Humans invented alcohol before we invented the wheel.
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Humans invented alcohol before we invented the wheel.

The wheel is credited as one of humankind’s most important inventions: It allowed people to travel farther on land than ever before, irrigate crops, and spin fibers, among other key benefits. Today, we often consider the wheel to be the ultimate civilization game-changer, but it turns out, creating the multipurpose apparatus wasn’t really on humanity’s immediate to-do list. Our ancient ancestors worked on other ideas first: boats, musical instruments, glue — and alcohol. The oldest evidence of booze comes from China, where archaeologists have unearthed 9,000-year-old pottery coated with beer residue; in contrast, early wheels didn’t appear until around 3500 BCE (about three millennia later), in what is now Iraq. But even when humans began using wheels, they had a different application — rudimentary versions were commonly used as potter’s wheels, a necessity for mass-producing vessels that could store batches of brew (among other things). 

Vodka is the world’s most-consumed spirit.
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It's a Fib
The potato-based alcohol is pretty popular, but baijiu, a traditional Chinese liquor, accounts for nearly 25% of all spirits sold globally. Brewed from sorghum or rice, baijiu (meaning “clear liquor”) has an alcohol content of 50%-65% and is meant to be imbibed as a shot.

Some researchers believe our long-standing relationship with alcohol began only 10 million years ago thanks to a genetic mutation that allowed our bipedal ancestors to consume overly ripe fruit. Over time, alcohol consumption transitioned from snacktime byproduct to a purposefully crafted, fermented beverage, and different cultures began to create their own brews independently. After China’s beer and wine appeared around 7000 BCE, early vintners in the Caucasus Mountains followed 1,000 years later. Sumerian brewers crafted beer around 3000 BCE, while Indigenous communities in the Americas, such as the Aztecs and Incas, later made their own alcoholic drinks from agave and corn. It may seem surprising that ancient humans were so fermentation-focused, but early alcohols played a major role in prehistoric communities: Booze was often the center of religious and social celebrations, and could serve as a go-to cure for illness and pain. In some cases, it even acted as a nutritious, probiotic boost during times of food scarcity. With their many uses, both lifesaving and life-enhancing, brewed beverages have withstood the test of time.

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Numbers Don’t Lie
Weight (in pounds) of the “Wheel of Fortune” TV game show wheel
Tons of steel required to build the world’s largest Ferris wheel, in Dubai
Gallons of whiskey purchased for the Lewis and Clark Expedition in 1804
Year the 21st Amendment was ratified, officially repealing Prohibition in the U.S.
The world’s oldest wooden wheel was uncovered from a marsh in _______.
The world’s oldest wooden wheel was uncovered from a marsh in Slovenia.
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Think Twice
It takes eight years to grow agave plants for tequila.

When European colonists first encountered Mexico’s native agave plants, they were intrigued by the succulents the Aztecs had been using to make clothing, rope, and intoxicating drinks. The spike-tipped plants, which grow as tall as 20 feet, were dug up and transplanted to greenhouses and botanical gardens throughout Spain, Portugal, and other parts of Europe starting in the 16th century. But most agave plants struggled to flourish in areas lacking their natural arid climate; in cooler countries, they were dubbed “century plants,” because those that survived the overseas journey didn’t bloom for nearly 100 years. Agave plants mature much faster when left in their natural habitats, but growing the crop for today’s tequila production is still a time investment. It traditionally takes about eight years before the plants are ready to harvest, though some agave crops are left to grow even longer.

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