Early Alcohol Trivia from Cavemen To Columbus: Fun Facts

Humans have made alcoholic beverages for thousands of years. Here we look at early alcohol trivia from caveman to Columbus. Share your favorite alcohol fun facts with friends and family!

Beer was probably a staple before bread. 1

The world’s oldest known recipe is for beer. 2

Alcohol beverages have been produced for at least 12,000 years. 3

Our early ancestors probably began farming not so much to grow food, which they could usually find easily, as to insure a steady supply of ingredients needed to make alcohol beverages.


early alcohol trivia In ancient Egypt, “bread and beer” was a common greeting. 5

Early Egyptian writings urged mothers to send their children to school with plenty of bread and beer for their lunch. 6

The Romans drank a wine containing seawater, pitch, rosin, and turpentine. A Greek traveler asserted that it required getting used to. 7

A Chinese imperial edict of about 1,116 B.C. asserted that the use of alcohol in moderation was required by heaven. 8

To the pre-Christian Anglo-Saxons, heaven was not a place to play harps, but a place to visit with other departed and enjoy alcohol beverages. 9

The word “symposium” originally referred to a gathering of men in ancient Greece for an evening of conversation and drinking. 10


Jesus drank alcohol (Matthew 15:11; Luke 7:33-35) and approved of its moderate consumption (Matthew 15:11). 11

St. Paul considered alcohol to be a creation of God and inherently good (1 Timothy 4:4).

The early Church declared that alcohol was an inherently good gift of God to be used and enjoyed. While individuals might choose not to drink, to despise alcohol was heresy.12

It was largely the monasteries that maintained the knowledge and skills during the Middle Ages necessary to produce quality alcohol beverages. 13

Distillation was developed during the Middle Ages, and the resulting alcohol was called aqua vitae or “water of life.” 14

The adulteration of alcohol beverage was punishable by death in medieval Scotland. 15

Drinking liqueurs was required at all treaty signings during the Middle Ages. 16

Endnotes: Early Alcohol Trivia

1. Braidwood, R., et al. Did man once live by beer alone? Am Anthro, 55, pp. 516-526. Katz, S. and Voigt, M., Bread and beer: The early use of cereals, Exped, 28, pp. 23-34.

2. Ibid.

3. Patrick, C. Alcohol, Culture, and Society, pp. 12-13.

4. Do It Now Found, Booze: Why Not Ask Why? Tempe: DIN, 1996. (pamphlet)

5. Ghaliounqui, P. Fermented Beverages in Antiquity. In: Gastineau, C., et al. (Eds.) Fermented Food Beverages, pp. 3-19.

6. Heath, D. Drinking Occasions, p. 78.

7. Erdoes, R. 1000 Remarkable Facts about Booze, p. 88. Good source of early alcohol trivia.

8. Gernet, J. Daily Life, p, 139. Balazs, E. Chinese Civilization.

9. Watney, J. Beer is Best: A History of Beer, p. 15.

10. Babor, T. Alcohol: Customs and Rituals, p. 4

11. For more on the views of Jesus and the early Church see T. Hewitt. A Biblical Perspective on the Use and Abuse of Alcohol. I. Raymond. The Teaching of the Early Church on the Use of Wine and Strong Drink. J. O’Brien and S. Seller, Attributes of alcohol in the Old Testament. Drink Drug Prac Sur, No. 18, pp. 18-24.

12. Austin, G. Alcohol in Western Society, pp. 44 and 47-48.

13. Babor, p. 11. Cherrington, E. (Ed.) Standard Encyclopedia of the Alcohol Problem. Westerville, OH: Am Issue, 1925-1930. Vol. 1, p. 405. Seward, D. Monks and Wine. London: Trubner, 1878, pp. 15 and 25-35

14. Doxat, J. The World of Drinks and Drinking, p. 80.

15. Cherrington, Vol. 5, p. 2,383.

16. Ford, G. Wines, Brews, & Spirits, p. 116.