Which Came First? Beer or Wine? - Wine Turtle

Which Came First? Beer or Wine?

This post was updated on: August 1, 2020

Which Came First? Beer or Wine?

Which Came First? Beer or Wine?

The original depiction of beer existing on archaeological books is a sign on the seal going back 4,000 BC. It was discovered in an ancient Mesopotamian modern-day Iraq. The picture portrays two images drinking from a pot using two straws. But what about wine? How old is it? And which came first? Beer or wine?

Beer – A Short History

In the ancient world, beer was used for community events, often drunk in groups. Even though, it looked much different compared to new beer it is still considered to be beer. The old beer looks like soup rather and not a drink. It was made from wild grains crushed them and mixed with water. The mixture was then fermented and drunk using straws which were used to filter some of the impurities.

It is not clear however how humans discovered the process of fermentation. Some believe it was accidental. In the process of determining fruits or grains that had fermented by them in the wild. Through time human beings have learned to reproduce the tasty experience.

Beer is the most often mentioned diet in early illustrations of scripts throughout Egypt and Mesopotamia. The Egyptians welcomed one another with the phrase “bread and beer,” Think about it, an indigestible grass was thrown into the water, crushed and could eventually turn into somewhat tasty made the water safe for consumption, and also helps clean injuries.

Romans and Greeks had their god of alcohol, other cultures, like the Gallic tribes living in what is the modern-day referred to like France, drank beer to honor of harvest goddess.

Although timelines of happenings are still foggy as to which was first between bread and beer. A recent study concerning one ancient pre-agrarian culture in the Fertile Crescent is starting to poke some holes in the currently accepted theory of civilization.

It has been speculated that authors of the article wrote, “that increasing demands for cereals for brewing beer led to the domestication in Near Eastern Natufian cultures.” The scientists inspected a group of gears exhumed in the Eastern Mediterranean, where the Natufian culture lived they concluded that brewing beer was an integral part of Natufian society.

Although this may seem to be an isolated incident where society seemed to have started cultivating grain for a beer first rather than for bread, it’s definitely not. And the same thing may have happened across the world.

In Mexico, for example, the ancestral grass of current maize was teosinte. Teosinte is not all that useful for making corn flour; it could be used for bread or tortillas. Instead, it is much better suited for fermenting into alcohol. Since human beings usually go with what is easiest first and then evolve in tasks later, it seems that Mexicans settled down to cultivate large amounts of teosinte to brew beer before they ever thought of transforming it into maize.

While the debate on which came first is far from solved, the evidence is mounting. The science of making bread is relatively complex and difficult to stumble upon compared to the process of making beer.

Early alcohol was little more than grains pounded and mixed with water. And, while bread might is also almost the same thing, it’s starting to look as if beer, and not bread, is responsible for the start of human civilization.

Most civilizations are customarily beer drinkers, though our middle-class ambitions have seen us gradually switch to wine as an alternative. But how did these two beverages come to dominate our culture? Let’s go back to the beginning.

A Quick Overview On Wine

In the Bronze Age, beer and wine were considered as gifts for the gods, and the Greek culture was quick to assign wine to the grape-garlanded hedonist, Dionysus, with his splendidly-debauched festival, Dionysia. He was the Charlie Sheen of the Classical pantheon, and as the impact of Greek culture extended westwards into southern Italy, the god was too rebranded into his Roman alter-ego, Bacchus. The Festival of Dionysia henceforth became the Festival of Bacchanalia.

Initially, the Roman variant was a secretive ritual for ladies only, and there is little evidence to tell us what happened during it. But when men finally got involved, the stern moralists in the Roman Senate suddenly blurted out impressive levels of outrage and banned it in 186 BCE.

In their eyes, it was a sort of sinister alternative that practiced human sacrifice, manslaughter, and various repulsive sexual iniquities, and it was clear to all that the initiates of Bacchus were a conspiracy to weaken the virtuous spirit of the Roman people. The historian Livy has testimonies it in a chaotic description that does nothing but leave us in the position of trying to figure quite how much of these outlandish allegations were true.

With all probability, Bacchanalia was in all likelihood a high-spirited orgy more akin to an overblown stag-do than some vast underground conspiracy, but it’s still impossible not to wonder if the censorious official response was something of a smear campaign against the Greek culture?

It’s true that dodgy unlawful gangs might well have been using Bacchanalia as an in easy reach to cover for their nefarious performances, but given that most of the drunk people I’ve watched have struggled to even put a front door key in a lock, it’s hard to believe Bacchic acolytes were capable of planning vast clandestine campaigns of mysterious terror worthy of a Batman villain. If Livy had blamed them of stealing traffic cones and rolling down hills in shopping trollies, then I’d have more trust in his accusation.

In any case, during the Roman period from 753 BCE to 476, attitudes were inevitably bound to change, and by the time Marc Antony was snuggling up to Egypt’s regal saucepot, the Roman general had basically started styling himself as the mortal incarnation of Bacchus. Italy had recently been flooded by a tidal wave of mass-produced local plonk, which necessitated the invention of plenty of justifications to drink it, so Bacchus was released from his current house arrest, and the Romans of the Empire happily surrendered to the overzealous squeeze of wine-loving hedonism.

Nowadays Bordeaux and Champagne are have gone down in the past of alcohol as being identical with high-quality wines, but this was not the undertaking of the Celtic tribes in ancient France. The ‘Barbarians’ of Western Europe were pretty ambivalent about viticulture. The Southern Gauls, for example, were more than happy to drink the stuff, but took the easy option of importing it from Italy rather than make their own and probably invented wooden barrels for this very purpose.

Further, in the North, the prospect of Gauls tending to their chateaux was remote than Celtic tribes of Northern France, and Belgium were passionate ale-lovers which professed wine as an effeminate drink worthy only of southern softies and women, an attitude that still thrives in many parts of the world. So, how did Bordeaux and Merlot end up with such a prestigious wine industry from such apathetic origins? Well, it required little social engineering from the Romans, by which I mean a horrendously violent invasion by Julius Caesar. This familiarized the grape to the fertile fields of Gallic France and began the well-known vineyards. It is nice to be aware of the slaughter of a population was not entirely without a silver lining.

You will probably have noticed that the English wine industry is not quite so famous, but that is through no fault of the Romans. Not even Celtic Britannia’s pre-eminent arsonist, Queen Boudica, could stop the imperial conquest of the aisle and the planting of yet more vineyards.

On the note dreary old Britain was later plunged into the frost-fingered depression of the Little Ice Age an epoch of severe climate cooling in the 17th century – that murdered any hope of ecstatic draw winners partying their incredible windfall with magnum bottles of Northamptonshire’s finest fizz. In case there is only one thing you take away from this blog, it should be that the British weather unavoidably ruins the whole thing.

Still, while France and Britain were received into the wine-glugging club, the German tribes obstinately repelled the Roman attack and found themselves walled-off from their southern imperial neighbors. Left to their own devices, the Germanic tribe's continuous mass-producing ale in olden breweries clustered around the River Mosel, and this never-ending supply of booze meant they were almost continually hammered. According to the Roman author, Tacitus, virtually any important decision first required a ritualized level of alcoholism. Oh, and so did all the non-important choices.

This steered to an attractive chaotic culture in which entire villages could go on week-long binge-drinking benders, causing quite a lot of uproar, and amount of unsystematic stabbing. Such reports might merely be scurrilous Roman propaganda, but the societal significance of common binge-drinking in later medieval Germanic tribes advises it’s an accusation with some probable cause.

Mixing Grape and Grain

By the 12th century, large parts of Europe, Ale was the unquestionable drink of choice, and devoted alehouses sprang up to reduce the national thirst. But France was now agitating out vast quantities of wine too, and the spreads found a way into the main cities and ports, to be sold in new-fangled taverns. Even though wine was the favored tipple of the aristocracy, it wasn’t out of reach for the urban masses either. The middling sort with some nonrefundable cash might well have appreciated a classy glass of wine during dinner, and then popped out to the alehouse to down mugs of ale with their best men until they felt a compelling urge to puke over their shoes.

The two drinks being completely divided along class appearances and there is no superior proof of this than the desirous party thrown in 1465 to welcome England’s newly Archbishop of York, George Neville, during which 2,500 high-to-middle-ranking guests were projected to find their way through about 72,000 gallons of ale and 24,000 gallons of wine.

I hope those figures were wrong since not even the Unbelievable Hulk could knock back his allowance of 29 gallons of weak beer and seven bottles of wine without succumbing to instant liver failure.Still, the virtually infinite amount of accessible alcohol did not unavoidably signify a broad choice of tipples.

Beers and ales boasted a range of flavors with hops adding that excellent bitter taste while the well-bred wine buff could reel off a crowd of subtle differences between their favorite grape varieties. However,  the Middle Ages ultimately were a history of somewhat foreseeable booze oligarchy. You could pick from either wine, beer, mead, or water and trust me; you didn’t want the water. It was not until the 1600s that spirits began to influence their way into the frame.

About the Author

Although not having any formal training in wine, Tim has developed an irrefutable love of wine and interest in anything related to it ever since he was a little kid. Coming from a family of wine lovers, it was from a young age that he got exposed to wine and the culture that goes with it and has been addicted ever since. Having traveled to dozens of wine regions across the world including those in France, Italy, California, Australia, and South Africa and tasted a large selection of their wines, it is with great joy that he hopes to share those experiences here and take you along on the journey.

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