Beer brings people together

Beer+brings+people+together

Riley Garland

One of the hallmarks of a good autumn season is the variety of festivals that bring the community together. On Oct. 14, countless people gathered in celebration of Oktoberfest, entertaining themselves with live music, beer, pretzels, beer, a costume contest and more beer.

In perspective, it’s amazing how integral of a role the drink plays in our social fabric, economy and culture. Michigan is home to over 300 breweries, with another half a hundred opening this year. In 2017, the average Michigander consumed over 25 gallons of beer, totalling 186.7 million gallons across the state. Something we often forget to acknowledge, though, is the critical contributions that alcoholic beverages, namely beer, have played in the development of human society.

The origin of the beloved beverage can be traced to Mesopotamia at the beginning of the Agricultural Revolution. As humans made the transition from hunting and gathering to agriculture, at some point fermenting yeast was discovered to produce a nutritious beverage. Beer provided critical nutrients to ancient peoples diet while being bacteria-free. Across ancient civilization, it quickly became the drink of choice. Early humans believed it to be the beverage of the gods, and even offered huge portions of beer in sacrifice during religious ceremonies and festivals. And of course, people sang hymns celebrating the gods and goddesses of beer.

However, beer was not a privilege of the nobles in ancient history, but consumed in huge volumes by all tiers of society. In ancient Egypt, the laborers who worked on the pyramids of Giza received a whopping one and a third gallons a day as part of their rations.

Medieval Europe saw similarly high consumption. In the noble house of Lady Clare, between 1333-34 the household produced over 480 gallons on average per week. For weary travellers, beer was not only hoped for, but expected when passing through a town in the medieval era.

Once industrialization hit, the industry changed dramatically and permanently. The mechanization of the brewing process began in England in 1784 with an eight-cylinder engine installed in a brewery. Soon, the vats got bigger, the engines got bigger and individual family brewing was replaced by massive companies transcending national borders. In Britain, the first ever trademark was awarded to Bass Ale, the first brewery to produce over one million gallons in a year.

By the nineteenth century, public consumption was the norm, with pubs springing up across the nation. Beer was no longer simply a nutritious beverage to be enjoyed, but a catalyst for social bonding. It was not strictly in papers, but pubs that information spread through the population. Happy hour became a tradition that permeated the working class.

Today, beer remains a distinctly important social bonder. Whether you’re a college student at a party, a music addict at a concert, or capping off your workday with a stop at the bar, beer is always present. The millenniums-old drink of our ancestors has a history spanning the length of civilization itself. What keeps us drinking? Is it the sensation as it slips down the throat, or the tradition connecting us to those past and present? Perhaps it’s the way it breaks down our social walls just enough to allow us to bond with others. Truthfully, it’s all of these things, and much more. The history of beer is the history of man. Celebrate it responsibly.