Beer is nothing new! It was invented over 10,000 years ago and has been influencing society since then to modern times, according to anthropologist John W. Arthur, author of Beer: A Global Journey through the Past & Present. The book traces the history of indigenous beer as revealed in the societies of Southwest Asia, East Asia, Africa, Europe, and Central and South America. The author discusses how past and present non-industrial beer has led to cultural change through its role in the technology, health, social status, rituals, and economics of various societies around the world.

The material is divided into 7 chapters. After discussing the great diversity in beer ingredients and production techniques Arthur continues with a survey of the relationship between beer and people in southwest Asia where the world’s first brewing probably took place. The focus then turns to Africa where beer has pervaded societies since ancient times and provided capital, social prestige, daily nutrition, and a means to communicate with ancestors. A discussion of beer in Europe includes it’s role in such events as the creation of the early henges in the UK, construction of funerary mounds in Scandinavia, the 16th century witch hunts, and the development of hops. Moving to Central and South America, the author shows how the corn-based chicha beer influenced fertility, work ethic, and economic reciprocity of the Meso-American society of the Paquime, as well as the pre-Incan and Incan societies of the Andes. The final chapter discusses the connection between indigenous brewing to craft beer production and includes 6 modern recipes that are renditions of ancient beers. Also included are a table of ancient and contemporary beer ingredients, a glossary, and an extensive list of references.

Beer: A Global Journey through the Past and Present is an eye-opening look at beer. Written by a scholar, it is heavily footnoted but is still easy to read. Even if beer is not your primary interest, the history covered by the text recommends it perusal.

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