A History of Beer
The art of brewing is as old as civilization. Between 10,000 and 15,000 years ago, some humans discontinued their nomadic hunting and gathering and settled down to farm. Grain was the first domesticated crop that started that farming process.
Through hieroglyphics, cuneiform characters and written accounts, historians
have traced the roots of brewing back to ancient African, Egyptian and
oldest proven records of brewing are about 6,000 years old and refer to the
Sumerians. Sumeria lay between the
From the Gilgamesh Epic, written in the 3rd millennium B.C., we learn that not only bread but also beer was very important. This epic is recognized as one of the first great works of world literature. Ancient oral sagas from the beginning of human history were recorded in writing for the first time. The Gilgamesh Epic describes the evolution from primitive man to "cultured man".
"Enkidu, a shaggy, unkempt, almost bestial primitive man, who ate grass and could milk wild animals, wanted to test his strength against Gilgamesh, the demigod-like sovereign. Taking no chances, Gilgamesh sent a (prostitute) to Enkidu to learn of his strengths and weaknesses. Enkidu enjoyed a week with her, during which she taught him of civilization. Enkidu knew not what bread was nor how one ate it. He had also not learned to drink beer. The (prostitute) opened her mouth and spoke to Enkidu: 'Eat the bread now, O Enkidu, as it belongs to life. Drink also beer, as it is the custom of the land.' Enkidu drank seven cups of beer and his heart soared. In this condition he washed himself and became a human being. "
Babylonians became the rulers of
ancient times beer was cloudy and unfiltered. The "drinking straws"
were used to avoid getting the brewing residue, which was very bitter, in the
mouth. Beer from
Egyptians carried on the tradition of beer brewing. They also used unbaked
bread dough for making beer and added dates to the brew to improve the taste.
The importance of beer brewing in ancient
beer as we know it had its origins in
As the cultivation of barley spread north and west, brewing went with it. As time passed, the production of beer came under the watchful eye of the Roman Church. Christian abbeys, as centers of agriculture, knowledge and science, refined the methods of brewing. Initially in the making of beer for the brothers and for visiting pilgrims, later as a means of financing their communities. However, there was still very little known about the role of yeast in completing fermentation. Beer brewing played an important role in daily lives. Beer was clearly so desired that it led nomadic groups into village life. Beer was considered a valuable (potable) foodstuff and workers were often paid with jugs of beer.
By the fifteenth century, there was a record of hops used in Flemish beer imported into England, and by the sixteenth century hops had gained widespread use as a preservative in beer, replacing the previously used bark or leaves. Perhaps the most widely known event in brewing history was the establishment of German standards for brewers. The first of these regulations was the inspiration for the Reinheitsgebot of 1516 - the most famous beer purity law. This pledge of purity states that only four ingredients can be used in the production of beer: water, malted barley, malted wheat and hops. Yeast, though not included in this list, was acceptable, as it was taken for granted to be a key ingredient in the brewing process. The "Reinheitsgebot" was the assurance to the consumer that German beers would be of the highest quality in the world and acknowledges the European disdain for adding adjuncts such as corn, rice, other grains and sugars.
The next great development occurred in the mid-nineteenth century, through work done by Louis Pasteur, the first to propose an explanation of how yeast worked. Shortly thereafter, samples of Bavarian yeast provided the successful identification of a single-cell and strain of the bottom-fermenting lager yeast. German brewers had started to make beer by lagering (storing) in 1402. Brewing was not possible in the warm months because wild yeasts prevalent in the warmer weather of summertime would sour the beer. Brewers discovered that brewing in the cold months and storing the beer in caves in the nearby Alps impacted stability to the beer and enhanced it with a cleaner taste, although they did not know why. Today, we know that the reason the beer was clearer and cleaner was due to the fermentation process the beer underwent in the cold, during which the chemicals and bacteria responsible for clouding beer were unable to thrive and were therefore filtered out of the beer. In 1880, there were approximately 2,400 breweries operating in the US embracing many of the classic brewing styles. Today, there are 375 breweries. The change can be traced back to the era of the Volstead Act of 1919 - this Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution ushered in Prohibition. During this time, the smaller breweries lay idle as the larger establishments limped by with the production of cereal malts and near-beers.
Following Prohibition came World War II, with corresponding food shortages and therefore increased substitution of adjuncts for malt - a lighter beer resulted. With a large part of the male population off fighting the war, the work force in America was made up largely of women; thus marketing to this population solidified the hold of a lighter-styled beer. Following the war, the large national breweries catered to the tastes of this expanded beer market. Today, there is a revolution in America as brewing returns to its roots, and a great variety of high-quality beers are being revived, imported and enjoyed!
(From a variety of sources including
(From a variety of sources includingHere's To Beer! )