A Short History of Beer


No one seems to know exactly when the first beer was produced, although it certainly dates back to 3400 BC. Whilst excavating in 1974, a jar from this period was discovered at the Godin Tepe site in Iran, which contained residue from a barley brewed beer. Remnants were also found on ancient Chinese pottery, dated around 5,400 years ago, which proves that beer was being produced from, not just barley, but other grains too. With no further conclusive dating possible, it is thought that people were drinking beer long before; the exact era to potentially remain a mystery forever.
The oldest beer recipe is contained within a 3,900-year-old Sumerian poem to the goddess of brewing, Ninkasi, which waxes lyrical about how beer was brewed from barley using bread. One thing we know for sure is that ancient man, (and no doubt woman too), loved beer as much as we do today. The ancient Egyptians liked to flavour theirs with dates, wild herbs and olive oil, whilst Pharaohs were buried with plenty of vats to keep them happy in the afterlife. Indeed, the Babylonians had more than 20 recipes for different types of beer; workers who built the pyramids preferred to be paid in the liquid gold,

Beer Through The Ages

For many centuries, in Europe, beer production relied on Gruit, a mixture of specially selected herbs and spices. It wasn't until the first millennium AD that the joy of hops was discovered - Germany began to export them in the 13th century. The appearance, taste and quality of beer now began its journey to where we are today. By the 16th century, Germany had introduced a purity law for all beer, called “Reinheitsgebot”, which left a basic mix of barley, hops and water as being the only acceptable ingredients. The importance of adding yeast was realised a few centuries on.

Beer has come a long way from a thick sludge-like consistency to the wonderful substance that is produced today. Yeast is now a very important ingredient, a fact that was discovered by Louis Pasteur, a French microbiologist, in 1857. He was able to prove that alcoholic fermentation was carried out by living yeasts and not, as previously thought, by a chemical catalyst. He also discovered that the process of heating up the beer prevented spoilage, as it killed off any contaminated organisms. Today, we now know this technique as Pasteurization.

Modern Day Brewing

Grain malting has become a very precise science, allowing the process to retain that delicious crisp flavour and light colour we now enjoy. Refrigeration, a relatively new invention in brewing and drinking, was invented by Carl von Linde in 1873, at the Spaten Brewery in Munich, where it is still based today. Nowadays, apart from the high calorie count, beer has some plus points: a high vitamin B content and essential amino acids, which we need to maintain tissue, muscles, organs, hair and skin. Perhaps that’s why beer drinkers acquire a rosy glow!
Next time you pick up your glass of beer, think about where it’s come from. That original clay pot of flat, slightly burnt tasting, almost gruel-like drink, to the refreshing, chilled, bubbly beverage that you now hold in your hand. Beer rates as the third most popular drink in the world, with water and tea taking first and second. It has become very much a part of modern day living, so, raise your glass and give a toast to all those geniuses who have worked hard to produce the world’s most popular alcoholic drink.

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