How raging thirst led to civilisation

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The Independent Online
Man's desire for beer, or perhaps woman's, may have been responsible for civilisation.

When human beings ceased to be nomadic hunter-gatherers and settled in the first organised communities to farm the land, their purpose was to grow grain and brew beer.

The beer was consumed by the high priestesses.

Archaeological artefacts at least 5,000 years old found in Mesopotamia in the 1920s first suggested this, and there have been further discoveries in recent times, including the latest from Ancient Egypt.

Much of the work on the social origins of beer has been done by Professor Sol Katz at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia.

The cultivation of barley and wheat and the brewing of beer may have spread west at a very early stage through regions that are now Armenia, southern Russia and Slovakia.

Another route may have been north by the Urals to Estonia, Finland, Scandinavia and the Scottish islands.

Shards of neolithic pottery were used as the basis for a light, honeyish, herb-flavoured beer made by Glenfiddich nearly a decade ago.

Soon afterwards, Sumerian tablets were the basis for an "ancient" beer, honeyish, sherryish and nutty, made by the Anchor brewery of San Francisco.

Both of these re-creations, exhibited a similar sweetness, partly due to a lack of the dry flavours imparted since by hops.

Beer is a fermented drink made from grain, but the sweetness has been balanced by fruits, herbs and spices. The use of hops in brewing was not documented until the 1100s.

Early brews fermented spontaneously with wild yeasts. But no brewer of conventional beers would dare admit wild yeasts to his premises. Glenfiddich, Anchor and Scottish & Newcastle all used cultured yeasts; hence the relatively "modern" tastes of their beers.

Things could have been worse: some beers of the early civilisations in Africa and South and Central America were fermented with the aid of spittle, or babies' faeces.