Beer and wine origins

Beer and wine were invented around 7,000 years ago.

As we explored last week, both were seminal for civilization because they allowed people to preserve food and extend the life of seasonal grains and grapes.

Beer traces its origins to ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt, locations where grain is plentiful.

Made from barley, grain, and hops, the preliminary steps of beer production also produce a flat-bread when dried. According to hieroglyphic texts, the pyramids were built by laborers who lived off three-to-four loaves of bread and a gallon of beer a day.

From the beginning, beer was a workingman’s social beverage, consumed by a group from a common vessel, often using straws.

Wine came a few centuries later, from a different location (Greece), and with a different social cachet.

Grapes are not as easy as grain. The forest is a vine’s natural habitat—vines in the wild grow attached to trees. Grapes were harder to find and harvest, and wine required more skill to produce. Wine making particularly advanced with invention of amphora, the ubiquitous Mediterranean storage vessel that also serves as an excellent container to create wine.

Greeks considered themselves civilized because they drank wine, unlike those barbarian beer guzzlers to the east and in Egypt. Their drinking reflected this—you sipped wine from small cups or dishes, not from a common tub through a straw.

Demand for wine spread, even among those of lesser social status, and wine became one of Greece’s major trading products—major even by today’s standards. Archeology at a Mediterranean shipwreck revealed 10,000 wine amphorae in its hold, an equivalent of 333,000 wine bottles, a quantity impressive for a winery today.

Beer nourished builders and workers throughout the ancient world. Wine spread Greek culture and encouraged trade throughout the Mediterranean. Together, they transformed the world.

Our civilization was built on beer and toasted with wine. Without these essential beverages, our world would be a far different place. Raise a chilled mug of brew or a glass of vino tonight. Pharaoh, pyramid builders, Aristotle, Plato, and Athenians would feel right at home.

Last round: Maturity is when you know when to stop arguing and move on to enjoying a glass of wine together.