Was Noah's Ark Beer-Fueled?

The men, women, and beasts aboard Noah's Ark almost certainly were drunk a lot of those 40 days and 40 nights, according to a new book.

"Noah was a beer trader on the Euphrates River," said Thomas R. Sinclair, a professor of Crop Science at North Carolina State University and co-author of Bread, Beer & the Seeds of Change. The book, written with his wife Carol Janas Sinclair, a researcher, links man's thirst for beer with nearly every important moment in history, from the invention of democracy in ancient Greece to the advent of the industrial revolution.

As to Noah, the Sinclairs argue, as do many historians that the Biblical story of a man in a boat surviving a great flood probably stems from an earlier Sumerian tale. Because good clean water was very hard to find in ancient civilizations, most people drank a form of beer made from grain soaked in water and fermented. The alcohol killed the pathogens in the water. (Hops were a later addition in the Middle Ages).

Noah was most likely selling kegs of beer from his boat in ancient Sumeria, the Sinclairs told me in an hourlong interview I have posted in a full audio version on the site New Books in Food. (You can listen online or dowload as a podcast).

"This boat was caught was in one of those flash floods and taken out to the Persian Gulf and there he floated for 40 days. And of course he had to have some animals in there and some family members and barrels of beer, critically, so they could survive those 40 days," Professor Sinclair said. "The classical story never does tell you what they drank for those 40 days. They had to have that beer. The people of the time wouldn't drink water."

Noah? Original Noah, the guy from the Bible who built an ark and floated around for 40 days with lots of animals was a really a beer trader?

"Yes," Ms. Sinclair said. "The precursor of that story probably was a beer trader in Sumeria."

The book also contains a recipe George Washington used for beer, and a Sumerian drinking song from the Third Millennium B.C.E. Add your own music and you might just be singing what Noah sang to his pairs of sheep and goats.

What makes your heart feel wonderful

Makes (also) our heart feel wonderful

Our liver is happy, our heart is joyful

I will make cupbearers, boys (and) brewers stand by,

While I turn around an abundance of beer,

Drinking beer, in a blissful mood,

Drinking liquor, feeling exhilarated

With joy in the heart (and) a happy liver.