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Memories of the 28th Century

Alcohol and Development

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For some reason I was thinking about the unfortunate matter of prohibitions on alcohol that are age based and the matter of binge drinking and stupidity. It probably came to mind because there is an oversized university near here, and it isn’t easy to get a sandwich and a pint of ale together (some fools think that it will encourage alcoholism or something like that). It is sad that the custom of consuming alcoholic beverages with meals is dying out, but that’s what the people who think that they have a better idea how to live your life than you have are working on. This movement is relatively recent, and it may die out someday soon (we certainly hope so). Here in the U.S.A. there were no regulations as to who could or could not buy alcoholic beverages until after Prohibition was abandoned in 1933. Before Prohibition anyone could legally buy alcohol. Several hundred years ago, small beer, the sort of beer that is sold these days, was developed for children, so they wouldn’t get smashed on the 8 to 12 % alcohol in traditional ales. No one could drink the water, because it was all polluted (one thing that has improved in the last fifty years).

No one knows how long humans have been drinking fermented beverages, but it is clear that it was many tens of thousands of years ago. I have read of spent grain and seeds having been dated to before 25,000 BCE. Kumiss may have been made that long ago, but I don’t know of any archeological evidence for it, but there wouldn’t be much left over. The mare’s milk would have been fermented in a bag of leather or an animal’s stomach, or something like that, and every drop would have been drunk down, so there wouldn’t any remains. Before that there would have been fruit that fermented when it was ripe; apples are quite good at that, and there is a fruit (marula) that elephants gorge themselves on when it has fermented. Berries, root vegetables, and other things can be fermented, and there are reasons for thinking that humans have been doing that for a very long time. But, rather oddly, there were some regions in which people did not consume alcohol; the Western Hemisphere is the largest such area, and many of the people of East Asia are not adapted to alcohol the way that Africans and Europeans were. This item suggests that alcohol wasn’t common in East Asia until maybe ten thousand years ago.

It is thought that agriculture was invented to produce more ale. There just weren’t enough wild seeds to produce adequate amounts of ale, but planting grains eliminated that problem. As it happens, the grains that are best for making ale are also best for making bread, so the desire for alcohol may have led to bread-making and better nutrition. I wonder whether horses were raised for milk for kumiss or if there was another reason for domesticating them. Because of the mix of nutrients in milk, mare’s milk is the only one that it is practical to ferment, because of its high levels of lactose. In any case, Ekwamedha became the Goddess of drunkenness, because kumiss is so effective. But I think that kumiss was later than mead, because Ekwamedha can be parsed as “horse mead”, which leads to the question of who the God of mead is, and that is Accasbel for the Irish, but I haven’t found any other Gods or Goddesses of mead, so we should honor Accasbel.

We should have more appreciation for alcoholic beverages, even though they sometimes lead to unpleasantness, alcoholic beverages assisted in the development of civilization and industry. Then again, those might be more reasons for condemning alcohol, but alcohol even in the concentrations in wine and ale kill harmful bacteria that may be in food; thus leading to better health, except among those who are inclined to alcoholism or to violence when they are under the influence. And if it weren’t for alcohol, we might be trying to lions off their kills when we weren’t trying to chase down rabbits.

Scroll down for comparison of milk by animal, in case you decide to make kumiss

Drunk elephants

Hominid evolution and alcohol

Updated 12-02-2014 at 10:23 AM by PeterL