Here Comes the Science: You Exist Because of Beer

It turns out that you’re not the first person who would go out of their way for a beer.

According to, archaeologists suggest that the quest for grains with which to brew drove early man into neighboring territories, and that beer was an important social lubricant, taking the anxiety out of early meetings between tribes.

So, no beer, no civilization. No civilization, no Enchantment Under the Sea dance. No Enchantment Under the Sea dance, no Marty McFly.  See?   It’s science!

A traditional brewing setup in Mali(courtesy of

Brian Hayden, an archaeologist at Simon Fraser University in Canada thinks that early humans went to great lengths to find and process the grains needed to brew primitive beer. His research indicates that our Neolithic ancestors would travel up to 60 miles to find cereals such as barley and rice needed to whip up a batch of their favorite beverage.  No one’s going that far to bake a loaf of bread!

This is especially evident in places like Syria, where folks took a lot of time and energy to find, harvest, winnow, husk and grind cereals that had very little nutritional value. Hayden speculates that these grains were used in the making of ceremonial foods and beer to impress and delight guests at ceremonial feasts.

Hayden says:

“In traditional feasts throughout the world, there are three ingredients that are almost universally present. One is meat. The second is some kind of cereal grain, at least in the Northern Hemisphere, in the form of breads or porridge or the like. The third is alcohol, and because you need surplus grain to put into it, as well as time and effort, it’s produced almost only in traditional societies for special occasions to impress guests, make them happy, and alter their attitudes favorably toward hosts.”

These feasts were important political events, where people bonded, debts were made (you owe me a beer!), networking occurred, etc.  And like modern day weddings, if you’re invited to mine, I’m invited to yours, and the relationship continues to grow more storied and complex.  Over time, cultures and civilizations emerged.

This fella makes some pretty cool "ancient" beers (when he's not making TV shows about making "ancient" beers).

Of course beer isn’t the only reason that civilization came to be, but it played an important role.

To be absolutely overly simplistic about it, the quest for brewing grains lead to us meeting our neighbors, and we got to know one another over a pint or two.

Times might have changed, but beer still brings us together to celebrate, commiserate and commemorate the high and lows with friends, family and countrymen.

So the next time you hear some neo-prohibitionist prattling on about the evils of beer, just tell them that they wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for beer.  Science (and Doc Brown) says so!

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Categories: Beer


Craft beer nerd, frequent beer blogger and occasional home brewer.

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5 Comments on “Here Comes the Science: You Exist Because of Beer”

  1. Don
    November 16, 2010 at 8:07 pm #

    With all this science Jim, whether it is beer and its impact on human civilization or Women’s ability to taste flavors better than men, we’re going to have to call you “The Professor”!

  2. Matt
    November 17, 2010 at 5:38 pm #

    “His research indicates that our Neolithic ancestors would travel up to 60 miles to find cereals such as barley and rice needed to whip up a batch of their favorite beverage.”

    So what you’re saying is Neolithic ancestors could travel fewer miles to beer than Don has to go to get his Dogfish Head fix.

    • November 17, 2010 at 5:45 pm #

      Exactly! And they didn’t whine about it, either!!

      • Don
        November 17, 2010 at 5:51 pm #

        You don’t know that! They probably whined plenty.

        • November 17, 2010 at 5:52 pm #

          Nope, because the saber-tooth tigers would have eaten their noisy asses!!

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