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Liam McKenna - October 4

Beer: The Technological Basis of Civilization. A Biochemical and Anthropological Perspective.

Beer has been many things to many people. Food, drink, drug, commodity, medicine, spiritual gift and offering, venerated craft, staple, mystery and discovery, potion and poison. It continues to be many of these things in many cultures but not ours. The irrefutable reality of beer is that in moderation, it is mildly anaesthetic, mildly antiseptic, a general tonic, and a moderate stimulant. It relaxes, reduces inhibition, augments the appetite, increases digestive action, stimulates the liver, increases the action of the heart, stimulates blood circulation, dilates blood vessels, slightly increases body temperature, stimulates and enhances the performance of all bodily functions, exhilarates, intoxicates, increases cerebral activity, heightens sensory perception and energizes mental activity. It is a healthy, nutritious, easily digested source of calories and nutrition. Beer is liquid bread.

Beer is one of those ever-present accessible cross-cultural things the basis of which has existed relatively unchanged since prehistory. Things like the cup, a cutting edge, cloth, and the sewing needle. It runs a seamless thread down through our history, right to the beginning of our civilization.

It’s easy to explain the origins of wine. Ripe fruit is full of simple sugars, which are naturally fermented as the fruit begins to rot. The juice and flesh of rotting fruit can be pleasant to taste and quite inebriating. Modern wine is of course refined manipulation of this natural phenomenon. The evolution of beer is not so simple as wine. Beer, by its nature, requires some processing intervention by man in order to make a safe palatable beverage. The production of beer has stimulated various revolutionary thinking in human history, the Neolithic revolution, the industrial revolution, medical bacteriology, the advent of mechanical refrigeration, architecture, mathematics, language, religion and politics. Its history is one of human culture.

In this talk, we will examine how and why this came to be. We will also briefly touch on the current state of beer and brewing and what its future may be.

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