Beer Throughout History: Five Fun Facts About Beer That I'll Just Pretend You Didn't Already Know
Beer: An ancient beverage that helped build sprawling civilizations and made watching them crumble a little bit easier. When water, a cheap alternative, was unsafe for consumption, beer was there to help satiate the thirst of those hard-working folks who made our somewhat comfortable life today possible. In today’s article, I’m going to finally put my amateur interest in history to good use and bother you with five historical facts about beer that I’ll pretend you don’t already know. It might seem boring, or uninteresting, or downright pedantic to you, but, my ego will be sufficiently stoked for days to come.
The Ancient Babylonians were the first culture to brew beer
It is believed that the first culture to brew beer were the ancient Babylonians, substantiated by the discovery of the Ebla Tablets that show these trailblazers were brewing beer as far back as 2500 B.C.! The craft was taken seriously, and entire batches of beer were thrown out if they didn’t meet specific quality standards.
I know there’s a lot of information on the internet, but you probably haven’t heard that before. They just can’t teach everything in history class, I guess.
The builders of the Great Pyramids were paid in beer
There’s nothing quite like a cold, crisp beer after working in the sun all day. Imagine how refreshing it would be if you were dragging giant marble blocks across the sand for hours in the desert sun! That’s just what the brave workers needed during the perilous construction of the Great Pyramids of Giza between 2500-2490 B.C. Each worker was paid 4 satchels of beer for their labor, which was presumably accepted begrudgingly in lieu of a simple direct deposit payment.
Listen, you might have heard about Ancient Egyptians drinking beer and using it for commerce, but believe me, you probably didn’t get the whole story. I spend a lot of my downtime reading up on the history of beer, so it’s gonna be hard to find someone with this knowledge just anywhere. And before you mention Google, don’t even bother. I guess people don’t care about Primary Sources anymore…
Beer Soup was a popular breakfast in Medieval Europe
Tell your boss not to bother bringing in donuts this morning if you’ve had beer soup. This carb-loaded morning meal is a roux-based soup made with beer that was typically poured over bread. While this might sound like a nightmare breakfast to all the hobby runner’s reading, beer soup was most likely the better breakfast alternative to the flavorless gruel or nothing at all options that were available for common folk in this time period.
You may be thinking at this point in the article, “Why am I even still reading this? Isn’t this the information you get in every History Channel documentary about beer?”. To challenge this notion, I pose an inquiry of my own: Would I be this insufferable if I didn’t truly care about beer?
If you said yes, then you might be surprised to find out….
The Pilgrims brought beer to the New World instead of water
Since water treatment didn’t gain popularity til later on, the pilgrims needed some way to stay hydrated on their trip across the ocean. Instead of water, pilgrims drank a weak beer to wet their whistles so they would be more socially adaptable when they finally arrived in the Americas (also so they wouldn’t die of dehydration).
Ok, I admit this one may be a little common knowledge. In fact, I may have learned this little tidbit when I was trapped in an uncomfortable conversation with an overly enthusiastic beer aficionado. Come to think of it, I distinctly remember faking an appointment just to leave that conversation. Surely people don’t think MY enthusiasm for beer is so daunting…
Beer wasn’t bottled until 1850
Unless it’s fresh from the tap, most beer drinkers will be drinking from one of two proven reliable containers: the can or the bottle. If you were a beer fan before 1850, however, you had to get a little more creative when it came to transporting your beer. Most people would bring buckets or pails to their local brewery, and carry it back with them for (hopefully) later use. It certainly made it difficult to stand in the alley and crack open a cold one, but at least you didn’t have to tip a bartender every time you wanted a brew!
As much as I love beer, I might as well face it and admit that these facts are pretty well-known, or just a Google search away. Still, it’s always gratifying to myself and others (mostly myself) to share the vast, ancient tradition of beer brewing and drinking.