Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
Posted: 03/27/2013 1:00 AM | Comments: 0
Have you ever sat down and seriously contemplated the contribution beer has made to the development of modern civilization?
No, of course you haven't! That's because you are what we like to call "normal" and have to juggle the complicated demands of work and family life, whereas Canadian researchers apparently have way too much time on their hands.
I say that based on news reports I have just read stating that a team of researchers from Simon Fraser University has made a remarkable discovery -- beer-making was crucial to the development of human civilization as we know it today.
As the official spokesman for guys of my gender, I would like to issue my reaction to this major breakthrough in the following heartfelt statement: "Duh!"
I'm kidding, naturally. The truth is, this is the kind of groundbreaking discovery that all of us, regardless of gender, race, religion or education level, can feel proud to support, especially if we have consumed between eight and 12 beers.
What you need to know is that three archeologists at SFU synthesized dozens of studies on the ancient Natufian culture that, about 10,000 years ago, occupied a region just east of the Mediterranean Sea in what we now call the Middle East, thought to be the cradle of agriculture in the ancient world.
According to the reports I read and partially understood, a love for beer appears to have played a key role in driving these nomadic hunter-gatherers to settle down in stable communities that grew crops, such as the cereal grains needed for brewing beer.
The researchers are quoted as saying "the domestication of cereals was for the purposes of brewing beer rather than for basic subsistence purposes."
Here's how the New York Times summarized the Canadian study in the headline on a recent article: "How beer gave us civilization." You don't want to argue with the New York Times, do you? No, I didn't think so.
While I am not technically an archeologist, I can state with some authority that the invention of beer is shrouded in mystery, because I am too tired to look it up online. There is little doubt it stretches back to prehistoric times, as we see from this fictional transcript:
First caveman: "What's that?"
Second caveman: "I call it 'The Wheel!' "
First caveman: "Cool! What's it for?"
Second caveman: "No idea, but I'll bet it'll be huge as soon as someone invents the internal combustion engine."
First caveman: "Sweet! Why don't we roll it over to my cave and celebrate with a few beers?"
Second caveman: "Sounds good. Maybe later I'll invent the pizza, possibly chicken wings."
First caveman: "What's a chicken?"
History aside, the point is, it is safe to say that, without the influence of beer, great people such as Columbus, Jacques Cartier and Einstein would not have made their major discoveries. It is safe to say that because all those people are dead and, therefore, unlikely to hire lawyers.
Do you know how many discoveries were made because of the existence of beer? I personally don't have a clue, but I'll bet it numbers in the hundreds, possibly thousands. Off the top of my head, I doubt we would have beer-league hockey if it weren't for this frosty beverage. To say nothing of professional darts, bungee jumping, lingerie football and NASCAR.
I can also assure you that, based on my own experience, many of mankind's greatest achievements occurred after some daring pioneer screwed up his courage, turned to his colleagues and uttered these legendary words: "Hold my beer and watch this!"
What we do know, thanks to the Canadian researchers, is that the beer sucked back by the ancient Natufians was far different than modern suds. Here's what they state in their paper in the Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory:
"Beers made in traditional tribal or village societies generally are quite different from modern industrial beers. Traditional beers often have quite low alcohol contents (two to four per cent), include lactic acid fermentation giving them a tangy and sour taste, contain various additives such as honey or fruits, and vary in viscosity, from clear liquids to soupy mixtures."
So these would have been the perfect beers for fraternity keg parties, because modern university students would not know good beer if it ran up and bit them, which some of these ancient beers probably could.
Forgive me for getting emotional, but it's important, as a society, to remember where we came from. I personally am a middle-aged, overweight newspaper columnist with only a handful of brain cells to rub together.
And to think I owe it all to beer!
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 27, 2013 A2
Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories? Please use the form below and let us know.
Having problems with the form?Contact Us Directly
Life sentence upheld for conviction in rooming-house fire that killed 5
City resumes search for CAO
Complaints of police misconduct down in 2013: report
Charges laid in Red Sucker Lake homicide
Winning designs for 2015 warming huts unveiled
Province to create new policing program for First Nations
Dauphin police seek teen missing nearly a week
Feds warn dozens of First Nations may lose funding
Fire destroys St. Norbert home, damages home next door
Closer to exoneration
Event gives simulated taste of poverty's unique woes
Liquidate Canad Inns: receiver
Bitterly cold November day one to remember
'Bannock mobile' seized over tickets
Big Grass Marsh gets largest-ever conservation deal
City man found dead in river near Belize home
No probe of expenses claimed by Douglas
Police HQ contractor wins bid for snow-dump land
Plan for new suburb gets endorsement from city hall
City Hall Roundup
Nutcracker the last step in artistic trifecta
Seal death raises questions
Wilgosh to leave top job with WRHA
Hamper test proves humbling
Bowman sneaking under the radar thanks to NDP
Northern food-subsidy program slammed as unfair
Cancer hub to expedite treatment
Crocus wants to recoup costs from Canad Inns
Municipalities to get more input on mosquito-fogging rules
Winnipeg candidates eye new campaigns
City to study how pipeline could affect Shoal Lake and aqueduct
Head of Winnipeg Regional Health Authority stepping down after five years at the helm
'Bannock Lady' faces $3,000 in tickets; vehicle seized
Manitoba Hydro to begin expropriating land for Bipole III hydro transmission line
Councillors growing weary of last-minute reports from the city administration
City endorses plan for 'Precinct E' while questions are raised about costs for services
Cab driver injured while trying to stop theft of his vehicle
Winnipeg joins in on UN campaign to end violence against women
CancerCare Manitoba setting up a virtual cancer hub to guide patients after diagnosis