As I always say, enjoying a glass (or two) of wine, beer, or spirits with a meal can be one of life’s greatest pleasures.
And the best part of tipping one back? People who consume any type of alcohol (in moderation) SLASH their risk of developing chronic diseases…including heart disease.
Plus, anthropologists have proposed another BIG benefit to moderate drinking: Social bonding. In fact, alcohol probably helped shape modern human civilization.
Here’s what I mean…
Drinking alcohol helped humans create modern civilizations
Human beings are social animals. And social organization has always helped keep our delicate species alive. It has protected us, assigned places in the social order, and ensured that everyone did their chores and contributed to the group. It also discouraged offenses and removed offenders, which ultimately provided security.
And, according to a group of anthropologists, alcohol helped encourage and reinforce that social organization in early humans…
At first, early human foragers simply enjoyed the alcohol from naturally fermented fruits and grains when they encountered them in the wild. As time went on, they learned how to cultivate, grow, and harvest their own grain to make alcohol. (Incidentally, growing grain required migrating groups to settle down in one place and form larger and longer-lasting social groups.)
In fact, some anthropologists think that humans initially grew grains to ferment them and make beers—well before they grew them to make bread! (Likewise, corn crops found in the Americas were much better suited for brewing beers than for making bread. And it took many generations before farmers in the Americas were able to convert corn into the useful and nutritious food of maize, which they used to make corn flour.)
If man did not live by bread alone…was it really beer?
In a recent study published in the Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory, researchers concluded that at the dawn of human history, “brewing of beer was an important aspect of feasting and society” in the eastern Mediterranean’s cradle of civilization.
Specifically, they think that drinking alcohol helped people “get along.” It also helped early humans quell their angst, overcome shyness, and speak their minds—allowing them to become more expansive, collaborative, and creative. Not to mention, moderate drinking is a powerful and fast-acting mood-booster!
Leaders of early established states even used alcohol to aid in political deliberations…
For example, in ancient Persia and Germany, decisions of state were made after a few drinks, and then checked when sober. In America, the founding fathers accomplished as much of the real work for the American Revolution in taverns as they did in state halls. In fact, much of the brainstorming for the Declaration of Independence occurred in a tavern in Philadelphia. (You can still go visit this tavern. That is, if you’re willing to pay the ridiculous local taxes levied on anyone who sets foot in our nation’s first capital city. Hint: It’s far worse than what caused the patriots to revolt in the first place!)
Even today, the tradition of enjoying drinks while conducting high-stakes negotiations continues with the expensive and lavish “State dinners” we always hear about in Washington, D.C.
Of course, there was another factor at play that encouraged drinking in early America…
Alcohol was safer than water
Early on in American cities, it was extremely difficult to find safe drinking water. In fact, in 1749, in New York (New Amsterdam), a Swedish botanist visiting the then-Dutch city observed that the water was SO foul, the horses from out of town refused to drink it!
Since they couldn’t safely drink the water, early Americans living in cities relied heavily on alcoholic beverages. They would either add alcohol to the drinking water, which killed the bacteria, or they skipped the water altogether and went straight to wine, rum, and hard liquors, such as “moonshine.”
Many communities and families brewed their own local spirits and beers. In fact, brewmasters held important roles in society in early American cities like Boston, where Samuel Adams was a leading figure.
Hard apple cider also became extremely popular in early America. In fact, like corn, most early varieties of apples grown in the United States weren’t suitable for eating. So, most of the apple orchards planted in early America provided the makings of hard cider. (Perhaps we should reinterpret “Johnny Appleseed’s” positive outlook during his legendary travels across the new land!)
Of course, hard ciders are becoming extremely popular again today. Plus, there are now dozens of new varieties of apples—which you can go out and pick yourself in orchards all around the country, starting right about now.
In the end, no matter what kind of alcoholic beverage you prefer, just make it a point to enjoy it in moderation…and with friends and family!
Because, as Benjamin Franklin once said, “Beer is living proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.” You can find such aphorisms in Franklin’s popular handbook of homespun advice and remedies, “Poor Richard’s Almanac.”
In addition, you can also learn much more about the health benefits of beer in the August 2021 issue of my monthly newsletter, Insiders’ Cures (“America’s favorite brew offers significant health benefits”). If you’re not yet a subscriber, now is the perfect time to become one.
“How beer gave us civilization.” The New York Times, 3/15/21. (nytimes.com/2013/03/17/opinion/sunday/how-beer-gave-us-civilization.html?_r=0)