Beer is hands down one of the most popular drinks in the world. Over the centuries, man has created folktales, songs, poems, and all manner of verbal and literal arts of work to heap praises upon this drink thought to have been gifted by the gods themselves! (Depending on the religious context of course)
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That said, how beer evolved over the centuries? What series of tumultuous, albeit beneficial events occurred in the past that paved the way for the sweet and smooth crisp taste that we now enjoy today?
In this segment, we’ll be discussing some ten interesting beer brewing facts that not only revolutionized the popularity of beer but also shaped the civilized world as we know it!
1. ‘In the beginning, there was beer bread’
One might shun the thought of gulping down a thick and heavy malt today, but back in the day, beer bread was the talk of the town, (or shall we say village?). In fact, let’s time warp ourselves back to ancient Mesopotamia, a whopping 5000 years ago, to figure out who invented beer.
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Men had just transitioned from the hunter-gatherer existence and were only reaping the benefits of an agricultural lifestyle. Long gone were the days of laissez-faire; where he had to depend on the elements, and the migratory routines of wild deer and boar, just to put a decent meal on the table.
In fact, agricultural ingenuity is what brought forth the first process of beer making to light. Beer bread, as was known, was a half-baked bread that was soaked in water to produce a fermented brew, which was then flavored with exotic herbs and honey.
Because it had a somewhat similar nutritional value to bread, the ancients considered it a nutritious food resource, and we even bet the kids sneaked in a couple of sips here and there!
2. Beer brewing was strictly a ladies affair
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During the ancient days, it was the man’s job to tend to the fields, or go out and hunt for a rich source of protein such as wildfowl. On the other hand, women tended to the homestead, and in their spare time, took to the art of brewing as a noble profession. Heck, only the hands of the most elite women in society could whip up the most excellent beers for religious ceremonies!
In fact, it was not until around 2,000 to 3,000 B.C. in Mesopotamia that brewing became a male affair, especially after the process of malting was invented.
3. The Ancient Egyptians Revered beer
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In ancient Egypt, people ate, slept, and drank beer. The beer was loved so much so that even the tombs of noble persons in the kingdom had detailed wooden depictions of how to make beer. Perhaps Maherpa couldn’t shun the thought of the after-life without his favorite booze by his side?
Moreover, analysis done on such carvings deduced that Egyptians might have created a myriad of beer types using different kinds of grains.
In fact, beer was often served during religious functions and further employed for medicinal purposes.
4. The Germans made beer brewing a piece of cake
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As the Romans favored wine, the advent of beer brewing reduced in the Republic, forcing the brewing process towards the outskirts of Rome, and further to the North. This is where the Germanic tribes in Germania (present-day Germany) adopted beer, and with their ingenuity, made the beer making process much more accessible.
In fact, they discovered a way to brew beer from dried grain, which was then later fermented. And voila! That was the stepping stone to the modern process that is still used to this date.
5. Monks Were Beer brewing connoisseurs
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In Medieval Europe, the brewing process was for the most, a monk affair. Back then, monks were the intellectual lifeline of any empire and held unprecedented importance in society. So it made sense that most of the expert knowledge on beer brewing was reserved for them.
However, because of the dangers associated with drinking contaminated water, beer was an average drink at the time. In fact, it was consumed by all, regardless of their societal position, for its high nutritional value.
6. Tea almost led to the death of beer
During the 18th Century Enlightenment (1685-1815), or popularly known as the Age of Reason, Europe experienced a radical reorientation in politics, science, philosophy, and communications.
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One of the immediate effects of such rapid societal transformations was the labeling of beer as immoral. At the same time, the likes of coffee and tea were increasingly gaining popularity as the drink of the civilized, with barbarity and backwardness closely linked to beer.
In fact, such radicalizations later spewed on to a much later point in time in the form of the Prohibition Era in the United States. Fortunately, beer was resilient, and bounced right back up after those tumultuous years!
7. Industrialization ushered in the modern popularity of beer
Back in the day, beer brewing was reserved to only a few taverns run by monks, a few pubs, and to a small extent, homeowners. Hence, it was nearly impossible for beer to be produced in large quantities.
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However, when Europe ushered in the period of the Industrial Revolution, everything changed. For example, the invention of the steam engine in 1765 meant that beer could be transported far and wide across various European kingdoms.
Moreover, the invention of gadgets such as the hydrometer (1770) and the thermometer (1760), significantly increased the efficiency of the brewing processing, enabling the mass production of beer brands with a unique and refreshing taste.
8. The first use of bottle beer dated 1850
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It wasn’t until the innovation of assembly lines during industrialization that beer bottles became the preferred method of transporting and storing beer. Initially, most people would carry their beer in buckets from taverns (seems pretty cumbersome), or use barrels when transporting the beer over long distances on horse-drawn wagons.
In fact, the beer bottle is exceptionally beneficial today because of its dark-green design, which helps prevent spoilage of the beer from light.
9. The oldest brewing house to date is Weihenstephan
How old is too old? Well, one company seems to defy the cruel afflictions of time. The Bavarian State Brewery Weihenstephan is the oldest brewery in the world, and began brewing in 1040!
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What’s even more interesting is that despite all the wars and catastrophes that Germany faced, the estate maintained its position on the same hill in for almost 1000 years now. Which goes to show that man truly loves his beer!
10. We’re able to drink milk every morning thanks to beer
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In recognition of the legendary inventor Louis Pasteur, here’s one jaw-dropping fact. It turns out this historic chemist didn’t discover Pasteurization because of milk, but because of beer! He wanted to figure out why the beer in Lille taverns was going bad after only a few days of storage. To get started, he took some beer samples from the bars and spent a whole year studying them, before finally discovering that heat was beneficial to killing the long harmful microbes in alcohol.
In the end, he shared the process of pasteurization to the world; and this is the reason why we’re able to gulp down a glass of milk without breaking a sweat!
So perhaps the next time one indulges in an ice-cold beer beverage, why not appreciate its history?
In a nutshell, man’s never-ending love for beer can be summarized by this epic Czech proverb. ‘A fine beer may be judged with only one sip, but it’s better to be thoroughly sure.’