Wondering where beer came from, and what genius gets the credit for inventing it? Well, it’s not quite as simple as all that.
Fermentation of grain is a natural process that happens when ripe grain, like wheat, barley, sorghum, or corn get wet. While the way grains are usually prepared may lead you to believe they are bland on their own, the truth is that grains are designed to convert their naturally packed carbohydrate load into sugars that the new plant will access as it germinates. Think of it like a chicken’s egg, where the embryonic bird develops in a container complete with a snack bar.
In brewing, both modern and ancient, the process of germinating batches of grain and then using heat to freeze it in a condition of maximum sugar availability is called “malting,” and is an art as much as every other piece of the brewing process. Knowing how long to germinate a given grain, what temperature to kiln it at, and for how long is one of the many areas of expertise that are required to create the various styles that we love to drink.
So Who Invented Beer?
Right, back to it. So here’s the process that the first beer drinkers would have encountered: ripe grain falls to the ground, gets wet, begins to sprout to create a new generation of wheat or whatever, and suddenly that bland starch they’d been gathering while they looked for herds of aurochs (or whatever) is a bunch of sugar. Who doesn’t love sugar?
Once early humans started foraging, grains would have been a reliable calorie source, and in dry regions – where beer originated, naturally -, they could be stored, carried, and even traded. Somewhere along the line (most likely many points along many lines in many communities), grains got wet, soaked for a couple of days, and fermented. Then someone discovered this bubbling, richly scented grain broth and took a drink. And then another.
Who invented beer? No one person gets the credit. Beer is simply what happens when grains are really allowed to be themselves, and humans have been encouraging their freedom since the dawn of eating.