How Beer Saved the World (Transcript)
[Transcribed by Daniel J. Leonard]

Narrated by Henry Strozier

List of people interviewed in order of appearance:
[All quotes in the transcript will be followed by the initials of the person quoted.  For example, if “Charles Bamforth” is quoted in the transcript, the quote will be followed by the initials “C.B.”]

G.S.: Dr. Gregg Smith, Author & Historian
P.H: Dr. Patrick Hayes, Professor of Food Science, Oregon State University
G.A.: Dr. George Armelagos, Professor of Anthropology, Emory University
C.B.: Dr. Charles Bamforth, Professor of Brewing Science, University of California
Q.S.: Dr. Quentin Skrabec Jr., Associate Professor of Business, University of Findlay
P.M. Dr. Patrick McGovern, Professor of Bio-Archaeology, University of Pennsylvania
T.S.: Dr. Thomas Shellhammer, Professor of Fermentation Science, Oregon State University
S.T.: Dr. Stephen Tinney, Associate Professor of Assyriology, University of Pennsylvania
J.W.: Dr. Josef Wegner, Egyptologist, University of Pennsylvania Museum
B.B.: Dr. Betsy Bryan, Professor of Egyptology, John Hopkins University
R.U.: Dr. Richard Unger, Professor of Medieval History, University of British Columbia
K.B.: Dr. Kyria Boundy-Mills, Professor of Microbiology, University of California
D.B.: Drew Brosseau, Mayflower Brewery
M.O.: Maureen Ogle, Author & Historian
D.R.: Dr. David Ryder, Vice President Brewing & Research MillerCoors
B.N.: Bernard Nagengast, Author & Technical Historian
J.M.: Jaron Mitchell, 4 Pines Brewing Company

Narrator: In the 21st century, human beings are masters of the planet.  Behind us lie 10,000 years of civilization, bending nature to our will, and it all started with one great invention.  Not the wheel.  Not the car.  Not the plane.  The greatest invention of all was beer.

“Beer has changed the course of human history not once, not twice, but over and over again. Right from the very beginning.” [G.S]

Narrator: It sowed the world’s first farm lands.

“The agricultural revolution came about because of the imperative, the need, to make beer.” [P.H.]

Narrator: It hued the world’s first wonders.

“You wouldn’t have the pyramids if it weren’t for beer.” [G.A.]

Narrator: Beer established modern health care.

“Beer and science go hand in hand.” [C.B.]

Narrator: And beer shaped America.

“Beer is the secret history of America.  It’s in our DNA.” [G.S.]

Narrator: It even ended one of history’s great scandals.

“Beer was part, if not all, of the motivation for ending child labor.” [Q.S.]

Narrator: And most important of all, it gave us something to drink while watching the ball game. This is the story of the greatest invention of all time. 

“It’s an amazing story, and one that really hasn’t been told.” [G.A.]

Narrator: Until now.

“Without beer, we’d probably still be living in caves.” [G.A.]

Title text: How Beer Save the World

Narrator: Human beings like us have been around for about 100,000 years.  For the first 90,000, we were nomads.  Hunter-gatherers. All we had to worry about was food.

“The life of the hunter-gatherer is probably not as hard as some people would think.  They spent about two hours a day gathering grains and hunting.  And they spent a lot of time socializing.” [G.A.]

Narrator: Then, in 9,000 B.C., something happened that changed the world forever.  In the Middle East, hunter-gatherers stopped wandering, and started farming.  They swapped caves for houses.  And created the first civilization: Mesopotamia.  It was the beginning of the world as we know it.  Historians call it the “agricultural revolution”. But the question is: Why did it happen?  We asked at the local pub.

[Publicans in a bar]: “Women.”  “Pumpkins.”  “Potatoes.”  “We just got tired of moving rocks.”  “I have no idea. I don’t know.”

Narrator: In fact, the agricultural revolution was started by barely.  For years, experts assumed it was to make bread.  But now there’s a new theory that has shaken the world of science.

“The agricultural revolution is all about beer, and beer is all about barely.” [P.H.]

Narrator: For food scientist Dr. Patrick Hayes, it’s an open and shut case.

“There’s no doubt that barely was domesticated to make beer.”  [P.H.]

Narrator: Archaeologist Dr. Pat McGovern backs up the barely for beer theory.

“The reason that it was domesticated at 9,000 B.C. is they were using it to make beer.” [P.M.]

Narrator: The proof?  Residue from ancient jugs.

“Turned out that this residue was what’s called beer stone.  Now, this is evidence then that we had a vessel that would have originally been used for beer.” [P.M.]

Narrator: McGovern has found evidence of beer more than 3,000 years before anyone was baking bread.  But hold on a minute.  Brewing is a complex science.  So how could primitive people have invented beer?

Dr. Thomas Shellhammer is a fermentation scientist— a beer boffin.  And he thinks that they stumbled across it by complete and utter accident.

“About 10,000 years ago, hunter-gatherers were collecting wild barely as a source of nutrition.  During one of these collections, they were taking barely and placing it into some sort of collection device.  This group then go on a hunt.”  [T.S.]

Narrator: While they’re away, a natural miracle occurs.

“First, we get some rains, and these rains moisten that barely, and that barely begins to grow.” [T.S.]

Narrator: As it grows, it produces sugars.  Now it needs more water.  Luckily, it rains again.

“And at this point, we have substantial amount of rain.  Enough rain that this vessel becomes basically full with liquid.” [T.S.]

Narrator: Now the real magic happens.  Wild yeast converts the barely sugars into CO2 and alcohol.  A few days later, the hunters return.

“And they look inside this vessel, and they see a bubbly mixture.  Then someone takes the chance to actually taste it.  And, taking a taste, they think, “Wow, this is something that is very, very different.”  This is the very first accidental beer, and from this point on, things will never be the same.” [T.S.]

Narrator: Humans hadn’t touched a drink in 3,000,000 years of evolution. Suddenly, life looked a lot more interesting.

“They said, ‘This stuff is good.  How can we make more of that?’” [P.H.]

Narrator: Today, experts like Dr. Hayes believe it was beer’s feel-good factor that changed the world forever.

“The intoxicating effects of that beer surely persuaded people to continue propagating barely.  And then in turn, starts this whole cascade of inventions that make for better beer.” [P.H.]

Narrator: The thirst for more beer and more barely to make it with created an explosion of new technologies in a domino effect.

“You’re gonna get tired of going out with a stick and trying to poke a hole in to hard ground.  And so what does that lead to?  Well, that’s gonna lead to the plough.  Once you start opening up ground, some of that ground is not going to be suitable for agriculture unless you irrigate it.” [P.H.]

Narrator: A host of inventions we still rely on today came about thanks to a taste for beer.

“Once you start raising all of this food, you don’t wanna go dragging it around behind you, so what do you have?  You have wheeled carts to transport the stuff.” [P.H.]

Narrator: More beer plus more barely equals more farms, and the invention of math.

“It was beer that made them go and study how to divide borders between their fields, which led to mathematics.  And so we can even say that math and measurement came about because of beer.” [G.S.]

Narrator: After land surveys, came bookkeeping and beer’s greatest early invention: writing.

[Publicans in a bar]: “Beer invented writing?” “The written language?” “No way, that’s impossible.”

Narrator: Impossible, but true.  Dr. Stephen Tinney is an expert in ancient texts.

“The reason for inventing writing was the need to record the production and distribution of commodities like beer.” [S.T.]

Narrator: The beer trade created record keeping— symbols on clay tablets that evolved into writing.  In the first ever written language called cuneiform, this [see symbol below] is the word for beer, and it’s everywhere in the ancient dictionary called ‘the word lists’.

Cuneiform Symbol for Beer

“One of the most important word lists has over 160 different words relating to beer.”  [S.T.]

Narrator: That’s more than the Eskimos have for snow.  That’s how important beer was.

“Beer was essential to the people, essential for their nutrition, and essential to the origin of writing.” [S.T.]

Narrator: So beer ended hunter-gathering, started agriculture, invented the plough, and the wheel, and gave us math and writing.  By 3,000 B.C., civilization was in full flow, all thanks to beer.  But it was only just getting started.  [Coming up: How beer built the pyramids. “It’s just mind-boggling.” [G.A.]]

Narrator: Of all ancient civilizations, this is the big one.  But now, Egyptologists are discovering its wonders exist thanks to a secret ingredient: beer.

“Ancient Egyptian civilizations would not have existed without beer, and beer in great quantities.” [J.W.]

“I don’t think there was anyone in ancient Egypt that didn’t have the right to drink beer, even small children.” [B.B.]

“The ancient Egyptians saw beer as a gift of the gods.”  [G.A.]

Narrator: The most powerful of all the Egyptian gods was Ray [Ra].  He is the creator of life, love, and beer, in this world and the next.

“They consumed it all the time and when they died, they would go to the afterlife hoping they would continue consuming beer in great quantities.” [J.W.]

Narrator: This inscription on an ancient Egyptian tomb answers the age old question ‘How many beers do you need in the next world?’

“He asked for a thousand jugs of beer that he hoped to take advantage of in his afterlife.” [J.W.]

Narrator: The pyramids are the ultimate icons of the afterlife.  Just how they were built remains a mystery, especially when you learn how workers were paid.

“The daily rations, the wages of ancient Egypt, were paid in beer.” [J.W.]

“They would be given a chit that would say you have earned 50 jars of beer.  It was almost as if it was a debit card.” [G.A.]

Narrator: To Egyptians, beer was money.  Today, a few noble individuals still trade in beer.

[Publicans in a bar]: “I’ll do somebody’s laundry for a 6-pack of high quality beer.” “I’ve helped someone move.” “I don’t know if I should say because if this is out there my parents will see.”

Narrator: Our modern beer economy might buy you a favor, back then it would buy you a pyramid.  The going rate for a pyramid builder was a whopping gallon of beer a day.

“So it was just an incredible amount of beer that went into building the pyramids.” [G.A.]

Narrator: It takes a gut-busting 231,414,717 gallons of beer to build the pyramid of Giza.  The reason?  Ancient beer was a vital source of nutrition.

“Beer was absolutely fundamental to the Egyptians, it was one of their very basic foodstuffs.” [J.W.]

“Beer was one of the main foods in ancient Egypt, it wasn’t just a question of being a beverage.  Even schoolboy[s] would get up in the morning and have a dish of beer.  [B.B.]

Narrator: This ancient beer, we’ll call it “Pyramid Lite”, was very low in alcohol [image indicates “3%”], but packed with minerals and vitamins, which kept the ancient strong, healthy, and astonishingly productive.

“We wouldn’t have the pyramids if it weren’t for beer.” [G.A.]

Narrator: So, beer built the pyramids and was Egypt’s staple food, and its common currency.  I know what you’re thinking: Next he’s going to tell me that beer cured the sick.  Well, actually, it did.  Beer was used to treat all sorts of ailments.

“They treated the diseases of the gums with beer.  And they actually even used some of the remains of the beer, the grains, and burned them and produced an anal fumigant to treat diseases of the bowel.” [G.A.]

Narrator: That particular remedy may have gone out of fashion, but ancient beer really did pioneer a startling revolution in medicine 3,000 years before its time.  Dr. George Armelagos is a professor of anthropology.  He studies mummified bones to find out how ancient Egyptians used to live.  He recently made a discovery that shocked modern science.

“My heart stopped— I said this is really big.” [G.A.]

Narrator: He spotted traces of tetracycline, a modern wonder-drug, in bones 3,000 years old.

“This is such a remarkable discovery.  It’s as if you were unwrapping a mummy and you saw a pair of Ray Ban sunglasses attached to the head.  It was that unusual.” [G.A.]

Narrator: Scientists told Armelagos he must have made a mistake.  And with good reason.  Tetracycline is an antibiotic not officially discovered until 1948.

“What we had to do then was to explain how the tetracycline got into the bone.”  [G.A.]

Narrator: Whatever got 20th century antibiotics into ancient bones must have been in the Egyptians diet.

“The tetracycline use was so prevalent in these bones that it had to be something that they’re consuming every day.” [G.A.]

Narrator: They tried all sorts of ancient recipes with no luck.  Then they found one that fit the bill.

“And all the sudden we came across the recipes for beer.  So this gave us the possibility of beer being the source of the tetracycline.” [G.A.]

Narrator: Armelagos and his team brewed the beer according to the instructions of the 3,000 year old recipe.  Incredibly, when they tested it, it was full of the modern antibiotic.

“And it’s a definitive answer that this is tetracycline, and they were getting the tetracycline from beer.” [G.A.]

Narrator: With the discovery, Armelagos was vindicated and the world of science was forced to accept the fact that ancient beer beat modern medicine by 3,000 years.

“It’s just mind-boggling.” [G.A.]

Narrator: Officially, it was this grumpy looking man, Alexander Fleming, who discovered antibiotics in 1928, winning the Nobel Prize.  But now it’s time the real winner gets its share of the glory.  Step forward: beer.  [Coming up: How beer saved millions of lives in the Middle Ages.]

Since caveman drank that very first drop, beer has created civilization, pioneered inventions like math and writing, and built the pyramids.  But now it faces its biggest challenge yet: keeping people alive in Medieval Europe when life was nasty, brutish, and above all, short.

“The chances of living to age 6 was probably somewhere around 50%.” [R.U.]

Narrator: Warfare. Plague.  But there’s another killer: water.

“Rivers were fouled.  Sewage went into them, the offal from butcher shops, tanneries dumped their waste into the rivers.  The water was completely undrinkable, and if you drank the water, you got sick.” [G.S.]

Narrator: Dr. Charlie Bamforth is professor of brewing science at the University of California, Davis. He believes beer saved millions of lives in Medieval Europe, and he wants to prove it.

“We wanted to come up with an experiment which showed that the fundamental brewing process removed the microorganisms, the bacteria, that would make people sick.”  [C.B.]

Narrator: Bamforth and his colleagues decide to brew up a typical Medieval beer.  First, they take water from a duck pond and test it in a lab.

“This is a test that’s used in the food industry to see if a food has contamination of fecal coliform bacteria.” [K.B.]

Narrator: Fecal? Sounds ominous.

“These are the bacteria like E. coli that cause really serious illness.  The pond water was just loaded with this type of bacteria.” [K.B.]

Narrator: Water with a twist of duck poop, it’s a killer, just like Medieval times.

“This water is not safe to drink.” [K.B.]

Narrator: Now using a Medieval recipe, Bamforth’s team brews up a 1,000 year old beer in a modern land.

“We ground up the malt and mixed it with this water, and then after a period of an hour or so, then we collected the liquid, separated it off from the residual grains, and then we boiled it.” [C.B.]

Narrator: They let it ferment for a week.  Now the results of the experiment.  Is the beer safe?

“After making the pond water into beer, I tested the sample again and found no evidence of any fecal coliform bacteria; making it safe to drink.” [K.B.]

Narrator: A miracle transformation: deadly water into drinkable beer.  Of course we know today that the boiling killed the bacteria, but Medieval people had no idea.  They just did it to make beer more tasty, accidentally saving millions of lives.

“Life in the Middle Ages must have been pretty miserable, so beer absolutely would be the safest drink to consume.” [C.B.]

Narrator: It worked for Medieval man, but what does the 21st century think of this beer?

[Publicans in a bar]: “Something that’s perfume-y a little bit about this.” “It’s salty.” “Tastes like nutmeg or something.” “It’s good.  I like it.”

Narrator: Then we revealed the source of the beer.

[Publicans in a bar]: “Is that a joke? … It’s not?” “Duck pond water? Well I guess the ducks are doing pretty good then, right?” “That’s gross.  Aha, ha, ha.”

Narrator: Pond water was lethal, but people could still drink like fish in the Middle Ages, thanks to beer.  And everybody, but everybody, joined in.

“Everyone drank beer.  They drank beer from the cradle to the grave.”  [G.S.]

Narrator: By the 16th century, people got through 300 liters of beer per year; every man, woman, and child.  That’s six times what we drink today.  Yes, that’s right: six times.  With demand like that, beer was liquid gold and the group cashing in was the monks.

“The church didn’t just make money off of beer, the church grew wealthy off of beer.” [G.S.]

Narrator: In Mideval Europe, monks were the master brewers and beer was a godsend.

“People naturally went to church because you were promised afterward that you were gonna get a beer.” [G.S.]

Narrator: The holy alliance of beer and bibles packed pews for centuries.  But not even the church could monopolize ale forever.  The beer business attracted a new breed: entrepreneurs.  They took over brewing, and in the process, transformed Europe.

“Beer brewing was a critical factor in the developments of the economy.  It was a spearhead in the creation of trade, commerce, banking, finance.” [R.U.]

 Narrator: In other words, the creation of modern capitalism.  And they still celebrate beer in Europe today. [Coming up: How beer crosses the ocean and helps establish America.]

Narrator: America: Land of the free, home of the brave and built on beer.

“Beer is the secret history of America.  It’s in our DNA.” [G.S.]

Narrator: Many of America’s founding fathers had one thing in common.  George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Sam Adams were all brewers. Together, they fermented a nation, along with Benjamin Franklin, for whom beer was more than just a drink, it was evidence of divine order in the universe.  In his words: “Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.”  Upon such inspirational messages, great nations are formed.  But without beer, the first settlers might never have made it to America aboard the Mayflower.

“Beer was vitally important on the Mayflower.  Water would spoil in the hold of a ship, whereas beer was naturally preserved by alcohol and hops and it would stay fresh throughout the voyage.” [D.B.]

Narrator: Beer kept the settlers alive on the voyage and determined the site of the founding colony.  The Mayflower was headed for Virginia, but tragedy stuck: the ship ran out of beer.  So they landed at the nearest point: Plymouth.  Even then, beer was all they would drink.

“The pilgrims come ashore, why aren’t they drinking the water? Well, they knew that back in England that if you drank water you get sick.” [G.S.]

Narrator: Though America’s streams were pristine, the settlers wouldn’t touch water unless it was made into beer.

“Beer was an absolute essential item for their survival.” [G.S.]

 Narrator: When the beer supply ran out, the colony hung in the balance.  The settlers had to find a way of making beer.  But they had no barely or hops until squirrels came to the rescue.  Sounds nuts, but they gave settlers the idea of using acorns, and it worked.  Acorn beer kept Plymouth alive.  With Plymouth safe in the 17th century, beer went on to open up the rest of America by establishing an extraordinary communications network: the internet of the age.  Before google, twitter, and facebook came the tavern.

“The tavern was a center of commerce, it was a communication hub, it was the place where people passed information back and forth.” [G.S.]

Narrator: Taverns connected up America and turned a colony into a nation, because next, beer inspired one of the great events in human history: the American Revolution.  On December 16th, 1773, the struggle for freedom from the British began here in the Green Dragon Tavern, Boston.

“The Sons of Liberty are gathering and they’ve been talking about how oppressed they are.  They have a beer, they talk some more treason.  They have another.  You can just feel their passions rising- you know something’s going to happen that night.  ‘This is the time.  Let’s do it.’” [G.S.]

Narrator: The Sons of Liberty made for Boston harbor, boarded ships and dumped tea.  The revolution was on, and the taverns held center stage.

“The taverns became centers where revolutionary activity was discussed and debated and plotted and  planned.” [M.O.]

Narrator: Beer’s role in the birth of America was so vital, it’s fitting that the National Anthem was borrowed from an 18th century drinking song.

[Men in a bar singing “To Anacreon in Heaven”]

Narrator: The words have changed, but the tune’s the same.  Back then, it was a sobriety test: if you could sing the song, you were okay for another round.  Today, it’s the Star-Spangled Banner.  Beer helped found America and gave the young nation it’s anthem into the bargain.   [Coming up: beer heals the sick and gives us a treat.]

With the War of Independence won, beer was free to take on its greatest challenge of all: disease, humanity’s oldest foe.  In the 19th century, medicine was mired in the dark ages until beer rode to the rescue.

“Beer and science go hand in hand.” [C.B.]

Narrator: Beer led medical science to a discovery so important that it established how we think about disease to this very day.

“So much of the fundamental science that we do today as it applies to health, disease and so on, came out of the brewing industry.  Beer was the basis of modern medicine.”  [C.B.]

Narrator: It all started in the 1850s with scientist Louis Pasteur.  He invented pasteurization.  Tragically, people always link him to this [image of milk], but he was actually studying this [image of beer].

“Some people think he was looking at milk, but in fact he was actually looking at beer, and beer was the first beverage, actually, to be pasteurized.  [D.R.]

Narrator: Pasteur started by trying to answer a vexing question: Why does beer sometimes spoil?  Then he made a startling discovery: beer is alive. Along with large round yeast cells, he spotted something smaller and more sinister.

“He would have seen smaller bacteria cells. He concluded that the bacteria were causing the spoilage.” [K.B.]

Narrator: Pasteur had discovered bacteria, a previously unknown microscopic life form. It was the reason beer was turning bad.  But the discovery had massive implications for all humanity because next he asked himself a simple but brilliant question: if bacteria can make beer sick, could they do the same thing to people?

“The answer is basically yes, and that is really the basis of germ theory.” [C.B.]

Narrator: Germ theory sounds dull, but it’s the cornerstone of modern medicine because before it, nobody had a clue that germs even existed.

“Before we had germ theory, people weren’t sure what caused diseases.  They thought it was caused by bad air coming off of the swamps or evil spirits.” [K.B.]

Narrator: Swamps.  Evil spirits.  Try finding a pill for those.  But Pasteur’s revelation changed everything.  For the first time, we realized that bacteria and germs caused sickness.  And once you know the cause, you can look for a cure; vaccines which virtually wiped out killer diseases like smallpox and polio.  Plus, doctors started washing their hands.

“Before the germ theory was understood, doctors, for example, might come straight from an autopsy to help a woman give birth.  But after the discovery of this germ theory, just a simple recommendation— “wash your hands before you help a woman give birth”— the incidence of these infections went way down— saved millions of lives.” [K.B.]

Narrator: So now you know: wash your hands next time you deliver a baby, and give thanks to beer.

[Publicans in a bar]: “That’s absolutely awesome.”  “You gotta love beer.” “Beer, thanks for everything.  Cheers.”

Narrator: With disease ticked off the list, beer could now take on its next great challenge: heat.  In the 19th century, heat meant rotting meat and vegetables.  Sickness, disease, uninhabitable climates and some very grumpy people.  All problems we solved today with something we take for granted: refrigeration.  And guess who came up with the goods?

“The first commercially viable refrigeration systems were built by beer.  They were developed because of the brewing industry— financed by the brewing industry initially, and applied most often to the brewing industry.”  [B.N.]

Narrator: It’s all thanks to a new type of beer that took America by storm in the 19th century: lager.

“Lager beer changed America, and once it hit American shores, things were never the same again.” [G.S.]

Narrator: It arrived in the 1840s along with German immigrants like Frederick Miller and Adolph Coors.  But unlike old-fashioned beers, lager beer had to be brewed cold.

“Typically lagers need cold because we need to be able to undertake the fermentation slowly, that way we can control the beer flavor.”  [D.R.]

Narrator: One hundred and fifty years ago, the only option was ice, carved from nature and shipped to the brewery.  Far from ideal.

“Ice is very heavy, which meant it was expensive to transport, and expensive to store and of course eventually it’s going to melt.” [M.O.]

Narrator: When spring came, the beer dried up until the following winter.  Every summer, brewers dreamed about creating cold, artificially.  In the 19th century— science fiction.  But beer has an eye for the future.

“Brewers were keenly interested in the work being done in artificial refrigeration.” [M.O.]

Narrator: Many thought them mad, but they poured money into research.

“This was automatic cold, right, this is like mass-produced cold air.  Certainly an improvement over ice.” [M.O.]

Narrator: Now, you wouldn’t want this in your kitchen [footage of a large machine], but it’s the world’s first commercial fridge: the cold ammonia machine invented by Carl von Linde in 1881 for beer.  For brewers, refrigeration was the goose that laid the golden egg.

“Once you have refrigeration, you can make this beer year-round.”  [G.S.]

Narrator: It made the beer industry millions, gave us a constant stream of cold lager, and changed the world forever.

“Refrigeration has solved one of the greatest problems afflicting mankind: the storage of food.  The beer industry made it possible for us to do that for billions of people.”  [B.N.]

Narrator: There goes beer, saving lives again. Refrigeration means air-conditioning, the manufacture and storage of medicines, even the ability to keep organs alive for transplants.  And most importantly, for this little girl: ice cream.

“There’s just so many different things that refrigeration does for us, we really would have a hard time existing without it nowadays.  And just think of it: it’s all due to beer.” [B.N.]

Narrator: The quest for the perfect drop produced some of the greatest discoveries and inventions of the modern age. [Coming up: beer invents modern industry and gets ready to blast off into space.]

In the 21st century, we live in the age of mass-production.  Our standard of living is higher than ever before, all thanks to that great American icon: the factory.

“The factory became the symbol of everything that was glorious about America and exemplified the American ability to look off into a future of infinite possibility.” [M.O.]

Narrator: Most people think the factory was invented by Henry Ford and the motor car, but they’re wrong.  It wasn’t the car that put America on the road to economic power, it was beer.  Dr. Quintin Skrabec is a professor of American Industrial History.

“Beer production revolutionized American industry.  It really automated the production line at least ten years before Henry Ford.”  [Q.S]

Narrator: This is the machine that changed the world [film of an automated bottling machine], invented by Michael Owens in 1904, and it didn’t make cars, it made beer bottles.

“When you look at Michael Owens automated machine, there’s no question, you have to say that it all started with beer.  The first product he made on the machine was a beer bottle.” [Q.S.]

Narrator: A little known fact with massive ramifications.

“Owens bottle making machine was the most significant machine invention in the 19th century— there’s no question about it.” [Q.S.]

Narrator: In the first place, it spelled the end of child labor.

“Because it automated the glass industry which was the main abuser of child labor in the United States at the time, his machine virtually wiped out child labor in a matter of six to ten years.”  [Q.S.]

Narrator: Not only that, it completely transformed the economic landscape forever.

“Beer automated America.”  [Q.S.]

Narrator: Ten years before the first car rolled off the production line in 1914, companies like Miller and Coors had blazed the trail of automation.

“It changed the world, not only our country, and it all started with beer.” [Q.S.]

Narrator: Beer’s forward march continues to this day.  Americas now brew 6.2 billion gallons of beer every year and drink on average over 20 gallons of it each. Today, beer truly is the number one adult beverage on the planet.  Tomorrow, it could well be number one in space.

“I just think to myself how cool would it be sitting up in a space bar, floating around in zero-g, looking down at the Earth and having a beer.  Just there’d be nothing better.” [J.M.]

Narrator: With space tourism coming, Australian brewer Jaron Mitchell wants his beer to be first into orbit.  But space beer must be flat because a burb in zero-g would be seriously bad news.

“Now, on Earth the water molecules and the gas molecules separate just due to gravity etc., in space they won’t, so by burping in space you’ll have liquid and gas simultaneously coming up.  A wet burp.  Beer in space, and there was fifty people in a space bar and there was zero-g and everybody was floating around, and everybody was wet burping— it’d be a mess.  One hell of a party.”  [J.M.]

Narrator: The prototype space beer is uncarbonated, burp-proof, and ready for its first launch. And given beer’s history, it’s fitting that it should be with us at the final frontier. 

Throughout history, many have proclaimed the greatness of beer, now we know just how great it truly is. So great that we could even use it as the official yardstick for human history.

“Commonly, history is divided into two parts: B.C. and A.D., and we think of it on a timeline.  But we could also think of it as B.B. and A.B.: ‘before beer’ and ‘after beer’.  Before beer: wild nomads roaming around, hunting-gathering. After beer, people are settling in one spot, we’re building towns, we’re farming, we’re developing towns, developing commerce.  Beer driving the building of cities and the establishment of science.  Perhaps that’s a better timeline for us to use.”  [G.S.]

Narrator: For 10,000 years, beer has been the fuel in the engine of history.  It’s given us our greatest wonders and our most brilliant discoveries, not to mention, one heck of a ride.  Let’s face it: beer hasn’t just changed the world, it saved it.  Cheers.

[Produced for the Discovery Channel by Beyond Productions, PTY LTD, Copyright © Discovery Communications Inc. 2011]

(This transcript is intended for teaching/educational purposes only.)

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