the beer gives him new vigor and he wishes it never ended.


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