Beer Brewing History
Your day is almost over and you’re already dreaming of uncapping that exquisite lager waiting for you in the fridge. But did you know beer is the third most popular drink in the world? Have you ever thought about the rich history of this beverage? Gents, place your bottles in the beer koozies and sit back enjoying your goodness while learning the history of beer brewing in 10 facts.
1. Mesopotamia, 3,700 BC
The first irrefutable traces of the existence of beer go back to Mesopotamia and are engraved on a clay tablet from the Sumerian era exhibited in the Louvre Museum in Paris.
The tablet describes the propitiatory gifts offered to the goddess Nin-Harra including kids, honey, and… beer. Sumerian cuneiform engravings also suggest that the first “beer houses”, or breweries how we’d call them today, were owned by women.
Barley beer was perhaps the most popular at the time, known as sikaru, or liquid bread due to the production method. Beer became so valuable in the following centuries that the Code of Hammourabi even regulated its production, sentencing to death those who didn’t comply with the indicated brewing criteria.
2. Breweries for the Afterlife
Beer wasn’t famous in Mesopotamia only. The Egyptians were well aware of this delicious nectar too and attributed its invention to Osiris, the protector god of the dead. This belief linked beer to immortality and the richest started to build miniature breweries inside their graves, to ensure a steady supply of the drink for the afterlife.
The beer was so valuable in Egypt that Pharaohs even claimed taxes in the form of beer vessels.
3. Beer’s Healing Properties
Due to its immense value, beer became synonymous with life and its healing virtues became famous. The Ebers Papyrus describes over 600 medical indications of beer to alleviate the most various illnesses.
The power of the beer grew to an extent that pupils were taught how to brew the beverage before writing and reading. In fact, beer was considered much more important than silver and gold.
4. A Peculiar Production Method
We’re at the dawn of the Middle Ages and beer is the preferred drink of many. The delicious beverage is still brewed by women, who accidentally discover that the liquid ferments faster if made from chewed grain. The reason is scientific, as an enzyme in saliva turns starch into sugars, promoting fermentation. However, at the time they only knew it was quicker to brew beer from chewed and spat cereals.
In some parts of Latin America, the production method is still used in some small breweries, in case you’re curious to taste it or just looking for some original gifts for beer lovers.
5. The Gauls Improve Beer Making
With the advancement of the Middle Ages, the Gauls got to taste beer and just knew they could make it better. During their era, flavored beer made from mead and wheat and aromatized with anise, wormwood, and fennel gained popularity.
6. Beer Becomes Ecclesiastic
The church quickly became aware of the importance of beer and started to regulate brewing and selling. The nobles claimed the right to produce and trade the beverage and when they were not able to cope with the growing demand, they granted licenses to individuals eager to pay the imposed taxes.
With the emergence of the powerful guilds of the merchants, the beer became a driven economic force.
7. Monks Start to Brew
The production of monastic beer debuted officially in the Carolingian age even if the Abbey of Gorze in the Moselle was already silently producing beer for the Friars since 770.
Attracted by the power of beer, the monks became exclusive brewers and developed various qualities called prima melior, secunda, and tertia. Up to the nineteenth century, only the monks could officially brew and trade beer.
8. The Industrial Revolution
The industrial and scientific revolution of the nineteenth century irremediably altered the world of beer brewing.
James Watt introduced the first steam engine in the brewing field, allowing for a faster production of this divine drink. Daniel Wheeler, on the other hand, patented a malt toaster in 1817 that opened the path to the production of light and dark malt beers.
9. Beer Yeasts Are Finally Understood
Beer yeasts were identified in 1680 but until 1839 nobody was able to explain neither their nature nor how they acted. Cagniard-Latour was the first who attributed beer fermentation to a yeast cell and his theory was severely challenged by the scientists of the time.
Nonetheless, Anton Dreher and Gabriel Sedlmayr confirmed his theory to the glory of the Bavarian beer. The yeasts were identified and exported to Bohemia where it was launched the famous Plzen in 1842.
But it was only Louis Pasteur to explain both the action of the yeast and of the bacteria responsible for the bad flavor in a beer. The result of this research led breweries to equip themselves with laboratories and in 1883, the Danish Carlsberg developed the technique to isolate single yeast cells, a discovery that allowed brewers to exercise total control over the beers they produced.
10. Modern Evolution
Due to industrialization and scientific research, the beer became easier to brew and the industry giants started to grow and extend throughout the world. Thanks to the evolution of transport, beer could travel faster and further and at the end of the nineteenth century, in Belgium alone, there were over 3,000 breweries.
The phenomenon led to the emergence of a true “beer culture” and the beverage evolved on all levels.
The beer started to be produced in more than one variants from weak drinks to the world’s strongest beers, such as the British Brewmeister.
Without losing a bit of its original popularity, today’s beer is praised by cookbooks and museums, by the emergence of many home brew kits and by the rise of more and more beer tasting rooms that attract connoisseurs and enthusiasts alike.