Food

Times Beer Changed History 

Steve Wright
14.5k views 15 items

There are so many ways beer changed history, you have to wonders what kind of world we would live in if the vital, hoppy nectar had never been invented. From the earliest civilizations to the modern day, beer has had a major impact on the trajectory of history. Read on for a deeper understanding of how and why the carbonated delight changed the world. 

If you're ever asked how beer shaped the world, mention the Egyptians, the Pilgrims, or the Founding Fathers. Or look all the way back, to the dawn of civilization, to see just how much impact the amber nectar has had on human history.

Beer's been around for a long, long time, and has helped countless people make decisions with impact levels ranging from personal to international. The power of a beer (or seven) should be of no shock to anyone, but the sheer amount of history beer has shaped is stunning. Check out this list to see exactly how beer changed the world, and learn new trivia to impress your friends. 
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Midwives Used Beer for Labor Pains in Medieval Europe
Midwives Used Beer for L... is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list Times Beer Changed History
Photo: Artist Unknown/Wellcome Library, London/Creative Commons
Medieval Europe wasn't a particularly fun place. It was dirty, stank, and full of disease. Child birth, especially labor pains, were brutal, exacerbated by the squalid conditions and ignorance in which many women lived. Midwives administered beer, instead of water, to their patients,  because many water sources were contaminated. These midwives had their own brew, known as groaning ale, which was given to pregnant women when contractions began. Sometimes, the baby was washed in seven-or-eight-month old ale immediately after birth. This process saved countless lives.
Poland Had a Beer War in 1380
Poland Had a Beer War in... is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list Times Beer Changed History
Photo: Leszek Bobrzycki/Public Domain

The Vretslav Beer War was a cold war waged in the Polish city of Vretslav, now Wroclaw, beginning in 1380. The war started because both the city council and the Church sought profit from beer sales. The stand-off between the mayor and the bishop became so intense that when King Vaclav IV visited the city in 1381, he found the bishop had shut down all religious services. The King's troops proceeded to sack every religious site in the city. Intervention from the Pope was required to get Vretslav back under control.

In the wake of the Beer War, the city council, worried about future threats to its dominion, created a restrictive oligarchy. This led, in 1418, to open revolt, during which six members of the council, including the mayor, were executed by an angry mob. The Emperor returned the favor by decapitating 30 leaders of the revolt, and boiling, tarring, and impaling their heads on spikes on the city walls. 
A Beer Shortage Forced the Pilgrims Ashore Early
A Beer Shortage Forced t... is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list Times Beer Changed History
Photo: William Halsall/Public Domain

The Pilgrims were initially headed to Virginia to start their lives in the New World. That plan fell apart, however, because the Mayflower was running low on beer. The journey across the Atlantic had taken longer than expected, and Captain Jones, commander of the Mayflower, needed to get ships ashore as quickly as possible to have enough beer to make the return voyage to England. Bear in mind beer was the main beverage for long sea voyages at the time, as it keeps well, while water became brackish. 

So the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock, instead of pushing down the coast, because of beer. At Plymouth Rock, the they happened upon Squanto, a Native American who had been to England and back, and spoke English. Squanto helped the Pilgrims work the land and live alongside the Natives. If the Pilgrims had traveled just a a little bit further, they may never have met Squanto, who helped them through the first winter.
The Need for Beer Expanded the Colonist Population
The Need for Beer Expand... is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list Times Beer Changed History
Photo: Wilhelm Heine/Public Domain
Early colonists in America were good at a lot of things, but brewing wasn't one of them. At first, colonists relied on shipments of beer from England to get their brew. Fed up with waiting for ships to cross the oceans, in 1609, colonists placed a full page advertisement in a London newspaper looking for experienced brewers to come to the New World and share their skills. It was the first helped wanted ad in the New World. A number of brewers took up the offer, and thus began American's first brewery.