When we think of the forces that shape history we tend to think of things like war, famine, natural disasters, and disease. And while few people would include beer on the list. The truth is beer’s influence in history is arguably as pronounced as any of those other factors. There are many ways beer changed history.
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Beer is the foundation of civilization
It was originally theorized that migratory humans settled to harvest grain from which bread was made. But in 2013 a research suggested that harvesting barley for beer predated harvesting wheat for bread by more than 3000 years. This means that critical developments in human civilization from the plow to irrigation, to the wheel, were driven by a love of beer. This argument heavily suggests that beer is the reason civilization began.
Beer built the pyramids
Without beer, we wouldn’t have the only one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World that still stands today. The Egyptians used beer as medicine and currency for those who built the pyramids. Beer was the source of nutrition and reward for all the hard work. It was beer for pay. The laborers who built the pyramids performed their work in exchange for beer.
In 2300 BC beer became currency
Urukagina was a Mesopotamian king who ruled over the city-states of Lagash and Girsu in the 24th century BC. His predecessor as ruler was wildly corrupt. So in an attempt to combat the problem, Urukagina made some rules to combat corruption. that set of rules now knows as the Code of Urukagina is often cited as the first legal code in history. One of the most interesting aspects of the code is that it prescribed beer as a central unit of payment and penance for civilization.
Drinking beer saved humanity in the Middle Ages
In the Middle Ages, water sources were full of disease, and drink contaminated water was sure to bring on parasites. As the brewing process for beer involved boiling water, then fermentation. The final product was free of bacteria. That is probably why in the 16th-century annual beer consumption in Britain was 530 pints for every man, woman, and child. Having access to beer was about way more than getting drunk. It was literally a matter of life and death.
Midwives used beer during labor in Medieval Europe
Childbirths, especially labor pain was brutal and typically made worse by the squalid conditions and ignorance in which many women lived. To help things along midwives would administer beer instead of water to their patients. These midwives had their own brew known as groaning ale which was given to pregnant women when contractions began.
Poland had a beer was in 1380
The Vretslav beer was a cold war waged in the Polish city of Vretslav, now Wroclaw in 1380. The war started because both the city council and the church sought to profit from beer sales. The standoff between the mayor and the bishop became so intense that when Kind Vaclav IV visited the city in 1381 he found the bishop had shut down all religious services. The kind had his troops sack every religious site in the city. Intervention from the Pope himself was eventually required to get Vretslav back under control.
A beer shortage forced the pilgrims ashore early
The pilgrims were initially headed to Virginia to start their lives in the New World. That plan fell apart because the Mayflower was running low on beer. The journey across the Atlantic had taken longer than expected and they needed to get the ship ashore as quickly as possible to have enough beer to make the return voyage to England. So it was because of beer that the pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock.
The need for beer expanded the colonist population
Early colonists in America were good at a lot of things but brewing wasn’t one of them. Native Americans have been brewing beer since before the colonists arrived but their recipes didn’t use barley. So at first colonists relied on shipments of beer from England. Fed up with waiting ships to cross the oceans in 1609 colonists looked for experienced brewers to come to the New World and share their skills. A number of brewers took up the offer and thus began America’s first non-native brewery.
Beer inspired the American Revolution
The Sons of Liberty who planned the Boston Tear Party did so at the Green Dragon Tavern in Boston. Taverns were a common community gathering place in the 18th century.
A beer flood killed eight people in London
The London beer flood occurred on October 17th, 1814 in the London parish of St.Giles. It all started when a massive beer wat and the Meux and Company Brewery ruptured causing a domino effect. Resulting in 388 000 gallons of beer spewing into the streets. The power of the surge collapsed two houses. Tragically eight people died in the incident.
Beer helped Louis Pasteur develop germ theory
When Louis Pasteur discovered bacteria he was conducting his experiments on beer. Pasteur was trying to understand why beer is sometimes spoiled. When he came to the conclusion that bacteria was the culprit he theorized if bacteria could make beer sick it could make humans ill too.
The Chicago beer wars of 1923
Prohibition in America led to some nasty incidents in the 1920s. During the period crime and illegal distribution of alcohol completely took over Chicago. At the time Al Capone was the most notorious and successful gangster in the city. Earning a reported 60 million a year from the sale of illegal alcohol. There were plenty of others trying to get into the lucrative illegal beer market.
Beer put Milwaukee on the map
With beer, Milwaukee became one of the most dominant and important cities in America in the late 1800s and stayed so through the 1950s. One of the greatest reasons for the success of the Milwaukee breweries was the Great Chicago fire of 1971. The fire decimated the Chicago brewing industry and provided Milwaukee with a huge market just a few hours down the road. Using already strong railroad links to move beer out of Chicago and around the country cemented Milwaukee as a leading economic player in America.