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Scientist Declares Beer as the Source of Civilization and Technology, Nobody Is Surprised

Illustration for article titled Scientist Declares Beer as the Source of Civilization and Technology, Nobody Is Surprised

Click to viewThis is a post that Gizmodo's resident hops philosopher Travis should have written, but as he's sleeping one off it's been left up to me. Charlie Bamforth, a British academic who holds the most fabulous of titles—the University of California's Anheuser Busch Endowed Professor of Brewing Science—claims that without beer, we would be without computers, the iPod, Silicon Valley and the space program.

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It's not exactly the newest of sentiments—British artist Hogarth depicted the good and bad side of 18th-Century London life with his cartoons Beer Street, all ruddy-cheeked prosperity, and Gin Lane, where booze-addled sots let their babies slip to their death, and all for another G&T— but it's a belief that's always good to hear. Find out Charlie's theory after the jump.

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Here's the deal. Man has smelly goats (speak for yourself, mate, I'm more of a hyena girl myself). Leads peripatetic existence, following smelly goats from grassy tussock to grassy tussock. Man discovers barley. Yum Yum, Bitch can make me a barley bread and goat sandwich, he thinks. Six months of goat sandwiches pass. Man gets bored. Sees book on Amazon.com entitled Great Things To Do With Grain.

Aha, Brewski, he thinks. Man studies the chapter on beer, is slightly foxed when he discovers that he will have to stay put for six months while the barley ferments. Never mind, I'll just have to put up with goatburgers for the forseeable future, he ruminates. While this magic potion is brewing in its goatskins (an environmentally friendly by-product of the goatburger) he decides to set up shop in the nice goatskin tent that Bitch sewed when she wasn't tending to his every need.

Pretty soon he is joined by another man, somewhat fatter than himself (when he had eaten all his goats, Second Man availed himself of his woman.)

"Wasssuuuuuuup?" says Second Man. "Mind if I hang out with you for a while?"

"Sure," says First Man, checking on the replete goatskins.

"Watchoodoin?" says Second Man.

"See this?" says First Man, waving around Great Things To Do With Barley."It says I can make beer out of this. But in order to do this, I have to be static, or the barley won't ferment and then we won't be able to hang out while Bitch makes me my goat sarnies."

"Oh, okay," says Second Man. "I'll just hang out too, if that's okay with you."

So, when the beer is finally brewed, the men sit down and crack open their first tinny. Good GOD it is good. It is fabulous. It is tangy, refreshing, it trips off the tongue, and has these wonderful little bubbles in that speed the feeling of euphoria to the head. "Dang, I'm going to make me some more," says First Man. "Want to help?"

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"Sure thing," says Second Man. "But I don't think we can do it alone. Let me get my iPhone. I can text my mates and they will find us easily thanks to Steve's use of Google Maps."

Before you can say, "Same again, Bitch," the valley is full of goatskin tents and fat men, gently burping and talking about last night's game, as all the womenfolk tend to their every need—goatburgers, fresh beer and blowjobs. In just a few years, the static community has grown, thanks to man's need for the amber nectar.

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And it is not long before the goatskin tents lead to wooden dwellings, the wheel, to Y-Fronts, universities, fire trucks, Wal-Mart, newspapers, retractable washing lines, pr0n, fringed leather chaps, Charlton Heston, Debbie Gibson, the Flying V guitar, the Panama Canal, Janine's Dobly and the iPod. Let us give thanks to beer.

Beer was responsible for Technology [The Inquirer]

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DISCUSSION

circusseal-old
CircusSeal

This reminds me of something I once learned from an archaeologist. We were both a tad drunk at the time and this has been filtered through many years and even more beers, but here it is nonetheless.

The Beer Theory of Civilization

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One of the biggest unanswered questions in archaeology is how and why humans domesticated crops like Barley or maize. The domesticated strains we have today bear little resemblance to anything that existed even just 20,000 years ago. (e.g. Maize, or corn, is thought to be derived from teosinte, which literally looks like grass. No big juicy kernals at all.) If you took the ancient ancestors of today's food crops and handed them to a modern farmer with all his wonderful machinery, he wouldn't be able to feed his own family, let alone support the kind of town filled with specialized laborers that heralded the very beginnings of what we consider to be civilization.

This is the great conundrum posed by the birth of agriculture. It would have taken many centuries of selective breeding to produce crops that could support an agricultural society before any such society could have made the move to agriculture. The crop and the farmer are like the chicken and the egg, only we know that at some point, one actually came into being where neither existed before.

Here's where beer comes in. While undomesticated forms of barley or maize could not have supported an agricultural lifestyle, small ammounts of the stuff might have been sufficient to make small batches of alchohol. (i.e. Beer for barley, chicha for corn) It has been theorized that early beer might have had religious purposes.

Aside: Take that with a grain of salt since "possibly of religious significance" is arky-speak for "we have no farking clue what it was for." It's quite possible that, if you look around the room you're in right now, you'll see several objects that could have "religious significance" in a thousand years that have none now.

Regardless of whether or not it was a religious ho-down, it makes sense for beer to have preceeded argriculture. It solves the chicken-and-the-egg problem very nicely. Now we can suppose that our hunter-gather ancestors did not rely upon barley for food, but nonetheless they had an interest in tinkering around to reduce the work needed for a good keg party. They might have started gathering seed and sewing it in patches to reduce the ammount of walking around involved in gathering it. Then they might have started selectively sewing barley with the biggest grains, etc.. Eventually, after centuries of booze, barley and corn would have become crops productive enough to be worth settling down and growing full-time. i.e. Beer made the crop, which then made the farmer.

Now, the story doesn't end there. Beer may well have played a pivotal role in helping humanity through the early stages of urban civilization as well. Agriculture, of course, provided a stable and dense enough supply of food that people could stop moving around with the herds and settle down permanently, and in large enough numbers that you could have specialization of labour. (e.g. A blacksmith or a stone mason) However, such early cities probably didn't have very good sanitation. Our ancestors were, after all, figuring it all out as they went. People would probably have been pissing and shitting in the nearest river, making drinking from that river decidely unsafe. Beer, on the other hand, is not something which bacteria thrive in! Beer could have been the safe drink that kept people healthy when the water was unsafe to drink. (Beer does a body good eh!)

Another major problem with early civilization was crushing peole's hunter-gatherer spirits and getting them to blindly accept authority. i.e. If the chief says "Go invade those suckers over there and then build me a pyramid", you don't want the people saying, "Hey, screw you buddy! We can go back to hunting wild goats anytime we want!" Just think where we'd be today if we had gone back to hunting goats! If the chief had instead said "Hey, do what I want and it's free beer for all!" then early civilization might have had a chance to get off the ground and move on to truly great things like war and slave labor.

So that's the beer theory of civilization. It drove the domestication of crops that made agriculture possible, which made cities possible, which made the water suck when people shat in it, but again Beer saved the day both by providing something safe to drink and keeping people just sloshed enough to wage war and build giant stone phallic symbols.

Glory be unto BEER!