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That beer led to civilization is the sort of claim you might find on a crappy t-shirt saying, “BEER! Helping ugly people have sex since forever!” But apparently the beer and civilization theory has been around for a while, and now an archaeologist in Canada called Brian Hayden claims to have more evidence for the idea that the desire to brew beer underpinned the development of agriculture.

In a nutshell (or wheat sheaf), the idea is that grains are a hassle to convert into food, so they didn’t make up a large part of people’s diets. But they can be converted into beer, and people wanted beer to lubricate their feasts, and feasts were a mechanism which helped give rise to more complex societies.

Check out this Gawker article for more on the topic.

I’d love to believe this, in the same way as I’d love to believe Terence McKenna’s Stoned Ape theory of evolution. And I remember someone explaining to me once in psychedelic detail how, if you were a plant that wanted to ensure your continued existence through the ages, the best way to do that was to make humans’ heads feel funny when consumed. And, Cannabis and Hops are both part of the same plant family.

But I feel we might be, ahem, scraping the bottom of the barrel here. What do you think?



About The Author

Nick Rowlands

Nick lived in Egypt for six years, working as a tour leader, EFL teacher, city guide editor, and online guidebook writer. He's currently in San Francisco searching for his centre. He (kinda sporadically) blogs at Delicious Chaos, and you can follow him on twitter.

  • Hal Amen

    I think the theory’s plausible. Back then, beer was probably much more of a “meal” than it is today–thicker, sweeter, … Thus it gave primitive cooks a reason to settle down and start growing grain.

  • Troy Kokoszka

    I think it’s bull. Grains may be a hassle to make into food, but they’re also a hassle to ferment. It’s much easier to ferment fruit and honey, and you generally get more alcohol out of it. Not only that, but many of the scenarios I’ve heard for how beer might have been invented involve bread-making… but it’s hard to imagine the reverse, with beer-making leading to the creation of bread.

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