Remember that scene from The Shawshank Redemption where our characters enjoy icy cold, bohemian-style beers on the rooftop. Well, that was my first happy memory of beer. I had tasted beer once or twice before that, but it had mostly tasted bitter. But not even 18 at the time, the time to experience and appreciate beer was yet to come.
It was during my college days, while trying to survive the excruciating summer at first, that I had fallen in love with beer. “Maybe the missing ingredient was the summer”, I would often think at first. Little did I know then, that falling in love with beer is just a matter of when and not if.
But as amazing as beer is, I never knew about its significance in human history. That was until my travel to Egypt, where one of the locals mentioned that the beer was the main subsidy and incentive during the construction of the Pyramid. Yes, our beloved beer, coveted even during the days of the Pyramid!
That revelation — that the structure wondrous enough to even conjure up “alien stories” was created on the promise of beer — was enough to make me delve into the history of beer. And as always, history starts from the origin!
When was beer first invented?
Well, the archeological evidence from places as far across Iran, Mesopotamia, Armenia, and China suggest conflicting dates for the first invention of beer. But to tell you a little secret — beer, at first, was not an invention! Rather, it must have been a discovery, that too in a serendipitous manner.
Fermentation, which is behind any alcohol formation, is a naturally occurring process on earth. Whenever yeast (which occurs in nature) metabolizes sugar out of anything containing sugar (like grains, fruits, etc), fermentation takes place. It was only later humans that created fermentation techniques like brewing, and that too independently across different parts of the world. But alcohol in itself is a discovery.
Now that beer is first discovered, and then invented, this is where it gets interesting. Some scientists argue that it was the thirst for beer that propelled our human journey from cave to space. Yes, you read that right! So, let me explain now!
How beer propelled our human journey from cave to space!
The domestication of grains is considered the biggest breakthrough in human history, as it heralded the start of the Agriculture Revolution. So, one could think it was the lure of bread that was the main motivation. But some scientists believe that it was the thrifts of beer that motivated the human species to grow and store the grains.
Apart from giving the same nutrients as bread, beer also functioned as a safer option for drinking than stored water, as stored water would be easily contaminated with microbes. Above all, the beer tasted a lot better than other unfermented grains and provided that extra happy buzz at the end. Therefore, it was probably the thirst for beer (and the pursuit of happy buzz) that inspired humans to give away their nomadic lifestyle and settle down. And once humans settled down, you know what happened next, as it meant the birth of Civilizations, States, Ice Cream, and Manchester United, all in order, obviously!
Thanks to the happy buzz that comes with beer, it also became an integral part of feasts, ceremonies, and social get-togethers, which can be testified by the songs, culture, and even gods dedicated to beer across many civilizations throughout history. One can only wonder how many groundbreaking ideas, inspirations, and creations (including humans, obviously) could trace their roots to beers!
But remember our title, where I have written beer was the greatest invention of all. Well, let me come at that part too!
Beer vs Wheel: Which one is the real GOAT?
The wheel is considered by many as the greatest invention on earth. In a way, it makes sense too, as the wheel has not only served as the fundamental tool for transportation but has catapulted the rise of both the Agricultural and Industrial revolutions. Be it the ancient Chariot or the modern-day Tesla, Watermills, or Gyroscopes, the wheel runs our lives in so many ways.
But the problem with picking a utilitarian invention is that you could also think of other equally important inventions. Compass, Needle, Engines, Electricity, Internet, suffice to say it’s a neverending list. Beer, on the other hand, goes beyond the utilitarian purpose. For, beer has not only taken us from cave to space but has also made our experience of living livelier and merrier. After all, beer is the reminder that happiness does come in bottles.
And if you want more historical arguments, beer was invented by humans even before the wheel. So, surely we can trust our ancestors in getting their priorities right!
If you are still not convinced, despite everything, I will add one final bit. When happily drunk on beer, you can even see things moving, even without a wheel! Hence, beer could (or maybe should?) be the greatest invention of all.
PS: This piece is not sponsored by another beer company. I wish it were though!