While no one knows when beverage alcohol was first used, it was presumably the result of a fortuitous accident that occurred at least tens of thousands of years ago. However, the discovery of late Stone Age beer jugs has established the fact that intentionally fermented beverages existed at least as early as the Neolithic period , and it has been suggested that beer may have preceded bread as a staple ; wine clearly appeared as a finished product in Egyptian pictographs around 4,000 B.C. .
The earliest alcoholic beverages may have been made from berries or honey and winemaking may have originated in the wild grape regions of the Middle East. Oral tradition recorded in the Old Testament asserts that Noah planted a vineyard on Mt. Ararat in what is now eastern Turkey. In Sumer, beer and wine were used for medicinal purposes as early as 2,000 B.C. .
Brewing dates from the beginning of civilization in ancient Egypt and alcoholic beverages were very important in that country. Symbolic of this is the fact that while many gods were local or familial, Osiris, the god of wine, was worshiped throughout the entire country. The Egyptians believed that this important god also invented beer , a beverage that was considered a necessity of life; it was brewed in the home "on an everyday basis" .
Both beer and wine were deified and offered to gods. Cellars and winepresses even had a god whose hieroglyph was a winepress . The ancient Egyptians made at least seventeen varieties of beer and at least 24 varieties of wine. Alcoholic beverages were used for pleasure, nutrition, medicine, ritual, remuneration and funerary purposes. The latter involved storing the beverages in tombs of the deceased for their use in the after-life.
Numerous accounts of the period stressed the importance of moderation, and these norms were both secular and religious . While Egyptians did not generally appear to define inebriety as a problem, they warned against taverns (which were often...