How & why did beer become a historically universal beverage?
The why part is the easy one, because it gets you intoxicated - Making beer however, is nether a natural or intuitive process and to extrapolate lifetimes of trial and error happenstance that somehow cumulated in drinkable beverage is a true corundum, one of those problems where the end is known (how?) and the path there is not obvious – at least to my feeble collection of synapses that pass for a brain.
Let us examine the steps required to make a simple brew
First, you have to ‘malt’ some suitable grain (extract the natural sugars or precursors) - for some reason a lot of things fall in to the category of suitable grain, Barley, Rice, Corn, Rye, Wheat – that I’ve tried (for this exercise we’ll exclude Mead, wine and other ‘fruit’ based fermented beverages) this typically involves soaking and then cooking the mash to the point where all the fermentable starches and sugars are extracted from the grain and the resultant mash can be converted in to wort –this can take hours to weeks depending on the grain and the other prep work required.
Then cooling and ‘pitching’ the prepared yeast – at the correct temp and then most deliberately containing in a pressure vessel and leaving the resultant concoction alone for anywhere from several weeks to months before attempting to drink. – this is not natural behavior for primates.
So the question stands, what set of circumstances caused some human to set aside some fermenting mash (could not have smelled too good either) and then whatever in the world provoked them to drink it weeks or month later? ( I’ll bet it was a dare, - “betcha can’t drink this”) – once the genie was out of the bottle (so to speak,,,) the course is more obvious, but the question remains who were the first brewmisters?