The history of beer

And More

In the beginning

Beer is a drink that is centuries old. There is countless of evidence about the long history of beer.  The oldest evidence of a biological yeasting process is found in today’s Iran. 7000 year old pottery vases were found that contained these remarkable evidence. These primitive beers contained little alcohol. Only until malting was discovered, the alcohol percentage became higher. This discovery was made by the Mesopotamians 3000 – 2000 BC.

Beer bread

The very first beers were made from porridge, barley and wheat. These ingredients were baked into a kind of bread that was well done on the outside, however, on the inside was it was still moist.  When one felt like having a beer, a piece of bread was broken from the loaf and was soaked for a short while in water. Extra additions such as honey or herbs were often added to this “beer”.

For a long period of time beer was considered as drinkable bread and bread edible beer. Everywhere where cereal was grown, beer was brewed and bread was baked. Because both foods contained the raw ingredients. In ancient times, beer was a nutrition source that was considered to be as important as bread. A very important detail to why beer was held in such high regard, it was considered safer to drink than (usually) polluted river water.

From Egypt to the Romans through Greece

In the life of the Egyptian pharaohs about 5000 years ago, beer was considered a nutrition that was a part of the daily diet. In that era beer was brewed using baked barley bread. Beer was not just a drink in ancient Egyptian time, it had a much larger role in their daily life. For example, beer was prescribed to treat several diseases. Beer was considered to be the most suitable gift there was to give to a pharaoh. Beer was also seen a great offering to the gods.

The knowledge of brewing was passed on to the Greeks by the Egyptians. Plato wrote; “He was a wise man, the one who invented beer.”. Sophocles (450 BC) wrote about the concept of moderation. In his opinion the best daily diet for the Greek should consist of bread, meat, vegetables and beer. The Romans called beer “cerevisia”, which was derived from Ceres,  the Goddess of agriculture, and visia was Latin for power. In the beginning of the Roman era beer was very important, however, during the Roman republic it was replace by wine as the number one as most consumed beverage.

Middle Ages

Besides baking bread and cleaning, it was regarded as a woman’s job to brew beer during the middle ages. To provide for their living, monks and nuns also brewed different kind of beers. Beer was one of the most common beverages. It was drunk daily by all layers of the social class in northern and eastern Europe, where it was hard or even impossible to cultivate grapes. Even though wine was the most common drink in southern Europe, beer was still a very popular drink with the lowest class of society. Because the cleanliness of water could rarely be guaranteed, alcoholic beverages were very popular, as they’ve been cooked during the brewing process.

Hop is added to beer for the bitter taste, the preservation of the drink and the aroma. However, this addition is relatively new. A mixture of herbs and spices were added in the middle ages before hop was used and added to beer. Hop was grown in France around 800 AD. The oldest recorded document where hop being added to beer, dates from 1067.

During the 14th and 15th century the dynamic of brewing beer changed from a family activity that took place at home to a trade. Pubs & monasteries brewed their own beer for the purpose of mass consumption.

Industrial revolution

After the invention of the steam engine, James Watt added several adaptations to the apparatus. It became a versatile and an economically profitable machine that increased the efficiency with many processes. Because of this, the industrialisation of beer in 1765 became reality. Further innovations with the brewing process were the thermometer and hydrometer, which led to the modern way of brewing beer.