Beer History

The art of brewing is as old as civilization. Through hieroglyphics, cuneiform characters and written accounts, historians have traced the roots of brewing back to ancient African, Egyptian and Sumerian tribes, some 6,000 years ago. These early accounts, with pictograms of what is recognizably barley, show bread being baked then crumbled into water to make a mash, which is then made into a drink that is recorded as having made people feel exhilarated, wonderful and “blissful"! Sumerian pictograms went even further by publishing what is considered to be the first beer recipe.

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 recipe 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.

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. The German purity precept has two important functions: Beer was to sold for no more than one Munich penny per mug and no beer could be brewed that contained any more ingredients than barley, hops and water. This preserved the wheat for bread making. Yeast, though not included in this list, was not discovered yet, but has been considered acceptable as a key ingredient in the brewing process since then. 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.

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