The Interesting Stories Of How Alcohol Influenced World History
This isn’t your regular history class. From the ancient Greeks to American Mobsters, we’ve uncovered some very surprising stories on how alcohol influenced world history.
The Gods & Goddesses of Wine
via Fatimaa Ahmed // Early civilizations believed alcohol was a gift from the gods
Humans have been crafting alcoholic beverages since Babylonian times. Countless cultures worshiped Gods and Goddesses of wines and other spirits. These gods and goddesses, like Dionysus/Bacchus and Nin-kasi, were often attributed to grape harvests, beer or wine, drunkenness, fertility, and partying. Fun fact: The ancient Greeks might have conducted the first research into how alcohol effects the body, and warned against the consumption of too much alcohol.
Explorers of the New World Spent more on Liquor than Other Supplies
via History.com // Travelers to the New World really loved their Sherry
Christopher Columbus and Ferdinand Magellan had two things in common: 1. They were explorers who made world history with Columbus “discovering” America and Magellan as the first European explorer to reach Asia by sailing westwards around America; 2. They both carried very large quantities of Sherry on their journeys. Columbus taking Sherry with him on his exploration made it the first wine brought to the New World. Magellan carried 253 kegs of Sherry on his voyage and this stockpile of alcohol actually cost more money than all of his weapons! An extra bonus, Magellan spent more money on the wine he brought than he did his flagship the San Antoni!!
Plymouth Rock Beer Run
via Charisma of BeerSportsBabes.com // The most Iconic American Colony was founded because the Pilgrims ran out of beer!
In the colonial era, drinking water could be quite dangerous due to bacteria in the water. Because of this, most people drank alcoholic drinks, which led to colonials drinking much more alcohol than today’s Americans. In 2015, an American drank an average of two gallons of alcohol per year, while the average colonist drank seven gallons of alcohol per year!
Now considering the above information, the following story may sound less ridiculous. Everyone knows that the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock and started one of the first settlements in the New World. However, the reason for stopping at Plymouth Rock may surprise you; they were running out of beer. We might laugh at that now, but beer was extremely important back then because it would stay drinkable compared to water which could easily turn brackish and deadly. The Mayflower had been sailing for almost two months and was very off-course by the time land was spotted in what is now New England. The captain decided the settlers needed to go ashore so the last of the beer could be saved for the sailors on their return journey home. Thus, what is now considered a party-foul, ended up shaping the course of American history!!
The Prussian Kings of Beer
via Roland Handrick //
Germans are known to be very serious about their beer, but one man made it a royal family affair. The Prussian King, Friedrich Wilhelm I, is credited with creating the German tradition of “Stammtisch” where people sit around a larger table drinking beer with friends to relax, or just pass some time. He even allowed his son the Crown Prince, Frederick the Great, to become a brewer. During his reign, Frederick the Great banned coffee from Germany when sales of beer diminished, sending large amounts of money out of the country. He believed that coffee would harm the economy and quality of his soldiers. King Frederick the Great is famous for his quotes on beer, including his iconic speech, “My people must drink beer”.
American Rebellion Over Whiskey Tax
via Getty Images Archive Photos Getty Images // There’s a reason why you don’t mess with an American’s Whiskey
Have you ever heard this story of America’s lesser known “Revolution”? Shortly after the formation of the United States, the newly formed government faced a small-scale revolution from some angry citizens. Western Pennsylvania farmers and Whiskey distillers took up arms after the installation of a new Whiskey tax that taxed those who profited from the distillation and sale of Whiskey. Needless to say, the Americans who went war with England over a Tea Tax weren’t about to let this one go without a fight. The Whiskey Rebellion, as it came to be known, grew so large it required military action by the US government. While mass bloodshed was avoided and the new government showed it could keep control, the spirit of American defiance over whiskey would later create the Moonshiners and Bootleggers of the 20th century.
The Friendliest Arctic Territory Dispute
via Reddit – Gabrielle Canon // Territory dispute over tiny Artic Island and the exchange of Whiskey
Leave it to Canada and Denmark to have the friendliest territory dispute of all time. These two countries have been having a dispute over uninhabited, Hans island for years. Each country claims the island is in their territory, so periodically their respective militaries go and remove the other country’s flag – and leave behind a bottle of Danish Schnapps or Canadian Whiskey for their troubles. Talk about pleasantries.
Giving Rise to America’s Crime Families
via Pace // How America’s attempt at sobriety created the rise of organized crime
Alternatively, How America’s attempt to kick its alcohol addiction created the rise of organized crime. Despite the intentions of the Temperance movement, the Prohibition era of US history exchanged sobriety for criminal enterprise. Americans were not ready to give up their hooch, and Bootleg liquor was in high demand. This prompted a very lucrative business venture – all tax-free – for mob bosses from New York to Chicago. The illegal importation, distillation, and distribution of alcohol put some big named mobsters, like Lucky Luciano, on the map. These gangsters, who made it big before the end of Prohibition in 1933, created some of the most violent criminal syndicates whose mark on US history continues today. And it might not have happened if America didn’t try to kick the habit. What did they expect from the country that had a rebellion over a tax on Whiskey?
Try some of our favorite Prohibition Style Cocktails.
Supplying the Troops in WWII
via Alan Moen [All About Beer] // How beer was helping our boys overseas
Alcohol was always been considered a vital ration to soldiers during war and this was still true during WWII. Making sure that soldiers were supplied with beer was viewed as highly important. In July 1942, British breweries established a “beer for troops” committee to ensure that the troops received supplies of beer. The United States also took the matter seriously, as the U.S. Department of Agriculture mandated that 15% of all beer produced in the U.S. had to be saved for the soldiers. One problem arose from the American beer, though. The cans had to be painted olive green to camouflage them from enemy aircraft. In the end, a small price to pay in the effort to keep the moral high among the troops.
In 1944, the British Royal Navy developed the most zealous proposal for supplying beer to troops during WWII. As the war was also being fought in the Pacific, the British Navy had to figure out how to make sure sailors received their appropriate rations of beer. The solution to the problem was to design a brewing boat that could produce 250 barrels of beer per week. There were many technical problems in the beginning, such as drums of extract exploding. Two boats were selected for the project and were prepared in the summer of 1945 to become breweries. Unfortunately for the project, having been undertaken near the end of the war, it wasn’t very successful. One ship, the Menestheus, was outfitted with the “Davy Jones Brewery” and completed one voyage that consisted of visiting multiple Pacific ports. The Menestheus supplied sailors with English mild ale and after only six months of being operational, sailed back to England and was dismantled. A floating brewery for the military has not been tried since.
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