BITA - Beer Is The Answer

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Beer is the answer. The answer to what? It turns out that beer has been the answer to many a question throughout history. Someone, somewhere, at some moment in history, picked up a random vessel filled with some funky liquid...
"Hey, what is this?"
"Should I drink it?"
Okay, he probably didn't say, "beer". Apparently he did answer "yes" to the second question though. Haven't we all?
Though such serendipitous discoveries likely occurred between 10,000 and 12,000 years ago, the timeline is a little fuzzy. There is hard evidence to prove the existence of the earliest known alcoholic beverage about 9,000 years ago in China; an elixir made with rice, honey and fruit. Beer? Mead? Rice wine?
Why did man develop agrarian cultures? Beer. Many anthropologists (scientists specializing in the origin and development of humans and societies) believe that ancient hunter-gatherer tribes settled into agrarian civilizations and discovered agricultural advances in order to grow grains, such as wheat, rice, barley and maize. For what? Beer. The "Beer Before Bread" hypothesis posits that the desire for beer prompted the domestication of key crops, which led to permanent settlements. Clearly, beer had a major impact on early agriculture and settlement patterns.

"Ninkasi" The Sumerian Goddess Of Beer
Ceramic vessels from the Sumerians of ancient Mesopotamia, dated about 5,000 years ago, have been unearthed. They contain sticky beer residue! Why would Sumerians around 1,800 BC write a poem on clay tablets as an ode to Ninkasi? Beer. Ninkasi was the Sumerian goddess of beer. "Hymn to Ninkasi" is a poem revealing a recipe for an ancient beer brewed by priestesses. Sounds like fun.
Iran's Zagros Mountains (once known as Mesopotamia) have yielded the oldest known barley beer, circa 3,400 BC. These same mountains revealed the oldest known grape wine as well, circa 5,400 BC! Beers of the time were relied upon as safe drinks and for nourishment. Since the water was boiled to create the brew, contaminants were neutralized. Once harnessed, beer flourished.
Egyptians had a great fondness for the suds. Workers along the Nile were often paid in beer. What built the pyramids? Beer. Okay, a lot of backbreaking labor too. However, according to Dr. Patrick McGovern, who famously worked with Sam Calagione and Dogfish Head Brewing on Midas Touch and other ancient brews, "for the pyramids, each worker got a daily ration of four to five liters. It was a source of nutrition, refreshment and reward for all the hard work. It was beer for pay. You would have had rebellion on your hands if they'd run out. The pyramids might not have been built if there hadn't been enough beer." Pharaohs, peasants, and even children drank beer as part of their everyday diet. Of course their beer was not our beer.

"Pliny The Elder" First Wrote About Hops In 79 AD
Hey, what the heck are we going to do with these hops? Beer. Pliny the Elder may have scribed the first written words regarding humulus lupulus, in his "Naturalis Historia" between 7779 AD, but he did nothing with it. Again in 736 AD hops are written about as being cultivated rather than wild plants for medicinal uses. I told you the answer was beer.

Egyptian Pyramid Builders Drank 5 Liters Of Beer Per Day
Something we might better recognize as modern beer started life in the Middle Ages when Benedictine monks and other craft beer makers used hops in beer. The first written reference to hops in beer is from 822 AD by a French Benedictine abbot (heeeeyyyy Abbboooooooott! Oh come on, tell me you weren't thinking it... sorry). Abbot Adalhard of the Benedictine monastery of Corbie, wrote a set of rules on how the abbey was to be run. Part of the rules addressed the collection of wild hops for making beer. About 300 years later the Germans were using hops extensively. England didn't follow suit until 1412, and then only partially. They were still traditionalists yearning for their gruit ales. Gruit was/is a mixture of herbs, spices and fruits (often guarded secret recipes) used for bittering and balance in beers.
On April 23, 1516 the Bavarian Reinheitsgebot was decreed, allowing only 3 ingredients in the making of beer in Germany. Water, barley and hops, as yeast had not yet been discovered. Everyone else made what they wished. An interesting side note on hops and England: in 1710 English Parliament banned the use of any bittering agent but hops. Why? I bet you thought I'd say "beer." No, it was because there was a tax on hops and the government didn't want brewers evading the tax by not using hops.
Why did the Pilgrims land at Plymouth Rock? Yep, "beer" - they were running out and had to stop. It was common between the late 1500s through the 1700s in North America. Wooden ships ferried newcomers from Europe, mostly England, to begin anew in the New World. Near the top of every priority list was a brew house to make beer. Beer was a staple of their diet. Hardly anyone would drink water, even if it was safe in the New World. They were so tainted by the contaminated water back home that they only wanted beer.
Why would you want to hard top a street? Beer. New York City, 1657 was a bustling brewer's town. Brouwers Street had seen about twenty years of brewer's waste water get thrown right smack in the middle of it. Mud everywhere, and heavy wagons making deliveries in and out. Nasty. Needing a solution to the muck, they used the closest simplest solution and laid down stones as pavers, thereby creating the first paved street in America. They were so proud of it they renamed the street. Stone Street still exists today and runs between Broad and Whitehall.

NYC's Stone Streets Were Built With Pavers And Beer
What could you do if you need a hobby which might just drive you mad with passion? Beer. Beer has a robust and rich history and quite a cast of characters. Beer and brewers are inextricably intertwined with history throughout the world and America is no exception. We are just now starting to catch up to the number of breweries this country saw before the dark days of Prohibition. True to form we come back strong. In 1873 there were 4,131 breweries. 2014 saw 3,040 breweries with nearly 2,000 more in planning stage. More stories for another time.
Beer is the third most popular drink in the world, trailing only water and tea. Let's get drinkin'! We're #1. We're #1. We're beer! Cheers!
An interesting read. Would have loved to see some of the historical information sited to the source to follow up with more reading.
@Vamptrump Check out the documentary How Beer Saved the World. It used to be on Netflix, but I think it was removed.
I'm fairly certain that Pliny the Elder did not write anything in 7779 A.D., then travel back in time from the future to share it with us. Other than that, good article.
Ah yes, commas kill (Let's eat grandma. vs. Let's eat, grandma.)and hyphen omission causes time travel. 77 - 79AD
Thanks for the catch and for reading.
Beer in America: The Early Years by Historian, Gregg Smith
Ambitious Brew The Story of American Beer by Maureen Ogle
Brewed Awakening by Joshua M. Bernstein
The Complete Beer Course by Joshua M. Bernstein
These are all great beer reads in my opinion and contain much of what I used in the article.
Internet research provided other facts, as known at present.
Thanks for reading.
So many books and dvd added to my Amazon Wish List. Thanks!
Beer IS the answer - although I forgot the question. And what is better than beer? Beers - plural!
Well written and educational plus entertainment what more can you ask for?
The only thing that could make this article better is if I had read it with a beer! Great article!

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