Beer is the oldest alcoholic beverage known to mankind. The beverage dates back to the 6th millennium and is recorded in the written history of Iraq. “The Hymn to Ninkasi” serves as a prayer to the patron goddess Ninkasi, of brewing, serves as a prayer and recipe for the beverage. The earliest known evidence of beer dates back to 3500 BC from the Zangros Mountains in Western Iran.
Egyptians made beer from unused bread dough and dates, for improved flavoring. The importance of beer in ancient Egypt can be traced to a hieroglyph for “brewer.”
The word beer comes from the Latin word “bibere” meaning “to drink” and the Spanish word “cerveza” originating from the Greek goddess of agriculture, Ceres.
As evidence has become availible, beer was a common drink throughout the ages.
4300BC – Babylonian clay tablets detail the recipe for beer
Beer was an intrical part of Babylonian, Assyrian, Egyptian, Hebrew, Chinese, and Inca customs
Babylonians created 20 different varieties of the beverage
Egyptians made beer for their royalty, as a use for medical purposes and even sent kegs in their tombs
Different grains were used in different cultures
Africa used millet, maize, and cassava
North America used persimmon though agave was used in Mexico
South America used corn while Brazil used sweet potatoes
Japan used rice to make sake
China used wheat to make samshu
Other Asian cultures used sorghum
Russians used rye
Egyptians used barley
The Greeks taught the Romans to brew the beverage, in which the Romans called it cerevisia, from a Celtic word for it. To the Romans, beer was important, but during the Roman Republic wine was the preferred alcoholic beverage. Beer became a beverage considered fit for barbarians.
Beer was consumed daily by all social classes in the northern and eastern European countries, where grape cultivation was difficult or impossible to manufacture. Since the purity of water could seldom be guaranteed, alcoholic drinks were popular by choice, having been boiled as part of the brewing process.
Though popular, the science community said the beverage was unhealthy, mostly because ancient Greek and contemporary Arab physicians had little or no experience with the drink.
Flavoring beer with hops was known in the 9th century, but was only gradually adopted because of difficulties with the correct proportions. Prior to hops, gruit, a mixture of various herbs, had been used, but did not have the same properties as hops. Beer flavored without it often spoiled soon after brewing and could not be exported. The only alternative was to increase alcohol content, which was expensive.
Hopped beer was perfected in several communities in Germany by the 13th century, and the longer lasting beer allowed for large-scale export. This new production of the beverage, spread to Holland in the14th century, later into Flanders, Brabant, and reached England by the late 15th century.
In Europe, beer remained a homemaker’s activity, made in the home. The oldest commercial brewery is in Weihanstepan abbey brewery in Bavaria.
During the 15th century in England, an non-hopped beer would be known as Ale. Hopped beer was imported to England from the Netherlands as early as 1400, and hops were finally planted in 1428, on the island country.
In 1516, William IV, Duke of Bavaria, adopted the Reinheitsgebot (purity law), the oldest food regulation still in use through the 20th century. The Gebot ordered that the ingredients of beer be restricted to water, hops, and barley, where yeast was added to the list after Louis Pasteur’s discovery in 1857.
The hydrometer changed how beer was brewed. Prior to its introduction, beers were brewed from single malt; brown beers from brown malt, amber beers from amber malt, and pale beers from pale malt.
With the invention of the drum roaster, in 1817 by Daniel Wheeler, breweries were able to create a dark, roasted malt, contributing to the flavor of ports and Stout’s, the darker beers. The drum roaster was prompted by a British law of 1816, forbidding any ingredients other than malt and hops.
Before the American Prohibition laws were enacted, there were thousands of breweries in the United States. These breweries made heavier beers than modern US beer drinkers are used to. Beginning in 1920, most breweries went out of business or converted to making soft drinks. Bootlegged beer was often watered down to increase sales profits. With microbreweries, craft breweries, and brew pubs, American breweries have increased to outnumber German breweries with 1390.
Several European nations have brewing traditions dating back to the earliest historical records. Beer is an important beverage in countries such as Germany, Belgium, Ireland, United Kingdom, France, Czech Republic, and Scandinavian countries. Others have strong traditions with brewing methods and styles of beer.
There are some interesting facts most folks don’t know about, such as:
If an Egyptian gentleman offered a lady a sip from his beer, they were betrothed
Caesar toasted his troops after crossing the Rubicon, which began the Roman Civil War
Before the Middle Ages, brewing was left to women to make, since it was considered a food as well as a celebration drink
During the Medieval times beer was used for tithing, trading, payment, and taxing
1489 Germany’s firs brewing guild, Braurei Beck, was established
1490’s Columbus found Indians making beer from corn and black birch sap
Late 1500’s Queen Elizabeth I of England drank strong Ale for breakfast
1587 the first beer brewed in the New World at Sir Walter Raleigh’s colony in Virginia
1612 The first commercial brewery opened in New Amsterdam (New York City, Manhattan)
1620 Pilgrims land at Plymouth Rock because the beer supplies were running low
1574 Harvard College has its own brew-house
1786 Molson brewery is founded in what is today Canada
George Washington and Thomas Jefferson had their own private brew-houses
Samuel Adams operated commercial brewery
Soldiers in the Revolutionary Army received rations of a quart of beer a day
1789 James Madison proposed that Congress levy a low 8-cent duty per barrel on malt liquors to encourage “the manufacture of beer in every state in the Union
Before the 1800’s most beer was really Ale
1810 Munich establishes “Oktoberfest” as an official celebration
In the mid-19th century German immigrant brewers introduced cold maturation lagers to the US (Anheuser-Busch, Miller, Coors, Stroh, Schlitz, and Pabst roots began here)
1870’s Adolphus Busch pioneers the use of double-walled rail cars, a network of ice-houses to make Budweiser the first national brand
1880 there are approximately 2,300 breweries in the US
1890’s Pabst is the first US brewer to sell over 1 million barrels in the year
1909 Teddy Roosevelt brought over 500 gallons of beer on safari in Africa
1914 commercial competition drive the number of operating breweries down to 1,400
1933 Prohibition ends for beer (April 7th)
1935 the first canned beer was sold by the Kruger Brewing Company of Richmond, Virginia, “Krueger Cream Ale”
1938 Elsie Miller John heads Miller Brewing for 8 yrs. As the first and only woman ever to run a major brewing company
1965 Fritz Maytag purchases Anchor Brewing Co.
1966 Budweiser is the first brand to sell 10 million barrels in a year
1976 New Albion is the first in the rebirth of brewpubs and microbreweries in the US opened in California