labor union members protesting against prohibition in new jersey carrying signs saying "we want beer"
Learn Drinks

The History Of Beer

zoomed in photo of cold beer with foam at the top

The history of beer is a very uncharted story. Throughout time, beer has become a very popular alcoholic beverage that dates back thousands of years ago. It has a very low ABV compared to other drinks such as Vodka, Whiskey, Rum, and other liquors. There are many different styles and brands of beer that have been discovered throughout history which I will be explaining throughout this article, as well as the origins, prohibition and more.

History On Beer

The first known beer drinkers date back to around 5000 B.C. located in the middle east. Ancient drawings in rock tablets portray Egyptians and Mesopotamians using straw-like tubes to simultaneously drink from a big communal bowl. Other evidence such as an ancient Sumerian poem talking about the Goddess of Brewing, Ninkasi, includes the oldest known beer recipe by humans using bread and barley. The oldest traces of beer were found in the Zagros mountains of Iran in jugs that were coated with beerstone, which happens as a result of the old brewing process.

man shown in house capping homemade bottle of beer with 5 finished bottles in the background

How Did The Word “Beer” Originate?

The word “beer” was thought to have originated from a Latin phrase meaning “to drink” but recent discoveries have caused speculators to question whether it actually originated from that. Some experts believe it originated from the Proto-Germanic word beuwoz meaning “barley”.

Believe it or not, the word “beer” has not always been used to describe the elixir. Other words such as “ale” have been used in the past too but diminished in recent centuries when ale changed back to mean a hopped malt beverage.

History Of The Domestication Of Beer

Beer was first being created through fermenting cereal from the wild yeasts that traveled in the air. Once this was discovered by the Mesopotamians they began the first engineering processes of domesticated beer. Chemical tests done on the 5000-year-old bowls and jugs used by the humans showed that they were, in fact, trying to produce beer. Also, recent discoveries in China showed that their ancient civilizations were one of the first to domesticate and craft alcoholic drinks, which date back almost 7000 years ago. Archaeological evidence shows that the oldest physical evidence of fermentation is in ancient jugs that date back about 13,000 years ago in Israel, crazy, right?

It hasn’t been confirmed until the medieval time period that beer was a common drink to all levels in the hierarchy not just noble and royal families, and fully domesticated. During this period wine was also a very common drink for humans but mainly only the higher-level individuals in society.

It was not until the 15th century that beer became a domestically brewed drink. Until then, it was only crafted within family households and communities and not sold as a commodity. Pubs and monasteries began popping up in Europe around this time as the beer consumption grew and grew. Breweries were becoming a common occurrence in the European villages as they were a place to socialize and brought joy to communities, as well as improving the economies of these villages. It was also around this time, which some might say was the greatest innovation of beer, that hops were introduced to increase the efficiency of beermaking as well as the flavour and taste of beer. It started in Northern Germany during the 13th century and slowly made its way through all of the European nations.

brewing equipment and machines in the cellar at one of the Stieglitz company breweries in Austria

Once the industrial revolution started, beer brewing became more efficient because of the invention of the thermometer and hydrometer. In addition, industrialization allowed for beer to be crafted and sold anywhere in the world which gave way for big companies such as Grolsch, Stiegl, Hubertus, and many more, all of these companies mainly being of European origin.

How Beer Is Made

Beer has four basic ingredients which are:

  • Barley
  • Hops
  • Water
  • Yeast

First is the malting process which consists of harvesting, heating, drying, then cracking the barley to prepare it.

Next is the mashing process. To begin you heat the grain in water until the sugars are released from the grain and then you drain the sticky liquid from your mix.

Step 3 is boiling the wort for about an hour while you add hops and other spices if you wish.

Next is the fermentation process. The wort is then cooled, strained, filtered and put into a fermenting vessel where the yeast is added to it. Depending on if the brewer wants ale or lager will depict how long they will ferment for, which is usually a few weeks long.

The final step is bottling and aging your beer. Some brewers prefer to naturally carbonate their beer by allowing the yeast to release CO2, whereas others use the same carbonation process as soda. Then brewers leave their beer to age from anywhere between weeks to months, depending on the desired taste.

Styles of Beer Developed Through History

Throughout history, beer has gone through many advancements that have brought forward different styles of beer. From slight to major changes in the brewing process, these different types have arisen. There are only two different categories of beer which are lager and ale. These two different types differentiate through the fermentation process.

Lager type beer is made with yeast that ferments at the bottom of the batch.

Ale type beer is made with yeast that ferments at the top of the batch.

focused photo of a Heineken beer bottle on a table with lights on it. There are red and blue blurry lights in the background as well as jug with shot glasses beside it

Here is a list of the different styles of beer:

  • Pale Lager
  • Dark Lager
  • German Bock
  • Brown Ale
  • Pale Ale
  • India Pale Ale
  • Porter
  • Stout
  • Belgian Style-Ale
  • Wheat
  • Sour Ale
  • Specialty

Prohibition History

Prohibition is the act of banning something by the use of the law. When people hear the word “prohibition” they usually think of the time period in the U.S. when crafting, selling, and drinking alcohol was illegal. During this time there were many illegal clubs which were called “speakeasies“, that were very low key and secretive. Prohibition was during the era of 1920 to 1933, which was mostly the roaring twenties.

labor union members protesting against prohibition in 1931 in new jersey carrying signs

Most Popular Brands Of Beer Throughout History

There are hundreds of different beer brands that have been founded throughout history. Since our current civilization and values mainly stemmed from European countries, the oldest beer brands and breweries have also begun from Europe. Companies like Grolsch, Stiegl, Hubertus, and many more are some of the oldest and most popular beer brands that have gotten big throughout history. The oldest beer brewing company known in history that still operates today is Weihenstephan, which was established in 1040 and is almost 1000 years old!

Now, you’d think the oldest companies would have the best-tasting beer because of how much history and experience they have, but, in fact, depending on your taste and preferences a lot of people enjoy the newer companies. Here is a list of the top beer brands around the world:

Tropical Beer Brands

  • Corona
  • Landshark
  • Rasberry Redemption
  • Lindemans Pomme
  • Tangerine Wheat

European Beer Brands

  • Guinness
  • Rugenbrau
  • Pilsner
  • Heineken
  • Newcastle Brown Ale

American Beer Brands

  • Bud Light
  • Coors Light
  • Miller
  • Budweiser
  • Modelo
two full opened bottles of beer clinking together

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