Ancient History of Beer

Essay by cassthemanCollege, UndergraduateA+, January 2005

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Ancient History of Beer

Benjamin Franklin once said, "Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy."(cited in Adoki, 2003). Many people have enjoyed the dualistic nature of beer, but beer's history and contribution to civilization is often unnoticed. According to Michael Jackson (2000), a noted expert on beer, "The Kalevala, the national epic of Finland, describes the creation of the world in 200 verses, but needs 400 in which to explain the origins of beer" (p. 1).

Beer has long been a staple of the human diet; it enjoys a long and rich history that, possibly, dates back further than one can imagine and has influenced events in unrecognized fashions. Was beer the influence that caused humankind to cultivate, the cornerstone of western civilization.

A debate has raged since the 1950s' concerning the motivation of humans to change from a nomadic hunter-gatherer civilization to an agricultural society.

An American botanist, Jonathan Sauer, suggested that the domestication of cereal crops might have been to make beer rather then bread. Supporters of Sauer's hypothesis state that the first cereal crops where more suitable for brewing rather then baking because the cereal necessitates tedious preparation prior to baking ("Christmas Special," 2001). According to Carla Helfferich (1991), managing editor of the University of Alaska Press, an opponent of this theory had this to say, "Are we to believe that the foundations of western civilization were laid by an ill-fed people living in a perpetual state of partial intoxication" (p.2)? Was the cultivation of cereal crops for use in brewing beer the epiphany that western civilization is based on? The issue may never be resolved.

The earliest know recipe is for beer. Inscribed on a clay tablet that dates back to, circa 4300 BC, the Sumerians recorded this recipe,