SCIENCE! Go Ahead and Thank Beer for Civilization


That’s right. Like Prometheus bringing fire to man, beer is responsible for civilization. That’s the Gray Lady’s handy headline, anyway. A research team at Simon Fraser University in Canada has determined that “brewing of beer was an important aspect of feasting and society in the Late Epipaleolithic” era.

Current theory has it that grain was first domesticated for food. But since the 1950s, many scholars have found circumstantial evidence that supports the idea that some early humans grew and stored grain for beer, even before they cultivated it for bread…

[Alcohol would have aided in] reducing the strong herd instincts to maintain a rigid social structure. In time, humans became more expansive in their thinking, as well as more collaborative and creative. A night of modest tippling may have ushered in these feelings of freedom — though, the morning after, instincts to conform and submit would have kicked back in to restore the social order.

Some evidence suggests that these early brews (or wines) were also considered aids in deliberation. In long ago Germany and Persia, collective decisions of state were made after a few warm ones, then double-checked when sober. Elsewhere, they did it the other way around.

Makes sense to me. Booze it up and start socializing. Make friends, then start setting ground rules. “Conversations around the campfire, no doubt, took on a new dimension: the painfully shy, their angst suddenly quelled, could now speak their minds.” What a coincidence. That’s exactly how I learned how to talk to girls in college.

[Tip o’ the hat to a loyal reader]