For the Love of Beer

Ask any college student and they are most likely to tell you that beer is great. It is cheap and a good way to drink, reminds us of some of our favorite past times like tailgating and barbecues. But there is little talk about the significance of beer to human development.

In Joshua Mark’s article, Beer, he talks about how beer has been found in the oldest civilizations of Mesopotamia.  He writes, “Sumerians loved beer so much they ascribed the creation of it to the gods and beer plays a prominent role in many of the Sumerian myths” (Mark). Beer brewing also helped the health of the cities as through the brewing process, the boiling of the water and the fermentation of the alcohol purified the water. This helped prevent waterborne illness.

Beer did not maintain its popularity however once the technology of beer-making spread to the Greeks and Romans who preferred their wines and considered beer, “an inferior drink of barbarians” (Mark).

Early Sumerian beers were made from barley and water. It was not until the Germans started making beer that hops were added. Nowadays, the four main ingredients of most beers are hops, water, yeast, and some form of grain such as wheat or barley.

For anyone interested in learning how to make their own beer there are several sites that provide information. One site is https://www.homebrewersassociation.org/how-to-brew/

This site provides tutorials, information on ingredients and equipment, seminars, and recipes.

Or for an article on the Beer Archaeologist, https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/the-beer-archaeologist-17016372/

Also, if there is anyone interested in learning about new beers and styles of beers there is a podcast called The Beerists who try beers from around the world and talk about them. http://thebeerists.com/

Daniel Cissel (Word Count 284)

15 Replies to “For the Love of Beer”

  1. Daniel,

    What a neat way to think about technology! Thank you for summarizing Mark’s article for the class and including some other interesting links. I know there is a brewing science class offered at Virginia Tech if you are further interested in the technologies behind making beer (FST 3124: Brewing Science and Technology).

    Emily

    1. Hey Emily:
      You’re only allowed to advertise other history courses, not food science courses! Just kidding. VT offers some neat courses like this–one that I’d love to take. This course undoubtedly combines a lot of learning from chemistry and biology in a fun manner.

      RHirsh

  2. It’s interesting that you brought college into your article. The reason a lot of people enjoy beer is the feeling it gives them and it allows for social engagement. It’s celebratory to drink beer, especially in America. It’s cool to see the way that even though beer has evolved it has very much stayed the same.

  3. My favorite part about the history of beer is its use as a disinfectant agent. As you said, the alcohol has properties that kill most water-born illnesses preventing sickness. What interests me is the fact that even today in both first-world and third-world countries, alcohol (beer) is still a primary source of clean and sterile refreshments.

    1. Not only that but one of the steps of brewing beer is to heat the water up, this heating also did a lot to killing bacteria in the water. This is also why later on tea and coffee became popular as drinks for the wealthy because it was healthier than the water and was a status symbol.

  4. It’s truly amazing how long beer and alcoholic beverages have existed. I think in today’s society people just assume we are the sophisticated people who came up with pleasurable activities rather than being slaves. This is entirely not true. The ancient people made these drinks not only for their health benefits but as a social aspect of life. The tradition of alcohol being connected to wealth is also not a recent ideology. This is shown by the Greeks drinking better alcohol than the peasants. Today certain higher-end drinks will be marketed and sold primarily to the elite class. This leaves common people to drink “unsophisticated,” beer.

  5. Thank you for including information on how to brew your own beer! My uncle is a big “DIY”-er and brews his own beer; it is, in a way, amazing that the process is similar to what it would’ve been thousands of years ago. My uncle likes the science behind brewing/cheesemaking/etc, and it is also interesting to realize that for these early people, the “science” was completely unknown to them! As both you and the article point out, beer was cleaner and so healthier than water, yet these people most likely didn’t know why. Today, we spend billions on research and countless hours on clinical trials in attempts to make the sort of breakthroughs early peoples made in a scientifically illiterate society.

  6. To give more information about why beer prevented waterborne illness. I remember my history teacher in high school talking about this and he said that people didn’t know that boiling the water kills the bacteria in it. They instead only saw that when ever a person drinks water from the local stream they would get very sick and sometimes die, but when they see people who drink beer remain fine they thought that beer was like a medicine, so they kept making and drinking more of it. Beer has also changed a lot from when it was first created compared to our current iteration of it.

    The book below goes into more detail about what beer was like back then if you really are interested in learning about beer in the middle ages. You can also just read the second paragraph to get some very brief list of benefits
    http://www.upenn.edu/pennpress/book/14037.html

  7. To give more information about why you said beer prevented waterborne illness. I remember my history teacher in high school talking about this and he said that people didn’t know that boiling water kills the bacteria in it. They instead only saw that when ever a person drinks water from the local stream they would get very sick and sometimes die, but when they see people who drink beer remain fine they thought that beer was like a medicine, so they kept making and drinking more of it. Beer has also changed a lot from when it was first created compared to our current iteration of it.
    The book below goes into more detail about what beer was like back then if you really are interested in learning about beer in the middle ages. You can also just read the second paragraph to get some very brief list of benefits.
    http://www.upenn.edu/pennpress/book/14037.html

  8. To give more information about why you said beer prevented waterborne illness. I remember my history teacher in high school talking about this and he said that people didn’t know that boiling the water kills the bacteria in it. They instead only saw that when ever a person drinks water from the local stream they would get very sick and sometimes die, but when they see people who drinks beer remain fine they thought that beer was like a medicine, so they kept making and drinking more of it. Beer has also changed a lot from when it was first created compared to our current iteration of it.
    The book below goes into more detail about what beer was like back then if you really are interested in learning about beer in the middle ages. You can also just read the second paragraph to get some very brief list of benefits.
    http://www.upenn.edu/pennpress/book/14037.html

  9. Daniel,
    Your post was a joy to read! The way you related an old technology (beer) to the present shows how technologies often develop into better versions that better suit the needs of the people at that time. Also, your incorporation of links to other sites as well as sources of additional information show that you took the time to research the topic of beer. My favorite part of beer as it was used in its early days was that it was often safer to drink than water, for example, because the beer had alcohol, which sterilized the water used to make it. I also found it interesting that beer became viewed as an inferior beverage to the Greeks and Romans; and this still holds true to an extent today, as wine is often served instead of beer in more exclusive establishments.

  10. I love how you added humor into your very first line , yet you were still able to keep a serious and information introduction. I really enjoyed the article on how to brew beer, maybe Professor Hirsh will let us brew some in class. For the historical aspect of course!

  11. I really enjoyed your blog on the historical technology of beer. As the common beverage at tailgates and parties, its interesting to learn that it originally had health benefits through the purification of water. I do wonder how Sumerian beer taste compared to the later German beer or modern beer. Its funny that before clean water, it was cleaner to drink beer. Time have definitely changed since then.

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