The Original Purpose Of Beer Might Surprise You

As abundant and diverse as beer might be these days, it has taken many centuries to perfect the brews we know and love. While it is delicious and satisfying to enjoy a conversation with friends over a few bottles, that was not exactly the drink's original purpose. Though the styles of beer and brewing processes have changed with time, some of the ingredients themselves haven't changed that much at all.

Brewing became a deeply integral part of many cultures, including those in ancient Egypt, the British Isles, and Northern Europe. Beer became so vital among British citizens over the centuries that people expected it in their daily lives. The British army even had to issue a daily beer ration for soldiers during a time when they occupied and were colonizing half the world! The Royal Navy was charged with delivering beer to troops as far from England as Burma and India. In fact, that's the reason behind the name of the beer style India Pale Ale. Brewers made the beer with extra hops and higher alcohol by volume because it acted as a natural preservative for the long trip to India. However, keeping people happy wasn't beer's original purpose (via Heartland Brewery).

Beer's original purpose was largely ceremonial

The real purpose of beer goes back in history much further than the British Empire, having roots that lie with the ancient Egyptians. Even then, Beer and Brewing says the Egyptians used barley and emmer to brew their beer, an ancient variety of wheat. Brewing had been established during the predynastic period, but by the early Dynastic period (3100-2686 BCE) brewing was a pivotal part of Egyptian culture.

Back then, beer was deemed much healthier than water and became the daily drink of choice for everyone from the Pharaoh to the most humble of peasants; and while beer was important as a clean drinking source, it had other uses too. Paired with grain, it was considered a common form of payment for labor, but ultimately beer was often made with intent as well as in different styles or types for very specific purposes. There were dark beers and sweet beers, but there were also ceremonial beers such as "friend's beer" and the "beer of the protector." According to Beer and Brewing, the Egyptian gods who guarded the shrine of Osiris drank the "beer of truth." There were even beers made for funerary purposes that were stored in tombs and were said to last until the afterlife. These were usually called "beer of eternity" or "beer that does not sour." So, now you can enjoy your beer while you watch a game or kick back with friends, knowing what it was really made for.