Beer, Farming, and Transition to a Complex Society

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In the 21st century, all kinds of advanced technology are constantly emerging, but agriculture has always been the foundation of society and has played an indispensable role. It is hard to imagine that the beer which we drink today would play a significant role in promoting the development of farming and helping the first farmer settle down, promoted the adoption of farming and helped the first farmers transition from hunter-gather society to farming society.

The Adoption of Farming

Beer helped people find the benefits of farming and accelerated the adoption of farming. The New Stone Age started with the introduction of farming, with the development of hunter-gatherer. Humans found that some special seeds could be planted, and they started to collect them put them in the soil. It was more stable and safer to grow food to move around and hunter-gatherer for food. Humans gradually transitioned into farming society from a hunter-gatherer society.

The Fertile Crescent and the Ancient Near East is seen as the birthplace of agriculture, because in the 4000 BCE, this area’s temperature was more suitable for farming. The main types of grains which humans grew were wheat, barley, millet, and emmer. Beer, which was made from wheat and emmer, inherited the nutrition of wheat and emmer. Humans found that beer was a safe and nutritious drink. At the beginning of the New Stone Age, farming was just a small part of the way how humans survived. They still hunted animals; agriculture was just the assistance of their food, but with the value of beer been found, humans gradually dropped the habit of hunting; they began to put more attention to farming, so that they would have enough resources to make beer. With time-continuous development, hunter-gatherers finally transformed into farming society.

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The Value of Beer

Beer was needed as a safe and nutritious drink, which could also be used as currency in the Stone Age. According to Standage (2005), “Such a beer would have had a relatively low alcohol content by modern standards but would have been rich in suspended yeast, which dramatically improved its protein and vitamin content.” (p. 21). In the author’s opinion, beer was a nutritious drink which had the necessary for the first farmers, which could help the decline in the consumption of meat. Moreover, beer was brewed from crops, and 80 percent of all illness in the world was due to waterborne diseases. In some way, beer was safer and cleaner than water, waterborne diseases couldn’t spread through beer which brewed from crops, so beer could be a substitute for water and made effects in the humans’ history.

After farming society developed to a certain extent, humans had enough surplus food. They began to trade with other civilizations. Beer, as a nutritious and safer drink, had high value to be used as currency and as a medium exchange. Especially in Egypt and Mesopotamia, solid and liquid forms, like bread and beer, were convenient and widespread forms of payment and currency. Beer, as a safe and nutritious drink, which had an essential value, was used as currency. This was the early barter. According to Joshua J. Mark (2011), “Beer as a form of payment could be seen on Egypt’s Giza plateau. The workers who built the pyramids were paid in beer.” The research indicates that at the time of the pyramids’ construction, around 2500 BCE, the standard ration for a laborer was two jugs which containing about four liters of beer. In the end, as the Standage says, beer helped to make up for the decline in food quality as people took up farming, provided a safe form of liquid nourishment, and gave groups of beer-drinking farmers a comparative nutritional advantage over non-beer drinkers.

Transition to a Complex Society

In the process of transition from hunting society to farming society, Beer played a significant role. In a hunting society, food entirely depended on the number of animals. This dependence on animals made them migrate frequently to find places where there were a large number of animals. Moreover, with the increase in human fertility, humans couldn’t move around like a small group of people in the past. It became difficult and inconvenient to move around. Settle down was the only way to solve this problem.

It is impossible to rely on wild grains. Humans had a huge desire to ensure the availability of grain by deliberate farming. Beer was a purpose that supported the human to keep farming. According to Standage (2005), “beer drinking would also have assisted in the transition to farm in a more subtle way.” (p21). Long-term of beer was hard, and complete fermentation will also take up to a week, most beer would have been drunk much sooner while there were still fermenting.

Throughout the Fertile Crescent between 7000BCE and 5000 BCE, the first farmers had gradually controlled the skills with the development of farming. The output of surplus grain was increasing. This situation helped create the storehouse. According to Standage (2005), “Settlements from this period often had a storehouse where valuable items were kept, including scared objects and stores of surplus food. These storehouses were communal since they were far larger than would have been needed by any single family.” The construction of the storehouse prevented humans from keeping moving around and focusing on farming. Then, the settlements shaped, and civilization developed because people had the foundation to settle down.


Beer, which was a safe and nutritious drink and had a great value as currency, helped humans in the Stone Age settle down and develop civilization, continue to conquer humans as a well-known drink. Beer had definitely influenced the first farmers’ lives from the culture to society and the power of beer has run through the past and future.


  1. Joshua J. Mark (2011). The Hymn to Ninkasi, Goddess of Beer. Retrieved from
  2. Standage, T. (2005). A History of the World in 6 Glasses. New York: Bloomsbury Publishing USA.
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