Today’s UK newspaper, The Independent, has a nice write-up of Patrick McGovern’s theory (among others) that it was the desire of early man to brew beer that caused them to abandon their hunter gatherer ways and settle down to a life of farming, in the process sparking nothing short of civilization itself.
In the article, Did A Thirst For Beer Spark Civilization?, McGovern says “I think most people see (this theory) as a very plausible scenario. But we don’t have all the evidence. I just wanted to put it out there as a worldwide hypothesis. Then over time maybe the different pieces can be put together from across the world.” McGovern is the author of Uncorking the Past — a book I heartily recommend — that goes into great detail about the evidence for his theories.
Patrick McGovern signing boos at GABF in 2009.
The trouble with that argument is scale and exclusivity. A small hunter gatherer group could provide itself with enough booze from a small patches of grains plus fruit plus honey for mead. They could have likely been found in nature and not needed fields or trade offs in terms of production. What mass grain growing was more likely triggered by is mass grain growing production combined with political hierarchy needing workers to make beer for the few in the “ruling” class, a second stage. Hornsey has examples on this.