How beer re-invented culture and entertainment

“Without question, the greatest invention in the history of mankind is beer. Oh, I grant you that the wheel was also a fine invention, but the wheel does not go nearly as well with pizza.” Dave Barry, Humorist and Writer

Beer is one of the oldest beverages humans have produced, dating back to the fifth millennium BC and recorded in the written history of ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia. As almost any cereal containing certain sugars can undergo spontaneous fermentation due to wild yeasts in the air, it is possible that beer-like beverages were independently developed throughout the world soon after a tribe or culture had domesticated cereal. Chemical tests of ancient pottery jars reveal that beer was produced as far back as about 7,000 years ago in what is today Iran.

The invention of bread and beer has been argued to be responsible for humanity’s ability to develop technology and build civilisation. The earliest chemically confirmed barley beer to date was discovered at Godin Tepe in the Central Zagros Mountains of Iran, where fragments of a jug, at least 5,000 years old, were found to be coated with beerstone, a by-product of the brewing process.

Beer may have been known in Neolithic Europe as far back as 5,000 years ago, and was mainly brewed on a domestic scale.

Today, the brewing industry is a global business, consisting of several dominant multinational companies and thousands of smaller producers ranging from brewpubs to regional breweries.  More than 133 billion litres (35 billion gallons) are sold per year—producing total global revenue of $294.5 billion (£147.7 billion) in 2006.

Historians submit that human beings have been around for about 100,000 years, and informed that in the first 90,000 years, the world achieved absolutely nothing at all. Then Beer came; and then put an end to primitivism and kick-started the age of creativity and invention.

That beer happened, and changed the world forever sounds almost too bizarre to be true, but many anthropologists and archaeologists now believe that it was a taste for beer, not bread, that propelled people to start to farm in barley around 9000BC.

Known as the agricultural revolution, “beering” actually ended hunter-gathering and led to the world’s first ever civilisation — Mesopotamia. The drive to grow more barley in order to make more beer, led to a cascade of inventions. The plough, the wheel, irrigation, mathematics and even writing, all of these world-changing innovations were dreamed up to help with the production and distribution of beer.

As Egypt took over from Mesopotamia, in the Land of the Pharaohs, beer was the national currency, a dietary staple and even an important medicine. Even in more recent times, beer’s hidden hand has been behind some of history’s most remarkable breakthroughs, from the discovery of germ theory and modern medicine, to the invention of refrigeration, the birth of the factory and the end of child labour. Beer didn’t just change the world, historians claim it saved it!

To quote historian Gregg Smith: “Beer changed the course of human history.  Not once, not twice, but over and over again.”

It wasn’t just the Sumerians and Mesopotamians who enjoyed the odd glass of cerveza.  The Egyptians were also big boozers. Ra wasn’t just the god of life and love, but beer too – a pretty neat combination.

The labourers, who built the pyramid of Giza received seven pints of beer a day in payment, making the total bill for that job, 1,489,199,995 pints.  For the Egyptians, it was not just a form of currency but a staple food (school boys would drink a bowl for breakfast producing, I guess, a different kind of Ready Brek glow) and beer was also used to treat illnesses.

In the last few years, researchers found the presence of the antibiotic tetracycline (which was only ‘discovered’ in 1948) in the bones of Egyptian mummies.  After some more researches, they found the only place this could have come from was the beer drunk at the time. In fact fast forward a few thousand years and beer was the basis of modern medicine too.

By the 16th Century, the average annual consumption of beer in Britain was 530 pints for every man, woman and child – three times the amount we drink today.  Monks were the original master brewers and the church became rich on the back of their skill then as entrepreneurs took over. Beer spearheaded the creation of trade, commerce, banking and finance.

Beer’s influence on technology continued unabated into the 20th Century. It gave us refrigeration after the brewing industry financed research into the process to keep lager chilled and it revolutionised industry when Michael Owens built the first automated production line to make beer bottles in 1904 – some 10 years before Henry Ford took the credit with his cars (as Ford said: “History is bunk’).

Beer gets a bad press, owing to many misconceptions. It is regularly blamed for many of society’s ills but the reality is that society as we know it, in large part at least, is only here because of it.  So, next time anyone tells you how evil beer is, remind them that some of the best ideas come when you drink.

Today, there are about 40,000 types of beer in the world in an industry that employs millions of people directly and indirectly. However, the world of beer is  still shrouded in many myths and misconceptions. Some of these are easy to contemplate, while others, are downright ridiculous.

Beer is an alcoholic beverage that carries a lot of benefits and myths. Interestingly, scientists have found that moderate drinkers who drink regularly but only in small amounts had lower body weights than their non-drinking peers and those who drank a lot at once.

There are at least two ways in which an alcoholic beverage such as beer might impact beneficially on the body:

First, through a direct physiological impact on bodily tissues and functions; Second, through indirect impact, but founded equally on a physiological interaction

All the benefits of beer are however, functions of moderate consumption.