13 Times In History Beer Changed The World: All the Stats, Facts, and Data You'll Ever Need to Know - The Comprehensive Minds

13 Times In History Beer Changed The World: All the Stats, Facts, and Data You'll Ever Need to Know

13 Times In History Beer Changed The World

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 a tall frosty beer on the list, the truth is, beer's influence on history is arguable as pronounced as any of those other factors. 

There are so many ways been changed in history, you have to wonder what kind of world we would live in if the vital hoppy nectar had never been invented. So today we're going to take a look at times beer has changed history. 

Beer is the foundation of civilization

Homer Simpson once opined that alcohol was the cause of and solution to all of life's problems, but even he would probably be surprised to learn that beer is at least arguably, the catalyst of civilization itself. 

You see, it was originally theorized that migratory humans settled to harvest grain from which bread was made, but in 2013 a paper that appeared in the Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory suggested that harvesting barley for beer predated harvesting wheat for bread by more than 3,000 years. 

The paper cited archaeological evidence from the Mediterranean and was corroborated by evidence found in Mexico. 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. So maybe instead of the breadbasket of civilization, we should all start referring to the beer keg of civilization.  

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. You see, as it turns out, the Egyptians used beer as medicine and currency for those who built the pyramids. 

Writing in Smithsonian magazine, Dr. Patrick McGovern explained that beer was of utmost importance. It was a source of nutrition, refreshment, and reward for all the hard work. It was beer for pay. That's right, the laborers who built the pyramids performed their work in exchange for beer. 

According to Dr.McGovern, you would have had a rebellion on your hands if they had run out. The pyramids might not have been built if there hadn't been enough beer.  

In 2300 BCE beer became the currency

Urukagina was a Mesopotamian king who ruled over the city-states of Lagash and Girsu in the 24th century BCE. 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 known 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. 

So for example, one of the things the code specifies regarding burial costs is that "for a corpse being brought to the grave, his beer shall be three jugs and his bread 80 loaves." Similarly, "60 loaves of bread, one mud vessel of beer, and three bans of barley are for the person who is to perform as the sagbur priest, king, or god." And so in the very first instance of written law and order in civilization, beer was currency. Sometimes the old ways are the best ways.  

Drinking beer saved humanity in the middle ages

In the Middle Ages, water sources were full of disease, and drinking contaminated water was sure to bring on parasites like Giardia, if not something worse. 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, or three times the amount consumed in the 21st century. 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

Medieval Europe was not a particularly fun, fragrant, or healthy place. On the contrary, it was dirty, smelly, and full of disease. Childbirth especially, labor pain, was brutal and typically exacerbated by the squalid conditions and ignorance in which many women lived. 

To help things along, midwives would typically administer beer instead of water to their patients. Again, this was because many, if not most, water sources were contaminated. These midwives had their own brew, known as groaning ale, which was given to pregnant women when contractions began. 

Sometimes the baby was even washed in a seven or eight-month-old ale immediately after birth. While some consider taking a bath in beer today as an excess, back then the process saved countless lives.  

Poland had a beer war in 1380

The Vretslav beer war was a cold war, waged in the Polish city of Vretslav, now Wroclaw beginning 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 whenKing Vaclav IV visited the city in 1381, he found the bishop had shut down all religious services. To express his unhappiness at the state of affairs, the king had his troops sack every religious site in the city. 

Intervention from the Pope himself was eventually required to getVretslav back under control. In the wake of the beer war, the city council, worried about future threats to its dominion, created a restrictive oligarchy. 

This led in 1418 to open revolt, during which six members of the council, including the mayor, were executed by an angry mob. The emperor returned the favor by lopping the craniums off of the 30 revolt leaders and boiling, tarring, and impaling their heads on spikes on the city walls, very subtle


Also Read: 12 Bizarre Aspects Of Everyday Life In Ancient Viking Culture

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 however because the Mayflower was running low on beer. The journey across the Atlantic had taken longer than expected and Captain Jones, commander of the Mayflower, needed to get ships ashore as quickly as possible to have enough beer to make the return voyage to England. 

It's tempting to imagine the Mayflower didn't want to set sail without beer because it was a ship full of party animals, but in truth, beer was simply the main beverage for long sea voyages since it kept well. Whereas water easily became brackish. 

So it was because of beer that the pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock instead of pushing further down the coast. At Plymouth Rock, they, fortunately, happened upon Squanto, the Native American who had been to England and back and therefore spoke English. Squanto helped the pilgrims work the land and live alongside the natives. 

If the Pilgrims had traveled just a little bit further, they may have never met Squanto who helped them through their first winter. So we could also say that beer saved Thanksgiving.  

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 had 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 to get their brew. 

Fed up with waiting for ships to cross the oceans, in 1609 colonists placed a full-page advertisement in a London newspaper looking for experienced brewers to come to the New World and to share their skills. 

It was the first help wanted ad in the New World. A number of brewers took up the offer and thus began America'sfirst non-native breweries.  

Beer inspired the American revolution

In a world before conference calls and the internet, big decisions were made on a personal level. The Sons of Liberty, who planned the Boston Tea Party, did so at the Green DragonTavern in Boston's North End. 

Taverns were a common community gathering place in the 18th century and they served myriad roles in the lead-up to the American Revolution. The Green Dragon, for example, was the principal meeting place of the Sons of Liberty. 

By many accounts, the Boston of back then wasn't really all that different than the Boston of today. So you know the Sons were doing more than talking at The Green Dragon.  

A beer flood killed 8 people in London

While a beer flood sounds like something frat brothers do to initiate pledges, it's not. It's actually something terrifying and deadly. The London beer flood occurred on October 17th, 1814, in the London parish of St. Giles. 

It all started when a massive beer vat at 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 and crumbled the wall of a nearby pub. 

It also flooded a nearby house hosting a wake. Tragically, eight people died in the incident, almost all of them women and children.  

Beer helped Louis Pasteur develop the germ theory 

When Louis Pasteur discovered bacteria, he was conducting his experiments on beer. Pasteur was actually trying to understand why beer is sometimes spoiled. 

When he came to the conclusion that bacteria was the culprit, a light bulb went off. Pasteur quickly theorized that if bacteria could make beer sick, it could make humans ill too.  

The Chicago beer wars of 1923

Prohibition in America led to some pretty nasty incidents in the 1920s. During the period, crime and the 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 at one point. 

Despite Capone'ssuccess however, he was far from being the only game in town. There were plenty of others trying to get in on the lucrative illegal beer market. In fact, at the time the Irish American gangster Frank McErlane had a reputation for being every bit as nasty as Capone. And according to some, he was even more central to the slayings of the beer wars. 

The Illinois CrimeSurvey even called him the most brutal gunman who ever pulled a trigger in Chicago. Luckily for Chicago, prohibition was repealed with the passage of the21st Amendment on January 16th, 1919. 

Beer put Milwaukee on the map

Without beer, Milwaukee is just another Midwestern city. With beer, Milwaukee became one of the most dominant and important cities in America in the late 1800s and stayed so through the 1950s. It was even the setting for the beloved nostalgia-soaked sitcom, Happy Days. 

Ironically one of the greatest reasons for the success of Milwaukee's breweries was the great Chicago Fire of 1871. 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. The beer had so much influence on Milwaukee they even called their Major League Baseball team the Brewers. 

So what do you think? How has beer shaped your history? Let us know in the comments below. 

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