Historians say the first thing every successful culture discovers is a way of getting blind, deadly drunk. Here's how they do it, and what happened as a result.
Think back to the dawn of civilization. Life was nasty, brutish, and short. Primitive humans had little to look forward to but pointless lives of drudgery and toil.
Like life in the 1970s, when The Flintstones was considered one of the funniest things on television. This is the last time we're making this type of joke, by the way. You're welcome.
The hunter-gatherer lifestyle really blew. The average lifespan was something like twenty-five years, there were no concepts like antibiotics or female razors, and even written language itself hadn't progressed to the level necessary to produce high-quality entertainment like Cracked.com that would make caveman life worthwhile.
The first cave dick-joke piece wasn't observed until 1958BC.
Under these conditions, who wouldn't just need a damn drink?
Fortunately for cavemen, creating alcoholic beverages technically requires about three steps:
1) Grow some fruits or vegetables.
2) Leave some out in a warmish area for a little while.
3) Get sloppy!
Yes, fermentation is basically just a matter of heat, sugar, and carbohydrates. But there was something special about beer: The amount of time required to make it.
Grain, a necessary ingredient in beer, has a long growing season. Long enough to, say, force a tribe of hunter-gatherers to settle down, put down their bows and pick up their shovels. Long enough to force them to develop cities, governments, and ridiculous beer-centric religions like the Sumerian cult of Ninkasi, the Goddess of Beer. At last, this atheist's cold heart is turned to faith in a loving god.
Oh, right. Never mind.
Because life in the ancient world was just so goddamned miserable that everybody needed a drink, and because beer requires slightly more farming than your average quaff, beer was truly the herald of a glorious new form of civilization.
Alcohol had a curious property that virtually all water on earth lacked: Sterility. Because of its antibacterial properties, through ancient history beer was actually safer to consume than any available water supply.
And still is the case in modern Philadelphia.
As a result, local customs and beliefs were adopted around alcohol. Osiris became the Egyptian god of wine. Hindu Ayurvedic texts extol the virtues of the crunk juice. The cult of Ninkasi included a hymn to the beer goddess that was literally just the recipe for brewing beer. And good Lord, where to begin with the Greeks.
Everybody knows there was something a little funky about them Greeks. You can't go ten minutes in a museum of ancient Greek sculptures without seeing one dude wrestling another and gripping him by the junk as he does.
According to whatever the pre-Internet equivalent of Facebook albums and Tweets were, ancient Greece was as "alternative" as a Republican Congressman's browser history.
Homosexuality is regarded as shameful by barbarians and by those who live under despotic governments just as philosophy is regarded as shameful by them, because it is apparently not in the interest of such rulers to have great ideas engendered in their subjects, or powerful friendships or passionate love-all of which homosexuality is particularly apt to produce.
In other words, Plato was a total two-beer queer.
Like the love lives of every guy in your undergrad frat, the ancient Greeks, Romans, Persians, and Indians were aggressive tough-guys who lived by a sort of martial heterosexuality until they got a few drinks in them. But beyond giving us a string of gay jokes, think of what else it meant for civilizations to have beer as the only safe drink. Entire continents were always tipsy, sloppy, or hung over. Always. No wonder there was so much war, and so little inventing.
Between 300BC and 200BC (BC works backwards - remember, ye' wino?) Rome developed the aqueducts, which enabled the transportation of water across long distances. In that time Western concepts of philosophy, government, economics and literature blossomed. Fortunately a few hundred years later everything fell to shit and Europe just needed to take the edge off once again. Enter the world's greatest beer brewers: die-hard, zealous Christians.
In 33AD, the world's first BAC of 1.0 was observed.
German (go figure) monks (lolwat?) began what is known today as the "doing it right" method of beer brewing. Particularly from the town of Einbeck, Germany, where the centuries-famous Bock dark lager was developed, Catholic monks began brewing beer that became famous for its long life due to the addition of hops as preservatives, and for being strongly alcoholic. In the days where the average beer was 3-4% alcohol, Bock lager was known to be batting in the 7.2-8.4% range.
In fact, during the Christian fasting period of Lent German monks relied on alcohol to supply needed protein and to help them cheat at God's game of self-imposed moderation and penitence. That meant that for forty days out of the year, Germans had nothing in their stomachs but what was then some of the world's strongest alcohol.
"And ve'll *hic* call zem Leiderhosen... and ve'll make ALL ze commonvolk vear zem! Ohh Hans, you so khrazy..."
It took Europe centuries of imbibing the finest German juice to decide it was time to finally sober up and get down to the business of pissing off the entire rest of the world. It was in the year 1804 that Robert Thom, the first Scotsman to actually walk out of a bar, developed the first municipal water treatment plant. Within three years Britain had pipes and running water - and within a few decades Britain came to include India, Australia, Canada, southern and central Africa, and most of the Caribbean. Well, technically it had most of those under its belt long before, but certainly within a few decades in either direction. We'd have studied up on this shit, but… have you seen all the graphics we made for this baby? This MS Paint magic doesn't cast itself.
Water purification was, of course, immensely useful for the progress of civilization. Without it, how could people have the time to sit down and think of a shitload of idiotic new flavors to propel mankind into a progressively weirder future of beer? Yes, if there's one thing we know about the present and future of beer, while the merry folk of yore had good beer, at least we can claim to have lots, and lots, and lots of it.
Don't believe us? Well, try us at the following quiz. Which of the following brands and flavors is not a real beer?
1) Mamma Mia! Pizza Flavored Beer
2) Bowser Beer USDA Beef Malt Beer For Dogs
3) BILK - Beer With 30% Milk!
4) Wasabi Beer - because beer without horseradish in it is for pussies!
5) Prestige Champagne Beer - It's Beer… Also Champagne
Did you guess? False! All of these are real beers.
Here in 2010 there is a beer for every taste, so long as that taste is old enough to sneak into a frat party or flash passers-by in the parking lot of a SaveMore. Yet brewing beer has essentially remained the same game it was when the first humans fashioned the first bottle-openers from stone and the bones of larger, bulkier bottle-openers. Take some wheat, some hops, some barley, and add some pure, raw manliness, and you have everything you need for a perfect Tuesday morning, Bar Mitzvah, or Broadway showing of Cats with that special someone… beer.
Today, you can have beer that's flavored like Stephen Colbert's urine or as alcoholic as pure gasoline, and you don't even have to give up sex like those suckers in the Middle Ages.
Brewing beer is so easy the people who make Pabst Blue Ribbon can do it. With some yeast, hops, malt, water, and sugar, you only need to ruin one or two pieces of your roommate's/parent's/local orphanage's glassware to get the job done. We're not giving away our own secret recipe, but we'll give you a hint…
Semen. The secret ingredient is semen.