Although hunting and gathering was a good lifestyle for Paleolithic man, he eventually learned there were benefits to staying in one place, not the least of which was beer.
History shows that beer was first discovered, quite by accident, in Mesopotamia during the 6th millennium BC.
The Sumerians, a tribe of mountain nomads, had found that baking grain into hard loaves called “bappir” made it easier to transport, store and preserve.
But to their surprise, if bappir was moisten and left out for a time, it naturally fermented. When eaten, the resulting food created a cheerful, uplifting feeling. The first beer buzz!
It didn’t take long for the Sumerians to perfect a production technique. They would stuff broken pieces of bappir—typically made of barley, wheat and malt---into clay pots and then mix it into a mash and wort with water, fruit and honey.
Processed this way, grain did not go moldy or stale. The fermented liquid only got better with time.
Paleoanthropologists say that Homo sapiens have been wandering the Earth for at least 200,000 and perhaps 400,000 years. But the existence of permanent settlements, and subsequently culture, dates back only about 10,000 years to the moist mountains of Persia and Anatoli (now Iraq and Turkey).
It’s no coincidence that the birthplace of civilization and beer is one and the same.
The grains so prized by the Sumerians grew wild in the Tigris and Euphrates Valley. Their abundance near the two mighty rivers tempted the nomads down from the mountains.
Gradually, the Sumerians’ appetite for bappir and its wonderful byproduct led them to begin cultivating crops for harvest.
Farming forced them to settle down and create irrigation systems. And settling down enabled these new farmer-brewers to develop communities, traditions, arts, crafts, culture, literature and trade.
The Stone Age was drawing to a close. The Sumerians gave up their hunting and gathering ways. Bread might have been the staff of life, but beer was the basis for society.
By the 4th millennium BC, as much as half of Mesopotamia’s annual grain harvest was used for beer.
Alfablue, April 2011